« AnteriorContinuar »
Succeeding authors, warmed with their descriptions of Francis bounty, adopted their encomiums, and refined upon them. The appellation of Father of Letters, bestowed upon Francis, had rendered his memory sacred among historians; and they seem to have regarded it as a sort of impiety, to uncover his infirmities, or to point out his defects. Thus Francis, notwithstanding his inferior abilities and want of success, hath more than equalled the fame of Charles. The virtues which he possessed as a man, have entitled him to greater admiration and praise, than have been bestowed
the extensive genius, and fortunate arts, of a more capabie, but less amiable rival.
XVII.-Thé. Supper and Grace. A SHOE coming lose from the forefoot of the thillhorse, at the beginning of the ascent of mount Taurira, the postillion dismounted, twisted the shoe off, and put it in his pocket. As the ascent was of five or six miles, and that horse our main dependence, I made a point of having the shoe fastened on again as well as we could; but the postillion had thrown away the nails, and the hammer in the chaise box being of no great use without them, I submitted to go on.
He had not mounted half a mile higher, when coming to a flinty piece of road, the poor devil lost a second shoe, and from off his other forefoot. I then got out of the chaise in good earnest ; and seeing a house about a quarter of a mile to the left hand, with a good deal ado; I prevailed upon the postillion to turní up to it. The look of the house, and every thing about it, as we drew nearer, soon reconciled me to the disaster. It was a little farm house, surrounded with about twenty acres of vineyard, about as much corn; and close to the house, on one side, was a potagerie of an acre and a half, full of every thing which could make plenty in a French peasant's house ; and on the other side was a little wood, which furnished wherewithal to dress it. It was about eight in the evening when I got to the house ; so I left the postillion to manage his point as he could ; and, for mine, I walked directly into the house.
The family consisted of an old grey-headed wife, with five or six sons and sons-in-law, and their several wives, and a joyous genealogy out of them.
They were all sitting down together to their lentil-soup: a large wheaten loaf was in the middle of the table ; and a
man and his
flaggon of wine at each end of it promised joy through the stages of the repast-it was a feast of love.
The old man rose up to meet me, and with a respectful cordiality would have me sit down at the table. My heart was sat down the moment I entered the room; so 1 sat down at once, like a son of the family; and, to invest myself in the character as speedily as I could, I instantly borrowed the old man's knife, and taking up the loaf cut myself a hearty luncheon ; and, as I did it, I saw a testimony in every eye, not only of an honest welcome, but of a wel. come mixed with thanks, that I had not seemed to doubt it.
Was it this, or tell me, Nature, what else was it that made this morsel so sweet-and to what magic I owe it that the draught I took of their flagon was so delicious with it, that it remains upon my palate to this hour ?
If the supper was to my taste, the grace which followed was much more so.
When supper was over, the old man gave a knock upon the table with the haft of his knife, to bid them prepare for the dance. The moment the signal was given, the women and girls ran all together into the back apartments to tie op their hair, and the young men to the door to wash their faces, and change their sabots, wooden shoes) and in three minutes every soul was ready upon a little esplanade before the house to begin. The old man and his wife came out last, and, placing me betwixt them, sat down upon a sofa of turf by the door.
The old man had, some fifty years ago, been no mean performer upon the vielle ; and, at the age he was then of, touched it well enough for the purpose. His wife, suvg now and then a little to the tune, then intermitted, amt joined ber old man again, as their children and grand-children danced before them.
It was not till the middle of the second dance, when for some pauses in the movement, wherein they all seemed to look
up, I fancied I could distinguish an elevation of spirit, different from that which is the cause or the effect of simple jollity. In a word, I thought I beheld religion mixing in the dance; but, as I had never seen her so engaged, I should have looked upon it now as one of the illusions of an imagination which is eternally misleading me, had not the old man, as soon as the dance ended, said that this was their constant way; and that, all his life long, he made it a rule, after supper was over, to call out his family to dance
and rejoice ; believing, he said, that a cheerful and contented mind was the best sort of thanks to heaven that an illiterate peasant could pay.-Or learned prelate either, said I.
XVIII.—Rustic Felicity. MANY, are the silent pleasures of the honest peasant, who rises cheerfully to his labour.-Look into his dwelling -where the scene of every man's happiness chiefly lies ;he has the same domestic endearments- -as much joy and comfort in his children, and as flattering hopes of their doing well—to enliven his hours and gladden his heart, as. you would conceive in the most affuent station.—And I make no doubt, in general, but if the true account of his joys and sufferings were to be balanced with those of his betters--that the upshot would prove to be little more than this ; that the rich man had the more meat-but the poor man the better stomach ;-the one had more luxury-more able physicians to attend and set him to rights :-the other, more health and soundness in his bones, and less occasion for their help; that, after these two articles betwixt them were balanced--in all other things they stood upon a level that the sun shines as warm-the air blows as fresh, and the earth breathes as fragrant upon the one as the other; -and they have an equal share in all the beauties and real benefits of nature.
