Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

hood; for all they aimed at was the blameless possession of each other in marriage. It was but this very morning that he had obtained her parents' consent, and it was bút till next week that they were to wait to be happy. Perhaps this very day, in the intervals of their work, they were talking of their wedding-clothes and John was now matching several kinds of poppies and field flowers to her complexion, to make her a present of knots for the day. While they were thus employed (it was on the last of July), a terrible storm of thunder and lightning arose,

that drove the labourers to what shelter the trees or hedges afforded. Sarah frightened and out of breath, sunk on a haycock, and John (who never separated from her) sat by her side having raked two or three heaps together to secure her. Immediately there was heard

so loud a crack as if heaven had burst asunder. The labourers all solicitous for each other's safety, called to one another : those that were nearest our lovers hearing no answer, stepped to the place where they lay: they first saw a little smoke, and after, this faithful pair John with one arm about his Sarah's neck, and the other held over her face, as if to screen her from the lightning. They were struck dead, and already grown stiff and cold in this tender posture. There was no mark or discolouring on their bodies, only that Sarah's eyebrow was a little singed, and a small spot between her breasts. They were buried the next day in one grave, where my Lord Harcourt, at my request has erected a monument over them.

Upon the whole, I cannot think these people unhappy. The greatest happiness, next to living as

they would have done, was to die as they did. The greatest honour people of this low degree could have, was to be remembered on a little monument: unless you will give them another--that of being honoured with a tear from the finest eyes in the world. I know you have tenderness; you must have it; it is the very emanation of good sense and virtue: the finest minds like the finest metals, dissolve the easiest.

On Sickness and Death.

(To Sir RICHARD STEELE.)

You formerly observed to me that nothing made a more ridiculous figure in a man's life than the disparity we often find in him sick and well; thus one of an unfortunate constitution is perpetually exhibiting a miserable example of the weakness of his mind, and of his body, in their turns. I have had frequent opportunities of late to consider myself in these different views, and, I hope, have received some advantage by it, if what Waller says be true, that

The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made.

Then surely sickness, contributing no less than old age to the shaking down this scaffolding of the body, may discover the inward structure more plainly. Sickness is a sort of early old age; it teaches us a diffidence in our earthly state, and inspires us with the thoughts of a future, better than a thousand volumes of philosophers and divines. It gives so warning a concussion to those props of our vanity, our strength and youth, that we think of fortifying ourselves within, when there is so little dependence upon our outworks. Youth at the very best is but a betrayer of human life in a gentler and a smoother manner than age: it is like a stream that nourishes a plant upon a bank, and causes it to flourish and blossom to the sight, but at the same time is undermining it at the root in secret. My youth has dealt more fairly and openly with me; it has afforded several prospects of my danger, and given me an advantage not very common to young men, that the attractions of the world have not dazzled me very much ; and I begin, where most people end, with a full conviction of the emptiness of all sorts of ambition, and the unsatisfactory nature of all human plea

When a smart fit of sickness tells me this scurvy tenement of my body will fall in a little time, I am even as unconcerned as was that honest Hibernian, who being in bed in the great storm some years ago, and told the house would tumble over his head, made answer,

“ What care I for the house? I am only a lodger." I fancy it is the best time to die when one is in the best humour; and so excessively weak as I now am,

I
may say

with conscience, that I am not at all uneasy at the thought that many men, whom I never had any esteem for, are likely to enjoy this world after me. When I reflect what an inconsiderable little atom every single man is, with respect to to the whole creation, methinks it is a shame to be concerned at the removal of such a trivial animal as I am. The morning after my exit, the sun will rise as

sures.

bright as ever, the flowers smell as sweet, the plants spring as green, the world will proceed in its old course, people will laugh as heartily, and marry as fast, as they were used to do. The

memory of man (as it is elegantly expressed in the Book of Wisdom) passeth away as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but one day. There are reasons enough, in the fourth chapter of the same book, to make any young man contented with the prospect of death. “For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, or is measured by number of years. But wisdom is the gray hair to man, and an unspotted life is old age. He was taken away speedily, lest wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul,” &c. -I am your, &c.

Autumn Scenery.

Do not talk of the decay of the year; the season is good when the people are so. It is the best time in the year for a painter ; there is more variety of colours in the leaves; the prospects begin to open, through the thinner woods over the valleys, and through the high canopies of trees to the higher arch of heaven; the dews of the morning impearl every thorn, and scatter diamonds on the verdant mantle of the earth; the forests are fresh and wholesome. What would

The moon shines too, though not for lovers, these cold nights, but for astronomers.

you have ?

Party Zeal.

There never was any party, faction, sect, or cabal whatsoever, in which the most ignorant were not the most violent; for a bee is not a busier animal than a blockhead. However, such instruments are necessary to politicians ; and perhaps it may be with states as with clocks, which must have some dead weight hanging at them, to help and regulate the motion of the finer and more useful parts.

Acknowledgment of Error.

A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser to day than he was yesterday.

Disputation.

What Tully says of war may be applied to disputing; it should be always so managed, as to remember that the only true end of it is peace; but generally true disputants are like true sportsmen, their whole delight is in the pursuit ; and a disputant no more cares for the truth than the sportsman for the hare.

Growing Virtuous in Old Age. When men grow virtuous in their old age, they only make a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.

« PředchozíPokračovat »