Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

• What an agreeable party! what wit, what pleasantry, what information!'-Who, that has noticed this, will question the superiority of intellectual over sensual pleasure, or pityus old men, who can enjoy all this, the inost desirable part of a social entertainment, better than at five and twenty. The whole of our course through life is a progress from sensual to intellectual enjoyment. The new-born infant is a mere sensualist. Softness to the touch, sweetness to the taste, fragrance to the smell, brilliancy to the eye, and pleasing sounds to delight the ear, constitute the sum and substance of his existence. He is composed entirely of sensual appetites; and when they are satiated, sinks into repose. But every ray of intellectual light that is admitted into the mind, by instruction, experience, example, and by the kindness of friends, tends to convert the animal into a rational being; supplying mental pleasures in the place of those which are merely corporeal, and the direction of reason for that of instinct. As the heir of immortality advances in the period of existence, a series of mix'd enjoyment follows in succession, until what is called the entrance of life; when the sexual attraction, the desire of pre-eminence, and the dreams of ambition, supply new objects, which, though not purely intellectual, are not so grossly sensual as those which occupy the very vestibule of existence. As life passes on, there is an increasing prevalence of intellect; and the soul is gradually prepared for the glory to which it is destined. To complain, therefore, of the diminution of sensual gratifications, as our intellectual enjoyments increase, seems to me neither just nor reasonable.”

When the freezing blood almost forgets to flow, when the glow and spirit of existence decline, when the bloom and splendour of human life decay; in this cold winter of his days, the pious and virtuous man is warmed and enlivened by pleasing reflections and anticipations, that cheer and cherish his failing heart. Though dead to the pleasures of sense, the remembrance of a useful and benevolent life, and the calm still voice of an approving conscience, is music to his soul.

Hail, Memory, hail! in thy exhaustless mine,
From age to age unnumber'd treasures shine;
Thought, and her shadowy brood, thy call obey,
And Place and Time are subject to thy sway;
Thy pleasures most we feel when most alone,
The only pleasures we can call our own!
Lighter than air, Hope's summer visions die,
If but a fleeting cloud obscure the sky;

If but a beam of sober reason play,
Lo! fancy's fairy frost-work melts away!
But can the wiles of art, the grasp of pow'r,
Snatch the rich relics of a well-spent hour !
These, when the trembling spirit wings her fight,
Pour round her path a stream of living light,
And gild those pure and perfect realms of rest,

Where virtue triumphs, and her sons are blest ! The aged find peculiar pleasure in relating what they saw, felt, and acted in former days. Memory enables them to rekindle fires that have long been extinguished—to recall pleasures that have long since passed away—and to live life over again. They receive pleasure from the attention of the young to the tales of departed days, and the descriptions of the scenes of their earlier history. The aged rustic, when the annual sports of his village come round, is contented to be but a spectator of those feats of strength, or sleights of art, for which he has to recollect that he was once renowned, though he is now disabled ; and in which he can recount, though he can no more renew, his triumphs. The hoary soldier, when no longer able to go out to battle, fights on by his fireside; and, as long as any one will listen to him, repeats bis exploits,-slays the slain,—and wins over again the victories wbich he and his comrades have won. The decayed artist consoles himself under the idea that his hand has forgotten its cunning, when he remembers the monuments of it which he has produced. The retiring statesman illumines the shades of privacy, and the glooms of Age, with the recollected beams of his past political glory. And the writer, when able to instruct or entertain the public no more, soothes the sense of his incapacity, by reviewing the productions of his best days, when in the plenitude of mental vigour and activity, and by throwing back his thoughts upon the pages for which the literary world will be long indebted to his pen.

How blest is he whose tranquil mind,

When life declines, recalls again
The years that time has cast behind,

And reaps delight in toil and pain!

So, when the transient storm is past,

The sudden gloom, and driving show'r;
The sweetest sunshine is the last,

The loveliest is the ev'ning hour. Wlrile memory presents to the good old man a pleasing view of the past, hope opens to his view a delightful futurity. It renews his youth, by assuring him, that death is nothing inore than a birth to a new, superior, everlasting life. This is the best prop of bending Age, the true cordial that teaches its cold bosom again to glow, and bids it bound again. For the good old man

Hope leads from goal to goal,
And opens still, and opens on his soul;
Till lengthen'd on to faith, and unconfin'd,
It pours the bliss that fills up all the mind.

