« PreviousContinue »
with regret, on the flowery plants, endued, like that we call sensitive, with a quick and lively feeling; they bent under my foot, only to rise with more brilliancy: the fruit gently dropped, on the first touch from the complying branch, and had scarcely gratified the palate when the delicious sensation of its juices was felt glowing in every vein; the eye, more piercing, sparkled with uncommon lustre; the ear was more lively; the heart, which expanded itself over all nature, seemed to possess and enjoy its fertile extent: the universal enjoyment did not disturb any individual ; for union multiplied their delights, and they esteemed themselves less happy in their own fruition than in the happiness of others. This sun did not resemble the comparative paleness and weakness which illuminates our gloomy terrestrial prison ; yet the eye could bear to gaze on it, and, in a manner, plunge itself in a kind of ecstacy in its mild and pure light; it enlivened at once the sight and the understanding, and even penetrated the soul. The bodies of those fortunate persons became, as it were, transparent; while each read in his brother's heart the sentiments of affability and tenderness with which himself was affected.
There darted from the leaves of all the shrubs that the planet enlightened, a luminous matter, which resembled, at a distance, all the colours of the rainbow; its orb, which was never eclipsed, was crowned with such sparkling rays that the daring prism of Newton could not divide. When this planet set, six brilliant moons floated in the atmosphere; their progression in different orbits, each night formed a new exhibition. The multitude of stars, which seem to us as if scattered by chance, were here seen in their true point of view, and the order of the universe appeared in all its pomp and splendour.
In this happy country, when a man gave way to sleep, his body, which had none of the properties of terrestrial elements, gave no opposition to the soul, but contemplated in a vision, bordering on reality, the lucid region, the throne of the Eternal, to which it was soon to be elevated. Men awaked from a light slumber without perturbation or uneasiness; enjoying futurity by a forcible sentiment of immortality, being intoxicated with the image of an approaching felicity, exceeding that which they already enjoyed. Grief, the fatal result of the imperfect sensibility of our rude frames, was unknown to these innocent men; a light sensation warned them of the objects that could hurt them: and nature removed them from the danger, as a tender mother would gently draw her child by the hand from a pitfall. I breathed more freely in this habitation of joy and concord; my existence became most valuable to me; but in proportion as the charms which surrounded me were lively, the greater was my sorrow when my ideas returned to the globe I had quitted. All the calamities of the human race united, as in one point, to overwhelm my heart, and I exclaimed piteously~" Alas! the world I inhabited, formerly resembled yours; but, peace, innocence, and chaste pleasures, soon vanished.-- Why was I not born among you ? what a contrast! the earth that was my sorrowful abode is incessantly filled with tears and sighs; there the smaller number oppress
the greater; the demon of property infects what he touches, and what he covets. Gold is there a god, and they sacrifice on his altar, love, humanity, and the most valuable virtues. Shudder, you that hear me! the greatest enemy that man has is man; his chiefs are his tyrants; they make all things bend under the yoke of their pride or their caprice; the chains of oppression are in a manner extended from pole to pole ; a monster who assumes the mask of glory, makes lawful whatever is most horrible, violence and murder. Since the fatal invention of an inflammable powder, no mortal can şay, to-morrow I shall repose in peace ;--to-morrow the arm of despotism will not crush my head ;-to
morrow dreadful sorrow will not depress my soul ; to-morrow the wailings of an useless despair, proceeding from a distressed heart, will not escape my lips, and tyranny bury me alive as in a stone coffin! Oh, my brethren! weep, weep over us! We are not only surrounded with chains and executioners, but are moreover dependent on the seasons, the elements, and the meanest insects. All naturè rebels against us; and even if we subdue her, she makes us pay dearly for the benefits our labour forces from her. The bread we eat is earned by our tears and the sweat of our brow; then greedy men come and plunder us, to squander it on their idle favourites. Weep, weep with me, my brethren! hatred pursues us; revenge sharpens its poniard in the dark ; calumny brands us, and even deprives us of the power of making our defence; the object of tenderness betrays our confidence, and forces us to curse this otherwise consolatary sentiment. We must live in the midst of all the strokes of wickedness, error, pride, and folly.”
Whilst my heart gave a free course to my complaints, I saw a band of shining seraphs descending from heaven; on which shouts of joy were immediately sent forth from the whole race of these fortunate beings. As I gazed with astonishment, I was accosted by an old man, who said, “ Farewell, my friend; the moment of our death draws near; rather, that of a new life. The ministers of the God of clemency are come to take us away from this earth; we are going to dwell in a world of still greater perfection."
Why, father," said I, “are you then strangers to the agonies of death, the anguish, the pain, the dread, which accompany us in our last moments ?"
“Yes, my child," he replied, “these angels of the Highest come at stated periods, and carry us all away, opening to us the road to a new world, of which we have an idea by the undoubted conviction of the unlimited
bounty and magnificence of the Creator." A cheerful - glow was immediately spread over their countenances;
their brows already seemed crowned with immortal splendor ; they sprang lightly from the earth in my sight; I prest the 'sacred hand of each for the last time, while with a smile they held out the other to the seraph, who had spread his wings to carry them to heaven. They ascended all at once, like a flock of beautiful swans, that, taking flight, raise then selves, with majestic rapidity, over the tops of our highest palaces. I gazed with sadness; my eye followed them in the air, until their venerable heads were lost in the silver clouds, and I remained alone on this magnificent deserted land. I perceived I was not yet fitted to dwell in it, and wished to return to this unfortunate world of expiation : thus the animal escaped from his keeper returns, following the track of his chain, with a mild aspect, and enters his prison.
Awaking, the illusion was dispelled, which it is beyond the
my weak tongue or pen to describe in its full splendor; but this illusion I shall for ever cherish : and, supported by the foundation of hope, I will preserve it till death in the inmost recesses of my soul.
ON HAPPINESS OF TEMPER.
THEN I reflect on the unambitious retirement
in which I passed the earlier part of my life in the country, I cannot avoid feeling some pain in thinking that those happy days are never to return. "In Tixat retreat all nature seemed capable of affording pleasure; I then made no• refinements on happiness, Lut could be pleased with the most awkward efforts
of rustic mirth: thought cross-purposes the highest stretch of human wit; and questions and commands the most rational way of spending the evening. Happy could so charming an illusion still continue! I find that age and knowledge only contribute to sour our dispositions. My present enjoyments may be more refined, but they are infinitely less pleasing. The pleasure the best actor gives, can no way compare to that I have received from a country wag who imitated a quaker's sermon. The music of the finest singer is dissonance to what I felt when our old dairy-maid sung me into tears with Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night, or the Cruelty of Barbara Allen.
Writers of every age have endeavoured to shew, that pleasure is in us, and not in the objects offered for our amusement. If the soul be happily disposed, every thing becomes capable of affording entertainment; and distress will almost want a name. Every occurrence passes in review like the figures of a procession; some may be awkward, others ill-dressed; but none but a fool is for this enraged with the master of the ceremonies.
I remember to have once seen a slave in a fortification in Flanders, who appeared no way touched with his situation. He was maimed, deformed, and chained; obliged to toil from the appearance of day till night-fall, and condemned to this for life; yet, with all these circumstances of apparent wretchedness, he sung, would have danced but that he wanted a leg, and appeared the merriest, happiest man of all the garrison. What a practical philosopher was here ! an happy. constitution supplied philosophy; and, though seemingly destitute of wisdom, he was really wise. No reading or study had contributed to disenchant the fairy-land around him. Everything furnished him with an opprtunity of mirth; and, though some thought him from his insensibility a fool, he was such an idiot as philosophers should wish to imitate ; for all