Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

vourable accidents, or by incessant vigilance, be preserved, he must sink at last.

This necessity of perishing might have been expected to sadden the gay, and intimidate the daring ; at least to keep the melancholy and timorous in perpetual torments, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature offered them as the solace of their labours ; yet in effect none seemed less to expect destruction than those to whom it was most dreadful ; they all had the art of concealing their danger from themselves ; and those who knew their inability to bear the sight of the terrors that embarrassed their way, took care never to look forward ; but found some amusement of the present moment, and generally entertained themselves by playing with Hope, who was the constant associate of the Voyage of Life.

Yet all that Hope ventured to promise, even to those whom she favoured most, was, not that they should escape, but that they should sink last; and with this promise every one was satisfied, though he laughed at the rest for seeming to believe it. Hope, indeed, apparently mocked the credulity of her companions ; for, in proportion as their vessels grew leaky, she redoubled her assurances of safety ; and none were more busy in making provisions for a long voyage, than they whom all but themselves saw likely to perish soon by irreparable decay.

In the midst of the current of Life, was the gulph of intemperance, a dreadful whirlpool, interspersed with rocks, of which the pointed crags were concealed under water, and the tops covered with herbage, on which Ease spread couches of repose ; and with shades, where Pleasure war. bled the song of invitation. Within sight of these rocks, all who sailed on the ocean of Life must necessarily pass. Reason, indeed, was always at band, to steer the passengers through a narrow outlet, by which they might escape ; but very few could, by her entreaties or remonstrances, be induced to put the rudder into her hand, without stipulating that she should approach so near the rocks of Pleasure, that they might solace themselves with a short enjoyment of that delicious region, after which they always determined to pursue their course without any deviation.

Reason was too often prevailed upon so far by these promises, as to venture her charge within the eddy of the gulph of Intemperance, where, indeed, the circumvolution was weak, but yet interrupted the course of the vessel, and

drew it, by insensible rotations, towards the centre. . She then repented her temerity, and with all her force endeavoured to retreat ; but the draught of the gulph was generally too strong to be overcome : and the passenger, having danced in circles with a pleasing and giddy velocity, was at last overwhelmed and lost. Those few whom Reason was able to extricate, generally suffered so many shocks upon the points which shot out from the rocks of Pleasure, that they were unable to continue their course with the same strength and facility as before ; but floated along timorously and feebly, endangered by every breeze, and shattered by every ruffle of the water, till they sunk, by slow degrees, after long struggles, and innumerable expedients, always repining at their own folly, and warning others against the first approach towards the gulph of Intemperance.

There were artists who professed to repair the breaches, and stop the leaks, of the vessels which had been shattered on the rocks of Pleasure. Many appeared to have great confidence in their skill; and some, indeed, were preserved by it from sinking, who had received only a single blow: but I remarked that few vessels lasted long which had been much repaired: nor was it found that the artists themselves continued afloat longer than those who had least of their assistance. i

The only advantage which, in the voyage of Life, the cautious had above the negligent, was, that they sunk later, and more suddenly; for they passed forward till they had sometimes seen all those in whose company they had issued from the straits of Infancy, perish in the way; and at last were overset by a cross breeze, without the toil of resistance, or the anguish of expectation. But such as had often fallen against the rocks of Pleasure, commonly subsided by sensible degrees ; contended long with the encroaching waters; and harassed themselves by labours that scarcely Hope herself could flatter with success.

As I was looking upon the various fates of the multitude about me, I was suddenly alarmed with an admonition from some unknown power: “Gaze not idly upon others, when thou thyself art sinking. Whence is this thoughtless tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered ?" I looked, and seeing the gulph of Intemperance before me, started and awaked.

DR. JOHNSON.

SECTION II.

The vanity of those pursuits which have human approbation for

their chief object.

Among the emirs and visiers, the sons of valour and of wisdom, that stand at the corners of the Indian throne, to assist the councils, or conduct the wars of the posterity of Timur, the first place was long held by Morad, the son of Hanuth. Morad having signalized himself in many battles and sieges, was rewarded with the government of a province, from which the fame of his wisdom and moderation was wafted to the pinnacles of Agra, by the prayers of those whom his administration made happy. The emperor called him into his presence, and gave into his hand the keys of riches, and the sabre of command. The voice of Morad was heard from the cliffs of Taurus to the Indian ocean: every tongue faltered in his presence, and every eye was cast down before him.

Morad lived many years in prosperity : every day increased his wealth, and extended his influence. The sages repeated his maxims; the captains of thousands waited his commands. Competition withdrew into the cavern of envy, and discontent trembled at her own murmurs. But human greatness is short and transitory, as the odour of incense in the fire. The sun grew weary of gilding the palaces. of Morad; the clouds of sorrow gathered round his head; and the tempest of hatred roared about his dwelling.

