« VorigeDoorgaan »
shovel or wheel them into the place where they were to be laid, and was employed. He received a few pence for the labour; and then, in pursuance of the saving part of his plan, requested some small gratuity of meat and drink which was given him. He then looked out for the next thing that might chance to offer, and went, with indefatigable industry, through a succession of servile employments, in different places, of longer and shorter duration, still scrupulously avoiding, as far as possible, the expense of a penny. He promptly seized every opportunity which could advance his design, without regarding the meanness of occupation or appearance. By this method he had gained, after a considerable time, money enough to purchase, in order to sell again, a few cattle of which he had taken pains to understand the value. He speedily but cautiously turned his first gains into second advantages; retained without a single deviation his extreme parsimony; and thus advanced by degrees into larger transactions and incipient wealth. I did not hear, or have forgotten, the continued course of his life ; but the final result was, that he more than recovered his lost possessions and died an inveterate miser, worth 60,0001. I have always recollected this as a signal instance, though in an unfortunate and ignoble direction, of decisive character, and of the extraordinary effect, which, according to general laws, belongs to the strongest form of such a character.
But not less decision has been displayed by men of virtue. In this distinction no man ever exceeded, for instance, or ever will exceed, the late illustrious Howard.
The energy of his determination was so great, that if, instead of being habitual, it had been shown only for a short time on particular occasions, it would have appeared a vehement impetuosity ; but by being unintermitted, it had an equability of manner which scarcely appeared to exceed the tone of a calm constancy, it was 60 totally the reverse of any thing like turbulence or agitation. It was the calmness of an intensity kept uniforın by the nature of the human mind forbidding it to be more, and by the character of the individual forbidding it to be less. The habitual passion of his mind was a measure of feeling almost equal to the temporary extremes and paroxysms of common minds : as a great river, in its customary state, is equal to a small or moderate one when swollen to a torrent.
The moment of finishing his plans in deliberation, and commencing them in action, was the same. I wonder what must have been the amount of that bribe in emolument or pleasure, that would have detained him a week inactive after their final adjustment. The law which carries water down a declivity, was not more unconquerable and invariable than the determination of his feelings toward the main object. The importance of this object held his faculties in a state of excitement which was too rigid to be affected by lighter interests, and on which therefore the beauties of nature and of art had no power. He had no leisure feeling which he could spare to be diverted among the innumerable varieties of the extensive scenes which he traversed ; all his subordinate feelings lost their separate existence and operation, by falling into the grand one. There have not been wanting trivial minds, to mark this as a fault in his character. But the mere men of taste ought to be silent respecting such a man as Howard ; he is above their sphere of judgment. The invisible spirits, who fulfil their commission of philanthropy among mortals, do not care about pictures, statues, and sumptuous buildings; and no more did he, when the time in which he must have inspected and admired them would have been taken from the work to which he had consecrated his life. The curiosity which he might feel was reduced to wait till the hour should arrive, when its gratification should be presented by conscience, which kept a scrupulous charge of all his time, as the most sacred duty of that hour. If he was still at every hour, when it came, fated to feel the attractions of the fine arts but the second claim, they might be sure of their revenge ; for no other man will ever visit Rome under such a despotic consciousness of duty as to
refuse himself time for surveying the magnificence of its ruins. Such a sin against taste is very far beyond the reach of common saintship to commit. It implied an inconceivable severity of conviction, that he had one thing to do, and that he who would do some great thing in this short life, must apply himself to the work with such a concentration of his forces, as, to idle spectators who live only to amuse themselves, looks like insanity.
His attention was so strongly and tenaciously fixed on his object, that even at the greatest distance, as the Egyptian pyramids to travellers, it appeared to him with a luminous distinctness as if it had been nigh, and beguiled the toilsome length of labour and enterprise by which he was to reach it. It was so conspicuous before him, that not a step deviated from the direction, and every movement and every day was an approximation. As his method referred everything he did and thought to the end, and as his exertion did not relax for a moment, he made the trial, so seldomi made, what is the utmost effect which may be granted to the last possible efforts of a human agent : and therefore what he did not accomplish, he might conclude to be placed beyond the sphere of mortal activity, and calmly leave to the immediate disposal of Omnipotence.
Unless the eternal happiness of mankind be an insignificant concern, and the passion to promote it an inglorious distinction, I may cite George Whitefield, as a poble instance of this attribute of the decisive character, this intenso necessity of action. The great cause which was so languid a thing in the hands of many of its advocates, assumed in his adminstrations an unmitigable urgency.
