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REFLECTIONS ON MAN, HIS RELATIONS AND INTERESTS.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF FREDERIC ANCILLON.
[Frederic Ancillon is a native of Berlin, was born in 1766, and is still living. He is a diplomatist, and is well-known on the continent of Europe for his political writings. The work, from which we have made a few extracts and translated them, was published in Berlin, in two volumes, in 1829. He writes both in German and French; but the character of his mind appears rather German than French.]
REPUTATION may be factitious, for it is the opinion of contemporaries; but Fame is never, for it is the judgement of posterity.
NOTHING is more noble than a woman of talents and high character who, from principle, devotes herself to petty household cares. The generality of women go through with such duties from instinct or from habit; they are not obliged to descend to find themselves on a level with their occupations. They neither see, nor desire, nor suspect any thing beyond.
PRINCIPLES are fixed, primitive and directing ideas, which have the more influence in proportion as they are more simple and less numerous. A want of ideas is often a reason for want of principles; but often, on the other hand, a number of ideas distracts our attention, and diminishes our power, and prevents any one of them from becoming the ruling one.
THERE are jesuits in politics as well as in religion. The principles of both are the same; both maintaining that the end sanctifies the means, and that every thing is permitted, or at least allowable, which contributes to the acquisition of power or the spread of particular doctrines.
THE whole art of war consists in the comparative calculation of the ́space and the time which alone give the means of directing large masses with safety and despatch towards a given point. To direct superior masses towards a weak point, or to render a strong point a weak one, both by rapidity and force, is the whole secret of victory.
ONE of the principal causes of the originality of the English poets is, that they do not pass their lives in society; that they do not write for society; and that, above all, they do not write to please women. They study the ancients; they understand the Latin and Greek poets much better than the French do; but they study nature still more, and are exempt from the ruinous influence of drawing-rooms.
It is not the perfection of Plutarch's style, which gives it its charm; it is rather its carelessness, arising from that delightful good-nature, which attracts us to the man and makes us feel sure of his veracity.
HOMER has been in ancient and modern times the immortal and unfading source of high and great poetry. All poets have read him again and again, studied him and owe to him, more or less, their most happy inspirations. He has, in particular, exerted a most magic power, over those poets, who have written epic poems. But it would be absurd to suppose that these poets would not have existed without him, and that, without him, we should not have had epic poems. On the
Reflections on Man, his Relations and Interests.
contrary, we might have had more bold, striking and original ones. Homer may have kindled the genius of poets, but he has perhaps prevented them from striking out new tracks. They have imitated him too much, to become themselves inimitable. In every career, especially that of poetry, the first one has an immense advantage.
BONAPARTE and Augustus have often been compared, but they resemble each other in only two respects. Both owed their elevation to the weariness of spirit induced in the minds of men by civil discords; both began by adopting republican forms and took shelter under them in order to destroy more surely the republic and to gain absolute power. In other respects, there was more prudence, calculation, and craft in the character of Augustus; more of abandonment, impetuosity and daring in that of Bonaparte. Not that he was a stranger to artifice, hypocrisy and political arithmetic; but he was, in the main, courageous and violent. Augustus, on the other hand, was cold and pusillanimous. This difference explains every thing. Both were deficient in elevation of soul, in enthusiasm, and in a certain natural magnanimity. Cæsar had them all, to a great degree.
I LOVE books, which make me forget the present. All new books, especially those of a troubled period, have more or less the impression of the times, which is an impression of confusion, because passions and interests do not permit either the opinions or the thoughts to become calm and fixed. Ages alone can accomplish that. It arises from this that ancient literature is like a cloudless heaven, under which we breathe an air more tranquil and more sweet.
THE language of the Greeks was at the same time the most poetical and the most metaphysical. Hence, they equally excelled in mythology, which is the philosophy of the imagination, and in metaphysics, which is the poetry of the reason.
ONE of the worst effects of civilization is, that in the actual condition of society, men eat too much and read too much. We do the one without appetite and the other without interest. We do not wait for the impulse in either case. The organs of the body and the powers of the mind are equally palsied under the quantity of aliment with which we load them.
THERE are some men who have not so much genius as ambition. Others have not so much ambition as genius. The first are ridiculous if they do not obtain their ends, and dangerous if they do. The others excite our admiration, both for what they are and for what they do not wish to be, but we lament their indifference and wish they had less of haughty disdain. Those, whose genius and ambition are equal, become easily masters of the world, for either circumstances favor them or they conquer circumstances.
THERE are two ways of arriving at the highest personal liberty; one is to have few wants and the other to have abundant means of satisfying them. The first method is easier than the latter, and yet it is the one most rarely made use of.
It is often said that genius is the power of creating. It would be more proper to say that genius is the power of combining, for all the creations of genius are combinations of forms and images, of actions and events, of thoughts and deeds.
THOSE men who have more imagination than sensibility live much in the future; those who have more sensibility than imagination, live much in the past.
