« VorigeDoorgaan »
and made it delicious travelling, Cæcilius on a sudden espied the statue of Serapis, and according to the vulgar mode of superstition, raised his hand to his mouth and paid his adoration in kisses. Upon which Octavius, addressing himself to me, said, 'It is not well done, my brother Marcus, thus to leave your inseparable companion in the depth of vulgar darkness, and to suffer him, in so clear a day, to stumble upon stones; stones, indeed, of figure and anointed with oil and crowned; but stones, however, still they are ;for you cannot but be sensible that your permitting so foul an error in your friend redounds no less to your disgrace than his.' This discourse of his held us through half the city; and now we began to find ourselves upon the free and open shore. There the gently washing waves had spread the extremest sands into the order of an artificial walk; and as the sea always expresses some roughness in his looks, even when the winds are still, although he did not roll in foam and angry surges to the shore, yet were we much delighted, as we walked upon the edges of the water, to see the crisping, frizzly waves glide in snaky folds, one while playing against our feet, and then again retiring and lost in the devouring ocean. Softly, then, and calmly as the sea about us, we travelled on and kept upon the brim of the gently declining shore, beguiling the way with our stories.
H. W. LONGFELLOW, translated from MINUCIUS FELIX
311. CARDINAL WOLSEY, HIS CHARACTER. And thus concluded that great Cardinal-a man in whom ability of parts and industry were equally eminent, tho', for being employed wholly in ambitious ways, they became dangerous instruments of power in active and mutable times. By these arts yet he found means to govern not only the chief affairs of this kingdom, but of Europe; there being no potentate, which, in his turn, did not seek to him; and as this procured him divers pensions, so, when he acquainted the King therewith, his manner was so cunningly to disoblige that Prince who did see him last, as he made way thereby oftentimes to receive as much on the other side. But not of secular Princes alone, but even of the Pope and Clergy of Rome he was no little courted: of which therefore he made especial use, while he drew them to second him on most occasions. His birth being otherwise so obscure and mean, as no man had ever stood so single: for which reason
also, his chief endeavour was not to displease any great person, which yet could not secure him against the divers pretenders of that time. For as all things passed through his hands, so they who failed in their suits generally hated him, all which, tho' it did but exasperate his ill nature, yet this good resultance followed, that it made him take the more care to be just ; whereof also he obtained the reputation in his publick hearing of causes. For as he loved no body, so his reason carried him.
312. RETROSPECT OF LIFE, SUGGESTIVE OF HUMILITY. When the inordinate hopes of youth, which provoke their own disappointment, have been sobered down by longer experience and more extended views ;-when the keen contentions and eager rivalries which employed our riper years have expired or been abandoned; when we have seen, year after year, the objects of our fiercest hostility and of our fondest affections lie down together in the hallowed peace of the grave; when ordinary pleasures and amusements begin to be insipid, and the gay derision which seasoned them to appear flat and importunate;-when we reflect how often we have mourned and been comforted, what opposite opinions we have successively maintained and abandoned, to what inconsistent habits we have gradually been formed, and how frequently the objects of our pride have proved the sources of our shame, we are naturally led to recur to the days of our childhood, and to retrace the whole of our career, and that of our contemporaries, with feelings of far greater humility and indulgence than those by which it had been accompanied; to think all vain but affection and honour, the simplest and cheapest pleasures, the truest and most precious, and generosity of sentiment the only mental superiority which ought either to be wished for or admitted.
313. FREDERIC COUNT OF SCHOMBERG HIS CONDUCT VARIOUSLY JUDGED. But with the cry of bereaved families was mingled another cry much less respectable. All the hearers and tellers of news abused the general who furnished them with so little news to hear and to tell. For men of that sort are so greedy after excitement that they far more readily forgive a commander who loses a battle than a commander
who declines one. The politicians, who delivered their oracles from the thickest cloud of tobacco-smoke at Garroway's, confidently asked, without knowing anything, either of war in general, or of Irish war in particular, why Schomberg did not fight. They could not venture to say that he did not understand his calling. No doubt he had been an excellent officer: but he was very old. He seemed to bear his years well: but his faculties were not what they had been: his memory was failing; and it was well known that he sometimes forgot in the afternoon what he had done in the morning. It may be doubted whether there ever existed a human being whose mind was quite as firmly toned at eighty as at forty. But that Schomberg's intellectual powers had been little impaired by years is sufficiently proved by his despatches, which are still extant, and which are models of official writing, terse, perspicuous, full of important facts and weighty reasons, compressed into the smallest possible number of words. In those despatches he sometimes alluded, not angrily, but with calm disdain, to the censures thrown upon his conduct by shallow babblers, who, never having seen any military operation more important than the relieving of the guard at Whitehall, imagined that the easiest thing in the world was to gain great victories in any situation and against any odds, and by sturdy patriots who were convinced that one English carter or thresher, who had not yet learned how to load a gun or port a pike, was a match for any five musketeers of King Lewis's household.
