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Ignoble minds presume that pleasures
Unalloyed with wealth are found,
Thirst for gold the world around.
Who can depend on Fortune fickle,
Or avert the fatal blow
All our cherished hopes to mow?
There are no fragrant paths of roses
Free from pricking thorns of care,
Over Youth and Beauty fair.
From the palace to the cottage,
From the hovel to the throne;
Where are Sorrow's tears unknown?
When the heart is sad and dreary,
And the Present seems to frown,
Wish to lay its burden down !
What though the mind be stored with learning,
And life's prospect fair to see,
Like some caged bird, to be free.
The gaudy phantoms of the Present,
That we covet so, and chase,
Leaving no enduring trace.
So the world goes on revolving
In its orbit, as of yore,
Upon every tyrant shore.
Progression’s god-like spirit ranges
Through all systems, young and old,
Yet unwritten and untold.
BY RALPE SEA WOLF
• There have been holy men who hid themselves
BRYANT'S FOREST EYux. The old man, having proceeded thus far, ceased speaking, and sank back upon a projection of rock that hung over the rude seat upon which he had rested, apparently much exhausted with the fatigue and excitement of his unaccustomed task. While delivering the observations which I have but imperfectly repeated in the last chapter, he appeared frequently to forget my very presence, and with eyes uplifted or gazing on vacancy, although uttering aloud his thoughts, seemed rapt and communing with himself. Again at times, hurried away by the ardor of his enthusiasm, his speech would flow rapidly, and he would fix his eyes with such intensity upon me, and with such a wild unearthly expression, that I trembled, awe-struck, and almost terrified into unconsciousness at the sublimity of his appearance. His clear blue eyes at such times would brighten, and his whole face seem to kindle as with a blaze of light.
Be the cause of these impressions what it might, I was spell-bound, and every faculty of my mind was so riveted upon the events as they occurred, that though many years have since passed away, the impression upon my memory is as fixed and distinct as if it were the occurrence of yesterday. I fancied that this aged man had been originally of a powerful frame, with a tremendous will and a giant-like force of character, and that this great power, which in actual practical life, and upon the great theatre of the world, would bave made him a triumphant conqueror of “the stings and arrows of outrageous fortune,' had been almost wholly exhausted in their own discipline, if not systematic self-destruction. Still the phenomenon of a man of clear intellect and resolute purpose, setting himself apart from his fellows, and giving himself up to a life of holy contemplation and pure reason, so attracted my attention and fascinated my imagination, that my mind was excited to such a pitch as it had never been before. Unlike most men of my age and position, I was fortunate by early education in having fixed principles of morality and religion, and sound notions upon almost all leading matters of human conduct. Still I had read and reflected enough to have cultivated a curiosity respecting the opinions of others, whose creed or code might be the result of circumstances, or the dictate of policy. “This man's reflections,' thought I, “must surely be worthy of my attentive consideration. He is too far removed from me to speak or believe aught but the purest truth;' and his process of ratiocination seemed to me so much aloof from all the disturbing influences of passion and interest, that if human intellect or pure reason could arrive at truth, his deductions were entitled to the profoundest
respect if not implicit adoption. It was not that I expected to discover any new truths, that my attention and feelings were so strongly interested; but I did feel assured from the peculiarities of my venerable friend, that I should find much instruction and entertainment from listening to his strange talk, mingled as it was with profound and acute observation. Still, though I try to persuade myself otherwise, I fear it was little better than curiosity that I had for a motive in the beginning of our intercourse. Afterward I learned what a treasure I had discovered, and learned to appreciate it. Nay, more, during my whole life, at every period and juncture, I have felt under an infinitude of obligation to the teachings and accurate observations of this old man.
After the interchange of a few words of courtesy, I left the spot, having promised to return in the afternoon of the third day following, and prepared to return to the city. Upon emerging from the cave of the hermit
, strange and peculiar sensations came over me. I seemed awaking from an absorbing dream; so attentively had I listened to, and so deeply interested had I been, in what I had heard, that it had completely carried me away from every thing around me, and I had become totally forgetful of time and place. Now as I walked on and stood upon the brink of the bold summit that rose like a sentinel's watch-tower over the city below, and looked out upon the broad champaign country beyond, I felt a thrill of pleasurable emotions pass through my frame as the thought recurred to me, how different was the stand-point from which I looked out upon the world, from that of the singular being with whom I had just parted ! Naught was left to him but contrition and sorrow in this life for a wasted existence. He had nothing to return to his MAKER, to show his gratitude for the gift of an immortal existence. Like the wicked servant in the Christian parable, he had buried his talent !