Morad saw ruin hastily approaching. The first that forsook him were his poets. Their example was followed by all those whom he had rewarded for contributing to his pleasures ; and only a few whose virtue had entitled them to favour, were now to be seen in his hall or chambers. He felt his danger, and prostrated himself at the foot of the throne. His accusers were confident and loud ; his friends stood contented with frigid neutrality; and the voice of truth was overborne by clamour. He was divested of his power, deprived of his acquisitions, and condemned to pass. the rest of his life on his hereditary estate.

Morad had been so long accustomed to crowds and business, supplicants and flattery, that he knew not how to fill up his hours in solitude. · He saw, with regret, the sun rise to force on his eye a new day for which be had no use ;. and envi the savage that wanders in the desert, because he has no time vacant from the calls of nature, but is always chasing his prey, or sleeping in his den.

His discontent in time vitiated his constitution, and a slow disease seized upon him. He refused physic, neglected exercise, and lay down on his couch peevish and restless, rather afraid to die, than desirous to live. His domestics, for a time, redoubled their assiduities; but finding that no officiousness could sooth, nor exactness satisfy, they soon gave way to negligence and slotb ; and he that once conmanded nations, often languished in his chamber without an attendant.

In this melancholy state, he commanded messengers to recall his eldest son, Alouzaid, from the army. Abouzaid was alarmed at the account of his father's sickness ; and hasted, by long journeys, to his place of residence. Morad was yet living, and felt his strength return at the embraces of his son; then commanding him to sit down at his bed-side, “ Abouzaid,” said he, “thy father has no more to hope or fear from the inhabitants of the earth ; the cold hand of the angel of death is now upon him, and the voracious grave is howling for his prey. Hear therefore the precepts of ancient experience : let not my last instructions issue forth in vain. Thou hast seen me happy and calamitous : thou hast beheld my exaltation and my fall. My power is in the hands of my enemies ; my treasures have rewarded my accusers : but my inheritance the clemency of the emperor has spared ; and my wisdom his anger could not take away Cast thine eyes around thee: whatever thou beholdest, will, in a few hours, be thine : apply thine ear to my dictates, and these possessions will promote thy happiness. Aspire not to public honours ; enter not the palaces of kings : thy wealth will set thee above insult; let thy moderation keep thee below envy. Content thyself with private dignity ; diffuse thy riches among thy friends ; let every day extend thy bene. ficence; and suffer not thy heart to be at rest, till thou art loved by all to whom thou art known. In the height of my power, I said to defamation, Who will hear thee ? and to artifice, What canst thou perform ? But, my son, despise not thou the malice of the weakest : remember that venom supplies the want of strength; and that the lion may perish by the puncture of an asp."

Morad expired in a few hours. Abouzaid, after the months of mourning, determined to regulate his conduct by.

his father's precepts; and cultivate the love of mankind by every art of kindness and endearment. He wisely considered that domestic happiness was first to be secured ; and that none have so much power of doing good or hurt, as those wbo are present in the hour of negligence, hear the bursts of thoughtless merriment, and observe the starts of unguarded passion. He therefore augmented the pay of all his attendants ; and requited every exertion of uncommon diligence by supernumerary gratuities. While he congratulated himself upon the fidelity and affection of his family, he was in the night alarmed with robbers; who being pursued and taken, declared, that they had been admitted by one of his servants. The servant immediately confessed, that he unbarred the door, because 'another, not more worthy of confidence, was entrusted with the keys.

Abouzaid was thus convinced, that a dependant could not easily be made a friend ; and that while many were soliciting for the first rank of favour, all those would be alienated whom he disappointed. He therefore resolved to associate with a few equal companions selected from among the chief men of the province. With these he lived happily for a time, till familiarity set them free from restraint, and every man thought himself at liberty to indulge his own caprice, and advance his own opinions. They then disturbed each other with contrariety of inclinations, and difference of sentiments ; and Abouzaid was necessitated to offend one party by concurrence, or both by indifference.

He afterwards determined to avoid a close union with beings so discordant in their nature, and to diffuse himself in a larger circle. He practised the smile of universal courtesy; and invited all to his table, but admitted none to his retirements. Many who had been rejected in his choice of friendship, now refused to accept his acquaintance : and of those whom plenty and magnificence drew to his table, every one pressed forward toward intimacy, thought himself overlooked in the crowd, and murmured, because he was not distinguished above the rest. By degrees, all made advances, and all resented repulse. The table was then covered with delicacies in vain; the music sounded in empty rooms ; and Abouzaid was left to form, in solitude, some new scheme of pleasure or security.

Resolving now to try the force of gratitude, he inquired for men of science, whose merit was obscured by poverty: His house was soon crowded with poets, sculptors, painters,

« AnteriorContinuar »