Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

A S

[ocr errors]

were intercepted a in the midst of their course. Their bene - volence was sometimes praised, but their admonitions bw,

unregarded.

8. The vessels in which we were embarked, being confessedly unequal to the turbulence of the stream of life, were visibly impaired in the course of the voyage; so that every passenger was certain, that how long soever he might, by

favorable accidents, or by incessant vigilance, be preserved, ! he must sink at last.

9. This necessity of perishing might have been expected 1 lo sadden the gay, and to intimidate c the daring; at least to

keep the melancholy and timorous in perpetual torment, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature offered them as the solace of their labors; yet, in effect, none seemed less to expect destruction 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 sight of terrors that enbarrassed their way, took care never to look forward ; but found some amusement of the present moment, and generally entertained themselves by playing with Hope, who was the constant associate of the Voyage of Life.

10. Yet all that Hope ventured to promise, even to those whom she favored most, was, not that they should escape but that they should sink last; and with this promise every one was satisfied, though he laughed at the rest for seeming to believe it. Hope, indeed, apparently mocked the crediility d of her companions; for, in proportion as their vessels grew leaky, she redoubled her assurances of safety; and none were more busy in making provisions for a long voyage, than they whom all but themselves saw likely to perish soon by irreparable decay.

11. In the midst of the current of Life, was the gulf of Intemperance, a dreadful whirlpool, interspersed with rocks, of which the pointed crags were concealed under water, and the tops covered with herbage, on which Ease spread couches of repose, and with shades, where Plcasure warbled the song of invitation. Within sight of these rocks, all who sailed on the ocean of Life must necessarily pass.

12. Reason, indeed, was always at hand, to steer the passengers through a narrow outlet, by which they might escape; but very few could, by her entreaties or remonstrances, f be induced to put the rudder into her hand, without stipulating that she should approach so near the rocks of Pleasure, that an-ter-cep-ted, stopt in its passage

e in-ter-spers-ed, scattered among. b Ad-mo-ni"-tions, gentle reproofs.

uons agains: Cre-du-li-ty, easiness of holief.

S Re-mon-stran-ces, strong represente

cin-tim-i-date, to frighten,

they might solace themselves with a short enjoyment of That delicious region: after which they always determined to pursue their course without any deviation.

13. Reason was too often prevailed upon so far by these step promises, as to venture her charge within the eddy of the gulf of Intemperance, where indeed the circumvolution was weak, but yet interrupted the course of the vessel, and drew it by insensible rotations toward the center. She then repented her temerity, and with all her force endeavorec to retreat; but the draught of the gulf was generally too strong to be overcome; and the passenger, having danced ir. circles with a pleasing and giddy velocity, was at last over! whelmed and lost.

14. Those few whom Reason was able to extricate, a gene. rally suffered so many shocks upon the points which shot muit from the rocks of Pleasure, that they were unable to con- b tinue their course with the same strength and facility as be# fore, but floated along, timorously and feebly, endangered by every breeze, and shattered by every ruffle of the water, till they sunk, by slow degrees, after long struggles and innumerable expedients, always repining at their own folly, and is warning others against the first approach toward the gulf of Intemperance.

15. There were artists who prosessed to repair the breaches, and stop the leaks, of the vessels which had been shattered on the rocks of Pleasure. Many appeared to have great skill; and some, indeed, were preserved by it from sinking, who had received only a single blow; but I remarked that few vessels lasted long which had been much repaired; nor was it found that the artists themselves continued afloat, longer than those who had least of their assistance.

16. The only advantage which, in the voyage of Life, the mutious had above the negligent, was, that they sunk later, and more suddenly; for they passed forward till they had sometimes seen all those in whose company they had issued from the straits of Infancy, prrish in the way; and at last were overset by a cross breeze, without the toil of resistance, or the anguish of expectation. But such as had often fallen against the rocks of Pleasure, commonly subsided by sensible degrees; contended long with the encroaching waters; and harrassed themselves by labors that scarcely Hope herself could flatter with success.

17. As I was looking upon the various fates of the multi sude about me, I was suddenly alarmed with an admonition

a Bot'-ace, to comfort.

Circum-vo-lution, tarning round c To-mer-i-ty, rash boldness

d Excuri-cate, to set free.
e Ex-ge'-di-ents, moins to an end.

from some unknown power: “Gaze not idly upon others, when thou thyself art sinking. Whence is this thoughtless tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered ?" I looked, and seeing the gulf of Intemperance before me, started and awaked.

Dr. Johnson.

SECTION IV.

Death of Socrates. 1. SOCRATES, the famous Greek philosopher, « was born at Athens, about 451 years before Christ. He gave early proof of his valor in the service of his country, but chiefly applied himself to the study of philosophy; and was a person of irresistible eloquence, and accomplished virtue. His distin guishing characteristic was a perfect tranquillity of mind, which enabled him to support, with patience, the most roublesome accidents of life.

2. He used to beg of those with whom he usually conversed, to put him on his guard, the moment they perceived in him the first emotions of anger; and when they did so, he instantly resumed perfect composure and complacency.! His wife, Xantippe, a woman of the most whimsical and provoking temper, afforded him sufficient opportunity of exercising his patience, by the revilings and abuse with which she was constantly loading him.