POPE.
Hope, of all passions, most befriends us here;
Passions of prouder name befriend us less.
Joy has her tears, and transport has her death :
Hope, like a cordial, innocent tho' strong,
Man's heart at once inspirits and serenes ;
Nor makes him pay his wisdom for his joys;
Tis all our present state can safely, bear,
Health to the frame, and vigour to the mind!
A joy attemper'd! a chastis'd delight!
Like the fair summer ev'ning, mild and sweet!
'Tis man's full cup; his paradise below!

YOUNG. Thus armed, thus supported, the aged veteran, with gratitude and contentment rises from the banquet of life. He learns,

In life's decline,
Its joys, its loves, its interests to resign;
Taught half by reason, balf by mere decay,

To welcome death, and calmly pass away. He looks forward to the future world, already peopled with his friends and kindred, whose smiling forms he figures to himself as beckoning him with friendly invitations to their peaceful shores, and saying with soothing whispers in his fancy's ear, spirit, come away. With such hopes, and such prospects, the good man has as much reason to rejoice that he is no longer a young one, as the young man rejoices that he is no longer a child. The one delights

Sister in the world which is before him, though fleeting and perishable in its nature, but the other rejoices in the world, durable and eternal, to which he is destined. It is a pleasant consideration, that death will not only re-unite us to those friends that are gone before, but will also shortly summon those we leave behind to join our company in the world of bliss. It will not only introduce us to the fellowship of our virtuous friends and acquaintances, but also to that of the wise and good of every name, and every age, and every country in the world. Thus death, to the virtuous, is always gain; it presents before us a prospect full of glory and delight. It may be a great calamity to the survivors, it may excite deep regret, and be the source of real privation to those who are left behind; but to the person who dies, prepared by a life of piety and virtue, it is no evil. It is, indeed, the termination of all ills, real or apparent, and the commencement of all substantial and permanent good:

Vital spark of heav'nly flame!
Quit, О quit this mortal frame:
Trembling, hoping, ling'ring, flying,
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.
Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Sister spirit, come away.
What is this absorbs me quite,
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath ;
Tell me, my soul, can this be Death?
The world recedes; it disappears!
Heav'n opens on my eyes! my ears

With sounds seraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?

POPE. Thus Providence has prepared pleasures for every period of life. No age is doomed to total infelicity, provided we attempt not to do violence to nature by seeking to extort from one the pleasures which belong to another, and to gather, in the winter of life, those

18.

4 B

flowers which were destined to blossom only in its summer or its spring. As our predecessors moved from this busy stage to make way for us, it is right that we should yield to those who have arisen to succeed us, who will, in their turn, withdraw to make way for others, and so on to the end of time. But, happily for us all, there is another and a better world, where all shall meet to part no more,

My flying years, time urges on;

What's humạn must decay;
My friends, my youth's companions, gode,

Can I expect to stay? It is real consolation to believe, that, living or dying, --in the instant of birth, or in the moment of death, we are safe in the hands of the all-merciful and ever-living Creator of all beings and all worlds; or, as the Poet expresses it

Safe in the hands of one disposing Pow'r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour: POPE.
Oh! happy he, whose lengthen'd sight
Pursues by virtue's steady light

A hope beyond the skies;
Where winter stern shall ne'er be gloom,
But rosy spring for ever bloom,
And suns eternal rise !

ANON. Without death there could be no generation, no sexes, no parental relation, and, as things are constituted, no animal happiness. Death, as a mode of removal and of succession, is so connected with the whole order of our physical world, that to be able to do without it, almost every thing in the world must be changed. Death is not to be strictly considered an evil, but, under the government of a good God, a blessing to mankind.

As there are many mistakes respecting preparation for death, a few observations upon the subject may not be deemed impertinent. Preparation for death consists not in abandoning the affairs of our calling, throwing off all connections with others, bidding adieu to all innocent gratifications, in retiring from human converse, and shutting ourselves up in the solitude of

« ПредишнаНапред »