Many of the Christian missionaries among the heathens, such as Brainerd, Elliot, and Schwartz, have displayed memorable examples of this dedication of their whole being to their office, this eternal abjuration of all the quiescent feelings.
This would be the proper place for introducing (if I did not hesitate to introduce in any connection with merely human instances) the example of him who said, “I must be about my Father's business. My meat and drink is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. I have a baptisın to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished. ”
34.-DREAM OF EUGENE ARAM.
(Thomas Hood, born in London in 1798, was the son of a respectable publisher, of the firm of Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe. He was brought up an engraver ;-he became a writer of • Whims and Oddities,'—and he grew into a poet of great and original power. The slight partition which divides humour and pathos was remarkably exemplified in Hood. Misfortune and feeble health made him doubly sensitive to the ills of his fellow-creatures. The sorrows which he has delineated are not unreal things. He died in 1815, his great merits having been previously recognised by Sir Robert Peel, who bestowed on him a pension, to be continued to his wife. That wife soon followed him to the grave. The pension has been continued to their children.]
'Twas in the prime of summer time,
An evening calm and cool, And four-and-twenty happy boys
Came bounding out of school: There were some that ran, and some
that leapt, Like troutlets in a stream.
Away they sped with gamesome minds,
And souls untouched by sin;
Over the town of Lynn.
Like sportive deer they coursed about, And how the sprites of injured men And shouted as they ran
Shriek upward from the sod-
To show the burial clod ;
Are scen in dreams from God!
He told how murderers walked the carth To catch heaven's blessed breeze ;
Beneath the curse of CainFor a burning thought was in his brow, With crimson clouds before their eyes, And his bosom ill at ease :
And flames about their brain : So he leaned his head on his hands, and read For blood has left upon their souls The book between his knees !
Its everlasting stain ! Leaf after leaf he turned it o'er,
“And well,” quoth he, “I know, for truth, Nor ever glanced aside;
Their pangs must be extreme
Who spill life's sacred stream !
A murder in a dream ! At last he shut the ponderous tome,
"One that had never done me wrong With a fast and fervent grasp
A feeble man, and old ; He strained the dusky covers close,
I led him to a lonely field, And fixed the brazen hasp :
The moon shone clear and cold : “ O God, could I so close my mind, Now here, said I, this man shall die, And clasp it with a clasp !"
And I will have his gold ! Then leaping on his feet upright,
“Two sudden blows with a ragged stick, Some moody turns he took ;
And one with a heavy stone, Now up the mead, then down the mead, One hurried gash with a hasty knifeAnd past a shady nook :
And then the deed was done : And lo! he saw a little boy
There was nothing lying at my foot, That pored upon a book!
But lifeless flesh and bone ! “My gentle lad, what is 't
read- “Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone, Romance or fairy fable ?
That could not do me ill ; Or is it some historic page,
And yet I feared him all the more, Of kings and crowns unstable ?
For lying there so still : The young boy gave an upward glance- There was a manhood in his look, “It is the death of Abel."
That murder could not kill ! The usher took six hasty strides,
“And lo! the universal air As smit with sudden pain ;
Seemed lit with ghastly flame-Six hasty strides beyond the place, Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes Then slowly back again :
Were looking down in blame : And down he sat beside the lad,
I took the dead man by the hand, And talked with him of Cain ;
And called upon
his pame; And, long since then, of bloody men,
" Oh, God! it made me quake to see Whose deeds tradition saves ;
Such sense within the slain ! Of lonely folk cut off unseen,
But when I touched the lifeless clay, And hid in sudden graves ;
The blood gushed out amain ! Of horrid stabs, in groves forlorn, For every clot, a burning spot And murders done in caves ;
Was scorching in my brain !
“My head was like an ardent coal,
Jy licart as solid ice;
Was at the devil's price :
Had never groaned but twice ; “ And now from forth the frowning sky,
From the heaven's topmost height, I heard a voice--the awful voice,
Of the blood avenging sprite : 'Thou guilty man! take up thy dead,
And hide it from my sight “ I took the dreary body up,
And cast it in a stream-
The depth was so extreme.
Is nothing but a dream ! “ Down went the corpse
hollow plunge, And vanished in the pool ; Anon I cleansed my bloody hands,
And washed my forehead cool, And sat among the urchins young
That evening in the school! “Oh heaven, to think of their white souls,
And mine so black and grim !
