« ПредишнаНапред »
care beyond himself; does not multiply his anxieties more than his pleasures, and weary himself to no pur pose, by superintending what he cannot regulate.
But though Age be, to every order of human beings, sufficiently terrible, it is particularly to be dreaded by fine ladies, who have had no other end or ambition than to fill up the day and the night with dress, diversions, and flattery, and who, having made no acquaintance with knowledge or with business, have constantly caught all their ideas from the current prattle of the hour, and been indebted for all their happiness to compliments and treats. With these ladies, Age begins early, and very often lasts long; it begins when their beauty fades, when their mirth loses its sprightliness, and their motion its ease. From that time, all which gave them joy, vanishes from about them : they hear the praises bestowed on others, which used to swell their bosoms with exultation. They visit the seats of felicity, and endeavour to continue the habit of being delighted. But pleasure is only received, when we believe that we give it in return. Neglect and petulance inform them that their power and their value are past; and what then remains, but a tedious and comfortless uniformity of time, without any motion of the heart, without any exercise of the reason?
Yet, however Age may discourage us by its appearance, from considering it in prospect, we shall all by degrees certainly be old; and therefore we ought to inquire what provision can be made against that time of distress—what provision can be stored up against the winter of life--and how we may pass our latter years with serenity and cheerfulness?
If it has been found by the experience of mankind, that not even the best seasons of life are able to supply sufficient gratifications, without anticipating uncertain felicities; it cannot surely be supposed that Old Age, worn with labours, harassed with anxieties, and tortured with disease, should have any gladness of its own, or feel any satisfaction for the contemplation of the present. All the comfort that can now be expected, must be recalled from the past, or borrowed from the future; the past is very soon exhausted ; all the events or actions, of which the memory can afford pleasure, are quickly recollected; and the future lies beyond the grave, where it can be reached only by virtue and devotion.
Piety, therefore, is the only proper and adequate relief of decaying man. He that grows old without religious hopes, as he declines into imbecility, and feels pains and sorrows incessantly crowding upon him, falls into a gulf of bottomless misery, in which every reflection must plunge him deeper, and where he finds only new gradations of anguish, and precipices of horror.
We shall dismiss this interesting portion of human life with Lord Bacon's celebrated comparison between Youth and Age:
“A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second; for there is a youth in thoughts as well as in ages; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old; and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures, that have much heat and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years; as it was with Julius Cæsar and Septimus Severus: of the latter of whom it is said, 'Juventutem egit, erroribus, imo furoribus plenam;' and yet he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list: but reposed natures may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmo Duke of Florence, Gaston de Fois, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in Age is an excellent composition for business; young men are fitter to invent, than to judge; fitter for execution, than for counsel ; and fitter for new projects, than for settled business; for the experience of Age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them; but in new things abuseth them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and, that which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them, like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of Age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both ; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either Age may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in Age are actors; and, lastly, good for external accidents, because authority followeth old men, and favour and popularity youth; but for the moral part, perhaps, youth will have the pre-eminence, as Age hath for the politic. A certain rabbin upon the text, • Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,' inferreth that young men are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision is a clearer revelation than a dream : and, certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth: and Age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding, than in the virtues of the will and affections. There be some have an over-early ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes: these are first, such as have brittle wits, the edge whereof is soon turned ; such as was Hermogenes the rhetorician, whose books are exceeding subtle, who afterwards waxed stupid : a second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions, which have better grace in youth than in Age; such as is affluent and luxurious speech, which becomes youth well, but not Age; so Tully saith of Hortensius, 'Idem manebat, neque idem decebat:' the third is of such as take too high a strain at the first; and are magnanimous, more than tract of years can uphold; as was Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy saith in effect, ultima primis cedebant.'
RESPECTING PLEASURE AND HAPPINESS.
Learn what ye are, and for what ends design'd,
The love of pleasure is a natural principle, made necessary by the great and beneficent Author of our frame, not only to our well-being, but even to our existence. All our affections are implanted in us by the Author of nature, and are only vicious, when perverted from those objects to which he has directed them; or, when their degree, either through excess or defect, corresponds not with the measure of those qualities in any object by which they are respectively excited. It is only in some one or other of these circumstances, that they become sinful, and inconsistent with one another. While every passion of our hearts is directed to its proper object, and continues in its just degree, so long the gratification of them is practicable and consistent; they encroach not upon each other, and none of them are either criminal or disgraceful :
Reader, attend :-whether thy soul
In low pursuit;
BURNS. But worldly and sensual pleasure must not be made the sole business of human life. The heart of man is contracted or dilated according to the objects on which its affections are employed. Are they mean and trivial? Great, and noble, and important objects may present themselves before it, but they will leave no impressions there. Are the objects great, and noble, and important, to which the stream of its affections has been ordinarily and habitually directed ? Whatever objects do not answer to this character, though they make some faint and transient impressions, will solicit the dominion of it in vain. It is not from the giddy and the gay, it is not from the vain and the dissipated, from those who are devoted to the frivolous pastimes or the glaring pageantry of life; it is not from these that we expect any great achievements in the serious affairs even of this world; we reckon, and experience justifies that account, that they are incapable of being properly impressed by them. It is not in a heart like this, that we look for any great degrees, or any wise exertions, of parental tenderness, of filial affection, or of faithful friendship. This is not the character in which we should wish to clothe either our fathers, or our children, or our friends ;-and wherefore? What reason can we give for that reluctance to conceive of those with whom we are thus connected, under such a character, but the persuasion, which experience of human nature and of human life has wrought in us, that levity consists not with any just sensibility of spirit?-
To rise at noon, sit slipshod and undress’d,