XIX.-House of Mourning. LET us go into the house of mourning, made so by such afflictions as have been brought in merely by the common cross accidents and disasters to which our condițion is exposed--where, perhaps, the aged parents sit broken-hearted, pierced to their souls, with the folly and indiscretion of a thankless child--the child of their prayers, in whom all their hopes and expectations centered :--Perhaps, a more affecting scene--a virtuous family lying pinched with want; where the unfortunate support of it, having long struggled with a train of misfortunes, and bravely fought up against them, is now piteously borne doron at the last
overwhelmed with a cruel blow, which no forecast or frugality could have prevented. O God! look upon his amictions. Behold him distracted with many sorrows, surrounded with the tender pledges of his love; and the partner of his cares without bread to give them; unable from the remembrance of better days to dig ;-to beg, ashamed.
When we enter into the house of mourning ; such as this—it is impossible to insult the unfortunate, even with an improper look.Under whatever levity and dissipation of beart such objects catch our eyes—they catch likewise our attentions, collect and call home our scattered thoughts, and exercise them with wisdom. A transient scene of distress, such as is here sketched, how soon does it furnish materials to set the mind at work! How necessarily does it engage it to the consideration of the miseries and misfortunes, the dangers and calamities, to which the life of man is subject ! By holding up such a glass before it, it forces the mind to see and reflect upon the vanity—the perishing condition, and uncertain tenure of every thing in this world. From reflections of this serious cast, how insensibly do the thoughts carry us farther !-and, from considering what we are, what kind of world we live in, and what evils befall us in it, how naturally do they set us to look forward at what possibly we shall be ;-for what kind of world we are intendedwhat evils may befall us there—and what provisions we should make against them here, whilst we have time and opportunity !-If these lessons are so inseparable from the house of mourning here supposed—we shall find it a still more instructive school of wisdom, when we take a view of the place in that affecting light in which the wise man seems to confine it in the text;-in which by the house of mourning, I believe he means that particular scene of sorrow, where there is lamentation and mourning for the dead. Turn in hither, I beseech you, for a moment. Behold a dead man ready to be carried out, the only son of his mother, and she a widow. Perhaps a still more affecting spectacle, a kind and indulgent father of a numerous family lies breathless-snatched away in the strength of his age-torn, in an evil hour, from his children, and the bosom of a disconsolate wife. Behold much people of the city gathered together to mix their tears, with settled sorrow in their looks, going heavily along to the house of mourning, to. perform that last melancholy office, which, when the debt of nature is paid, we are called upon to pay each other. If this sad occasion, which leads him there, has not done it already, take notice to what a serious and devout frame of mind every man is reduced, the moment he enters this gate of affliction.— The busy and fluttering spirits which, in the house of mirth, were wont to transport him from one diverting object to another
see how they are fallen ! how peace. ably they are laid ! In this gloomy mansion, full of shades and uncomfortable damps to seize the soul- see, the light and easy heart, which never knew what it was to think before, how pensive it is now, how soft, how susceptible, how full of religious impressions, how deep it is smitten with a sense, and with a love of virtue.-Could we, in this crisis, whilst this empire of reason and religion lasts, and the heart is thus exercised with wisdom, and busied with heavenly contemplations—could we see it naked as it is stripped of its passions, unspotted by the world, and regardless of its pleasures we might then safely rest our cause upon this single evidence, and appeal to the most sensual, whether Solomon has not made a just determination here in favour of the house of mourning ? Not for its own sake, but as it is fruiful in virtue, and becomes the occasion of so much good. Without this end, sorrow, I own, has no use but to shorten a man's days~-nor can gravity, with all its studied solemnity of look and carriage, serve any end but to make one half of the world merry, and impose upon the other.
1.-The Honour and Advantage of a constant Adherence to
Truth. PETRARCH, a celebrated Italian poet, who flourished about four hundred years ago, recommended himself to the confidence and affection of Cardinal Colonna, in whose family he resided, by his candour and strict regard to truth. A violent quarrel occurred in the household of this nobleman; which was carried so far, that recourse was had to
The Cardinal wished to know the foundation of this affair; and that he might be able to decide with justice, he assembled all his people, and obliged them to bind themselves, by a most solemn oath on the gospels to declare the whole truth. Every one, without exception, submitted to this determination ; even the Bishop of Luna, brother to the Cardinal, was not excused. Petrarch, in his turn, presenting himself to take the oath, the Cardinal closed the book, and said, As to you, Petrarch, your word is sufficient.
II.--Impertinence in Discourse. THIS kind of impertinence is a habit of talking much without thinking.