« AnteriorContinuar »
curate, who had got him a berth on board a man-of-war, as midshipman. The poor curate made a great effort for his son; fitted him out well with clothes, and gave him 501. in money. The first week, the poor boy lost his chest, clothes, money, and every thing he had in the world. The ship sailed for a foreign station; and his loss was without reinedy. He immediately quitted his mess, ceased to associate with the other midshipmen, who were the sons of gentlemen ; and for five years, without mentioning it to his parents — who he knew could not assist him, - or without borrowing a farthing
human being, without a single murmur or complaint, did that poor lad endure the most abject and degrading poverty, at a period of life when the feelings are most alive to ridicule, and the appetites most prone to indulgence. Now, I confess I am a mighty advocate for the sublimity of such long and patient endurance. If you can make the world stare and look on, there, you have vanity, or compassion, to support you; but to bury all your wretchedness in your own mind, to resolve that
you will have no man's pity, while you have one effort left to procure his respect, — to harbour no mean thought in the midst of abject poverty, but, at the very time you are surrounded by circumstances of humility and depression, to found a spirit of modest independence upon the consciousness of having always acted well; - this is a sublime, which, though it is found in the shade and retirement of life, ought to be held up to the praises of men, and to be looked upon as a noble model for imitation.
The confidence which very great men have in themselves, partakes of this feeling. There is something extremely grand and imposing in their firm reliance upon their own genius; and what in common men would be the height of presumption, is in them, not only tolerated, but vehemently and justly admired. Such is the answer of Alexander to Parmenio;— Cæsar to the Pilot;
- Marius to the man who saw him sitting on the ruins of Carthage. There is a very sublime piece of insolence, which Homer has put into the mouth of Achilles. He has seized upon Lycaon, and is going to put him to death. The young man prays to him, in the most humble and supplicating manner, to spare his life. “Wretch!” says Achilles, “ do you fear to die? do you complain of “ death ? Look at me! how beautiful, how vast, how “ brave am I! - even I must perish! A hero was my “ father, a goddess produced me, and yet the hour will
come, be it morning, or evening, or noon, when even “ I must fall by the arrow or the spear!” Lucullus, when he marched up to Tigranocerta, had an army of 300,000 men to attack. What was the conduct of Lucullus ? He did not go about to his officers and say, “Do you think I had better attack them ? or what do you think about it? I have really a great mind to do so.” His army and his officers were disconcerted with their numbers. Lucullus, the very moment he glanced at their position, exclaimed, “We have them!” It happened to be on one of those days which the Romans had marked out in their calendar as unfortunate, because it had formerly been memorable by defeats. They requested him to consider this well, and not to hazard a battle on such a day. “I will put it among the fortunate days,” said he, and immediately ordered them to march. An hundred thousand barbarians fell in the battle; with the loss of five Romans killed, and an hundred wounded.
The calm resignation to inevitable fate, equally removed from insolence and fear, and which is so peculiar to great minds, is to be classed among the sublimer feelings of our nature. In this manner Socrates drank the poison; the three hundred perished at the Straits of Greece; so died the Chancellor More on the scaffold, and the great Lord Falkland in the field; and in the same manner, the memorable Lord Strafford pleaded
before his enemies : “ And now, my lords," he says, “ I thank God I have been (by his blessing) sufficiently “ instructed in the extreme vanity of all temporary en“joyments, compared to the importance of our eternal “ duration ; and so, my lords, even so, with all humility, " and all tranquillity of mind, I submit clearly and
freely to your judgments; and whether that righteous 6. doom shall be to life or death, I shall repose myself, “full of gratitude and confidence, in the arms of the great Author of my existence.”
“ Certainly,” says Whitelock, (with his usual candour,)“ never any man acted such a part on such a " theatre, with more wisdom, constancy, and eloquence; “ with greater reason, judgment, and temper; and with
a better grace in all his words and actions, - than did " this great and excellent person : and he moved the “ hearts of all his auditors, (some few excepted,) to pity and remorse."
All these men, in their different walks of life, as warriors, or as statesmen, seemed, at the approach of their destiny, to have enveloped themselves in their own greatness; and to have been lifted up above us, by a kind of serenity to which we should feel it impossible, in similar situations, to attain.
I have been thus diffuse upon the subject of the sublime in morals, because it is of all things the most inspiring and useful, to contemplate the best models of our own species, and to know what those limits are, to which our nature really does extend: and one of the great advantages of that classical education in which we are trained in this country, is, that it sets before us so many examples of sublimity in action, and of sublimity in thought. It is impossible for us, in the first and most ardent years of life, to read the great actions of the two greatest nations in the world, so beautifully related, without catching, ourselves, some taste for greatness, and a love for that glory which is gained by doing greater and better
things than other men. And though the state of order and discipline into which the world is brought, does not enable a man frequently to do such things, as every day produced in the fierce and eventful democraties of Greece and Rome, yet, to love that which is great, is the best security for hating that which is little; the best cure for envy; the safest antidote for revenge'; the surest pledge for the abhorrence of malice; the noblest incitement to love truth, and manly independence, and honourable labour,— to glory in spotless innocence, and build
the system of life upon the rock of integrity. It is the greatest and first use of history, to show us the sublime in morals, and to tell us what great men have done in perilous seasons. Such beings, and such actions, dignify our nature, and breathe into us a virtuous pride which is the parent of every good. Wherever you meet with them in the page of history, read them, mark them, and learn from them, how to live, and how to die for the object of common men, is only to live. The object of such men as I have spoken of, was to live grandly, and in favour with their own difficult spirits: to live, if in war, gloriously; if in peace, usefully, justly, and freely!!
ON THE FACULTIES OF ANIMALS, AS COMPARED WITH
THOSE OF MEN.
I CONFESS I treat on this subject with some degree of apprehension and reluctance; because, I should be very sorry to do injustice to the poor brutes, who have no professors to revenge their cause by lecturing on our faculties : and at the same time I know there is a very strong anthropical party, who view all eulogiums on the brute creation with a very considerable degree of suspicion; and look upon every compliment which is paid to the ape, as high treason to the dignity of man.
There may, perhaps, be more of rashness and ill-fated security in my opinion, than of magnanimity or liberality; but I confess I feel myself so much at my ease about the superiority of mankind,—I have such a marked and decided contempt for the understanding of every baboon I have yet seen, — I feel so sure that the blue ape without a tail will never rival us in poetry, painting, and music, that I see no reason whatever, why justice may not be done to the few fragments of soul, and tatters of understanding, which they may really possess. I have sometimes, perhaps, felt a little uneasy at Exeter 'Change, from contrasting the monkeys with the 'prentice-boys who are teazing them; but a few pages of Locke, or a few lines of Milton, have always restored me to tranquillity, and convinced me that the superiority of man had nothing to fear.