« AnteriorContinuar »
THAT sun with light malignant glares,
And flatters only to betray.
Stern Winter's reign is not yet past
Lo! while your buds prepare to blow, On icy pinions comes the blast,
And nips your root, and lays you low.
Alas, for such ungentle doom !
But I will shield you; and supply A kindlier soil on which to bloom,
A nobler bed on which to die.
Come, then, ere yet the morning ray
Has drunk the dew that gems your crest, And drawn your balmiest sweets away ;
O come, and grace my Anna's breast.
Ye droop, fond flowers ! But, did ye know
What worth, what goodness there reside, Your cups with liveliest tints would glow,
And spread their leaves with conscious pride.
From “ The Nero Monthly Magazine."
“ The past is all by death possess’d,
TO-DAY is like a child's pocket-money, which he never thinks of keeping in his pocket. Considering it bestowed upon us for the sole purpose of being expended as fast as possible in dainties, toys, and knick-knacks, we should reproach ourselves for meanness of spirit were we to hoard it up, or appropriate it to any object of serious utility. It is the only part of life of which we are sure ; yet we treat it as if it were the sole portion of existence beyond our control. We make sage reflections upon the past, and wise resolutions for the future, but no one ever forms an important determination for to-day. Whatever is urgent must be reserved for to-morrow: the present hour is a digression, an episode that belongs not to the main business of life ; we may cut it out altogether, and the plot will not be the less complete. Every sun-dial on the church-wall thrusts out his gnomon, as if he would enforce his dictum at the point of the bayonet, or drive wisdom down our throats, to inform us that eternity hangs from the present moment ; but we revolt from the schooling of this iron ferula. Who would be made wise by compulsion, and what ignorance is poltroon enough to surrender at discretion ? Moral lessons may be too pertinaciously obtruded ; we may be reminded till we forget to listen, or we may retain the words and not the sentiment, learning our task by rot rather than by head or heart. This is the fault of modern education, which teaches the sound rather than the sense of things. Children taken from the nursery and pinned down to Latin and Greek, are instructed to name an object in three or four different languages, not to analyse its nature,ma process which may often make them learned, but rarely wise ; for as knowledge is not confined to names, a great linguist may be a great fool. It is an equal mistake to give children mental food which they cannot digest, and dangle aphorisms before their eyes from sun-dials and church-sides, which they learn so early to repeat that they are sure never to feel their influence. What he who runs may read, nobody will stop to consider, which is probably the reason why this didactic hand-writing on the wall has ever proved an unavailing warning. Besides, there are many of maturer age who above all things dislike an apophthegm, which, preventing the complacent exercise of their own faculties, deprives them of the merit of discovery ; while there are others so paradoxically inclined, that they will admit any thing rather than a truism, and can never be brought to see that which is self-evident. Hartleys in morals, they deny matter-of-fact as sturdily as he did physical matter.
In spite, however, of its being a truism, it must be admitted that today is a portion of our existence. Granted, exclaims the idler, but, after all, what is a single day?-_a question which is peevishly repeated three hundred and sixty five times in a year, when we commence a new score of similar interrogatories, so that we might as well say at once 66 what is a single life ?” Short as the interval may be, and however indolently we may have passed it, to-day has not been altogether unim. portant. Perched upon our goodly vehicle the earth, we have swung through space at a tolerably brisk rate in the performance of our annual rotation around the sun ;—so many miles of life's journey have at all events brought us so much nearer to its end ; they are struck off from our account ; we shall never travel over them again. With every tick of our watch in that brief space of time, some hundreds or thousands have started from the great antenatal infinite to light and life ; while as many have returned into the darkness of the invisible world. And we ourselves, though we sometimes exclaim like the Emperor Titus, that we bave lost a day, may be well assured that to-day has not lost sight of us. The footsteps of time may not be heard when he treads upon roses, but his progress is not the less certain ; we need not shake his hour-glass
to make the sands of life flow faster ; they keep perpetually diminish- ing; night and day, asleep or awake, grain by grain, our existence dribbles
away. We call those happy moments when time flies most rapidly, forgetting that he is the only winged personage who cannot fly backwards, and that his speed is but hurrying us to the grave. The hours, his couriers and outriders, are at this instant hovering around us, busy as the Sylphs and Gnomes of the Rosicrucians, though we be not sensible of their ministry. Yet, now that I strictly watch my sensations, methinks I feel one busy imp tracing the outline of the abhorred crow's foot at the corner of my eye, which future urchins will gradually stamp in ineffaceable lines. Another is craftily indenting a wrinkle by the mouth, to be hereafter chisselled into a deep furrow; a third plucks out a single hair, the precursory theft to final baldness, a fourth is boring his gimlet through my most potential masticator,-fatal prelude to toothach and extraction ! a fifth malignant, grinning spitefully in the consciousness of his superior powers of annoyance, is distilling the first drop of his bleaching liquid upon my whiskers; while a sixth yellow. faced tormentor, the master devil of the whole pandemonium, has leaped clean down my throat, and is at this moment, with a ladle of melted butter in one hand and the drumstick of a goose in the other, concoct. ing the ingredients of a bilious attack. Our face is a chronometer, revealing our age with a fearful punctuality. The-hour hand leaves its impress with every rotation ; nay, the minute-hand makes its mark, though it may not write legibly. Smiles and laughter turn up the ends of the lines and indentations, as melancholy drags them down, turning our sixes into nines, and so putting us forward fifty per cent. Can we desire a better argument for merriment?
