Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

to take up arms, he readily exposed his person to eight winter campaigns on the frozen banks of the Danube, the severity of which was at last fatal to the weakness of his constitution.

E. GIBBON

OLIVER CROMWELL.

81.

What can be more extraordinary, than that a person of mean birth, no fortune, possessing no eminent qualities of body which have sometimes, or of mind which have often, raised men to the highest dignities, should have the courage to attempt, and the happiness to succeed in so improbable a design, as the destruction of one of the most ancient and most solidly founded Monarchies upon the earth; that he should have the power or boldness to put his Prince and Master to an open and infamous death, to banish that numerous and strongly allied family; to do all this under the name and wages of a Parliament; to trample upon them too as he pleased and spurn them out of doors when he grew weary of them; to raise up a new and unheard-of monster out of their ashes; to stifle that in the very infancy, and to set up himself above all things that ever were called Sovereign in England; to oppress all his enemies by arms and all his friends afterwards by artifice; to serve all parties patiently for a while, and to command them victoriously at last; to over-run each corner of the three nations, and overcome with equal facility both the riches of the South and the poverty of the North; to be feared and courted by all foreign Princes, and adopted a brother to the Gods of the Earth; to call together Parliaments with a word of his pen, and scatter them again with the breath of his mouth; to have the estates and lives of three kingdoms as much at his disposal, as was the little inheritance of his father, and to be as noble and liberal in the spending of them; and lastly (for there is no end of all the particulars of his glory) to bequeath all this with one word to his posterity; to die with peace at home, and triumph abroad ; to be buried among kings, and with more than regal solemnity; and to leave a name behind him, not to be extinguished but with the whole world, which as it is now too little for his praises, so might have been too for his conquests, if the short line of his human life could have been stretched out to the extent of his immortal designs.

A. COWLEY

82. CASAUBON TO THE PRESIDENT DE THOU. I lately wrote to tell you that I had reported to his Majesty the King that you had received, as you stated in your letter, the volume which his Majesty had sent you. In a very few months I trust you will be in possession of a second volume extending as far as the execution of Mary. For so the King desired me to tell you, and Sir Robert Cotton, the author of this history, assured me that that portion was now almost completed. When you have received all the information, which can be looked for from England, it will be then your duty so to handle the subject as not to sacrifice truth and yet prove that you have felt some regard for this great King. More than once has he solemnly assured me that he would not allow any thing to be sent you from hence, if he had not a clear conviction of its entire truth. Still I do not forget the remarks you lately made in a friendly letter, and I feel sure that you will have more trouble than enough to satisfy a son's natural affection. But a man of your discretion will have little difficulty in finding as they say, ék tôv årópwv πόρον.

83. THE END OF GREAT BUT NOT GOOD MEN. We may take notice, that even few of those men, whose actions have been illustrious for greatness, void of goodness; who have climbed to heights of power and state by the ruins and slaughters of mankind; that, I say, few of such persons have

I departed off the stage in peace or honour: that Alexander was snapt in the flower of his age and glory; that Cæsar was no sooner arrived to the top of his fortune, than to the bottom of his life; neither having time allowed them to enjoy, scarce to taste, those fruits which they so eagerly sought and toiled for; both perhaps (one without any peradventure) being speeded away by violent and treacherous hands. Not to mention Pompey or Hannibal, or other men of exorbitant ambition, whose fortunes were so strongly changed, and whose ends were so dismal.

84. TRAVELLING MERCHANTS IN GAUL. We learn from Cæsar and other Roman Writers, that the travelling merchants who frequented Gaul and other barbarous countries, either newly conquered by the Roman arms, or bordering on the Roman conquests, were ever the first to make the inhabitants of those countries familiarly acquainted with the Roman modes of life, and to inspire them with an inclination to follow the Roman fashions, and to enjoy Roman conveniences.

It is farther to be observed, for the credit of this most useful class of men, that they commonly contribute, by their personal manners, no less than by the sale of their wares, to the refinement of the people among whom they travel. Their dealings form them to great quickness of wit and acuteness of judgment. Having constant occasion to recommend themselves and their goods, they acquire habits of the most obliging attention, and the most insinuating address. As in their peregrinations they have opportunity of contemplating the manners of various men and various cities, they become eminently skilled in the knowledge of the world. As they wander, each alone, through thinly-inhabited districts, they form habits of reflection and of sublime contemplation. With all these qualifications, no wonder, that they should often be, in remote parts of the country, the best mirrors of fashion, and censors of manners; and should contribute much to polish the roughness, and soften the rusticity of our peasantry.

