« 上一頁繼續 »
is of little estimation; and deformity, when associated with amiable dispositions and useful qualities, does not preclude our respect and approbation.
XV.- Remarkable Instance of Friendship. DAMON and Pythias, of the Pythagorean sect in philosophy, lived in the time of Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily. Their mutual friendship was so strong, that they were ready to die for one another. One of the two (for it is not known which). being condemned to death by the tyrant, obtained leave to go into his own country, to settle his affairs, on condition that the other should consent to be imprisoned in his stead, and put to death for him, if he did not return before the day of execution. The attention of every one, and especially of the tyrant himself, was excited to the highest pitch, as every body was curious to see what would be the event of so strange an affair. When the time was almost elapsed, and he who was gone did not appear, the rashness of the other, whose sanguine friendship had put him upon running so seemingly desperate a hazard, was universally blamed. But he stili declared, that he had not the least shadow of doubt in his mind, of his friend's fidelity. The event showed how well he knew him. He came in due time, and surrendered himself to that fate, which he had no reason to think he should escape ; and which he did not desire te escape, by leaving his friend to suffer in his place. Such fidelity softened even the savage heart of Dionysius himself. He pardoned the condemned; he gave the two friends to one another, and begged that they would take himself in for a third..
XVI.—Dionysius and Dambcles. DIONYSIUS, the tyrant of Sicily, showed how far he was from being happy, even whilst he abounded in riches, and all the pleasures which riches can procure. Damocles, one of his fatterers, was complimenting him upon his power, his treasures, and the magnificence of his royal state, and affirming, that no monarch ever was greater or happier than he.“ Have you a mind, Damocles,” says the king, “ to taste this happiness, and know by experience, what my enjoyments are, of which you have so high an idea ?” Damocles gladly accepted the offer. Upon which the king ordered that a royal banquet should be prepared, and a gilded couch placed for him, covered with
rich embroidery, and sideboards loaded with gold and silver plate of immense value. Pages of extraordinary beauty were ordered to wait on him at table, and to obey his commands with the greatest readiness, and the most profound submission. Neither ointments, chaplets of flowers, nor rich perfumes were wanting. The table was loaded with the most exquisite delicacies of every kind. Damocles fancied himself among the gods. In the midst of all his happiness, he sees let down from the roof, exactly over his neck, as he lay indulging himself in state, a glittering sword, hung by a single hair. The sight of destruction, thus threatening him from on high, soon put a stop to his joy and revelling. The pomp of his attendants, and the glitter of the carved plate, gave him no longer any pleasure. He dreads to stretch forth his hand to the table; he throws off the chaplet of roses; he hastens to remove from his dangerous situation; and, at last, begs the king to restore him to his former humble condition, having no desire to enjoy any longer, such a dreadful kind of happiness.
XVII.-Character of Catiline. LUCIUS CATILINE, by birth a Patrician, was, by, nature, endowed with superior advantages, both bodily and mental; but his dispositions were corrupt and wicked. From his youth, his supreme delight was in violence, slaughter, rapine, and intestine confusions; and such works were the employment of his earliest years. His constitution qualified him for bearing hunger, cold, and want of sleep, to a degree exceeding belief. His mind was daring, .subtle, unsteady. There was no character which he could not assume, and put off at pleasure. Rapacious of what belonged to others, prodigal of his own, violently bent on whatever became the object of his pursuit. He possessed a considerable share of eloquence, but little solid knowledge. His insatiable temper was ever pushing him to grasp at what was immoderate, romantic, and out of his reach.
About the time of the disturbances raised by Sylla, Catiline was seized by a violent lust of power; nor did he at all hesitate about the means, so he could but attain his purpose of raising himself to supreme dominion. His restless spirit was in a continual ferment, occasioned by the confusion of his own private affairs, and by the horrors of his guilty conscience ; both which he had brought upon
himself, by living the life above described. He was encouraged in his ambitious projects by the general corruption of manners, which then prevailed among a people infected with two vices, not less opposite to one another in their natures, than mischievous in their tendencies; I mean luxury and avarice.
