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ject be slight, the treatise likewise is short. time, and the idle may find patience.”
The busy may find
Essays, No. xxviii.
ON THE HAPPINESS OF DOMESTIC LIFE.
An active life is exposed to many evils which cannot reach a state of retirement; but it is found, by the uniform experience of mankind, to be, upon the whole, productive of the most happiness. All are found desirous of avoiding the listlessness of an unemployed condition. Without the incentives of ambition, of fame, of interest, of emulation, men eagerly rush upon hazardous and painful enterprises. There is a quick succession of ideas, a warm flow of spirits, an animated sensation, consequent on exertion, which amply compensates the chagrin of disappointment and the fatigue of attention.
One of the most useful effects of action is that it renders repose agreeable. Perpetual rest is pain of the most intolerable kind. But a judicious interchange of rest and motion, of indolent enjoyment and strenuous efforts, gives a true relish of life, which, when too tranquil, is insipid, and when too much agitated, disgustful.
This sweet repose, which is necessary to restore, by relaxing the tone of the weary mind, has been sought for by the wisest and greatest of men at their own fireside. Senators and heroes have shut out the acclamations of an applauding world to enjoy the prattling of their little ones, and to partake the endearments of family conversation. They knew that even their best friends, in the common intercourse of life, were in some degree actuated by interested motives in displaying their affection; that many of their followers applauded them in hopes of reward; and that the giddy multitude, however zealous, were not always judicious in their approbation. But the attentions paid them at their fireside, the smiles which exbilarated their own table, were the genuine result of undissembled love.
The nursery has often alleviated the fatigues of the bar and the senate-house. Nothing contributes more to raise the gentlypleasing emotions than the view of infant innocence, enjoying the raptures of a game at play. All the sentiments of uncontrolled nature display themselves to the view, and furnish matter for agreeable reflection to the mind of the philosophical observer. To partake with children in their little pleasures is by no means unmanly. It is one of the purest sources of mirth. It has an
influence in amending the heart, which necessarily takes a tincture from the company that surrounds us. Innocence as well as guilt is communicated and increased by the contagion of example. And the great author of evangelical philosophy has taught us to emulate the simplicity of the infantine age. He seems indeed himself to have been delighted with young children, and found in them, what he in vain sought among those who judged themselves their superiors, unpolluted purity of heart.
Among the great variety of pictures which the vivid imagination of Homer has displayed throughout the Iliad, there is not one more pleasing than the family piece which represents the parting interview between Hector and Andromache. It deeply interests the heart while it delights the imagination. The hero ceases to be terrible, that he may become amiable. We admire him while he stands completely armed in the field of battle; but we love him more while he is taking off his helmet that he may not frighten his little boy with its nodding plumes. We are refreshed with the tender scene of domestic love, while all around breathes rage and discord. We are pleased to see the arm which is shortly to deal death and destruction among a host of foes, employed in caressing an infant son with the embraces of paternal love. A professed critic would attribute the pleasing effect entirely to contrast; but the heart has declared, previously to the inquiries of criticism, that it is chiefly derived from the satisfaction which we naturally take in beholding great characters engaged in tender and amiable employments.
Essays, No. xl.
ON SIMPLICITY OF STYLE.
Food that gives the liveliest pleasure on the first taste frequently disgusts on repetition; and those things which please the palate without satiety, are such as agitate but moderately, and perhaps originally caused a disagreeable sensation. Mental food is also found by experience to nourish most and delight the longest when it is not lusciously sweet. Profuse ornament and unnecessary graces, though they may transport the reader on a first perusal, commonly occasion a kind of intellectual surfeit, which prevents a second.
Immoderate embellishment is the mark of a puerile taste, of a weak judgment, and a little genius. It conveys the idea of too great a labor to please; an idea which excludes the appearance of case, without which it is difficult to effect the purpose of pleasing. If the reader enters into the author's spirit, he finds his emotions too rapidly excited to be consistent with pleasurable feelings. Works acknowledged to be written with true taste are found, for the most part, to raise gentle emotions; and, when it is necessary to call up the more violent, the effect is improved from the rarity of the attempt. There is a certain equable flow of spirits which keeps the mind in a tone for the admission of durable pleasure; but which, when hurried or exalted beyond its natural state, terminates in disgust.
The Meditations of Hervey, and many books of devotion, are written in that rhapsodic style which wearies by its constant efforts to elevate the mind to ecstasy. They have, it is true, a useful effect on the rude and uncultivated, who are seldom penetrated but by forcible impressions; but the pleasure they give is not sufficiently elegant and refined to attach the more polished reader.
Poetical prose, as all such writings may be called, seems indeed by no means correspondent to classical ideas of beauty. There is no model of it among writers in the golden ages, and it has seldom been attempted by the first rank of moderns. Fenelon, indeed, succeeded in it, but he richly intermixed the beautiful flowers originally culled by Homer and Virgil. Genius like his, assisted by classical learning, may give a grace to compositions formed on plans not quite conformable to the most approved taste.
The Bible, the Iliad, and Shakspeare's works, are allowed to be the sublimest books that the world can exhibit. They are also truly simple ; and the reader is the more affected by their indisputable sublimity, because his attention is not wearied by ineffectual attempts at it. He who is acquainted with Longinus will remember that the instances adduced by that great pattern of the excellence he describes, are not remarkable for a glaring or a pompous style, but derive their claim to sublimity from a noble energy of thought, modestly set off by a proper expression.
