« PreviousContinue »
At laft the night came on, and the neceffity of parting freed us from the perfecutions of each other. I heard them, as they walked along the court, murmuring at the lofs of the day, and inquiring whether any man would pay a fecond vifit to a house haunted by a wit?
Demochares, whose benevolence is greater than his penetration, having flattered his hopes with the fe. condary honour which he was to gain by my fprightlinefs and elegance, and the affection with which he fhould be followed for a perpetual banquet of gaiety, was not able to conceal his vexation and refentment, nor would easily be convinced, that I had not facri ficed his intereft to fullennefs and caprice, and ftudioufly endeavoured to difguft his guefts, and fuppreffed my powers of delighting, in obftinate and premeditated filence. I am informed that the reproach of their ill reception is divided by the gentlemen of the country between us; fome being of opinion, that my friend is deluded by an impoftor, who, though he has found fome art of gaining his favour, is afraid to fpeak before men of more penetration; and others concluding, that I think only Landon the proper thea tre of my abilities, and difdain to exert my genius for the praise of rufticks.
I believe, Mr. RAMBLER, that it has fometimes happened to others, who have the good or ill fortune to be celebrated for wits, to fall under the fame cenfures upon the like occafions. I hope therefore that you will prevent any mifreprefentations of fuch failures, by remarking that invention is not wholly at the command of its poffeffor; that the power of pleas ing is very often obftructed by the defire; that all expectation
pectation leffens furprise, yet fome surprise is neceffary to gaiety; and that those who defire to partake of the pleasure of wit muft contribute to its production, fince the mind ftagnates without external ventilation, and that effervefcence of the fancy, which flashes into transport, can be raised only by the infufion of diffimilar ideas.
NUMB. 102. SATURDAY, March 9, 1751.
Ipfa quoque affiduo labuntur tempora motu
Non fecus ac flumen: neque enim confiftere flumen,
Nec levis hora poteft; fed ut unda impellitur undâ,
Urgeturque prior veniente, urgetque priorem,
With conftant motion as the moments glide,
"LIFE," fays Seneca, "is a voyage, in the pro"grefs of which we are perpetually changing "our scenes: we firft leave childhood behind us, "then youth, then the years of ripened manhood, "then the better and more pleafing part of old age." The perufal of this paffage having incited in me a train of reflections on the state of man, the inceffant fluctuation of his wishes, the gradual change of his difpo
difpofition to all external objects, and the thoughtleffness with which he floats along the ftream of time, I funk into a flumber amidst my meditations, and, on a sudden, found my ears filled with the tumult of labour, the shouts of alacrity, the fhrieks of alarm, the whistle of winds, and the dash of waters.
My astonishment for a time repreffed my curiofity; but foon recovering myself fo far as to inquire whither we were going, and what was the cause of fuch clamour and confufion, I was told that we were launching out into the ocean of life; that we had already paffed the ftreights of infancy, in which multitudes had perifhed, fome by the weakness and fragility of their veffels, and more by the folly, perverfenefs, or negligence, of thofe who undertook tọ fteer them; and that we were now on the main sea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of fecurity than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to choose among great numbers that offered their direction and affift.
I then looked round with anxious eagernefs; and first turning my eyes behind me, faw a ftream flowing through flowery iflands, which every one that failed along feemed to behold with pleasure; but no fooner touched, than the current, which, though not noify or turbulent, was yet irresistible, bore him away. Beyond thefe iflands all was darkness, nor could any of the paffengers defcribe the fhore at which he first embarked.
Before me, and on each fide, was an expanfe of waters violently agitated, and covered with fo thick a mift, that the most perfpicacious eye could fee but
a little way. It appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools, for many funk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full fails, and infulting those whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and fo thick the darkness, that no caution could confer fecurity. Yet there were many, who, by false intelligence, betrayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed thofe whom they found in their way against the rocks.
The current was invariable and infurmountable; but though it was impoffible to fail against it, or to return to the place that was once paffed, yet it was not so violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, fince, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might often avoid it by oblique direction.
It was, however, not very common to fteer with much care or prudence; for by fome univerfal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself safe, though he saw his conforts every moment finking round him; and no fooner had the waves closed over them, than their fate and their misconduct were forgotten; the voyage was purfued with the fame jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the foundness of his veffel, and believed himself able to ftem the whirlpool in which his friend was swallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dafhed: nor was it often observed that the fight of a wreck made any man change his courfe: if he turned afide for a moment, he foon forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the difpofal of chance.
This negligence did not proceed from indifference, or from wearinefs of their prefent condition; for not one of those who thus rushed upon deftruction, failed, when he was finking, to call loudly upon his affociates for that help which could not now be given him; and many spent their last moments in cautioning others against the folly by which they were intercepted in the midst of their course. Their benevolence was fometimes praised, but their admonitions were unregarded.
The veffels in which we had embarked being confeffedly unequal to the turbulence of the ftream of life, were vifibly impaired in the course of the voyage; fo that every paffenger was certain, that how long foever he might, by favourable accidents, or by inceffant vigilance, be preserved, he must fink at last.
This neceffity of perishing might have been expected to fadden the gay, and intimidate the daring, at least to keep the melancholy and timorous in perpetual torments, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature. offered them as the folace of their labours: yet, in effect, none feemed lefs to expect deftruction than those to whom it was most dreadful; they all had the art of concealing their danger from themselves; and those who knew their inability to bear the fight of the terrours that embarraffed their way, took care never to look forward, but found fome amusement for the present moment, and generally entertained themselves by playing with HOPE, who was the constant afsociate of the voyage of life.