« PředchozíPokračovat »
to have a very different effect! They only see what such objects seem to be, while he feels what they are. Many princes, for the same reason, have groaned a hife-time under all the cares and fatigues of state, and at last sunk down and died; and others, tired of a station thus obnoxious to labour and mischief, have exchanged the public for the private, and sought in philosophy and religion what no other thing could afford them.
And he whose portion extends to all, has himself not always the largest share. Like a rich harvest, he employs many labourers, and feeds more. The hive is his, but the honey is claimed by others. He has all the care, and they have all the profit. And when all his accounts are cast up, he differs from them only in show, not in substance. The very beggar, whom he meets and despises in the street, has more satisfaction perhaps in a meal once a week, than he has in all his daily and stated superfluity. Swarms of waiters hang about his table like flies,
persons of the highest rank do his meanest offices; he is treated with the profoundest ceremony by all, with familiarity or impertinence by none; and yet, in the midst of all these splendid circumstances, and with all this vast load of visionary appendages, be is not only subject to the same wants and distempers with a peasant, but many others, which no situation but his can produce, which no regimen but his would permit.
A multitude of dishes often destroy, never create a good appetite; and whatever stimulates or whets the appetite, is little better than poison. How can he relish a feast, who lives only, and always, on the best? and scanty and precarious must his pleasures of eating be, who never was hungry in his life!
So that in whatever light we contemplate this master of the world, he is just as much beneath satisfaction in point of enjoyment, as he is above competence in point of fortune.
Thus, fine clothes, sumptuous palaces, gorgeous equipage, inexhaustible treasures, unlimited dominion, balls and operas, circles of gaiety, and parties of plea22.
sure, the indulgence of all his habits, the objects of all his passions, and homage without restraint, are all in his portion; but so also are the pangs of ambition, the mortifications of pride, the tortures of avarice, the diseases of intemperance, the incessant labours and vexation which the unavoidable attentions of rank require, the envy of the selfish, the slanderous, the malignant, broken health, a shattered frame, and an early grave!
What does it avail him, that his bed is made of down, who has no inclination to sleep; that his table groans under a weight of delicacies which he cannot eat; that his cellars are filled with liquors and wines which he dare not drink; that his magazines abound with stores, his apartments with finery, and his coffers with gold, of which he has not the use; that he arrays himself in silks, and purples, and scarlets, and flutters in gay and gilded trinkets, while his body wastes with pain, and his mind is torn with remorse; that he is tempted by thousands of pleasures which he cannot enjoy; and that he is teased and infested, from morning till night, with groups of hypocrites and sycophants, whom it were madness to trust?
Such is the monster, which circumstances thus prosperous would infallibly make of us all. Yet this is the phantom whom the covetous, the aspiring, the voluptuous, would all eventually be. This is it whose situation they figure to themselves as the completion of desire. This is he to whose unseemly likeness they habitually sacrifice whatever is great, and honourable, and divine!
It was the saying of a great man in a dependent condition, to a rude, unfeeling, purse-proud wretch, who sneered at his poverty-"Necessitous as my circumstances seem to thee, I would not have thy heart for a thousand times more than thou art worth. For what are all thy treasures, jewels, trinkets, and equin page, but foils to the singular insignificance of thein uwner?”
Alas! how very little aware are the rich in general, of the hideous change or metamorphosis it produces in their temper and manners; and no wonder circumstances so apt to render one part of society the scourge and ridicule of the rest, should be thus habitually disliked, and traduced by the other.
“Then give me competence,” the virtuous man will say, "give me poverty, give me any thing but the feelings of the selfish, and the heart of a miser; since most people get above principles, humanity, and even decency, as they become rich, and no man is ever wiser, better, or happier, does more good, or is more amiable or endearing, for being rich!"
THINGS OPPOSED TO THE PLEASURES OF HUMAN
Let man conform his mind
To ev'ry changing state ;
And the great issue wait.
