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desert, the air, the ocean, all teeming with creatures whose bodily wants are as carefully provided for as his; the sun, the clouds, the winds, all attending, as it were, on these organized beings; a host of beneficent energies, unwearied by time and succession, pervading every corner of the earth; — this spectacle cannot but give the contemplator a lofty and magnificent conception of the Author of so vast a work, of the Ruler of so wide and rich an empire, of the Provider for so many and varied wants, the Director and Adjuster of such com'plex and jarring interests. — Whewdl.
CLXXXIX. — COMMON ERRORS.
1. There are a number of proverbial notions, which either square so well with some principle in our self-love, or appeal so forcibly to some of our besetting prejudices, or appear from some other cause so exceedingly plausible, that they are never brought forward without apparently producing conviction, while in sober truth they are either highly questionable or decidedly erroneous.
2. When a man, for instance, says, "Away with all refinements— I take the broad common-sense view of the question," everybody immediately prepares to listen to him as a kind of oracle. He may, after that, speak for half an hour in the most vulgar and irrational jargon, without a single reference to the principle of the argument; and if he only takes care not to offend any of the prepossessions of his hearers, he will bear away the palm from the most acute reasoner.
3. The cause of this is, that when you speak of common sense you speak of a thing which all imperfectly-educated and ignorant people (unfortunately the great majority of common audiences) think they possess by intuition, though it is in reality but a composition of the prejudices of each particular person; and, flattered by their sense being considered as sufficient to give judgment, they are tempted into thinking themselves convinced, and pronounce accordingly.
4. Whenever a man happens to act rather absurdly, or perhaps somewhat reprehensibly, and is conscious of it, you are sure to hear him exclaim, "Well, I acted according to my conscience." If a man can only convince himself that he was ruled by this secret monitor, he is satisfied, because he has always been told to act according to conscience, and invariably hears conscientious people commended both by friends and oppo'nents. Other people are satisfied too, and think no more of the error they were once disposed to censure. "O, he acted according to his conscience; there is no more to be said."
5. Now, this would be all very well if conscience were one uniform prompter of good, and preventive of bad, in the breasts of all men. But conscience is a quality which every man possesses only in a certain extent, in proportion as he may have been originally gifted with it, and as he may have cultivated it through life. An individual may have a conscience so very small, or so very dull, that it forms no obstacle to the worst indulgences: he may be so very stupid, in regard to all speculative questions, that the conscience he thinks he acts upon is only a blind supposition of the truth.
6. In these cases conscience is no excuse. The most flagitious criminal might make it a plea for arrest of judgment; the most unenlightened of human beings might sit down upon it in selfsatisfied ignorance; the bigot might adopt it as a sanction for a war against his species. Nine-tenths of all the worst mischief, negative and positive, that ever afflicted the world, is traceable to conscience. The duty of man is to improve those faculties which enable him to think and act correctly. He must make his conscience a good conscience, and then, but then only, will he be entitled to honor in acting upon it.
7. Akin to this error is one which makes meaning well an excuse for everything. Nay, some not only excuse all kinds of follies and mischiefs by telling themselves and others that they mean well, but they make it a regular boast as a primary rule of conduct, and take not the least care for anything else. They will deliberately go on from day to day in a course injurious to both themselves and others, and, reposing indolently upon their good intentions, neglect all fair opportunities of advantage, all feasible natural means of accomplishing their ends, and finally, perhaps, allow the broad wheel of ruin to come over them, without making an effort to get out of the way.
8. There is also a great sect of philanthropists, who, taking no pains to ascertain the true means of promoting human happiness, and possibly prepossessed in favor of many things which are adverse to it, form, in reality, through the very respect that is paid to their well-meaning impenetrability, the greatest existing obstacles to the object they profess to have in view. Men can never be sufficiently vigilant in guarding against this easy palliation of error and prejudice; their duty is to see that they both mean well, and take the proper means for forming a sound judgment and constructing a correct rule of action, Chakbebs.
CXLVI. — SELECT PASSAGES IN VERBS,
1. True Glort. — Milton.
They err who count it glorious to subduo
2. Consolation For A Friend's Death. — Milton
Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more ,
For Lycidas," your sorrow, is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor:So sinks the day-star in the ocean-bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore Flames in the forehead of the morning sky;So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves Where, other groves, and other streams along, With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves, And hears the unexpressive nuptial song, In the blessed kingdoms meek of joy and love. There entertain him all the saints above, In solemn troops and sweet societies, That sing, and, singing, in their glory move, And wipe the tears forever from his eyes.
3. Truth. — Cowper.
The only amaranthine" flower on earth
4. Harmony op Expression.—Pope.
But most by numbers judge a poet's song;
And smooth or rough, with them is right or wrong:
In the bright Muse" though thousand charms conspire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnassus" but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
These156 equal syllables alone require,
Though oft the ear the open vowels tire;
While ex'pletives" their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line;
While they ring round the same unvaried chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes;
Where'er you find " the cooling western breeze,"
In the next line it " whispers through the trees;"
If crystal streams " with pleasing murmurs creep,"
The reader's threatened (not in vain) with " sleep;'
Then, at the last and only couplet, fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine" ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know
What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
And praise the easy vigor of a line,
Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness join.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance;
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'T is not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seems an echo to the sense:
Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax" strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labors, and the words move slow;
Not so when swift Camilla" scours the plain,
Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main
5. The Hope Of An Hereafter. — Campbell. What is the bigot's torch, the tyrant's chain?
CXCI. THE MEETING OF THE WATERS.
There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;*
0, the last rays of feeling and life must depart,
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart!
Yet it was not that Nature had shed o'er the scene
'T was that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near,
Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
• The rivers Avon and Avoea, in the county of Wieklow, Ireland.