« PreviousContinue »
er of the forces, and Septimius, by birth a Roman, and who had formerly been a centurion in Pompey's army, were appointed to carry their opinion into execution. Being attendēd by three or four more, they went into a little bark, and rowed off from land towards Pompey's ship, that lay about a mile from the shore. Pompey, after taking leave of Cornelia, who wept at his departure, and having repeated two verses of Sophocles, signifying, that he who trusts his freedom to a tyrant, from that momeat becomes a slave; gave his hand to Achilles, and stept into the bark, with only two attendants of his own. They had now rowed from the ship a good way, and, as during that time they all kept a profound silence, Pompey, willing to begin the discourse, accosted Septimius, whose face be recollected Methinks, friend," cried he, “you and I were once fellow-soldiers together.” Septimius gave only a nod with his head, without uttering a word, or instancing the least civility. Pompey, therefore, took out a paper, on which he had minuted a speech he intended to make to the king, and began reading it. In this manner they approached the shore; and Cornelia, whose concern had never suffered her to lose sight of her husband, began to conceive hope, when she perceived the people on the strand, crowding down along the coast, as if willing to receive him; but her hopes were soon destroyed; for that instant, as Pompey rose, supporting himself upon his freedman's arm, Septimius stabbed him in the back, and was instantly seconded by Achilles. Pompey, perceiving his death inevitable, only disposed himself to meet it with decencyand covering his face with his robe, without speaking a word, with a sigh, resigned himself to his fate. At this horrid sight, Cornelia shrieked so loud as to be heard to the shore; but the danger slie herself was in, did not allow the mariners time to look on; they immediately set sail, and the wind proving favourable, fortunately they escaped the pursuit of the Egyptian gallies. In the mean time, Pompey's murderers, having cut off his head, caused it to be embalmed, the better to preserve its features, designing it for a present to Cæsar. The body was thrown naked on the strand, and exposed to the view of all those whose curiosity led them that way. However, his faithful freedman, Philip, still kept near
t; and when the crowd was dispersed, be washed it in the sea; and looking round for materials to burn it with, he perceived the wreck of a fishing-boat; of which he composed a pile. While he was thus piously employed, he
was accosted by an old Roman soldier, who had served un-
last sad comfort, that I have been able to assist at the funeral of my old commander, and touch the body of the bravest general that ever Rome produced.” After this, they both joined in giving the corpse the last rites; and collecting his ashes, buried them under a little rising earth, scraped together with their hands; over which was afterwards placed the following inscription :- He whose merits deserve a temple, can scarce find a tomb."
VI.-Character of King Alfred. THE merit of this prince, both in private and public life, may, with advantage, be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any nation or any age can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the complete model of that perfect character, which under the denomination of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice; so happily were all his virtues tempered together, so justly were they blended, and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds! He knew how to conciliate the boldest enterprise with the coldest moderation; the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest Alexibility; the most severe justice, with the greatest lenity; the most vigorous command, with the greatest affability of deportment; the highest capacity and inclination for science, with the most shining talents for action. His civil and military virtues are almost equally the objects of our admiration; excepting, only, that the former being among princes, as well as more useful, seem chiefly to challenge our applause. Nature, also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairest light, had bestowed on him all bodily accomplishments ; vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, engaging, and open countenance. Fortune alone, by throwing him into that barbarous age, deprived him of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more parti
cular strokes, that we may at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.
VII.- Awkwardness in Company. WHEN an awkward fellow first comes into a room, he attempts to bow, and his sword, if he wears one, gets between his legs, and nearly throws him down. Confused and ashamed, he stumbles to the upper end of the room, and seats himself in the very place where he should not. He there begins playing with his hat, which he presently drops; and recovering his bat, he lets fall his cane; and in picking up his cane, down goes his hat again. Thus, it is a considerable time before he is adjusted.
When his tea or coffee is handed to him, he spreads his handkerchief upon his knees, scalds his mouth, drops either the cup or saucer, and spills the tea or coffee in his lap. At dinner, he seats himself upon the edge of the chair, at so great a distance from the table, that he frequently drops the meat between his plate and his mouth; he holds his knife, fork, and spocn, differently from other people; eats with his knife, to the manifest danger of his mouth; and picks his teeth with his fork.