The sun was veering toward the edge of the western horizon; a canopy of cloudless blue hung over me; field and meadow, lake and river lay spread out like a mosaic pavement far down beneath my feet, and far away at my left stretched out the beautiful bay, to lose itself in the majestic Sound that swept along, vast, endless, and calm, ever changing, yet ever the same, like the perpetual chain of humanity that now circles the earth, and will so continue to the last syllable of recorded time.? The
very breeze that fanned my cheek seemed more soft and kind than usual, and every object around me incited to contemplation and thought. I slowly wound my way down the mountain toward my home. It was a narrow circuitous path, but little trodden, except by the adventurous student and the occasional pleasure-seeker. Here it lay across trunks of fallen trees, that time had cut down and left lying in the swath; there it abruptly terminated upon a point of rock projecting over a ravine filled with brush-wood, at the bottom of which gurgled a noisy stream; while the traveller was at a loss how to proceed, until some over-hanging bough suggested itself, and held out a friendly hand, by clinging to which one might gently let himself down to the rocks below. Thus I journeyed on, sometimes starting a serpent from his repose, who would rear his head and glare for a moment at me with his sparkling eyes, and then glide away at a lazy pace, as if angry at the disturbance, but as though thinking himself not likely to gain
any laurels by an encounter with the knotted club I carried. Sometimes a rabbit would dart across my path as if frightened at the noise he made; and sometimes a fox would peer his glistening eyes through the border of the thicket, and retreat as cautiously as he had advanced. Such scenes as these had been the only companionship of the hermit for many a long year; and no doubt the endless variety and ever-varying face of nature around him had kept his mind and heart sound and clear, and thus he had escaped that apparent annihilation of this intellectual being' that so often overwhelms the melancholy victim of human cruelty, who, being buried alive in a dungeon, is at the same time denied the society of his fellow-men, and shut out from the works of God.
Upon arriving at my room in the college, I found waiting to see me my most intimate friend. I was too full of my adventure to keep it longer concealed, as I might otherwise upon farther reflection have done. The narrative produced a powerful impression on the mind of my auditor, and his interest was excited even beyond my own.
John Caldwell was of about my own age. An accidental acquaintance at college, springing up from the circumstance that we both hailed from the ‘Palmetto State,' had early ripened into the closest and most earnest intimacy.
He was a young man of the most terribly decided will I ever knew. His passions were all very powerful, but kept in admirable subjection, except his pride, which cost him many a struggle and many a pang. Like myself
, he was among the oldest in our class. He had already mentioned to me some incidents of an unhappy passion of his earlier life, which had terminated not unlike that of the new 'old man in the mountains of whom I write, and the details of my story struck him with peculiar force, and no doubt tended to arouse his the more powerfully.
CALDWELL. — I am very glad you have told me this. I have had in contemplation such a life as that of the individual of whom
have spoken, and had reflected seriously upon it for a long time back. I could see no valid objection to it. I was well aware of my own peculiarities, and if I had once entered upon it, I should have adhered to it, though it had eaten out
heart. I had not mentioned the subject to you, lest you might have attempted to dissuade me. SEAWULF. —
My dear Caldwell, in this you did wrong, indulge me in saying. You know that your secret would have been safe with me, and I should not have attempted to discover your retreat.
You know moreover that I, at least, would never have doubted your sincerity, if you had proposed such a matter. You ought to have talked of it freely with me. Though I am much your inferior in talent, you might have gotten a better light upon the subject, by bringing to bear the affectionate sympathies of another mind and beart. CALDWELL. You do yourself injustice and exaggerate my poor
abilities, but I am free to confess that I did wrong. I now see it clearly. I was stumbling upon the hills of darkness. I was groping my way under the same delusion as your friend of the mountain. I was in the wrong. You would have set me right in an instant. My fault is too much self-reliance. My proneness is to unhallowed speculation. Your calm and steady mind and heart, that never doubt and never waver, but always stand sentinel and help-meet for each other, would have enabled
you to dissipate in an instant the cloud which was overwhelming me, and which has cost this man a life-time, and the whole value of his existence, to discover.
SEAWULF. — The charms of solitude are more fanciful than real. As a state of negation, at times it fascinates the imagination, as when, disturbed by any grief and human sympathy is a mockery, we long to steal away from the haunts of men, and indulge in the luxury of woe.' But believe me, this is selfish, and unmanly - a dereliction of duty. Affliction, borne with manful resignation, purifies and elevates, and energizes to nobler action. Solitary repining perverts our better nature, and leads us to despair.
Our conversation ran on thus at some length. The mind of my friend Caldwell was in a deplorable state. He had turned his attention to the study of history and politics, to divert the gloom that hung over his thoughts; and although he had made progress in these great studies, such as might have been anticipated from his strong mental powers, his ethical notions startled and shocked me greatly. Hoping that he might profit by it, I proposed that he should accompany me in my next visit to the Recluse. To this he gladly assented, and we both promised ourselves much pleasure in the anticipated interview with the venerable octogenarian.