ePub 版


Γλυυκόν τε Μεδονία τε Θερσιλαχόν τε.
Glaucumque, Medontaque, Thersilochumque.
Glaucus, and Medon, and Thersilochus.


[ocr errors]

The life of these men is finely described in Holy Writ by “ the Path of an Arrow,” which is immediately closed up and loft.

Upon my going into the church, I entertained myself with the digging of a grave; and law in every shovel-full of it that was thrown up, the fragment of a bone or skull intermixt with a kind of fresh mouldering carth that some time or other had a place in the composition of an human body. Upon this I began to consider with myself what innumerable multitudes of people lay confused together under the pavement of that ancient cathedral; how men and women, friends and enemies, priests and foldiers, monks and prebendaries, were crumbled amongst one another, and blended together in the same common mass; how beauty, strength, and youth, with old-age, weakness, and deformity, lay undistinguished in the same promiscuous heap of matter.

After having thus surveyed this great magazine of mortality, as it were in the lump, I examined it more particularly by the accounts which I found on several of the monuments which are raised in every quarter of that ancient fabric. Some of them were covered with such extravagant epitaphs, that if it were poflible for the dead person to be acquainted with them, he would blush at the praises which his friends have bestowed upon him. There are others to excessively modeft, that they deliver the character of the person departed in Greek or Hebrew, and by that means are not understood once in a twelvemonth. In the poetical quarter, I found there were poets who had no monuments, and monu. ments which had no poets.

I observed indeed that the present war had filled the church with many of these uninhabited monuments, which had been erected to the


[ocr errors]



memory of persons whose bodies were perhaps buried in the plains of Blenheim, or in the bofom of the ocean.

I could not but be very much delighted with several modern epitaphs, which are written with great elegance of expreilion and justness of thought, and therefore do honour to the living as well as to the dead. As a foreigner is very apt to conceive an idea of the ignorance or politeness of a nation from the turn of their public monu. ments and inscriptions, they should be submitted to the perusal of men of learning and genius before they are put in execution. Sir Cloudelly Shovel's monument has very often given me great offence; instead of the brave rough English admiral, which was the distinguishing character of that plain gallant man, he is represented on his tomb by the figure of a beau, dressed in a long perriwig, and reposing himself upon velvet cushions under a canopy of state. The infcription is answerable to the monument; for instead of celebrating the many remarkable actions he had performed in the service of his country, it acquaints us only with the manner of his death, in which it was impotlible for him to reap any honour. The Dutch, whom we are apt to despise for want of genius, thew an infinitely grcater taste of antiquity and politeness in their buildings and works of this nature, than what we meet with in those of our own country. The monuments of their admirals, which have been erected at the public expence, represent them like themselves; and are adorned with rottral crowns and naval ornaments, with beautiful feftoons of sea.weed, shells, and coral.

But to return to our subject. I have left the repofitory of our English kings for the contemplation of another day, when I shall find my mind disposed for fo serious an amusement. I know that entertainments of of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds and gloomy imaginations; but for my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy; and can therefore take a view of nature, in her deep and folemn scenes, with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones.


By this means I can improve myself with those objects which others confider with terror.

When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tomb-stone, my heart melts with compaflion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow; when I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed fide by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect 'with forrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and tome fix hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we fhall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together,



[merged small][ocr errors]

Ut nox longa, quibus mentitur amica, diesque
Longa videtur opus debentibus ; ut piger annus
Pupillis, quos dura premit custodia matrum:
Sic mihi tarda fiuunt ingrataque tempora, quæ fpem
Consiliumque morantur agendi gnaviter id, quod
Æquè pauperibus prodeft, locupletibus æquè;
Æquè neglectum pueris senibusque nocebit.

[ocr errors]


Long as to him, who works for debt, the day;
Long as the night to her, whose love's away;
Long as the year's dull circle seems to run,
When the brisk minor pants for twenty one:
So slow th' unprofitable moments roll
That lock up all the functions of my soul;
That keep me from myself, and still delay
Life's instant business to a future day:
That task, which as we follow, or despise,
The eldest is a fool, the youngest wife :
Which done, the poorest can no wants endure:

And which not done, the richest must be poor. Pope,
THERE is scarce a thinking man in the world, who

is involved in the business of it, but lives under a secret impatience of the hurry and fatigue he suffers, and has formed a resolution to fix himself, one time or other, in such a state as is suitable to the end of his being. You hear men every day in conversation profess that all the honour, power, and riches, which they propose to themselves, cannot give fatisfaction enough to reward them for half the anxiety they undergo in the pursuit or puffeifion of them. While men are in this temper, which happens very frequently, how inconsistent are they with themselves! they are wcaried with the toil they bear, but cannot find in their hearts to relinquish it; retirement is what they want, but they cannot betake themielves to it: while they pant after shade and covert, they stil affect to appear in the most glittering scenes of life; but




sure this is but just as reasonable as if a man should call for more lights when he has a mind to go to sleep.

Since then it is certain that our own hearts deceive us in the love of the world, and that we cannot command ourselves enough to resign it, though we every day with ourselves disengaged from its allurements, let us not stand upon a formal taking of leave, but wean ourselves from them, while we are in the midst of them.

It is certainly the general intention of the greater part of mankind to accomplish this work, and live according to their own approbation, as soon as they poflibly can; but since the duration of life is to uncertain, and that has' been a common topic of discourse ever since there was such a thing as life itself, how is it poflible that we thould defer a moment the beginning to live according to the rules of reason?

The man of business has ever some one point to carry, and then he tells himself he will bid adieu to all the vanity of ambition ; the man of pleasure resolves to take his leave at least, and part civilly with his mistress; but the ambitious man is entangled every moment in a freth pursuit; and the lover fees new charms in the object he fancied he could abandon. It is therefore a fantastical way of thinking, when we promise ourselves an alteration in our conduct from change of place and difference of circumstances; the same pattions will attend us where

we are till they are conquered; and we can never live to our satisfaction in the decpest retirement, unless we are capable of living fo in fome measure amidst the noise and business of the world.

I have ever thoughe men were better known by what could be observed of them from a perusal of their private letters, than any other way. My friend the clergyman, the other day, upon serious discourse with him concerning the danger of procrastination, gave me the following letters from persons with whom he lives in great friend, fhip and intimacy, according to the good breeding and good sense of his character. The first is from a man of business, who is his convert; the second from one of whom he conceives good hopes; the third from one who



« 上一頁繼續 »