Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

more experienced part of his life to the chamber
and the couch, may be justly reproached, not only
as a spendthrift of his own happiness, but as a
robber of the public; as a wretch that has volun-
tarily disqualified himself for the business of his
station, and refused that part which Providence
assigns him in the general task of human nature.

There are perhaps very few conditions more to
be pitied than that of an active and elevated mind,
labouring under the weight of a distempered body.
The time of such a man is always spent in form-
ing schemes, which a change of wind hinders him
from executing, his powers fume away in projects
and in hope, and the day of action never arrives.
He lies down delighted with the thoughts of to-
morrow, pleases his ambition with the fame he
shall acquire, or his benevolence with the good he
shall confer. But in the night the skies are over-
cast, the temper of the air is changed, he wakes in
languor, impatience, and distraction, and has no
longer any wish but for ease, nor any attention
but to misery. It may be said that disease
generally begins that equality which death com-
pletes ; the distinctions which set one man
much above another are very little perceived in
the gloom of a sick chamber, where it will be vain
to expect entertainment from the gay, or instruc-
tion from the wise ; where all human glory is
obliterated, the wit is clouded, the reasoner per-
plexed, and the hero subdued ; where the highest
and brightest of mortal beings finds nothing left
him but the consciousness of innocence.

There is among the fragments of the Greek


poets a short hymn to Health, in which her power of exalting the happiness of life, of heightening the gifts of fortune, and adding enjoyment to possession, is inculcated with so much force and beauty, that no one, who has ever languished under the discomforts and infirmities of a lingering disease, can read it without feeling the images dance in his heart, and adding from his own experience new vigour to the wish, and from his own imagination new colours to the picture. The particular occasion of this little composition is not known, but it is probable that the author had been sick, and in the first raptures of returning vigour addressed Health in the following manner :

Υγίεια πρεσβίστα Μακάρων,

Μετά σου ναίοιμι
Το λειπόμενον βιοτας
Συ δε μοι πρόφρων συνοικος είης.
Eίγάρ τις ή πλόυτου χάρις ή τεκέων,

Τας ευδαίμονος τ' ανθρώπους
Βασιληίδος αρχάς, ή πόθων,
“Ους κρυφίοις 'Αφροδίτης άρκυσιν θηρεύομεν,
Η εί τις άλλα θεόθεν ανθρώπους τέρψις,

πόνων αμπνοα πέφανται:
Μέτα σείο, μακαρία Yγίεια,
Τέθηλε πάντα, και λάμπει χαρίτων έαρ'

Σέθεν δε χωρίς ουδείς ευδαίμων πέλει,

Health, most venerable of the powers of heaven / with thee may the remaining part of my life be passed, nor do thou refuse to bless me with thy residence. For whatever there is of beauty or of pleasure in wealth, in descendants, or in sovereign command, the highest summit of human enjoyment, or in those objects of desire which we endeavour to chase into the toils of love ; whatever delight, or whatever solace is granted by the celestials, to soften our fatigues

in thy presence, thou parent of happiness, all those joys spread out and flourish; in thy presence blooms the spring of pleasure, and without thee no happy.

man is

Such is the power of health, that without its cooperation every other comfort is torpid and lifeless, as the powers of vegetation without the sun. And yet this bliss is commonly thrown away in thoughtless negligence, or in foolish experiments on our own strength; we let it perish without remembering its value, or waste it to show how much we have to spare ; it is sometimes given up to the management of levity and chance, and sometimes sold for the applause of jollity and debauchery.

Health is equally neglected, and with equal impropriety, by the votaries of business and the followers of pleasure. Some men ruin the fabric of their bodies by incessant revels, and others by intemperate studies ; some batter it by excess, and others sap it by inactivity. To the noisy rout of bacchanalian rioters, it will be to little purpose that advice is offered, though it requires no great abilities to prove, that he loses pleasure who loses health ; their clamours are too loud for the whispers of caution, and they run the course of life with too much precipitance to stop at the call of wisdom. Nor perhaps will they that are busied in adding thousands to thousands, pay much regard to him that shall direct them to hasten more slowly to their wishes. Yet since lovers of money are generally cool, deliberate, and thoughtful, they might surely consider, that

the greater good ought not to be sacrificed to the
less. Health is certainly more valuable than
money, because it is by health that money is pro-
cured ; but thousands and millions are of small
avail to alleviate the protracted tortures of the
gout, to repair the broken organs of sense, or
resuscitate the powers of digestion. Poverty is,
indeed, an evil from which we naturally fly; but
let us not run from one enemy to another, nor
take shelter in the arms of sickness.

Projecere animam ! quam vellent æthere in alto
Nunc et pauperiem, et duros tolerare labores 11
For healthful indigence in vain they pray,

In quest of wealth who throw their lives away.
Those who lose their health in an irregular and
impetuous pursuit of literary accomplishments are
yet less to be excused; for they ought to know
that the body is not forced beyond its strength,
but with the loss of more vigour than is propor-
tionate to the effect produced. Whoever takes up
life beforehand, by depriving himself of rest and
refreshment, must not only pay back the hours,
but pay them back with usury; and for the gain
of a few months but half enjoyed, must give up
years to the listlessness of languor, and the im-
placability of pain. They whose endeavour is
mental excellence, will learn, perhaps too late,
how much it is endangered by diseases of the

1 Johnson quotes from memory, and not quite accurately. The lines run:

"Projecere animas. Quam vellent æthere in alto
Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores !"

-Æneid, vi. 436.

[ocr errors]



body, and find that knowledge may easily be lost in the starts of melancholy, the flights of impatience, and the peevishness of decrepitude.

[ocr errors]


1750. Credebant hoc grande nefas, et morte piandum, Si juvenis vetulo non assurrexerat, atque Barbato cuicunque puer, licet ipse videret Plura domi fraga, et majores glandis acervos.-Juv.1 And had not men the hoary head rever'd, And boys paid rev'rence when a man appear'd, Both must have died, though richer skids they wore, And saw more heaps of acorns in their store.-CREECH.

HAVE always thought it the business of those who turn their speculations upon the living world, to commend the

virtues, as well as to expose the faults of their contemporaries, and to confute a false as well as to support a just accusation ; not only because it is peculiarly the business of a monitor to keep his own reputation untainted, lest those who can once charge him with partiality, should indulge themselves afterwards in disbelieving him at pleasure ; but because he may find real crimes sufficient to give full employment to caution or repentance, without distracting the mind by needless scruples and vain solicitudes.

There are certain fixed and stated reproaches that one part of mankind has in all ages thrown upon

1 Juvenal, Satires, xiii. 54. The second line ends not with atque but et si.

« PředchozíPokračovat »