Alas! these are not the worst pranks of the horal legion, some of whose more subtle members fly from one chamber of the brain to another, muddying the current of clear thought, dulling the imagination, and undermining the memory ; one hoaxer in particular is ever prompting me to repeat the same joke which I have recounted to the same people twenty times before, and then bursts out a-laughing because nobody else does. And lo! even now sits one of these mischievous spirits upon the top of my pen, mocking and mowing, and perforating the quill, that so the spirit of the goose from whose wing it was plucked may flow down to the nib. Hence, senilizing tribe! avaunt ye peace-meal destroyers! Which of ye thus flutters at mine ear ? Ah ! your reproach is too true. I recal my words : pursue your tasks, most dainty dilapidators, for your successors will set to work with a still more unsparing hand.
To-day has a triple claim to our consideration, for, besides its present appeal, it has been the future, and will be the past. He is wise, says an ancient philosopher, who lives to-day; he is wiser still, exclaims his commentator, who lived yesterday. But what is the best mode of life for the attainment of happiness ? This question has puzzled the philosophers of all ages. Pyrrho, denying the existence of any beatitude, maintained that life and death were alike; and when ask. ed why he did not seek the latter, since the former was so little attractive, replied, “ Because they are both indifferent to me.” Creesus placed the chief good in riches ; Periander of Corinth in honour; Socrates in knowledge ; Plato in idea ; Orpheus in beauty; Milo the Crotonian in bodily strength ; Thales the Milesian in the union of prudence and knowledge ; Pittacus in benevolence; Aristotle in the practice and operation of virtue ; and Epicurus affirms that happiness is the chief good, and virtue the only happiness. Confirining this last theory by the sanctions of religion, we shall probably make the nearest ap. proaches to perfect enjoyment which our nature will admit ; and it may be laid down as a universal maxim, that no mind is so constituted as to be capable of unalloyed happiness, while it can reproach itself with any crime towards man, however secret and undiscovered, since it must be always conscious of having offended a superior power from which nothing is hidden.
The To-day of England, nationally considered, cannot be reck, oned happy. It is too bustling, laborious, and excessire. In France pleasure is almost the only business; in England business is almost the only pleasure, and this is pushed to an extremity that surrounds it with hazard and anxiety. By devoting all its energies and faculties, physical and intellectual, to this one object, for a series of years, the nation has attained an eminence so fearfully beyond its natural claims and position, that nothing but a continuance of convulsive efforts, even in the midst of distress and exhaustion, can enable it to uphold the rank it has assumed. Hence every thing is artificial, and in all directions we contemplate tension, excitement, fever. Her navy exceeds that of the collected world--so does her debt, a co-existence that cannot be very durable. Her establishments of all sorts are proportioned to what she owes rather than to what she has ; her grandeur can only be equalled by her embarrassments. In one colony she has sixty millions of subjects, while a great proportion of her native population are paupers, and in her sister island famine has lately stalked hand in hand with rebellion. Nor have her intellectual developements been less extraordinary, for she possesses a constellation of living lu.
minaries, who, pouring forth their streams of light with a profusion as unparalleled as their intensity, at this moment irradiate and supply all Europe. Splendid talents have excited public admiration, and procured unprecedented remuneration ; while fame and riches have reacted upon and stimulated latent genius, until the existing literature of the country presents a universality of diffusion, an unbounded copiousness of production, and a magnificence of encouragement, hitherto totally unknown in the history of the world. No social system was ever pushed to such an energetic extremity, or afforded so curious and glorious a spectacle ; but it has not sufficient repose for enjoyment ; happiness loves to dwell amid more tranquil elements. Its tendency has been painfully illustrated by the recent fate of some of its leading members. Unable or unwilling to relax in their career, they have devoted mind and body to this restless principle of advancement, and have toiled and prospered, and become enslaved and enriched, and achieved misery and fame, until nature was exhausted in the strife, and their own hand relieved them from the burden of existence, at the precise moment when they had attained every object of their ambition, and appeared to the world to stand upon the summit of human happiness. How long is this fearful tension upon all the nerves and sinews of the country to endure ? What is to be the result of this overworking of the national machine ? A certain Frenchman implored death to spare him till he saw the end of the French revolution, so curious was he to witness its termination. , An Englishman might well petition to be absolved from the omnivorous scythe, until he ascertained what would be the finale of the present ecstacy of his country.
Those individuals who seek happiness will withdraw themselves from this whirl and vortex of excitement. They will not aggravate the diseased enlargement of the public heart, and share the painful intensity of its pulsations, by residing in the capital. There is no holy calm, no sabbath of the soul, no cessation of strife in that vast arena of the passions, where life is a ceaseless struggle of money-getting and moneyspending ; a contest of avarice and luxury ; a delirium of the senses or of the mind. If we desire peace and repose, let us look out upon the variegated earth, ever new and ever beautiful-upon the azure dome of heaven hung around with painted clouds upon the wide waters dancing and glittering in the sun, or lying in the stillness of their crystal sleep. Let us listen to the music of the sky, when the boughs are singing to the wind, and the birds are serenading one another ; or surrender ourselves to that more pleasing sensation, when the serenity of Nature's silence imparts a congenial balm and tranquillity to the heart. Gazing upon the face of Nature, we shall encounter no human passions, no distrust, no jealousy, no intermission of friendship or attraction; even her frowns are beautiful, and we need not fear that death shall tear her from us. We look upon an immortal countenance. A morning thus dedicated is an act of the purest piety ; it is offering to the Deity a heart made happy by the contemplation of his works; and if I can prevail upon a single reader to detach himself for a time from crowds and enthralments, and betake himself to the sunny meadows, or the green twilight of the woods, I shall felicitate myself on not having quite unprofitably employed the morning of “ To-day.”