« AnteriorContinuar »
to human society. society. By wisdom, by art, by the united strength of civil community, men have been enabled to subdue the whole race of lions, bears, and serpents, and, what is more, to bind in laws and wholesome regulations the ferocious violence and dangerous treachery of the human disposition. Had lions been destroyed only in single combat, men had had but a bad time of it; and what but laws could awe the men, who killed the lions? The genuine glory, the proper distinction of the rational species, arises from the perfection of the mental powers. Courage is apt to be fierce, and strength is often exerted in acts of oppression. But Wisdom is the associate of Justice; it assists her to form equal laws, to pursue right measures, to correct power, protect weakness, and to unite individuals in a common interest and general welfare. Heroes may kill tyrants; by it is wisdom, and laws that prevent tyranny and oppression. The operations of policy far surpass the labours of Hercules, preventing many evils which valour and
might cannot even redress. You heroes consider nothing but glory, and hardly regard whether the conquests which raise your fame, are really beneficial to your country. Unhappy are the people who are governed by valour not directed by prudence, and not mitigated by the gentle
I do not expect to find an admirer of my strenuous life in the man who taught his countrymen to sit still and read, and to lose the hours of youth and action in idle speculation and the sport of words.
An ambition to have a place in the registers of fame is the Eurystheus, which imposes heroic labours on mankind. The Muses incite to action, as well as entertain the hours of repose; and I think you should honour them for presenting to heroes such a noble recreation, as may prevent their taking up the distaff, when they laid down the club.
Wits, as well as heroes, can take up the distaff.
distaff. What think you of their thin-spun systems of philosophy, or lascivious poems, or Milesian fables? Nay, what is still worse, are there not panegyrics on tyrants, and books that blaspheme the gods, and perplex the natural sense of right and wrong? I believe if Eurystheus was to set me to work again, he would find me a worse task than any he imposed; he would make me read through a great library; and I would serve it as I did the Hydra: I would burn as I went on, that one Chimæra might not rise from another, to plague mankind. I should have valued myself more on clearing the library, than on cleansing the Augean
It is in those libraries only that the memory of your labours exists. The heroes of Marathon, the patriots of Thermopyla owe their immortality to me. All the wise institutions of lawgivers, and all the doctrines of sages, had perished in the ear, like a dream related, if letters had not preserved them. Oh Hercules! it is not for the man who preferred virtue to pleasure, to be an enemy
enemy to the Muses. Let Sardanapalus and the silken sons of luxury, who have wasted life in inglorious ease, despise the records of action, which bear no honourable testimony to their lives: but true merit, heroic virtue, each genuine offspring of immortal Jove, should honour the sacred source of lasting fame.
Indeed, if writers employed themselves only in recording the acts of great men, much might be said in their favour. But why do they trouble people with their meditations? Can it signify to the world what an idle man has been thinking?
Yes it may. The most important and extensive advantages mankind enjoy, are greatly owing to men who have never quitted their closets. To them mankind is obliged for the facility and security of navigation. The invention of the compass has opened to them new worlds. The knowledge of the mechanical powers has enabled them to construct such wonderful machines, as per
form what the united labour of millions, by the severest drudgery, could not accomplish. Agriculture too, the most useful of arts, has received its share of improvement from the same source. Poetry likewise is of excellent use, to enable the memory to retain with more ease, and to imprint with more energy upon the heart, precepts of virtue and virtuous actions. Since we left the world; from the little root of a few letters, science has spread its branches over all nature, and raised its head to the heavens. Some philosophers have entered so far into the counsels of Divine Wisdom, as to explain to us many of its most stupendous operations. The dimensions, distances, and causes of the revolutions of the planets, the path of comets, and the ebbing and flowing of tides, are understood and laid open. Can any thing raise the glory of the human species more, than to see a little creature, inhabiting a small spot, amidst innumerable worlds, taking a survey of the universe, comprehending its arrangement, and entering into the scheme of that wonderful connexion and correspondence of things so re