No man does in the world either all the good or all the evil he is capable of. This is not always to be attributed to the want of principle or the strength of it, but to the force of inertia, which is as real in the moral as in the physical world.
MEN who are not on good terms with themselves are not with any body else. They accuse the whole world in order that they may not be under the cruel necessity of accusing themselves.
FROM THE GERMAN OF GÖTHE.
According to an ancient superstition of the North, there were Demons, or Duses, of Fire, and Duses of Frost. When a person was frozen to death, it was supposed that he was seized by the Duses of Frost, from whom we suppose our friend Jack Frost is a lineal descendant. Upon this superstition is founded the following simple ballad of the Erlkönig, which, for want of a better word, we translate Wood-Demon.
WHO rides so late through the night-storm wild?
He has the boy close in his arm,
He clasps him safely, he holds him warm.
"My son, why hidest thou thy face in fear?"
"Seest thou not, father, the Wood-Demon near?
'Thou lovely child, come go with me;
"My father! my father! and dost thou not hear,
Through the dry leaves whistles the night-wind wild!”
'My pretty child, wilt thou go with me?
Kindly my daughters shall wait upon thee;
And rock thee, and dance thee, and sing thee to sleep!'
"My father, my father! and seest thou not
The Wood-Demon's daughters in yon shady spot?"
They are nought but the willows so gray and so old."
'I love thee-thy figure doth please me so,
The father shudders; he hurries on,
THE PHILADELPHIA LADY.
ATHENEUM GALLERY-NO. XX.
LADY! some missioned angel smiled
The lustre of a quiet mind
Of starlight trembling, as the wind Breaks the smooth mirror of the sea
Or like that strange, delusive light, When sleep has set the Fancy free
To soar beyond the veil of night.
Can'st thou be real? art thou not
One, so divinely fair, around
Thy morning splendor must have passed;
Before thy happy smile to last.
Still, thou hast crossed youth's flowery verge;.
And well I deem relentless Time
And purple clusters on the vine
Of all this world holds fair and good-
When, to the ancient sculptor's gaze,
The perfect figure, that his art Could from the massy marble raise,
Appeared like light,-his thrilling heart
Than, when with life and beauty warm,
MONTFORT AND ISABEL.
MONTFORT was the son of a wealthy and eminent citizen,—one of the Patricians of the Republic. Despite of the best paternal counsel, and the influence of domestic example, he early contracted habits of dissipation. His tastes seemed low by nature, and his irregularities had little in them to extenuate or redeem. The opulence of a too indulgent father yielded him the means of gratifying his vicious propensities; and, brought up with the notion,-which there are those always ready to instil into the ear of such a youth,-that his parent was possesser of immense riches to a large portion of which he would one day succeed, he plunged into every species of juvenile extravagance.
As Montfort advanced to the period of early manhood, his deportment was more painfully marked, and the admonitions of affectionate solicitude were redoubled. But vain were the remonstrances of kindred and friends,-vain the parental endeavor to change, or effectually to check, his depraved inclinations, to inspire him with a corrective sense of shame, and to induce him both to cultivate, by an altered demeanor, self-respect, and to lay claim to the confidence and the favor of the wise and good. Once, indeed, he seemed-it was but an illusion to listen to the urgency of these appeals, and a favorable impression, it was hoped, had been wrought upon his sensibilities. To encourage him the more-as capacity for commercial pursuits was not wanting and to disengage him from the meshes wherein he had been entoiled, especially by removing him from the accustomary influences of profligate companionship, the kind father furnished him with a ship, which we will call the Mermaid, and, freighting it with a valuable cargo, sent him abroad in its charge, and for the purpose of general traffic. Instead of impressing specific directions, he inculcated the lesson, that the issue of the voyage would depend on Montfort's own prudence and integrity. As a still higher proof of confidence, and a motive to generous enterprise, the ship itself was made over to him as a free gift.
Thus provided, and followed by the parental blessing, the son, now arrived at mature age, embarked in a ship navigated, indeed, by the nautical skill of others, but all, both officers and men, under his sole command. He sailed first for the Canaries, and, after a prosperous voyage, put into one of the loveliest of those sweet isles. The usual letters and credentials, which, as a stranger, he brought, and which were tenderly silent respecting his past flagrant aberrations, gave him a ready pass to the hospitable attentions of many respectable colonists. The father of Isabel was one who opened the door of his modest mansion to bid Montfort welcome. Vasquez (the name of that parent) was a descendant from one of those brave and spirited adventurers, who, not deterred by the unsuccessful attempts of the daring Herrera, at an earlier period, followed the fortunes of Fernando Lugo in his endeavor to subject the last and largest in the Canary group, and annex it, as a perpetual dependence, on the crown of Spain. This was in the year 1493, a few months subsequent to the brilliant discoveries of Columbus in the New World. Though many of the earlier 2