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NEW ANECDOTES OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
In one of those calm and gloomy days, which have a strange effect in disposing the mind to pensiveness, I quitted the busy town and withdrew into the country. As I passed towards the Schuylkill, my ideas enlarged with the prospect, and sprung from place to place with an agility for which nature hath not a simile. Even the eye is a loiterer, when compared with the rapidity of the thoughts. Before I could reach the ferry I had made the tour of the creation, and paid a regular visit to almost every country under the sun; and while I was crossing the river, I passed the Styx and made large excursions into the shadowy regions; but my ideas relanded with my person, and taking a new flight inspected the state of things unborn; this happy wildness of imagination makes a man a lord of the world, and discovers to him the value and the vanity of all its passions. Having discharged the two terrestrial Charons, who ferried me over the Schuylkill, I took up my staff and walked into the woods. Every thing conspired to hush me into a pleasing kind of melancholy, the trees seemed to sleep—and the air hung round me with such unbreathing silence, as if listening to my very thoughts. Perfectly at rest from care or business, I suffered my ideas to pursue their own unfettered fancies; and in less time than what is required to express it in, they had again passed the Styx and toured round many miles into the new country.
As the servants of great men always imitate their masters abroad, so my ideas, hahiting themselves in my likeness, figured away with all the consequence of the person they belong to; and calling themselves, when united / and Wi« wherever they went, brought me, on their return, the following anecdotes of Alexander; viz.
Having a mind to see in what manner Alexander lived in the Plutonian world, I crossed the Styx (without the help of Charon, for the dead only are his fare,) and enquired of a melancholy looking shade who was sitting on the banks of the river, if he could give me any account of him; yonder he comes, replied the shade, get out of the way or you'll be run over. Turning myself round I saw a grand equipage rolling towards me which filled the whole avenue. Bless me! thought I, the gods still continue this man in his introlence and pomp! The chariot was drawn by eight horses in
return, after he had conquered the world. It passed me
golden harness, and the whole
triumphal with a splendour I had not seen before, and shined so luminously up into the country, that I discovered innumerable shades sitting under the trees, which before were invisible. As there were two persons in the chariot equally splendid, I could not distinguish which was Alexander, and on requiring that information of the shade who still stood by, he replied, Alexander is not there. Did you not, continued I, tell me that Alexander was coming, and hid me get out of the way? Yes, answered the shade, because he was the fore horse on the side next to us. Horse! I mean Alexander the Emperor, I mean the same, replied the shade, for whatever he was on the other side of the water is nothing now, he is a horse here; and not always that for when he is apprehensive that a good licking is intended for him, he watches his opportunity to roll out of the stable in the shape of a piece of dung or in any other disguise he can escape. On this information I turned instantly away, not being able to bear the thoughts of such astonishing degradation, notwithstanding the aversion I have to his character. But curiosity got the better of my compassion, and having a mind to see what sort of a figure the conqueror of the world cut in the stable, I directed my flight thither. He was just returned with the rest of the horses from the journey, and the groom was rubbing him down with a large furze bush, but turning himself round to get a still larger and more prickly one that was newly brought in, Alexander catched the opportunity, and instantly disappeared, on which I quitted the place, lest I should be suspected of stealing him. When I had reached the banks of the river, and was preparing to take my flight over, I perceived that I had picked up a bug among the Plutonian gentry, and thinking it was needless to increase the breed on this side the water, was going to dispatch it, when the little wretch screamed out, Spare Alexander the Great. On which I withdrew the violence I was offering to his person, and holding up the emperor between my finger and thumb, he exhibited a most contemptible figure of the downfal of tyrant greatness. Affected with a mixture of concern and compassion (which he was always a stranger to) I suffered him to nibble on a pimple that was newly risen on my hand, in order to refresh him; after which I placed him on a tree to hide him, but a tom-tit coming by, chopped him up with as little ceremony as he put whole kingdoms to the sword. On which I took my flight, reflecting with pleasure that I was not Alexander the Great.
REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND DEATH OF LORD
Ah! The tale is told—the scene is ended—and the curtain falls. As an emblem of the vanity of all earthly pomp, let his monument be a globe, but be that globe a bubble; let his effigy be a man walking round it in his sleep; and let Fame in the character of a shadow, inscribe his honours on the air.
I view him but as yesterday on the burning plains of Plassey*, doubtful of life, health, or victory. I see him in the instant when " To be or not to be," were equal chances to a human eye. To be a lord or a slave, to return loaded with the spoils, or remain mingled with the dust of India. Did necessity always justify the severity of a conqueror, the rude tongue of censure would be silent, and however painfully he might look back on scenes of horror, the pensive reflection would not alarm him. Though his feelings suffered, his conscience would be acquitted. The sad remembrance would move serenely, and leave the mind without a wound. But oh, India! thou loud proclaimer of European cruelties! thou bloody monument of unnecessary deaths! be tender in the day of inquiry, and shew a Christian world thou canst suffer and forgive.
