birds that are perpetually hovering about the bridge, and settling upon it from time to time? I see vultures, harpies, ravens, cormorants, and, among many other feathered creatures, several little winged boys, that perch in great numbers upon the middle arches."

“ These,” said the genius,“ are Envy, Avarice, Superstition, Despair, Love, with the like cares and passions that infest human life.

I here fetched a deep sigh. “ Alas !” said I, “man was made in vain !-how is he given away to misery and mortality !-tortured in life, and swallowed up in death !” The genius being moved with compassion towards me, bade me quit so uncomfortable a prospect.

“ Look no more,” said he,“ on man in the first stage of his existencein his setting out for eternity, but cast thine eyes on that thick mist into which the tide bears the several generations of mortals that fall into it.” I directed my sight as I was ordered, and (whether or no the good geniụs strengthened it with any supernatural force, or dissipated part of the mist that was before too thick for the eye to penetrate) I saw the valley opening at the further end, and spreading forth into an immense ocean, that had a huge rock of adamant running through the midst of it, and dividing it into two equal parts. The clouds still rested on one half of it, insomuch that I could discover nothing in it; but the other appeared to me a vast ocean planted with innumerable islands, that were covered with fruits and flowers, and interwoven with a thousand little shining seas that ran among them. I could see persons dressed in glorious habits, with garlands upon their heads, passing among the trees, lying down by the sides of fountains, or resting on beds of flowers, and could hear a confused harmony of singing birds, falling waters, human voices, and musical instruments. Gladness grew in me upon the discovery of so delightful a scene. I wished for the wings of an eagle that I might fly away to those happy seats, but the genius told me that there was no passage to them except through the gates of death that I saw opening every moment upon the bridge. "The islands," said he, that 'lie so fresh and green before thee, and with which the whole face of the

ocean appears spotted as far as thou canst see, are more in number than the sands on the sea-shore ; there are myriads of islands beyond those that thou here discoverest, reaching farther than thine eye or even thine imagination can extend itself. These are the mansions of good men after death, who, according to the degree and kinds of virtue in which they excelled, are distributed amongst these several islands, which abound with pleasures of different kinds and degrees, suitable to the relishes and perfections of those who are settled in them. Every island is a paradise accommodated to its respective inhabitants. Are not these, O Mirza, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miserable that gives thee opportunities of earning such a reward ? Is death to be feared, that will convey thee to so happy an existence? Think' not man was made in vain, who has such an eternity reserved for him." I gazed with inexpressible pleasure on these happy islands. At length I said, “ Show me now, I beseech thee, the secrets that lie hid under those dark clouds which cover the ocean on the other side of the rock of adamant." The genius making me no answer I turned about to address myself to him a second time, but I found that he had left me. I then turned again to the vision which I had been so long contemplating, but instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the long hollow valley of Bagdad, with oxen, sheep, and camels grazing upon the sides of it.

O then, I see, Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman ;
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep
Her wagon spokes made of long spinner's legs :
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers ;
The traces, of the smallest spider's web ;

The collars, of the moonshine's watery beams;
Her whip, of cricket's bone, the lash of film ;
Her wagoner, a small gray-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm,
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid :
Her chariot is an empty hazel nut,
Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops, night by night,
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love ;
On courtier's knees, that dream on courtesies straight;
O’er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O’er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream.

W. Shakespere.

He that cannot refrain from much speaking is like a city without walls; and less pains in the world a man cannot take than to hold his tongue Therefore, if thou observe this rule in all assemblies, thou shalt seldom err; restrain thy choler, hearken much, and speak little ; for the tongue is the instrument of the greatest evil and greatest good that is done in the world.

Sir W. Raleigh.


[ocr errors]

Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death as the wages of sin and passage to another world is holy and religious ; but the fear of it as a tribute due unto Nature is weak.

Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes a mixture of vanity and superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification, that a man should think with himself what the pain is if he have but his finger's end pressed or tortured, and thereby imagine what the pains of death are when the whole body is corrupted and


dissolved—when many times death passeth with less pain than the torture of a limb; for the most vital parts are not the quickest of sense. And by Seneca, that spake only as a philosopher and natural man, it was well said—“ The display that attends death terrifies more than death itself.”

Groans and convulsions, and a discoloured face, and friends weeping, and the like, show death terrible. It is worth observing that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak but it masters the fear of death ; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when man hath so many attendants about him, that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death ; love slights it; honour aspireth to it; fear pre-occupieth it ; nay, we read, after Otho, the emperor, had slain himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections) provoked many to die out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. Nay, Seneca adds, “ Reflect how often you the same things ; a man may wish to die not only because he is either brave or wretched, but even because he is surfeited with life.” A man would die, though he were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same so osten over and over.

It is no less worthy to observe, how little alteration in good spirits the approaches of death make ; for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment.—“Livia, mindful of our union, live on, and fare thee well ;” Tiberius in dissimulation, as Tacitus saith of him, “ His bodily strength and vitality were now forsaking Tiberius, but not his duplicity;" Vespasian in a jest, sitting upon the stool_“I am become a divinity, I suppose ;

Galba with a sentence-" If it be for the advantage of the Roman people, strike,” holding forth his neck; Septimus Severus in dispatch—" If aught remains to be done by me, dispatch," and the like.

Certainly the Stoics bestowed too much cost on death, and by their great preparations made it appear more fearful. It is as natural to die as to be born ; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood, who, for the time, scarce feels the

[ocr errors]

hurt ; and therefore a mind fixed and bent upon something that is good doth avert the dolours of death. But, above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is Nunc Dimittis, when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations. Death hath this also, that it openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy ; " when dead, the same person shall be beloved.”

Bacon's Essays.

Look nature through, 'tis revolution all ;
All change; no death. Day follows night; and night
The dying day; stars rise, and set, and rise;
Earth takes example. See, the summer gay,
With her green chaplet and ambrosial flowers,
Droops into pallid autumn: winter gray,
Horrid with frost, and turbulent with storm,
Blows autumn and his golden fruits away:
Then melts into the spring : soft spring with breath
Favonian, from warm chambers of the south,
Recalls the first. All, to reflourish, fades ;
As in a wheel, all sink to reascend-
Emblems of man, who passes, not expires.


THE SPANISH BULL-FIGHT. Hushed is the din of tongues-on gallant steeds, With milk-white crest, gold spur, and light-poised lance, Four cavaliers prepare for venturous deeds, And lowly bending to the lists advance. Rich are their scarfs, their chargers featly prance : If in the dangerous game they shine to-day, The crowd's loud shout and ladies' lovely glance, Best prize of better acts, they bear away, And all that kings or chiefs e'er gain their toils repay. In costly sheen and gaudy cloak arrayed, But all afoot, the light-limbed Matadore

« 上一页继续 »