No author has been more universally approved than Xenophon. Yet his writings display no appearance of splendor or majesty ; nothing elevated or adorned with figures; no affectation of superfluous ornament. His merit is an unaffected sweetness which no affectation can obtain. The graces seem to have conspired to form the becoming texture of his composition. And yet, perhaps, a common reader would neglect him, because the easy and natural air of his narrative rouses no violent emotion. More refined understandings peruse him with delight; and Cicero has recorded that Scipio, when once he had opened the books of Xenophon, would with difficulty be prevailed with to close them. His style, says the same great orator and critic, is sweeter than honey, and the muses themselves seem to have spoken from his mouth.
He should have added Milton, &
he ᎠᏂlᎧ ex lone Iole.
Julius Cæsar is thought to have resembled him in his style, as he did in the circumstance of profession. He has nothing florid or grand, but, like a gentle river, flows on with a surface unruffled. A wonderful instance of moderation, to have recounted his own achievements with accuracy, yet without being, for a moment, betrayed into an unbecoming pomp either of diction or representation. Yet with all the gracefulness of modesty and simplicity, he has an air of grandeur that commands respect. In comparison with this, ostentatious ornament would have been contemptible deformity.
Cicero, who understood and valued the simplicity of Xenophon, was, however, himself sometimes guilty of its violation. He adopted the Asiatic manner in some of his orations, and they are sometimes more verbose, diffuse, and affected, than an Attic taste can patiently endure. But it is a kind of sacrilege, as well as presumption, to detract from the deserved glory of a man who, in his life and writings, advanced human nature to bigh perfection.
To write in a plain style appears easy in theory ; but how few in comparison have avoided the fault of unnecessary and false ornament! The greater part seem to have mistaken unwieldy corpulence for robust vigor, and to have despised the temperate habit of sound health as meagreness. The taste for finery is more general than for symmetrical beauty and chaste elegance; and many, like Nero, would not be content till they should have spoiled, by gilding it, the statue of a Lysippus.
Essays, No. xv.
CHARLES WOLFE, 1791–1823.
Charles Wolfe, the youngest son of Theobald Wolfe, Esq., was born in Dublin on the 14th of December, 1791. As a youth, he showed great precocity of talent, united to a most amiable disposition, and after the usual preparatory studies, in which he distinguished himself, he entered the Uni. versity of Dublin in 1809. He immediately attained a high rank for his classical attainments, and for his true poetic talent; and the first year of his college course he obtained a prize for a poem upon “Jugurtha in
Prison." Before he left the university, he wrote a number of pieces of poetry that were truly beautiful, but especially that one on which his fame ehieily rests, the “ Lines on the Burial of Sir John Moore."
In 1814, he took his bachelor's degree, and entered at once upon the study of divinity. In 1817, he was ordained as curate of the church of Ballyclog, in Tyrone, and afterwards of Donoughmore. His most consci. entious and incessant attention to his duties in a wild and scattered parish soon made inroads upon bis health, and he was advised to go to the south of France as the most likely means to avert the threatened malady-con. sumption. He remained but little more than a month at Bordeaux, and returned home, appearing to have been benefited by the voyage. But the fond hopes of his friends were soon to be blasted-the fatal disease had taken too strong a hold upon its victim-and, after a protracted illness, accompanied with much suffering, which he bore with the greatest Christian fortitude and patience, he expired on the 21st of February, 1823, in the thirty-second year of his age.
THE BURIAL OF SIR JOHN MOORE.9
Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried ;
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.
1 The following eloquent tribute to his memory was written the Rev. Dr. Miller, of Trinity College, Dublin, author of the “Lectures on Modern History :* “He combined eloquence of the first order with the zeal of an apostle. During the short time in which he held a curacy in the diocese of Armagh, he so wholly devoted himself to the discharge of his duties in a very populous parish, that he exhausted his strength by exertions disproportioned io bis constitution, and was cut off by disease in what should have been the bloom of youth. This zeal, which was too powerful for his bodily frame, was yet controlled by a vigorous and manly intellect, which all the ardor of re ligion and poetry could never urge to enthusiasm. His opinions were as sober as if they were merely speculative; his fancy was as vivid as if he never reasoned; his conduct as zealous as if he thought only of his practical duties; everything in him held its proper place, except a due consideration of himself, and io his neglect of this he became an early victim."
• The passage in the Edinburgh Annual Register (1808), on which Wolfe founded his ode, is as follows: « Sir John Moore had often said that, if he was killed in battle, he wished to be buried where he fell. The body was removed at midnight to the citadel of Corunna. A grave was dug for him on the ramparts there by a body of the ninth regiment, the aides-de-camp attending by turns. No coffin could be procured, and the officers of his staff wrapped the body, dressed as it was, in a military cloak and blankets. The interment was hastened; for, about eight in the morning, some firing was heard, and the officers feared that, if a serious attack were made, they should be ordered away, and not suffered to pay him their last duty. The officers of his family bore him to the grave; the funeral service was read by the chaplain ; and the corpse was covered with earth.”