XVIII.—Avarice and Luxury. THERE were two very powerful tyrants engaged in a perpetual war against each other; the name of the first was Luxury, and of the second Avarice. The aim of each of them, was no less than universal monarchy over the hearts of mankind. Luxury had many generals under him, who did him great service; as Pleasure, Mirth, Pomp, and Fashion. Avarice was likewise very strong in his officers, being faithfully served by Hunger, Industry, Care, and Watchfulness; he had likewise a privy counsellor, who was always at his elbow, and whispering something or other in his car; the name of this privy counsellor was Poverty. As Avarice conducted himself by the counsels of Poverty, his antagonist was entirely guided by the dictates and advice of Plenty, who was his first counsellor and minister of state, that concerted all his measures for him, and never departed out of his sight. While these two great rivals were thus contending for empire, their conquests were very various. Luxury got possession of one heart, and Avarice of another. The father of a family would often range himself under the banners of Avarice, and the son under those of Luxury: The wife and husband would often declare themselves of the two different parties ; nay, the same person would very often side with one in his youth, and revolt to the other in old age. Indeed, the wise men of the world stood neuter; but alas! their numbers were not considerable. At length, when these two potentates had wearied themselves with waging war upon one another, they agreed upon an interview, at which neither of the counsellors was to be present. It is said that Luxury began the parley; and after having represented the endless state of war in which they were engaged, told his enemy, with a frankness of heart which is natural to him, that he believed they two should be very good friends, were it not for the instigations of Poverty, that pernicious counsellor, who made an ill use of his ear, and filled him with groundless apprehensions and prejudices. To this Avarice replied, that he looked upon
Plenty, (the first minister of his antagonist) to be a much more destructive counsellor than Poverty; for that he was perpetually suggesting pleasures, banishing all the necessary cautions against want, and consequently undermining those principles on which the government of Avarice was "founded. At last, in order to an accommodation, they agreed upon this preliminary ; that each of them should immediately dismiss his privy counsellor. When things were thus far adjusted towards a peace, all other differences were soon accommodated, insomuch, that for the future, they resolved to live as good friends and confederates, and to share between them whatever conquests were made on either side. For this reason, we now find Luxury and Ava rice taking possession of the same heart, and dividing the same person between them. To which I shall only add, that since the discarding of the counsellors above mentioned, Avarice supplies Luxury, in the room of Plenty, as Luxury prompts Avarice, in the place of Poverty.
XIX.—Hercules' Choice. WHEN Hercules was in that part of his youth in which it was natural for him to consider what course of life he ought to pursue, he one day retired into a desert, where the silence and solitude of the place very much favoured his meditations. As he was musing on his present condition, and very much perplexed in himself, on the state of life he should choose, he saw two women of a larger stature than ordinary, approaching towards him. One of them had a very noble air, and graceful deportment; her beauty was natural and easy, her person clean and unspotted, her eyes cast towards the ground, with an agreeable reserve, her motions and behaviour full of modesty, and her raiment was white as snow. The other had a great deal of health and floridness in her countenance, which she had helped with an artificial white and red; and she endeavoured to appear more graceful than ordinary in her mien, by a mixture of affectation in all her gestures. She had a wonderful confi. dence and assurance in her looks, and all the variety of colours in her dress, that she thought were the most proper to show her complexion to advantange. She cast her eyes upon herself, then turned them on those that were present to see how they liked her; and often looked on the figure she made in her own shadow. Upon her nearer approach to Hercules, she stepped before the other lady, who came
· forward with a regular composed carriage ; and running up to him, accosted him after the following manner:
66 My dear Hercules," says she, “I find you are very much divided in your thoughts, upon the way of life that you ought to choose ; be my friend, and follow me; I will lead you into the possession of pleasure, and out of the reach of pain, and remove you from all the noise and disquietude of business. The affairs of either peace or Mar, shall have no power to disturb you. Your whole employment shall be to make your life easy, and'to entertain every sense with its proper gratifications. Sumptuous tables, beds of roses, clouds of perfumes, concerts of music, crowds of beauties, are all in readiness to receive you. Come along with me into this region of delights, this world of pleasure, and bid farewell forever, to caré, to pain, to business.”
Hercules, hearing the lady talk after this manner, desired to know her name; to which she answered, “ My friends, and those who are well acquainted with me, call me Happiness ; but my enemies, and those who would injure my reputation, have given me the name of Pleasure."
By this time the other lady came up, who addressed herself to the young hero in a very different manner.
66 Hercules," says she, “ I offer myself to you, because I know you are descended from the gods, and give proofs of that descent by your love to virtue, and application to the studies proper for your age. This makes me hope you will gain, both for yourself and me, an immortal reputation. But, before I invite you into my society and friendship, I will be open and sincere with you, and must lay down this, as an established truth, that there is nothing truly valuable which can be purchased without pains and labour. The gods have set a price upon every real and noble pleasure. If you would gain the favour of the Deity, you must be at the pains of worshipping him: if the friendship of good men, you must study to oblige them : if you would be hos noured by your country, you must take care to serve it. In short, if you would be eminent in war or peace, you must become master of all the qualifications that can make you so. These are the only terms and conditions upon which I can propose happiness.” The goddess of Pleasure here broke in upon her discourse : 6 You see,” said she, “ Hercules, by her own confession, the way to her pleasures is long and difficult; whereas, that which I propose is short and easy.” “ Alas !” said the other lady, whose visage