The evil and the good;
Weak mortal! be subdued.
We often imagine the misery of human life to be greater than it really is, from our ignorance of the degree of insensibility to painful circumstances, which often exists in those whom we perceive in such situations of suffering, and whom we contemplate with a degree of pity for which their actual sensations do not call.
Of comparative insensibility to circumstances that excite our immoderate pity, one cause is time. It is a law of nature, that familiarity with what at first was most afflicting, wears away the sense of it. Hence we have often to look upon the unfortunate situation, when the sensibility of it is in a considerable degree departed. The figure of adversity still stands before us, but it is a dark apparition only; the substance is not there.
In consequence of a total inattention to the power which an intimacy with situations apparently miserable has to render them not only supportable, but even consistent with happiness, pity has been sometimes given even to happy men, considered merely as animal creatures, and some, that were really objects of commiseration, have been regarded with more pity than their case has required. He whose life is made up of repose and recumbence, and who, in consequence of the excessive delicacy he has derived from the perfect softness of a situation that is all over velvet, looks out from his seat of ease with an eye of compassion upon those who have been condemned from their birth to laborious employment, confined to the rough accommodations of life, and exposed to the keen severities of nature-bestows his pity upon happiness superior to his own; upon him who finds no weight in his burden, perceives no coarseness in his food, complains of no hardness in his couch, and feels no bleakness in the blast. If he, who experiences a sudden reduction from opulence to comparative poverty, is for a moment to be numbered with the miserable, it is only for a moment that he belongs to that class. Although, upon first finding himself in the rank to which he has not been habituated, he may refuse to be comforted, indulge the ravings of despair, and snatch the instrument of death; if he have patience to survive the first shock of the change, the exotic spirit becomes in a little time naturalized to the new situation, and is as happy in it as the natives of the condition to which it is sunk. He who does not consider this lenient efficacy of time, will regard the fallen trafficker with a pity that continues to bleed over him long after the fracture has been reduced, which his peace sustained from the fall,
Time not only possesses the power of reconciling the mind to situations that are uneasy only to those who have long slumbered in the lap of luxury, but it is also capable of wearing away the asperities, and gradually blunting the edges, of seats that are painful to all, and that extort pity even from the stern philosopher, who has no tear for the loser of superfluous possessions, for the exile from a mansion, for whom a roof is ready, which, though not so lofty as that he has left, is as capable of excluding the inclemency of nature; and for whom a table remains, which, though no delicacies load it, is covered with all that health requires. Habitude has a power, not only of softening the hardest pillow, lifting the lowliest cot, refining the coarsest bread, converting inconvenience to ease, and making the weather's inclemencies mild; it is also able to dull the point of circumstances which pierce to the soul of happiness.
We hear of one, who is condemned to count days and months, and years, of personal confinement, either by the infirmity of his own frame, or by the cruelty of his fellow-creatures. He who walks whithersoever he would, looks upon him who has lost this invaluable liberty as upon a wretch, by whom it is wonderful that life can be borne-to whom it is strange that light should have been given. In the bosom of such a one, he imagines that there must reign a gloom; into which not so much as a glimmer of comfort can ever come. Nature holds out a variety of entertainments to the senses of man; but he is forbidden to range through her scenes, to admire her beauties, to hear her songs, or inhale her fragrance.
Mankind meet together in private circles, in public assemblies; but he cannot join their select companies, nor make one in the concourse that is gathered together by harmless pleasure, or interesting business, or eager curiosity. Yet, even upon darkness like this, time lets in ray after ray, and gradually consoles the captive. When nature has lost the lively remembrance of her gayer enjoyments and sprightlier pleasures, more flat and insipid amusements acquire a power of cheering the heart. As the brilliant forms of happiness, which once it knew, fade to a fainter and fainter hue, in the eye of memory; as they retire to a greater and a greater distance, in the picture of the past; objects of