Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

XV. — THE SPARTAN BOY.*

1. When I the memory repeat of the heroic actions great which, in contempt of pain and death, were done by men who drew33 their breath in ages past, I find no deed that can in fortitude*' exceed the noble boy, in Sparta" bred, who in the temple ministered.

2. By the sacrifice he stands, the lighted incense in his hands; through the smoking censer's lid dropped a burning coal which106 slid into his sleeve, and passed in between the folds, e'en to the skin.

3. Dire was the pain which then he proved, but not for this his sleeve he moved, or would the scorching ember shake out from the folds, lest it should make any confusion, or excite disturbance at the sacred rite;" but close he kept the burning coal, till it eat itself a hole in his flesh. The standers-by saw no sign, and heard no cry. All this he did in noble scorn, and for he was a Spartan born.

4. Young studentTM who this story readest, and with the same thy thoughts now feedest, thy weaker nerves might thee forbid to do the thing the Spartan did; thy feebler heart could not sustain such dire extremity of pain. But in this story thou ruayest see what may useful prove to thee. By this example thou wilt find, that to the ingenuous mind shame can greater anguish bring than the body's suffering; that pain is not the worst of ills, — not when it the body kills; that in fair religion's cause, for thy country, or the laws, when occasion dire shall offer, 't is reproachful not to suffer. Miss Lamb.

i XVI. PRACTICAL JOKES.

1. The youth who resorts for amusement to hazardous pracgcal jokes must be poorly off in resources of mirth. The most deplorable results have often followed the indulgence91 of this foolish propensity. Children have been seriously injured"5 for life, and sometimes killed, by attempts to frighten them by means of masks, white sheets, and other contrivances. A boy

*This poem is printed as prose, that the pupil may exercise his own eai for harmony in supplying the metrical divisions. Let hini first acquaint himself with what is said in paragraphs 15G, 31 and 104, in respect to inver lion, the diaeresis, the suspension of the voice at the end of lines, <tc.

once ;old his little sister, in sport, that the rag-man was coming to carry her off. Afterwards, when the rag-man really came, the child was so terrified that she sickened and died in consequence.

2. An instance is related by Allston" of a collegian who undertook to frighten his fellow-student" by appearing at midnight, dressed in white, in his sleeping-room. The victim of this stupid jest, roused from sleep, and seeing the white figure in his room, took a pistol from beneath his pillow,34 and threatened to fire. The figure did not move. The student fired, but, as the charge made no impression, he was so overcome with horror that he fell back a hopeless maniac. The practical joker had extracted the balls from the pistol before venturing upon his heartless experiment.

3. What numberless accidents have resulted from the levelling of fire-arms at persons, by practical jokers, young and old! The youth who, forewarned of the danger, still resorts to this practice, and who, to aunoy or terrify another, aims at him a gun or pistol, should be treated as little better than one who wants but opportunity to become a murderer. It is not merely levity, but wickedness,8' to court such risks.

4. "There are many good-natured fellows," says the author of Lacon,m " who have paid the forfeit3' of their lives to their love of bantering" and raillery. No doubt they have had much diversion, but they have purchased it too dear. Although their wit and their brilliancy may have been often extolled, yet it has at last been extinguished forever, and by a foe, perhaps,'who had neither the one nor the other, but who found it. easier to point a sword than a repartee.

5. "I have heard-of a man, in the province of Bengal," who had been a long time very successful in hunting the tiger; his skill gained him great eclat," and had insured him much diversion; at length he narrowly escaped with his life. He then relinquished the sport, with this observation: 'Tiger-hunting is very fine amusement, so long as we hunt the tiger; but it is rather awkward when the tiger takes it into his head to hunt us.'

6. "Again ;9S this skill in small wit, like skill in small arms, is very apt to beget a confidence which may prove fatal90 in the end. We may either mistake the proper moment (for even cowards have their fighting days), or we may mistake the proper man. A certain Sivoyard" got his livelihood by exhibiting a monkey and a bear. He gained so much applause from his tricks with the monkey, that he was encouraged to practise some of them upon the bear; he was dreadfully lacerated, and, on Deing rescued with great difliculty from the gripe of Bruin,1' he exclaimed, ' What a fool was I not to distinguish between a monkey and a bear! A bear, my friends, is a very grave kind of a personage, and, as you plainly see, does not understand a joke!'"

7. The fate of Gonello, the jester, is memorable in the history of practical jokes. He was the son of a glover in Florence," and born between the years 1390 and 1400. Having been received" into the service of Nic'olo the Third, Marquis of Ferra'ra," as a buffoon or jester, he became a great favorite. But at last the marquis falling ill of a quartan" ague, the court physician recommended that his excellency should be suddenly submerged in cold water,~ without warning or preparation.

8. Poor Gonello generously undertook to carry out the. prescription; and, one day, as the marquis was strolling along the bank of a river, Gonello ran up, and pushed him suddenly into the water. On being pulled out, the marquis was so enraged that he would listen to no explanation of the jester's conduct. Gonello fled from the city to Padua;" and the marquis issued an edict against him, proclaiming sentence of death "should he again set foot on Ferrara ground."

9. As Gonello soon heard, however, that the marquis (thanks to his ducking) was fast recovering his health and gqpd humor,54 and as it was not a practical joke, but an act of humanity, that the jester had intended, he determined, in spite of the edict, to return to Ferrara. But, that he might go as much in character as possible, keeping within the letter of the law at the same time, he procured a cart filled with earth from Padua, and, standing upon it, entered Ferrara, protesting that the edict could not apply to him, as it was on " Ferrara ground" only that he was liable to be arrested, whereas he could prove that he stood ou Paduan soil.

10. This special" pleading did not, however, avail. He was hurried off to prison; the last ritesD of religion were administered to him; and the next day he was brought forth, in the presence of an immense assemblage, to the scaffold. Poor fellow! He thought it a very hard case that such a tragedy should succeed so much mirth as he had been the means of dispensing. Commending his soul to Heaven,30 he forgave all his enemies, laid his head upon the block, and told the executioner to do his work quickly.

11. With a grin upon his countenance, that functionary approached, made a flourish with his axe, and then dexterously slipping it out of sight, seized a pail of water, and emptied it on the bare throat of the prisoner. The assembled crowd burs' into shouts of exultation and joy. But why does Gonellt remain motionless, with his head on the block? Is he attemptini» another joke, by feigning to be asleep? Alas! he is dead Yes; the mortal life of the jester of Ferrara terminated there Ho was the victim of a practical joke, but a crueller one than he had ever himself attempted. The marquis was overwhelmed with grief by the disastrous result, and paid every honor to the memory of the unfortunate Gonello.

XVII. — CONTRASTED SOLILOQUIES.

1. "Alas!" exclaimed a silver-headed sage, " how narrow is the utmost extent of human science ! — how circumscribed the sphere of intellectual exertion! I have spent my life in acquiring knowledge ; but how little do I know! The further I attempt to penetrate the secrets of nature, the more I am bewildered and benighted. Beyond a certain limit, all is but confusion or conjecture; so that the advantage of the learned over the ignorant consists greatly in having ascertained how little is to be known.

2. "It is true that I can measure the sun, and compute the distances of the planets; I can calculate their periodical movements, and even ascertain the laws by which they perform their sublime revolutions; but, with regard to their construction, and the beings which inhabit them, what do I know more than the clown?

3. "Delighting to examine the economy of nature in our- own world, I have analyzed the elements, and have given names to their component parts. And yet, should I not be as much at a loss to explain the burning of fire, or to account for the liquid quality of water, as the vulgar, who use and enjoy them without thought or examination?

4. "I remark that all bodies, unsupported, fall to the ground; and I am taught to account for this by the law of gravitation."3 But what have I gained here more than a term? Does it convey to my mind any idea of the nature of that mysterious and invisible chain, which draws all things to a common centre? I observe the effect, I give a name to the cause; but can I explain or comprehend it?

5. "Pursuing the track of the naturalist," I have learned to distinguish the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, and to divide these into their distinct tribes and families; but can I tell, after all this toil, whence a single blade of grass derives its vitality? Could the most minute researches enable me to discover the exquisite pencil that paints and fringes the flower of the field? ILivc I ever detected the secret that gives thcii brilliant dye to the ruby" and the emerald," or the art that enamels the delicate shell?

6. :' I observe the sagacity of animals; I call it instinct, and speculate upon its various degrees of approximation to the reasoc of man. But, after all, I know as little of the cogitations of the brute as he does of mine. When I see a flight of birds overhead, performing their evolutions, or steering their course to some distant settlement, their signals and cries are as unintelligible to me as are the learned languages to the unlettered rustic; I understand as little of their policy and laws, as they do of Blackstone's" Commentaries.

7. "But, leaving the material creation, my thoughts have often ascended to loftier subjects, and indulged in metaphysical" speculation. And here, while I easily perceive in myself the two distinct qualities of matter and mind, I am baffled in every attempt to comprehend their mutual dependence and mysterious connection. When my hand moves in obedience to my will, have I the most distant conception of the manner in which the volition" is either communicated or understood? Thus, in the exercise of one of the most simple and ordinary actions, I am perplexed and confounded if I attempt to account for it.

8. "Again, how many years of my life were devoted to the acquisition of those languages by the means of which I might explore the records of remote ages, and become familiar with the learning and literature of other times! And what have I gathered from these, but the mortifying fact that man has ever been struggling with his own impotence, and vainly endeavoring to overleap the bounds which limit his anxious inquiries?

9. "Alas! then, what have I gained by my laborious researches, but a humbling conviction of my weakness and ignorance? How little has man, at his best estate, of which to boast! What folly in him to glory in his contracted powers, or to value himself upon his imperfect acquisitions!"

10. "Well," exclaimed a young lady, just returned fronr 6chool, " my education is at last finished! — indeed, it would be strange if, after five years''41 hard application, anything were left incomplete. Happily, that is all over now; and I have nothing to do but to exercise my various accomplishments.

11. "Let me see ! — As to French, I am mistress of that, and speak it, if possible, with more fluency than English. Italian I can read with ease, and pronounce very will; as well, at least, «s any of my friends, — and that is all one need wish for in Ital ian. Music I have learned till I am perfectly sick of it. But, now that we have a grand piano, it will be delightful to play when we have company; I must still continue to practise a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »