« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
quaintance with it. I would not chuse, says a French philosopher, to see an old post pulled up with which I had been long acquainted. A mind long habituated to a certain set of objects insensibly becomes fond of seeing them, visits them from habit, and parts from them with reluctance; hence proceeds the avarice of the old in every kind of possession. They love the world and all that it produces; they love life and all its advantages, not because it gives them pleasure, but because they have known it long.
Chinvang the Chaste, ascending the throne of China, commanded that all who were unjustly detained in prison, during the preceding reigns, should be set free. Among the number who came to thank their deliverer on this occasion, there appeared a majestic old man, who throwing himself at the emperor's feet, addressed him as follows, "Great father of China ! behold a wretch,
now eighty-five years old, who was shut up "a dungeon at the age of twenty-two. I was imprisoned, though a stranger to my crime, or "without being even confronted by my accusers. "I have now lived in solitude and darkness for
more than fifty years, and am grown familiar "with distress. As yet dazzled with the splen"dour of that sun to which you have restored "me, I have been wandering about the streets
"to find some friend that would assist, or re"lieve, or remember me; but my friends, my "family and relations, are all dead, and I am forgotten. Permit me then, oh Chinvang, to
wear out the wretched remains of life in my "former prison. The walls of my dungeon are "to me more pleasing than the most splendid "s palace; I have not long to live, and shall be
unhappy except I spend the rest of my days "where my youth was passed, in that prison "from which you were pleased to release me.”
The old man's passion for confinement is similar to that we all have for life. We are habituated to the prison, we look round with discontent, are displeased with the abode, and yet the length of our captivity only increases our fondness for the cell. The trees we have planted, the houses we have built, or the posterity we have begotten, all serve to bind us closer to earth, and embitter our parting. Life sues the young like a new acquaintance; the companion is yet unexhausted, is at once instructive and amusing, its company pleases, yet for all that it is little regarded. To us who are declined in years, life appears like an old friend; its jests have been anticipated in former conversations, it has no new story to make us smile, no new improvement with which to surprise, yet still we
love it; destitute of every enjoyment still we love it; husband the wasting treasure with increased frugality, and feel all the poignancy of anguish in the fatal separation.
Sir Philip Mordaunt was young, beautiful, sincere, brave, an Englishman. He had a complete fortune of his own, and the love of the king his master, which was equivalent to riches. Life opened all her treasure before him, and promised a long succession of future happiness. He came, tasted of the entertainment, but was disgusted even in the beginning. He professed an aversion to living, was tired of walking round the same circle, had tried every enjoyment, and found them all grow weaker at every repetition. "If life and youth be so displeasing," cried he to himself, "what will it appear when age comes "on; if it be at present indifferent, sure it will "then be execrable." This thought embittered every reflection, till at last with all the serenity of perverted reason, he ended the dispute with a pistol! Had this self-deluded man been apprised, that existence grows more desirable to us the longer we exist, he would then have faced old age without shrinking, he would have boldly dared to live, and served that society by his future assiduity which he basely injured by his desertion.
PRACTICE AND HABITS.
WE are born with faculties and powers capable of almost any thing, such at least as would carry us further than can easily be imagined; but it is only the exercise of those powers which gives us ability and skill in any thing, and leads us towards perfection.
A middle aged ploughman will scarcely ever be brought to the carriage and language of a gentleman, though his body be as well proportioned, his joints as supple, and his natural parts not any way inferior: The legs of a dancing master and the fingers of a musician, fall as it were naturally, without thought or pains, into regular and admirable motions. Bid them change their parts, and they will in vain endeavour to produce like motions in the members not used to them, and it will require length of time and
long practice to attain but some degrees of a like ability. What incredible and astonishing actions do we find rope dancers and tumblers bring their bodies to. All these admired motions, beyond the reach and almost the conception of unpractised spectators; are nothing but the mere effects of use and industry in men, whose bodies have nothing peculiar in them from those of the amazed lookers on.
As it is in the body, so it is in the mind, practice makes it what it is; and most of those excellencies, which are looked upon as natural endowments, will be found, when examined more narrowly, to be the production of exercise, and to be raised to that pitch only by repeated actions. Some men are remarkable for pleasantness in raillery; others for apologues, and apposite diverting stories. This is apt to be taken for the effect of pure nature; and that the rather, because it is not got by rules; and those who excel in either of them never purposely set themselves to the study of it as an art to be learnt. But yet it is true, that at first some lucky hit which took with somebody and gained him commendation, encouraged him to try again, inclined his thoughts and endeavours that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility without perceiving how; and that is attributed wholly to nature,