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Terrestrial happiness is of short continuance. The brightness of the flame is wasting its fuel ; the fragrant flower is passing away in its own odours. The vigour of Omar began to fail; the curls of beauty fell from his head; strength departed from his hands; and agility from his feet. He gave back to the calif the keys of trust, and the seals of secrecy; and sought no other pleasure for the remains of life, than the converse of the wise and the gratitude of the good.
The powers of his mind were yet unimpaired. His chamber was filled by visitants eager to catch the dictates of experience, and officious to pay the tribute of admiration Caled, the son of the viceroy of Egypt, entered every day early, and retired late. He was beautiful and eloquent: Omar admired his wit, and loved his docility. “Tell me,” said Caled, “Thou to whose voice nations have listened, and whose wisdom is known to the extremities of Asia, tell me how I may resemble Omar the prudent. The arts by which thou hast gained power and preserved it, are to thee no longer necessary or useful; impart to me the secret of thy conduct, and teach me the plan upon which thy wisdom has built thy fortune.”
“ Young man,” said Omar, “it is of little use to form plans of life. When I took my first survey of the world, in my twentieth year, having considered the various conditions of mankind, in the hour of solitude, I said thus to myself, leaning against a cedar, which spread its branches over my head : “Seventy years are allowed to man; I have yet fifty remaining.
6. Ten years I will allot to the attainment of knowledge, and ten I will pass in foreign countries ; I shall be learned, and therefore shall be honoured ; every
city will shout at my arrival, and every student will solicit my friendship. Twenty years thus passed will store my mind with images, which I shall be busy, through the rest of my life, in combining and comparing. I shall revel in inexhaustible accumulations of intellectual riches; I shall find new pleasures for every moment, and shall never more be weary of myself.
“I will not, however, deviate too far from the beaten track of life; but will try what can be found in female delicacy. I will marry a wife beautiful as the•Houries, and wise as Zobeide ; with her I will live twenty years within the suburbs of Bagdat, in every pleasure that wealth can purchase, and fancy can invent.
“I will then retire to a rural dwelling; pass my days in obscurity and contemplation; and lie silently down on the bed of death. Through my life it shall be my settled resolution, that I will never depend upon the smile of princes; that I will never stand exposed to the artifices of courts; I will never pant for public honours, nor disturb my quiet with the affairs of state.' Such was my scheme of life, which I impressed indelibly upon my memory.
“ The first part of my ensuing time was to be spent in search of knowledge, and I know not how I was diverted from my design. I had no visible impediments without, nor any ungovernable passions within. I regarded knowledge as the highest honour, and the most engaging pleasure ; yet day stole upon day, and month glided after month, till I found that seven years of the first ten had vanished, and left nothing behind them.
“I now postponed my purpose of travelling; for why should I go abroad, while so much remained to
be learned at home? I immured myself for four years, and studied the laws of the empire. The fame of my skill reached the judges: I was found able to speak upon doubtful questions; and was commanded to stand at the footstool of the calif. I was heard with attention; I was consulted with confidence; and the love of praise fastened on my heart.
“ I still wished to see distant countries; listened with rapture to the relation of travellers; and resolved some time to ask my dismission, that I might feast my soul with novelty; but my presence was always necessary; and the stream of business hurried me along. Sometimes I was afraid lest I should be charged with ingratitude; but I still proposed to travel, and therefore would not confine myself by marriage.
“In my fiftieth year, I began to suspect that the time of travelling was past; and thought it best to lay hold on the felicity yet in my power, and indulge myself in domestic pleasures. But at fifty no man easily finds a woman beautiful as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide. I inquired and rejected, consulted and deliberated, till the sixty-second year made me ashamed of wishing to marry. I had now nothing left but retirement; and for retirement I never found a time till disease forced me from public employment.
“Such was my scheme, and such has been its consequence. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I trifled away the years of improvement; with a restless desire of seeing different countries, I have always resided in the same city: with the highest expectation of connubial felicity, I have lived unmarried; and with unalterable resolutions of contemplative retirement, I am going to die within the walls of Bagdat.”
[" PHILIP DORMER STANHOPE, Earl of CHESTERFIELD was an elegant author, though his only popular compositions are his Letters to his Son, a work containing much excellent advice for the cultivation of the mind and improvement of the external worldly character, but greatly deficient in the higher points of morality. Lord Chesterfield was an able politician and diplomatist, and an eloquent parliamentary debater. The celebrated Letters to his Son' were not intended for publication, and did not appear till after his death. Their publication was much to be regretted by every friend of this accomplished, witty, and eloquent peer."] -Chalmers.
On Good Breeding. A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good breeding to be “ the result of much good sense, some good nature, and a little self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same indulgence from them.” Taking this for granted (as I think it cannot be disputed), it is astonishing to me that anybody, who has good sense and good nature, can essentially fail in good breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons, places, and circumstances, and are only to be acquired by observation and experience; but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the same.
Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to society in general--their cement and their security. And as laws are enacted to enforce good morals, or at least to prevent the ill effects of bad ones, so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied and received, to enforce good manners and punish bad ones. And indeed there seems to me to be less difference both between the crimes and punishments, than at first one would imagine. The immoral man, who invades another's property, is justly hanged for it: and the ill-bred man, who by his ill manners invades and disturbs the quiet and comforts of private life, is by common consent as justly banished society. Mutual complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences, are as natural an implied compact between civilised people, as protection and obedience are between kings and subjects ; whoever, in either case, violates that compact, justly forfeits all advantages arising from it. For my own part, I really think that, next to the consciousness of doing a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would be that of well-bred. Thus much for good breeding in general; I will now consider some of the various modes and degrees of it.
Very few, scarcely any, are wanting in the respect which they should show to those whom they acknowledge to be infinitely their superiors, such as crowned heads, princes, and public persons of distinguished and eminent posts. It is the manner of showing that respect which is different. The man of fashion and of the world expresses it in its fullest extent, but naturally, easily, and without concern; whereas a man who is not used to keep good company expresses it awkwardly; one sees that he is not used to it, and that it costs him a great deal; but I never saw the worst-bred man living, guilty of lolling, whistling,