If he is to carve, he cannot hit the joint; but in labouring to cut through the bone, splashes the sauce over every body's clothes. He generally daubs himself all over; his elbows are in the next person's plate; and he is up to the knuckles in soup and grease. If he drinks, it is with his mouth full, interrupting the whole company with To your good health, sir," and " My service to you :" Perhaps coughs in his glass, and besprinkles the whole table.
He addresses the company by improper titles, as, Sir, for My Lord; mistakes one name for another; and tells you of Mr. Whatd’yecallhim, or You know who ; Mrs. Thing um, What's her name, or How d’ye call her. He begins a story; but not being able to finish it, breaks off in the middle, with—“I've forgot the rest.”
VIII.–Virtue Man's highest Interest. I FIND myself existing upon a little spot, surrounded every way by an immense unknown expansion.—Where am I ? What sort of a place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accominodated, in every instance, to my convenience ? Is there no excess of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own kind or a different? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had ordered all myself? No, nothing like it—the farthest from it possible. The world appears not, then, originally made for the private convenience of me alone? It does not. But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my own particular industry? If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth, if this be beyond me, it is not possible. What consequence, then, follows? Or can there be any other than this? If I seek an interest of my own, detached from that of others, I seek an interest which is chimerical, and can never have existence.
How then must I determine ? Have I no interest at all ? If I have not, I am a fool for staying here : 'Tis a smoaky house, and the sooner out of it the better. But why no interest? Can I be contented with none but one separated and detached ? Is a social interest, joined with others, such an absurdity as not to be admitted ? The bee, the beaver, and the tribes of herding animals, are enough to convince me that the thing is, somewhere, at least, possible. How then, am I assured that it is not equally true of man ? Admit it, and what follows ? If so, then honour and justice are my interest; then the whole train of moral virtues are my interest ; without some portion of which, not even thieves can maintain society.
But farther still I stop not here I pursue this social interest as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth. Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce, by the general intercourse of arts and letters, by that common nature of which we all participate ?
Again-I must have food and clothing. Without a proper genial warmth, I instantly perish. Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself? To the distant sun, from whose beams I derive vigour? To that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on ? Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment; so absolutely do I depend on this common, general welfare. What then have I to do but to enlarge virtue into piety! Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, are my interest: But gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and its great Governor, our common Parent.
IX.-On the Pleasures arising from Objects of Sight. THOSE pleasures of the imagination which arise from the actual view and survey of outward objects, all proceed from the sight of what is great, uncommon, or beautiful.
By greatness, I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view, considered as one entire piece. Such are the prospects of an open champaign country, a vast uncultivated desert, of huge heaps of mountains, high rocks and precipices, or a wide expanse of waters; where we are not struck with the novelty or beauty of the sight, but with that rude kind of magnificence, which appears in many of these stupendous works of nature. Our imagination loves to be filled with an object, or to grasp at any thing that is too big for its capacity. We are flung into a pleasing astonishment at such unbounded views, and feel a delightful stillness and amazement in the soul, at the apprehensions of them. The mind of man naturally hates every thing that looks like restraint upon it, and is apt to fancy itself under a sort of confinement, when the sight is pent up in a narrow compass, and shortened, on every side, by the neighbourhood of walls and mountains.
On the contrary, a spacious horizon is an image of liberty, where the eye has room to range abroad, to expatiate at large on the immensity of its views, and to lose itself amidst the variety of objects that offer themselves to its observation. Such wide and undetermined prospects are as pleasing to the fancy, as the speculations of eternity or infinitude are to the understanding. But if there be a beauty or uncommonness joined with this grandeur, as in a troubled ocean, a heaven adorned with stars and meteors, or a spacious landscape cut out into rivers, woods, rocks, and meadows, the pleasure still grows upon us, as it rises from more than a single principle.
Every thing that is new or uncommon, raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed. We are, indeed, so often conversant with one set of objects, and tired out with so many repeated shows of the same things, that whatever is new or uncommon contributes a little to vary human life, and to divert our minds, for a while, with the strangeness of its appearance ; it serves us for a kind of refreshment, and takes off from that satiety we are apt to complain of, in our usual and ordinary entertainments. It is this that bestows charms