3. Socrates possessed, in a superior degree, the talent of reasoning. His principal employment was the instruction of youth an object to which he directed all his care and attention. He kept, however, no fixed public school, but took every opportunity, without regarding times or places, of conveying to them his precepts, and that in the most enticing and agreeable manner. His lessons were so univerwally relished, that the moment he appeared, whether in thre public assemblies, walks, or feasts, he was surrounded with a throng of the most illustrious scholars and hearers. The young Athenians quitted even their pleasures, to listen to the discourse of Socrates.

4. He greatly exerted himself against the power of the thirty tyrants, and in the behalf of Theramenes, d whom they had condemned to death; insomuch, that they became so much alarmed at his behavior, that they forbade him to instruct the Athenian youth. Soon after, an accusation was formally exhibited against him by Melitus, containing in a Phi-105'-oplier, one skilled in the sci- cn-lus:iri-ous, eminent, conspicuous.

The-ram'o.nes, an Athonian general o Con-pla-on-cy, satisfaction of mind.

Rice of nature.

substance; " That he did not acknowledge the gods of the republic, but introduced new deities in their room ;' and further, “that he corrupted the youth.” He urged, in his defense, that he had assisted, as others had, at the sacrifices and solemn festivals.

5. He denied his endeavoring to establish any new wor ship. He owned, indeed, that he had received frequent admonitions from a divine voice, which he called his genius, that constantly attended him, and discovered to him future events,-that he had often made use of this divine assistance for the service of himself and his frier.ds, but, that if he had been thus particularly favored by Heaven, it was owing chietly to the regularity of his life and conduct; and that the approbation of the Supreme Being, which was given him as a reward for his virtue, ought not to be objected to him as his crime.

6. Then, as to the other article, wherein he was accused of corrupting the youth, and teaching them to despise the settled laws and order of the commonwealth, he said he had no other view in his conversation with them than to regulate their morals,--that as he could not do this with any public authority, he was therefore forced to insinuate b himself into their company, and to use, in a manner, the same meihods to reclaim, which others did to corrupt them.

7. How far the whole charge affected him, it is not easy to determine. It is certain, that amidst so much zeal and superstition as then reigned in Athens, he never dare openly oppose the received religion, and was therefore obliged to preserve an outward show of it. But it is very probable, from the discourses he frequently held with his friends, that, in his heart, he despised and laughed at their inoustrous opinions and ridiculous mysteries, as having no other soundation than the fables c of the poets; and that he had attained to a notion of the one only true God, insomuch, that upon the account of his belief of the Deity, and his exemplaryd lise, some have thought fit to rank him with Christian philosophers.

8. And indeed his behavior upon his trial was more like that of a Christian martyre than an impious pagan, -where he appeared with such a composed confidence, as naturally results from innocence; and rather, as Cicero é observes, as if he were to determine upon his judges, than to supplicate them as a criminal.-But how slight soever the proofs were a Fes'-ti-vals, feasts.

e Mar'tyr, one who is put to death for the b In-sin-u-ate, to wind in, to hint. truth. c Fables, instructive fictions.

Pa'-mon, an idolater. d Ex'-em-pla-ry worthy of imitation. g Cic-e-ro, a Roman orator.

against him, the faction 4 was powerful enough to find him guilty.

9. It was a privilege, however, granted him, to demand a mitigation of punishment to change the condemnation of death into banishment, • imprisonment, or a fine. But he replied, generously, that he would choose neither of those punishments, because that would be to acknowledge himself guilty. This answer so incensed his judges, that they determined he shoula arink the hemlock,d a punishment at thåt time much in use among them.

10. Thirty days were allowed him to prepare to die; during which time he conversed with his friends with the same evenness and serenity of mind he had ever done before. And though they had bribed the jailer for his escape, he refused it, as an ungenerous violation of the laws. He was about serenty years old when he suffered; which made him say, he thought himself happy to quit life, at a time when it began to be troublesome; and that his death was rather a deliverance than a punishment.

11. Cicero has described, with great elegance, the lofty seniiments and magnanimous e behavior of Socrates.- While he held the fatal cup in his hand, he declared that he considered death, not as a punishment inflicted on him, but as a help furnished him, of arriving so much sooner at heaven.

12. His children being brought before him, he spoke to them a little, and then desired them to be taken away. The hour appointed for drinking the hemlock being come, they brought him the cup, which he received without any emrja tion, and then addressed a prayer to heaven. It is highly reasonable, said he, to offer my prayers to the Supreme Being on this occasion, and to beseech him to render my departure from earth, and my last journey, happy. Then he drank off the poison with amazing tranquillity.

13. Observing his friends in this fatal moment weeping and dissolved in tears, he reproved them with great mildness, asking them whether their virtue had deserted them ; “for," added he, “I have always heard that it is our duty calmly to resign our breath, giving thanks to God.After walking about a little while, perceiving the poison beginning to work, he lay down on his couch, and, in a few moments after, breathed his last. Cicero declares, that he could never read the account of the death of Socrates without shedding tears.

14. Soon after his death, the Athenians were convinced of his innocence, and considered all the misfortunes which aftera Fac-tion. a political party • Mit-i-gation, alleviation. [own country. Ban-Ish-ment. expulsion from one's

d Hemlock, a poisenous weed.
e Mag nan-i-mous, great in mind,

« AnteriorContinuar »