Nor join in evening hymn :
'Mid holy cherubim ! “ And peace went with them one and all,
And each calm pillow spread ; But Guilt was my grim chamberlain
That lighted me to bed, And drew my midnight curtains round,
With fingers bloody red ! “ All night I lay in agony,
In anguish dark and deep ;
But stared aghast at sleep ;
The keys of hell to keep! " All night I lay in agony,
From weary chime to chime, With one besetting horrid hint,
That racked me all the timeA mighty yearning, like the first
Fierce impulse unto crime !
“ Heavily I rose up-as soon
As light was in the sky-
With a wild misgiving eye ;
For the faithless stream was dry !
The dewdrop from its wing;
I never heard it sing :
Under the horrid thing. “With breathless speed, like a soul in
chase, I took him up and ranThere was no time to dig a grave
Before the day began ; In a lonesome wood, with heaps of leaves,
I hid the murdered man ! “ And all that day I read in school,
But my thought was other where ! As soon as the mid-day task was done,
In secret I was there : And a mighty wind had swept the leaves,
And still the corse was bare !
And first began to weep,
That earth refused to keep;
Ten thousand fathoms deep!
Till blood for blood atones ? Ay, though he's buried in a cave,
And trodden down with stones, And years
have rotted off his flesh-
Besets me now awake!
The human life I take ;
Like Cranmer's at the stake.
“ And still no peace for the restless clay
Will wave or mould allow :
It stands before me now!”
Huge drops upon his brow!
That very night, while gentle sleep
The urchin's eyelids kissed,
Through the cold and heavy mist ;
With gyves upon his wrists.
35.-THE STRANGE CONTRARIETIES DISCOVERABLE IN HUMAN NATURE.
PASCAL (BLAISE PASCAL was characterized by Bayle as “one of the sublimest spirits in the world." He was born in 10:23; he died in 1662. His genius led him to the strictest inquiries of human reason; his piety compelled him to the most complete submission of his reasoning faculty to the truths of revelation. Up to his twenty-fifth year he devoted himself to the pursuits of science; thenceforward, to the time of his early death, his mind was dedicated to religious contemplation. His · Pensées' furnish a monument of the elevation and purity of his devotional feeling; his · Lettres à un Provincial,' in which he assailed the morality of the Jesuits, with a power of logic and of wit which have never been surpassed, show how com. pletely his religion could be separated from the enthusiasm of his temperament, and the ascetic practices of his life. It has been said of him that he knew exactly how to distinguish between the rights of faith and of reason. The passage which we select from his · Pensées' is thus noticed by Dr. Arnold The necessity of faith, arising from the absurdity of scepticism on the one hand, and of dogmatism on the other, is shown with great power and eloquence in the first article of the second part of Pascal's · Pensées,' a book of which there is an English translation by no means difficult to meet with.']
Nothing can be more astonishing in the nature of man than the contrarieties which we there observe, with regard to all things. He is made for the knowledge of truth : this is what he most ardently desires, and most eagerly pursues ; yet when he endeavours to lay hold on it, he is so dazzled and confounded as never to be secure of actual possession. Hence the two sects of the Pyrrhonians and the dogrnatists took their rise ; of which the one would utterly deprive men of all truth, the other would infallibly insure their inquiries after it : but each with reasons so improbable, as only to increase our confusion and perplexity, while we are guided by no other lights than those which we find in our own bosom.
The principal arguments of the Pyrrhonians, or sceptics, are as follow :If we accept faith and revelation, we can have no other certainty to the truth of principles, than that we naturally feel and perceive them within ourselves. But now this inward perception is no convictive evidence of their truth ; because, since without faith we have no assurance whether we were made by a good God, or by some evil demon, nay, whether we have not existed from eternity, or been the offspring of chance. It may be doubted whether these principles within us are true or false, or uncertain in correspondence to our original. Indeed, it is by faith alone that we can distinguish whether we are asleep or awake ;--because in our sleep we as strongly fancy ourselves to be waking as when we really are so: we imagine that we seo space, figure, and motion : we perceive the time pass away, we measure it as it runs. In fine, we act, to all intents, as in our most wakeful hours. Since then, by our own confession, one-half of our life is spent in sleep, during which, whatever we may suppose, we have really no idea of truth, all that then passes within us being mere illusion, who can tell but that the other moiety of our life, in which we fancy ourselves to be awake, is no more than a second sleep, little differing from the former ; and that we only rouse ourselves from our sleep by day when we enter into that at night ; as it is usual with us to dream that we dream, by heaping one fantastic image upon another,