Departed from India, and loaded with plunder, I see him doubling the Cape and looking wistfully to Europe. I see him contemplating on years of pleasure, and gratifying his
pusly announced in every newspaper, his eager eye rambling through the crowd in quest of homage, and his ear listening lest an applause should escape him. Happily for him he arrived before his fame, and the short interval was a time of rest. From the crowd I follow him to the court, I see him enveloped in the sunshine of sovereign favour, rivalling
* Battle of Plassey in the East Indies, where Lord Clive, Rt that time Colonel Clive, acquired an immense fortune, and from which place his title is taken.
I see his arrival pompthe great in honours, the proud in splendour, and the rich in wealth. From the court I trace him to the country, his equipage moves like a camp; every village bell proclaims his coming; the wondering peasants admire his pomp, and his heart runs over with joy.
But, alas! (not satisfied with uncountable thousands) I accompany him again to India. I mark the variety of countenances which appear at his landing—Confusion spreads the news—Every passion seems alarmed—The wailing widow, the crying orphan, and the childless parent remember and lament; the rival Nabobs court his favour; the rich dread his power—and the poor his severity. Fear and terror march like pioneers before his camp—murder and rapine accompany it—famine and wretchedness follow it in the rear.
Resolved on accumulating an unbounded fortune, he enters into all the schemes of war, treaty and intrigue. The British sword is set up for sale; the heads of contending Nabobs are offered at a price, and the bribe taken from both sides. Thousands of men or money are trifles in an Indian bargain. The field is an empire, and the treasure almost without end. The wretched inhabitants are glad to compound for offences never committed, and to purchase at any rate the privilege to breathe; while he, the sole lord of their lives and fortunes, disposes of either as he pleases, and prepares for Europe.*
Uncommon fortunes require an uncommon date of life to
* In April 1773, a Committee of the House of Commons, under the name of the Select Committee, were appointed by the House to enquire into the state of the East India affairs, and the conduct of the several Governors of Bengal. The Committee having gone through the examination, General Burgoyne, the chairman, prefaced their report to the House, informing them, "That the reports contained accounts of crimes shocking to human nature, that the most infamous designs had been carried into execution by perfidy and murder. He recapitulated the wretched situation of the East-Indian princes, who held their dignities on the precarious condition of being the highest bribers. No claim, however just on their part, he said, could be admitted without being introduced by enormous sums of rupees, nor any prince suffered to reign long, "bo did not quadrate with this idea; and that Lord Clive, over and above the enormous sums he might with some appearance of justice lay claim to, had obtained others to which he could have no title. enjoy them in. The usual period is spent in preparing to live: and unless nature prolongs the time, fortune bestows her excess of favours in vain.
The Conqueror of the East having nothing more to expect from the one, has all his court to make to the other. Anxiety for wealth gives place to anxiety for life; and wisely recollecting that the sea is no respecter of persons, resolves on taking his route to Europe by land. Little beings move unseen, or unobserved, but he engrosses whole kingdoms in his march, and is gazed at like a comet. The burning desert, the pathless mountains, and the fertile valleys, are in their turns explored and passed over. No material accident distresses his progress, and England once more receives the spoiler.
How sweet is rest to the weary traveller; the retrospect heightens the enjoyment; and if the future prospect be serene, the days of ease and happiness are arrived. An uninquiring observer might have been inclined to consider Lord Clive, under all these agreeable circumstances: One, whose every care was over; and who had nothing to do but sit down and say, Soul take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up in store for many years.
The reception which he met with on his second arrival, was in every instance equal, and in many, it exceeded, the honours of the first. It is the peculiar temper of the English to applaud before they think. Generous of their praise, they frequently bestow it unworthily: but when once the truth arrives, the torrent stops, and rushes back again with the same violence.* Scarcely had the echo of applause
He, (General Burgoyne) therefore moved. "That it appears to this House, that Robert Lord Clive, baron of Plassey, about the time of deposing Surajah Dowla, Nabob of Bengal, and establishing Meer Jaffier in his Toom, did, through the influence of the power with which he was intrusted, as member of the Select Committee in India, and Commander in Chief of the British forces there, obtain and possess himself of two lacks and 80,000 rupees, as member of the Select Committee; a further sum of two lacks of rupees, as Commander in Chief; a further sum of 10 lucks of rupees, or more, under the denomination of private donations; which sums, amounting together to 20 lacks and 80,000 rupees, were of the value, in English money, of £234,000, and that in so doing, the said Robert Lord Clive abused the powers with which he was entrusted, to the evil example of the servants of the public."
* Lord Clive, in the defence which he made in the House of Com