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"Consider how little you gain, and how much distress you occasion to some of the most beautiful and lovely of creation's tribes. You destroy the eggs, from which the fond bird hoped to rear an offspring; or, what is still more cruel, you rob her of her young, when maternal care and affection are at the highest pitch. Could you possibly conceive what the parent bird must suffer from this deprivation, you would be ashamed of your insensibility.
“The nightingale, robbed of her tender young, is said to sing most sweetly; but it is the plaintive voice of lacerated nature, not the note of joy. It should be heard as the expression of distress; and, if you are the cause of it, you ought to apply it to yourself.
O then, ye friends of love, and love-taught song,
“Even the meanest insects receive an existence from the Author of our being; and why should you abridge their span? They have their little sphere of bliss allotted them; they have purposes, which they are destined to fulfil; and, when these are accomplished, they die, Thus it is with you! You have, indeed, a more extensive range of action, more various and important duties to discharge; and well will it be for you if you discharge them aright.
“But think not, because you have reason and superiority given you, that irrational animals are beneath your regard. in proportion as you enjoy the benefits they are adapted to confer, you should be careful to treat them with tenderness and humanity : it is the only return you can make. Remember, every thing that has life is doomed to suffer and to feel, though its expression of pain may not be capable of being conveyed to your ears.
“ To the most worthless reptile, to the most noxious animal, some pity is due. If its life is dangerous to you, it may be destroyed without blame; but let it be done without cruelty. To torture is unmanly; to tyranpise, where there can be no resistance, is the extreme of baseness.
“I never knew an amiable person, who did not feel an attachment for animals. A boy who is not fond of his bird, his rabbit, his dog, or his horse, or whatever other creature he takes under his protection, will never have a good heart, and will always be wanting in affection to his own kind, But he, who, after admonition, delights in misery, or sports with life, must have a disposition and a heart that I should blush to own : he is neither qualified to be happy himself, nor will he ever make others so."
Impolicy and Injustice of Excessive Severity in Punishments.
IT were highly to be wished, that legislative power would direct the law rather to reformation than severity; that it would seem convinced, that the work of eradicating crimes is not by making punishments familiar, but formidable. Then, instead of our present prisons, which find, or make men guilty; which enclose wretches for the commission of one crime, and return them, if returned alive, fitted for the perpetration of thousands ; it were to be wished, we had places of penitence and solitude, where the accused might be attended by such as could give them repentance, if guilty, or new motives to virtue, if innocent. And this, but not the increasing of punishments, is the way to mend a state.
Nor can I avoid even questioning the validity of that right, which social combinations have assumed, of capitally punishing offences of a slight nature. In cases of murder their right is obvious, as it is the duty of us all, from the law of self-defence, to cut off that man who hath shown a disregard for the life of another. Against such all nature rises in arms.
But it is not so against him who steals my property. Natural law gives me no right to take away his life, as, by that, the horse he steals is as much his property as mine. If, then, I have any right, it must be from a compact made between us, that he, who deprives the other of his horse, shall die. But this is a false compact; because no man has a right to barter his life, any more than to take it away, as it is not his own.
And, besides, the compact is inadequate, and would be set aside, even in a court of modern equity, as there is a great penalty for a trifling convenience; since it is far better that two men should live, than that one should ride. But a compact that is false between two, men, is equally s
between a hundred and a hundred thousand; for as ten millions of circles can never make a square, so the united voice of myriads cannot lend the smallest foundation to falsehood.
It is thus that reason speaks, and untutored nature says the same thing. Savages, that are directed by natural law alone, are tender of the lives of each other; they seldom shed blood but to retaliate former cruelty.
It were to be wished, then, that power, instead of contriving new laws to punish vice; instead of drawing hard the cords of society, till a convulsion come to burst them; instead of cutting away wretches as useless, before we have tried their utility; instead of converting correction into vengeance; it were to be wished, that we tried the restrictive arts of government, and made law the protector, but not the tyrant, of the people.
We should then find, that creatures, whose souls are held as dross, only wanted the hand of a refiner; we should then find, that wretches, now stuck up for long tortures, lest luxury should feel a momentary pang, might, if properly treated, serve to sinew the state in times of danger; that, as their faces are like ours, their hearts are so too; that few minds are so base as that perseverance cannot amend ; that a man may see his last crime without dying for it; and that very little blood will serve to cement our security.
Address to Liberty.—CowPER.
Duly, as ever on the mountain's height
But that were sacrilege : praise is not thine,
Propitious Spirit ! yet expụnge a wrong
At the close of the day, when the hamlet is still,
And mortals the sweets of forgetfulness prove; When nought but the torrent is heard on the hill,
And nought but the nightingale's song in the grove; ?Twas then, by the cave of the mountain afar,
While his harp rung symphonious, a hermit began ; No more with himself or with nature at war,
He thought as a sage, while he felt as a man ;
“ Ah, why, thus abandoned to darkness and wo,
Why, lone Philomela, that languishing fall ? For spring shall return, and a lover bestow,
And sorrow no longer thy bosom enthral.
But, if pity inspire thee, renew thy sad lay;
Mourn, sweetest complainer, man calls thee to mourn : O soothe him, whose pleasures, like thine, pass away
Full quickly they pass-but they never return.
“Now, gliding remote, on the verge of the sky,
The moon, half extinguished, her crescent displays : But lately I marked, when, majestic on high,
She shone, and the planets were lost in her blaze. Roll on, thou fair orb, and with gladness pursue
The path that conducts thee to splendor again : But man's faded glory no change shall renew!
Ah fool! to exult in a glory so vain ! « 'Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more;
I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you ; For morn is approaching your charms to restore,
Perfumed with fresh fragrance, and glittering with dew. Nor yet for the ravage of winter I mourn :
Kind nature the embryo blossom will save : But when shall spring visit the mouldering urn!
O when shall it dawn on the night of the grave !" 'Twas thus, by the glare of false science betrayed,
That leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind, My thoughts wont to roam, from shade onward to shade,
Destruction before me and sorrow behind : “O pity, great Father of light,” then I cried,
“ Thy creature, who fain would not wander from thee! Lo, humbled in dust, I relinquish my pride;
From doubt and from darkness thou only canst free.” And darkness and doubt are now flying away:
No longer I roam in conjecture forlorn.
The bright and the balmy effulgence of morn.
And nature all glowing in Eden's first bloom !
And Beauty immortal awakes from the tomb.