Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

enforce what I have here said. Many honest minds that are naturally disposed to do good in the world, and become beneficial to mankind, complain within themselves, that they have not talents for it. This, therefore, is a good office, which is suited to the meanest capacities, and which may be performed by multitudes, who have not abilities sufficient to deserve well of their country, and to recommend themselves to their posterity, by any other method. It is the phrase of a friend of miue, when any useful country neighbour dies, that “ you may trace him;" which I look upon as a good fuperal oration at the death of an honest husbandman, wbo hath left the impressions of his industry behind him in the place where he has lived.

Upon the foregoing considerations, I can scarce forbear representing the subject of this essay as a kind of moral virtue: which, as I haye already shown, re. commends itself likewise by the pleasure that attends it. It must be confessed that this is none of those tur. bulent pleasures which is apt to gratify a man in the heat of youth; but if it be not so tumultuous, it is more lasting. Nothing can be more delightful than to entertain ourselves with prospects of our own making, and to walk under those sbades which our own indus. try has raised. Amusements of this nature compose the mind, and lay at rest all those passions which are uneasy to the soul of man, besides that they naturally engender good thoughts, and dispose us to laudable contemplations. Many of the old philosophers passed away the greatest parts of their lives in their gardens, Epicurus himself could not think sensual pleasure at. tainable in any other scene. Every reader who is acquainted with Homer, Virgil, and Horace, the greatest geniuses of all antiquity, knows very well with how much rapture they have spoken on this subject : and that Virgil in particular has written a whole book on the art of planting.

This art seems to have been more especially adapted to the nature of nian in his primeval state, when he had life enough to see his productions flourish in their utmost beauty, and gradually decay with him. One who lived before the flood might have seen a wood of the tallest oaks in the acoru.

[ocr errors]

Persequitur scelus ille suum : labefactaque

tandem Ictibus innumeris adductaque funibus arbor Corruit The impious axe he plies; loud strokes resound; Till dragg'd with ropes, and felld with many a

wound, The loosen tree comes rushing to the ground.

It is not without the utmost indignation, that I observe several prodigal young heirs felling down the most glorious monuments of their ancestors' industry, and ruining in a day the product of ages.

Looking into my books, I find some account of the veneration the ancients had for trees. There is an old tradition, that Abraham planted a cypress, a pine, and a cedar, and that these three incorporated into one tree, which was cut down for the building of the temple of Solomon.

Isidorus, who lived in the reign of Constantius, as. sures us, that he saw, even in his time, that famous oak in the plains of Mamre, under which Abraham is reported to have dwelt, and adds, that the people Booked upon it with a great veneration, and preserved it as a sacred tree.

The heathens still went further, and regarded it as the highest piece of sacrilege to injure certain trees which they took to be protected by some deity. The story of Erisicthon, the grove at Dodona, and that at Delphi, are all instances of this kind.

If we consider the machine in Virgil, so much blamed by several critics, in this light, we shall hardly trink it too violent.

Æneas, when he built his feet in order to sail for Italy, was obliged to cut down the grove on Mount Ida, which however he durst not do until he had ob. tained leave from Cybele, to whom it was dedicated. The goddess could not but think herself obliged to protect these sbips, which were made of consecrated timber, after a very extraordinary manner, and therefore desired Jupiter, that they might not be obnoxious to the power of waves or wiuds. Jupiter would not grant this, but promised her, that as many as came safe to Italy should be transformed into goddesses of the sea; which the poet tells us was accordingly exe cuted.

And now at length the number'd hours were come, Prefix'd by Fate's irrevocable doom, When the great motber of the gods was free To save her ships, and finish Jove's decree. First, froin the quarter of the morn there sprung A light that sing'd the heavens, and shot along; Then from a cloud, fring'd round with golden fires, Were timbrels heard, and Berecynthian quires: And last a voice, with more thau mortal sounds, Both hosts in arms oppos'd with equal horror wounds.

“ O Trojan race, your needless aid forbear; And know my ships are my peculiar care. With greater ease the bold Rutulian may, With hissing brands, attempt to burn the sea, Than singe my sacred pines. But you, my charge, Loos'd from your crooked anchors launch at large, Exalted each a nymph: forsake the sand, And swim the seas, at Cybele's command. No sooner had the goddess ceas’d to speak, When lo, th' obedient ships their haulsers break; And strange to tell, like dolphins in the main, They plunge their prows, and dive, and spring again: As many beauteous maids the billows sweep, As rode before tall vessels on the deep."

DRYDEN'S VIRG.

The common opinion concerning the nymphs, whom the ancients called Hamadryads, is more to the honour of trees than any thing yet mentioned. It was thought the fate of these nymphs had so near a dependence on some trees, more especially oaks, that they lived and died together. For this reason they were extremely grateful to such persons who preserved those trees with which their being subsisted. Apollonius tells us a very remarkable story to this purpose.

“ A certain man, called Rhæcus, observing an old oak ready to fall, and being moved with a sort of compassion towards the tree, ordered nis servants to pour in fresh earth at the roots of it, and set it upright. The Hamadryad, or nymph, who must necessarily have periched with the tree, appeared to him the next day, and after having returned him her thanks, told him she was ready to grant whatever he should ask. As she was extremely beautiful, Rhæcus desired he might be entertained as her lover. The Hamadryad, not much displeased with the request, promised to give him a meeting, but commanded him for some days to abstain from the embraces of all other women, adding that she would send a bee to him, to let him know when he was to be happy. Rhæcus was, it seems, too much addicted to gaming, and happened to be in a run of ill-luck when the faithful bee came buzzing about him; so that instead of minding his kind invitation, he had like to have killed him for his pains. The Hamadryad was so provoked at her owu disappointment, and the ill-usage of her messenger, that she de. prived Rhæcus of the use of his limbs. However, says the story, he was not so much a cripple, but he made a shift to cut down the tree, and consequently to fell bis mistress.”

THE PASSIONATE, THE PEEVISH, AND THE SNARLISH TEMPER, CENSURED.

Animum rege, qui nisi paret
Imperat-

HOR.

Curb thy soul,
And check thy rage, which must be ruld or rule.

CREECH.

IT is a very common expression that such-a-one'is

very good-natured, but very passionate. The ex. pression, indeed, is very good-natured to allow pas. sionate people so much quarter: but I think a passion. ate man deserves the least inđuigence in aginable. It is said, it is soon over; that is, all the mischief he does is quickly dispatched, which, I think, is no great re. commendation to favour. I have known one of these good-natured passionate men say in a mixed company, even to his own wife or child, such things as the most inveterate enemy of his family would not have spoke, even in imagination. It is certain that quick sensibility is inseparable froin a ready understanding; but why should not that good understanding call to itself all its force on such occasions, to master that sudden inclination to anger ? To contain the spirit of anger, is the worthiest discipline we can put ourselves to. When a man has made any progress this way, a frivolous fellow in a passion is to him as contemptible as a froward child. It ought to be the study of every man, for his own quiet and peace. When he stands combustible, and ready to fame upon every thing that touches him, life is as uneasy to bimself as it is to all about him. Syncropios leads, of all men liviug, the most ridiculous life; he is ever offending, and begging

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »