Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Arch. So! Now I understand. I seem to you to be on the wane — eh? Out with it! You think it about time that 1 should retire?

Gil B. I should not have presumed, sir, to speak so freely, but for your express commands. I have simply rendered you obedience; and I humbly trust that you will not be offended at my hardihood.

Arch. Offended! O! not at all, Mr. Gil Bias. I utter no reproaches. I don't take it at all ill that you should speak your sentiments; it is your sentiment only that I find ill. I have been duped in supposing you to be a person of any intelligence — that is all.

Gil B. But, sir, if, in my zeal to serve you, I have erred in — Arch. Say no more — say no more! You are yet too raw to discriminate. Know that I never composed a better sermon than that which has had the misfortune to lack your approbation. My faculties, thank Heaven, have lost nothing of their vigor. Hereafter I will make a better choice of an adviser. Go, tell my treasurer to count you out a hundred ducats, and may Heaven conduct you with that sum. Adieu, Mr. Gil Bias £ wip^ Jovl all manner of prosperity— with a little more taste.

DRAMATIZED FROM LE SAGE

CLXII. — THE TRADE OF WAR.

Max. He is possessed by a commanding spirit,
&.nd his, too, is the station of command,
A.nd well for us it is so!Well for the whole, if there be found a man168

stands fixed and stately, like a firm-built column, Where all may press with joy and confidence. Now, such a man is Wallenstein. The oracle within him, that which lives, He must invoke and question—not dead books, Not ordinances, not mould-rotted papers.

Octavio. My son, of those old narrow ordinances
Let us not hold too lightly.
The way of ancient ordinance, though it winds,
Is yet no devious way. Straight forward goes
The lightning's path, and straight the fearful path
Of the cannon-ball. Direct it flies and rapid,
Shattering that it may reach, and shattering what it reaches
My son, the road the human being travels,
That on which blessing comes and goes, doth follow
The river's course, the valley's playful windings,

Curves round the cornfield and the hill of vines,

Honoring the holy bounds of property;

And thus secure, though late, leads to its end.

Questcnburg. 0, hear your father, noble youth! hear Who is at once the hero and the man.

Oct. My son, the nursling of the camp spoke in thee.
A war of fifteen years
Hath been thy education and thy school.
Peace hast thou never witnessed! There exists
A higher than the warrior's excellence.
In war itself war is no ultimate purpose.
The vast and sudden deeds of violence,
Adventures wild, and wonders of the moment,
These are not they, my son, that generate
The Calm, the Blissful, the enduring Mighty!
Lo there! the soldier, rapid architect,
Builds his light town of canvas, and at once
The whole scene moves and bustles momently
With arms and neighing steeds; and mirth and quarrel
The motley market fill; the roads, the streams,
Are crowded with new freights; trade stirs and hurries!
But on some morrow morn all suddenly
The tents drop down, the horde renews its march. —
Dreary and solitary as a church-yard
The meadow and down-trodden seed-plot lie,
And the year's harvest is gone utterly.

Max. O, let the emperor make peace, my father!
Most gladly would I give the blood-stained laurel
For the first violet of the leafless spring,
Plucked in those quiet fields where I have journeyed!

Oct. What ails thee 1 What so moves thee, all at i-ios Max. Peace have I ne'er beheld? I have beheld it.
From thence am I come hither: O! that sight,
It glimmers still before me, like some landscape
Left in the distance, — some delicious landscape!
My road conducted me through countries where
The war has not yet reached. Life, life, my father—
My venerable father, life has charms
Which we have ne'er experienced. We have heen
But voyaging along its barren coasts,
Like some poor ever-roaming horde of pirates,
That, crowded in the rank and narrow ship,
House on the wild sea with wild usages,
Nor know aught of the mainland, but the bays
Where safeliest they may venture a thieves' landing
Whate'er in the inland dales the land conceals
Of fair and exquisite, — O! nothing, nothing
Do we behold of that in our rude voyage.

Oct. And so your journey has revealed this to you 1 Max. 'T was the first leisure of my life. 0, tell me, What is the meed and purpose of the toil.

The painful toil, which robbed me of my youth,

Left me a heart unsouled and solitary,

A spirit uninformed, unornamented!

For the camp's sti», and crowd, and ceaseless larum,

The neighing war-horse, the air-shattering trumpet,

The unvaried, still returning hour of duty,

Word of command, and exercise of arms —

There's nothing here, there's nothing in all this

To satisfy the heart, the gasping heart!

Mere bustling nothingness, where the soul is not —

This cannot be the sole felicity,

These cannot be man's bust and only pleasures!

Oct. Much hast thou learnt, my son, in this short journey.

Max. 0! day thrice lovely! when at length the soldier
Returns home into life; when he becomes
A fellow-man among his fellow-men.
The colors are unfurled, the cavalcade
Marshals, and now the buzz is hushed, and, hark!
Now the soft peace-march beats, Home, brothers, home
The caps and helmets are all garlanded
With green boughs, the last plundering of the fields
The city gates fly open of themselves;
They need no longer the petard to tear them.
The ramparts are all filled with men and women,
With peaceful men and women, that send onwards
Kisses and welcomings upon the air,
Which they make breezy with affectionate gestures.
From all the towers rings out the merry peal,
The joyous vespers of a bloody day.
0, happy man, 0, fortunate! for whom
The well-known door, the faithful arms are open,
The faithful tender arms with mute embracing!

SCHILLER, TRANSLATED BY COLERIDGB

CLXIII. — THE VANITY AND GLORY OF LITERATURE.

1. Paradoxical1' as it may seem, the chief cause of the virtual oblivion of books is Do longer their extinction, but the fond care with which they are preserved, and their immensely rapid multiplication. The press is more than a match for the moth and the worm, or the mouldering hand of time; yet the great destroyer equally fulfils his commission, by burying books under the pyramid" which is formed by their accumulation. It is a striking example of the im'potence with which man struggles against tie destiny which awaits him and his works, that the very means he takes to insure immortality destroy it; that the very activity of the press, of the instrument by which he seemed, to have taken

[ocr errors]

pledges against time and fortune, is that which will make him the spoil of both. The books themselves may no longer die; but their spirit does: and they become like old men whose bodies have outlived their minds, — a spectacle more piteous than death itself.

2. It is really curious to look into the index of such learned writers as Jeremy Taylor, Cudworth, or Leibnitz," and to see the havoc which has been made on the memory of the greater part of the writers they cite, and who still exist, though no longer to be cited; of men who were their great contemporaries or immediate predecessors, and who are quoted by them just as Locke or Burke is quoted by us. Of scarcely one in ten of these grave authorities has the best-informed student of our day read ten pages. The very names of vast numbers have all but perished; at all events, have died out of familiar remembrance. Let the student, who natters himself that he is not ill-informed, glance over the index of even such a work as Hallam's " History of European Literature," — designed only to record the more memorable names, — and ask himself of how many of the authors there mentioned he has read so much as even five pages. It will be enough to chastise all ordinary conceit of extensive attainments, and, perhaps, as effectually as anything, teach a man that truest kind of knowledge, the knowledge of his own ignorance.

3. But, without a gibe," the destiny of the honest writer, even though but moderately successful, and much more if long and widely popular, is surely glorious and enviable. It may be true that he is to die, — for we do not count the record of a name, when the works are no longer read, as anything better than an epitaph, and even that may vanish; yet to come into contact with other minds, even though for limited periods, - - to move them by a silent influence, to cooperate in the construction of character, to mould the habits of thought, to promote the dominion of truth and virtue, to exercise a spell over those one has never seen and never can see, — in other climes, at the extremity of the globe, and when the hand that wrote it is still forever, — is surely a most wonderful and even awful prerogative. It comes nearer to the idea of the immediate influence of spirit on spirit than anything else with which this world presents us. It is of a purely moral nature; it is also silent as the dew, invisible as the wind!

4. We can adequately conceive of such an influence only by imagining ourselves, under the privilege of Gyges," to gaze, invisible, on the solitary reader as he pores over a favorite author, and watch in his countenance, as in a mirror, the reflection of the page which holds him captive; now knitting his brow over a difficult argument, and deriving at once discipline and knowledge by the effort; now relaxing into smiles at wit and humor; now dwelling with a glistening eye on tenderness and pathos; and, in either case, the subject of emotions which not only constitute the mood of the moment, but, in their measure, cooperate to the formation of those habits which issue in character and conduct; now yielding up some fond illusion to the force of truth, and anon betrayed into another by the force of sophistry ;" now rebuked for some vice or folly, and binding himself with renewed vows to the service of virtue; and now sympathizing with the too faithful delineation of vicious passions and depraved pleasures, and strengthening by one more rivet the dominion of evil over the soul!

5. Surely, to be able to wield such a power as this implies, in any degree and for limited periods, is a stupendous attribute; one which, if more deeply pondered, would frequently cause a writer to pause and tremble, as though his pen had been the rod of an enchanter. Happy those who have wielded it well, and who, "dying, leave no line they wish to blot." Happier, far happier such, in the prospect of speedy extinction, than those whose loftier genius promises immortality of fame, and whose abuse of it renders that immortality a curse. Melancholy, indeed, is the lot of all, whose high endowments have been worse than wasted; who have left to that world which they were born to bless only a legacy of shame and sorrow; whose vices and follies, unlike those of other men, are not permitted to die with them, but continue active for evil after the men themselves are dust.

6. It becomes every one who aspires to be a writer to remember this. The ill which other men do, for the most part, dies with them. Not, indeed, that this is literally true, even of the obscurest of the species. We are all but links in a vast chain which stretches from the dawn of time to the consummation of all things, and unconsciously receive and transmit a subtle influence. As we are, in a great measure, what our forefathers made us, so our posterity will be what we make them; and it is a thought which may w.ell make us both proud and afraid of our destiny. But such truths, though universally applicable, are more worthy of being pondered by great authors than by any other class of men. These outlive their age; and their thoughts continue to operate immediately on the spirit of their race. How sad, to one who feels that he has abused his high trust, to know that he is to perpetuate his vices; that he has spoken a spell for evil, and cannot unsay it; that the poisoned shaft has left the bow, and cannot be recalled!

7 Even such authors, however, will reach the oblivion they

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »