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It is not certain things, then, not even wealth and pomp, that produce happiness; or why sighs the miser over his hoarded treasure, the courtier on his couch of state? It is not certain things that produce misery; or why smiles the poor man on his hard-earned pittance, the powerless in his ignoble fate?
Do we not hear of persons, nay, do we not often see persons serene and cheerful, even happy, under circumstances of severe deprivation; and others agitated, melancholy, and wretched, though environed by means of high felicity? How can such a paradox be solved, but in the admission that happiness is an internal principle, originating in the heart, the effect of rightly governed passions, of wisely exerted faculties. Our Creator has made us all to be happy, and to become so is the business of our lives. In endeavouring to attain this end, however, we discover more diligence than sagacity, and are less deficient in the exertion, than in the direction, of our faculties.
We set out in this important pursuit with supposing, that happiness is the produce of situation solely; that it will only flourish in particular spots, and that there it will spring up spontaneously. We do not seem to know, or sufficiently to consider, that it must be planted and cultivated every where, and that, if culti vated, it will flourish any where. We are not enough aware that what we call sources of enjoyment, are not so in themselves, absolutely and necessarily, but only relatively and conditionally; that they require certain corresponding qualifications in those who draw from them, to enable them to drink at them; that happiness is the result of an agreement and harmony between the person and the situation, between the inhabitant and the habitation, between the sensibility of the subject and the nature of the objects that act upon him. Light is sweet, but not to the blind; music is delightful, but not to the deaf; poetry is entertaining, but not to the tasteless in literature; polished society is pleasant, but not to the rustic; retirement is soothing, but only to the placid and untroubled breast; heaven is a place of felicity, but to the pious
and benevolent alone; and wealth is a blessing, but
solely to the wise and good.
and who would lose,
To bestow it upon the foolish, the sensual, the vain, the proud, and the selfish, is to put into the hand of a savage a gem, which he can apply to no valuable purpose, a book he cannot read, an instrument of which he knows not the use.
We do not appear to consider that there is such a thing as a capacity and an incapacity of enjoyment; a disposition to be happy, and a disposition to be miserable; that the former will find felicity in almost any situation, that the latter will find it in none. Where the soil is good, and where seed is sown, the clemency of the skies will call forth fertility; but no showers, however kindly, no suns, however generous, are able to fructify the rock.
So far is that which is considered by the world as felicity of situation, from giving birth of itself to felicity of heart, that, where the parent principles of happiness are wanting, the tendency of great possessions is rather to diminish than to increase content. There is a closer connection, a more intimate affinity, in the nature of things, between satisfaction and little, than between satisfaction and much. Those that aspire to wealth, resemble in this respect those that are ambitious of excellence in arts or in science; the nearer they approach to that perfection after which they pant, the greater is at once their perception and their impatience of imperfection.
He that is satisfied with what he eats, fares sumptuously; he that is satisfied with what he wears, is clothed in purple; he that is contented with his dwelling, is the tenant of a palace.
The mind only makes content. "It is neither ease, nor labour, nor wealth, nor want, (says Feltham) that
seats a man in either pleasure or discontent. Some men, with liberty, leisure, plenty, and rest, have less satisfaction than they that toil in sweating, pains, and labour. And others, even in pleasure, do that, which would wear out all the happiness of him that is not that way affected. Repose, to an active mind, is a tedious and an irksome thing. And, therefore, to him that hath not business, play is taken up instead of it; and even that, after a little time, does tire as much as business, and, in the sequel, usually galleth more. We see in those that have plenty to please themselves in all they can imagine, that by their wealth may make summer and winter at will, and that seem to others to command all the walks in paradise, and the birds to warble what they shall but bid them; yet this high shine but makes them so nice and wanton, that for want of other divertisements they quarrel with their own felicity, and strangle, by their curiousness, even all that Providence intended should be pleasing; as full and queasy stomachs do often coy at that which the hungry would accept of for delicious. When Apicius found one hundred thousand sesterces was all at last that was left him, with shame, in scorn, he quaft his poisoned draught, and died.
For, what can people jeer at more,
JUVEN. Even content turns to vexation, and we are weary with having nothing to weary us. All the winds in the compass cannot blow one gale that some men shall be pleased with. A froward mind makes all the muses furies; like bodies over-fat, they are burdened with their own loved load. Nor can men, so attempered, enjoy themselves in all the smiles of fortune. The lily seems too pale, and the rose's smell is fulsome. Some men are so cast together of jealousy, envy, pride, and choler, that, like savage beasts, they are ready to tear, not only those that seek to tie them up, but such as loose their chains, and bring them food to live with. Tell them what is distasteful, or tell them what is pleasing, they shall carp at both alike. As kindling charcoal, they shall throw out
sparks, and crackle, though you shall not blow them. Contradict them, they shall twit; say as they, they shall snap and snarl. As wasps, disturbed or let alone, they buzz, and, angry, make a noise about you: being of a nice and tender spirit, nor heat nor cold can be endured by them. As arrows, whose feathers are not even set, draw them, never so home, and shoot them from what bow you will, they shall never fly to the right mark. Their own dispositions make but a milder and more terrene hell. What a pitiful little pique took Haman from all his content! On the other side, where the mind does incline, and is pleased to gratify the smooth affections, all things seem to have a serene aspect, as through a stranguo, the air is all delightful, and all the colours that do enrich the rainbow make it beautiful. Do we not, even with wonder, often see how there are many that take pleasure in toil? They can outrise the sun, outwatch the moon, and outrun the fields' wild beast. Merely out of fancy and delectation, they can find out mirth in vociferation, music in the barking of dogs, and be content to be led about the earth, over hedges, and through sloughs, by the windings and the shifts of a poor affrighted vermin; yet, after all, come off, as Messalina from her wantonness, tired, and not satisfied with all that the brutes can do. But were a man enjoined to this, that did not like it, how tedious and how punishable to him would it prove! since in itself it differs not from riding post, or putting a wise man from following and humouring the motions of a child or simple animal. Let no man, therefore, wonder at the several contentments of men; for, unless the desire of men be bounded with prudence and moderation, the appetite of the mind is as various as the palate of the body, for which no man can give a reason. As he is like to be most at ease in his journey, that likes the pace of the beast he rides on; so is he that can bring his mind to approve of that condition God hath set him in. And, since the mind alone is judge of pleasure, it is not what others apprehend, but what the party fancies to himself, that satisfies.
The same writer thus expresses his ideas of true happiness in a sort of Rhyme:
"Long have I sought the wish of all
He that enjoys what here below
He must have reason store, to spy
His judgment. So he may be safe
A cheerful, but an upright, heart
Wealth to keep want away, and fear
His soul must hug no private sin,