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whole swarm divide, and make way for the pismire that passes along! You must understand he is an emmet of quality, and has better blood in his veins than any pismire in the molehill.
3. Do you not see how sensible he is of it, how slow he marches forward, how the whole rabble of ants keep their distance! Here you may observe ona placed upon a little eminence, and looking down on a long row of labourers. He is the richest insect on this side the hillock: he has a walk of half a yard in length, and a quarter of an inch in breadth ; he keeps one hundred menial servants, and has at least fifteen barley corns in his granary. He is now chiding and enslaving the emmet that stands before him, one who, for all that we can discover, is as good an emmet as himself.
4. But here comes an insect of rank! Do not you perceive the little white straw that he carries in his mouth? That straw, you must understand, he would not part with for the longest tract about the molehill: you cannot conceive what he has undergone to purchase it! See how the ants of all qualities and conditions swarm about him! Should this straw drop out of his mouth, you would see all this numerous circle of attendants follow the next that took it up; and leave the discarded insect, or run over his back to come to his successor.
5. If now you have a mind to see the ladies of the molehill, observe first the pismire that listens to the emmet on her left hand, at the same time that she seems to turn away her head from him. He tells this poor insect, that she is a superiour being; that her eyes are brighter than the sun -; that life and death are at her disposal. She believes him, and gives herself a thou sand little airs upon it. Mark the vanity of the pismire on her right hand. She can scarcely crawl with age; but you must know she values herself upon her birth; and, if you mind, spurns at every one that comes within her reach. The little nimble coquette that is running by the side of her, is a wit. She has broken many a pismire's heart. Do but observe what a drove of admirers are running after her.
6. We shall here finish this imaginary scene. But first of all, to draw the parallel closer, we shall suppose, if you please, that death comes down upon the molehill in the shape of a cocksparrow ; and picks up, without distinction, the pismire of quality and his flatterers, the pismire of substance and his day-labourers, the white straw-officer and his sycophants, with all the ladies of rank, the wits, and the beauties of the molehill.
7. May we not imagine that beings of superiour natures and perfections regard all the instances of pride and vanity among our own species, in the same kind of view, when they take a sarvey of those who inhabit this earth ; or (in the language of an ingenious French poet) of those pismires that people this heap of dirt, which human vanity has divided into climates and regions?
The Swiftness of Time.
1. The natural advantages which arise from the position of the earth which we inhabit, with respect to the other planets, afford much employment to mathematical speculation, by which it has been discovered, that no other conformation of the system could have given such commodious distributions of light and heat, or imparted fertility and pleasure, to so great a part of a revolving sphere.
2. It may be, perhaps, observed by the moralist, with equal reason, that our globe seems particularly fitted for the residence of a being, placed here only for a short time, whose task is to advance himself to a higher and happier state of existence, by unremitted vigilance of caution, and activity of virtue.
3. The duties required of man, are such as human nature does not willingly perform, and such as those are inclined to delay, who yet intend some time to fulfil them. It was, therefore necessary that this universal reluctance should be counteracted, and the drowsiness of hesitation wakened into resolve; that the danger of procrastination should be always in view, and the fallacies of security be hourly detected.
4. To this end all the appearances of nature uniformly conspire. Whatever we see on every side, reminds us of the lapse of time, and the flux of life. The day and night succeed each other, the rotation of seasons diversifies the year, the sun rises, attains the meridian, declines and sets; and the moon every night changes its form.
5. The day has been considered as an image of the year, and a year as the representation of life. The morning answers to the spring, and the spring to childhood and youth; the noon corresponds to the summer, and the summer to the strength of manhood. The evening is an emblem of autumn, and autumn of declining life. The night, with its silence and darkness, shows the winter, in which all the powers of vegetation are benumbed; and the winter points out the time when life shall cease, with its hopes and pleasures.
6. He that is carried forward, however swiftly, by a motion equable and easy, perceives not the change of place but by the variation of objects. If the wheel of life, which rolls thus silently along, passed on through undistinguishable uniformity, we should never mark its approaches to the end of the course. If one hour were like another; if the passage of the sun did not show that the day is wasting; if the change of seasons did not impress upon us the flight of the year, quantities of duration equal to days and years would glide unobserved. If the parts of time were not variously coloured, we should never discern their departure or successsion, but should live thoughtless of the past, and careless of the future, without will, and perhaps without power, to compute the periods of life; or to compare the time which is already lost, with that which may probably remain.
7. But the course of time is so visibly marked, that itis even observed by the passage, and by nations who have raised their minds very little above animal instinct: there are human beings, whose language does not supply them with words by which they can number five, but I have read of none that have not names for day and night, for summer and winter. *
8. Yet it is certain that these admonitions of nature, however forcible, however importunate, are too often vain; and that many who mark with such accuracy the course of time, appear to have little sensibility of the decline of life. Every man has something to do which he neglects; every man has faults to conquer which he delays to combat.