R. HERON

TURKS.

85. THE FRENCH UNDER LOUIS VII. DEFEATED BY THE

In the mean while, the Turks, who had kept by the side of them, at a small distance, being covered from their sight by some rising ground, were informed by their scouts, that the two parts of the Christian army were separated so far, as not to be able to assist each other: upon which, with great expedition, they went and possessed themselves of the top of the mountain, where the French van-guard had been ordered to encamp. Then, having formed a line of battle, they suffered the rear-guard to advance unmolested, till their foremost squadrons had almost reached the summit of the ascent, and the rest were far engaged in the deep hollow ways which embarrassed the middle of the hill. Having thus drawn them on to inevitable destruction, they made a sudden attack upon them, first with showers of arrows and then sword in hand; which threw them immediately into the greatest confusion. For, as they expected no enemy, but imagined that the troops they saw over their heads had been their own van-guard, they marched in a very careless, disorderly manner; and many of them, to ease themselves of the weight of their arms, had thrown them into the waggons that carried the baggage. All things concurred to aid the Turks, and render the valour of the French ineffectual; the narrow defiles, in which they could not form any order of battle; the roughness and steepness of the ascent, which made their heavy-armed cavalry useless; the impediment of their baggage which, being placed in the midst of them, hindered those behind from assisting the foremost; and the inferiority of their number to that of the enemy: so that scarce seven thousand out of above thirty thousand were able to escape, the rest being all either killed or taken.

G. LYTTELTON

86. THE POSSESSION OF CHILDREN. The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears; they cannot utter the one, nor they will not utter the other. Children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter : they increase the cares of life, but they mitigate the remembrance of death. The perpetuity by generation is common to beasts: but memory, merit and noble works, are proper to men-and surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded from childless men, which have sought to express the images of their minds, where those of their bodies have failed; so the care of posterity is most in them that have no posterity. They that are the first raisers of their houses are most indulgent towards their children, beholding them as the continuance, not only of their kind, but of their work; and so both children and creatures.

BACON

87. ARISTOMENES, STORY OF HIS ESCAPE. Aristomenes at first thought it no advantage to find himself alive in that horrid charnel, surrounded by his companions dead and dying, among the skeletons and putrid carcasses of former criminals. He retreated to the farthest corner he could find, and covering his head with his cloak, lay down to wait for death, which seemed unavoidable. according to Pausanias, the third day of this dreadful imprisonment, when he was startled by a little rustling noise. Rising and uncovering his eyes, he saw by the glimmering of light, which assisted him the more from his having been so long in perfect darkness, a fox gnawing the dead bodies It presently struck him that this animal must have found

It was,

some other way into the cavern than that by which himself had descended, and would readily find the same way out again. Watching, therefore, his opportunity, he was fortunate enough to seize the fox with one hand, while with his cloak in the other he prevented it from biting him; and he managed to let it have its way, without escaping, so as to conduct him to a narrow bury. Through this he followed, till it became too small for his body to pass; and here fortunately a glimpse of daylight caught his eye. Setting therefore his conductor at liberty, he worked with his hands till he made a passage large enough for himself to creep into day, and he escaped to Eira.

W. MITFORD

88. POVERTY, ITS DISADVANTAGES. Do not accustom yourself to consider debt only as an inconvenience ; you will find it a calamity. Poverty takes away so many means of doing good, and produces so much inability to resist evil, both natural and moral, that it is by all virtuous means to be avoided. Consider a man whose fortune is very narrow; whatever be his rank by birth, or whatever his reputation by intellectual excellence, what can he do? or what evil can he prevent? That he cannot help the needy is evident; he has nothing to spare. But, perhaps, his advice or admonition may be useful. His poverty will destroy his influence; many more can find that he is poor, than that he is wise; and few will reverence the understanding that is of so little advantage to its owner. I say nothing of the personal wretchedness of a debtor, which, however, has passed into a proverb. Of riches it is not necessary to write the praise. Let it, however, be remembered, that he who has money to spare, has it always in his power to benefit others; and of such power a good man must always be desirous.

89. IF your grief did not afflict me more than my own death, I should deem myself perfectly happy. For the end of life being certain to all men, the Almighty confers a mark of distinguishing favour upon that person; for whom He appoints a death such as mine, which, though lamented by many, is nevertheless acceptable unto Him. It would require more time than I now have to write any thing that could afford you consolation. That my enemies will not grant me, nor do I wish to delay the reception of that crown which I

« AnteriorContinuar »