314. THE CARNATICK. The Carnatick is refreshed by few or no living brooks or running streams, and it has rain only at a season; but its product of rice exacts the use of water subject to perpetual command. This is the national bank of the Carnatick, on which it must have a perpetual credit, or it perishes irretrievably. For that reason, in the happier times of India, a number, almost incredible, of reservoirs have been made in chosen places throughout the whole country; they are formed for the greater part of mounds of earth and stones, with sluices of solid masonry; the whole constructed with admirable skill and labour, and maintained at a mighty charge. There cannot be in the Carnatick and Tanjore fewer than ten thousand of these reservoirs of the larger and middling dimensions, to say no
thing of those for domestic services, and the uses of religious purification. These are not the enterprises of your power, nor in a style of magnificence suited to the taste of your minister. These are the monuments of real kings, who were the fathers of their people; testators to a posterity which they embraced as their own. These are the grand sepulchres built by ambition; but by the ambition of an insatiable benevolence, which, not contented with reigning in the dispensation of happiness during the contracted term of human life, had strained, with all the reachings and graspings of a vivacious mind, to extend the dominion of their bounty beyond the limits of nature, and to perpetuate themselves through generations of generations, the guardians, the protectors, the nourishers of mankind.
315. OF SELF-PRAISE. Men have, in general, a much greater propensity to overvalue than undervalue themselves, notwithstanding the opinion of Aristotle. This makes us more jealous of the excess on the former side, and causes us to regard, with a peculiar indulgence, all tendency to modesty and self-diffidence, as esteeming the danger less of falling into any vicious extreme of that nature. It is thus, in countries, where men's bodies are apt to exceed in corpulency, personal beauty is placed in a much greater degree of slenderness, than in countries where that is the most usual defect. Being so often struck with the instances of one species of deformity, men think they can never keep at too great a distance from it, and wish always to have a leaning to the opposite side. In like manner, were the door opened to self-praise, and were Montaigne's maxim observed, that one should say as frankly, I have sense, I have learning, I have courage, beauty or wit; as it is sure we often think so ; were this the case, I say, every one is sensible that such a flood of impertinence would break in upon us, as would render society wholly intolerable. For this reason custom has established it as a rule, in common societies, that men should not indulge themselves in self-praise, or even speak much of themselves; and it is only among intimate friends or people of very manly behaviour, that one is allowed to do himself justice. Nobody finds fault with Maurice, Prince of Orange, for his reply to one, who asked him, whom he esteemed the first general of the age: The Marquis of Spinola, said he, is the second. Though it is observable, that the
self-praise implied is here better implied, than if it had been directly expressed, without any cover or disguise.
316. EVERY MAN'S BUSINESS IS NO MAN'S. Thus it is that while ignorance of a man's special business is instantly detected, ignorance of his great business as a man and a citizen is scarcely noticed, because there are so many that share in it. Thus we see every one ready to give an opinion about politics, or about religion, or about morals, because it is said these are every man's business. And so they are, and if people would learn them, as they do their own particular business, all would do well: but never was the proverb more fulfilled which says that every man's business is no man's. It is worse indeed than if it were no man's; for now it is every man's business to meddle in, but no man's to learn. And this general ignorance does not make itself felt directly, -if it did, it were more likely to be remedied; but the process is long and round about; false notions are entertained and acted upon; prejudices and passions multiply; abuses become manifold; difficulty and distress at last press on the whole community; whilst the same ignorance which produced the mischief now helps to confirm it or to aggravate it, because it hinders them from seeing where the root of the whole evil lay, and sets them upon some vain attempt to correct the consequences, while they never think of curing, because they do not suspect the cause.
317. OF BOLDNESS. It is a trivial grammar-school text, but yet worthy a wise man's consideration: Question was asked of Demosthenes, what was the chief part of an orator? He answered, Action. What next?-Action. What next again?—Action. He said it that knew it best; and had by nature himself no advantage in that he commended. A strange thing, that that part of an orator, which is but superficial, and rather the virtue of a player, should be placed so high above those other noble parts of invention, elocution, and the rest: nay almost alone, as if it were all in all. But the reason is plain. There is in human nature, generally, more of the fool than of the wise; and therefore those faculties, by which the foolish part of men's minds is taken, are most potent. Wonderful like is the case of boldness in civil