9. So little do we accustom ourselves to consider the effects of time, that things necessary and certain often surprise us like unexpected contingencies. We leave the beauty in her bloom, and, after an absence of twenty years, wonder, at our return, to find her faded. We meet those whom we left children, and can scarcely persuade ourselves to treat them as men. The traveller visits in age those countries through which he rambled in his youth, and hopes for merriment at the old place. The man of business, wearied with unsatisfactory prosperity, retires to the town of his nativity, and expects to play away the last years with the companions of his childhood, and recover youth in the fields where he once was young.
10. From this inattention, so general and so mischievous, let it be every man's study to exempt himself. Let him that desires to see others happy, make haste to give while his gift can be enjoyed, and remember that every moment of delay takes away something from the value of his benefaction. And let bim who proposes his own happiness, reflect, that while he forms his purpose, the day rolls on, and 'the night cometh, when no man can work.'
Slander and Slanderers*
"Their throat i&an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poi8o«"if asps is under their lips^ whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; theirfeet are switt to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the w.ay of peace have they not known; there is oo fear of God before their eyes."—Rom. iii.
1. Few characters are more despicable than the slanderer, and few vices are more pernicious to society than that to which he is addicted. Always lurking for prey, always watching for some unguarded expression, some unstudied act, he winds himself into the little domestic circle, where his presence destroys all ease, and poisons every social joy. Nor does his presence impose less restraint upon the more numerous circles. Every person considers him a spy, seeking some jest, which, by exaggerating, and representing as sentimental, he may turn to the disadvantage of the innocent author.
2. Thus all cheerful ease and pleasant gayety are destroyed, each choosing to sacrifice every social enjoyment rather than be exposed to vile reproach: tor however virtuous men may be, or however conscious of their integrity, they cannot escape bis eagle-eyed reproach, which fixes most on those of most merit, because they are most envied:
"No might nor greatness in mortality
3. Against the crafty wiles of the swindler we may guard; against the nocturnal depredations of the thief we may fence; agaiqst the murderer we may arm; but against the slanderer we have no defence: he stalks at noonday, and poisons all about hijn with the venom of his breath; and, as if licensed to destroy reputation, he circulates slander with impunity, and without a Mush.
4. Indeed, it is almost dangerous to have a reputation for his cankered breath to feed upon. His microscopic eye magnifies our weaknesses into enormous crimes. Nor are our errours ajone the subject of his animadversion; our virtues are construed into vices, and blasted by the breath of calumny. Our frankness is transformed into impudence, our sensibility into weakness, our friendship into deceit, our benevolence into pride, and our religion into hypocrisy. Are we prosperous? U is because we are knavish! Are we unfortunate? It is the award of our crimes! Thus every action is imputed to the worst motive, and every effect traced to a disgraceful cause.
* Whilst the teacher is thus exhibiting to his pupils the odious character of a slanderer, let him be guarded himself, lest his pupils transfer those remarks to himself.
"I see the jewel, best enamelled,
5. If, indeed, there were but one kind of slanderers, if tbey were all actuated by the same motive, and had in view the same end, there might be at least a chance of escaping their attacks; we might find some covert of defence, some shield against their arrows: but we have no such security. If we be wise, they envy; if virtuous, they hate; if in favour, they are jealous: the high, the low—the rich, the poor—the old, the young—are all subject to the slanderer's attacks. Nor can even the shades of obscurity protect us from his venom. With the fierceness of the bloodhound he hunts his innocent prey; with the savage ferocity of the tiger he commences his unprovoked attack, and proudly boasts that he will not spare his victim.
6. One would think human life loaded with miseries enough which are unavoidable, without adding to the bitter cup the gall of calumny; yet, strange as it may seem, it really appears as if the restless petulant slanderer envied the little repose allotted to the virtuous, and was determined, by every vile means, to diminish their already small joys. If it were possible to banish from society this despicable monster, or to destroy his influence, and thereby avoid the broils, the bickerings, and the anxieties, which he creates, life would be a paradise compared with what it now is. What miseries he brings to society! ah, what misery brings he not!
7. To the shame of society be it spoken, that even in this refined age, so reputable are the venders of slander, and so numerous and eager their bidders, that many persons of acknowledged worth seclude themselves from society, lest they should become the objects of attack; for to be known is to be slandered.
8. But it will be said, 'we need not regard the calumnies heaped upon us so long as we are conscious of not meriting them.' Happy, indeed, if it were so; happy if,.we could look with indifference upon the vile attempts of those who slander us; and like the moon, when bayed by the angry cur, continue to travel peaceably on our course: but it is not for us to be thus independent: a reputation is too hard to be acquired, and too easily blasted to allow of such indifference. Nor is a solicitude for one's character at all improper: it is not the growth of extravagant self love, but of a refined and virtuous sensibility.