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4. According to our present mode of estimating verse, his muse is academic rather than spiritual, correct rather than earnest; and, accordingly, in this regard, his fame is niore bis. torical than absolute. It is by the graces of his prose—the absence of exaggeration--the clear, easy, yet refined style—the moral purpose—the social charm, and the delicate humor of his essays, that Addison made himself a household favorite, wherever the English tongue is spoken or read. He was in many respects a pioneer in these excellencies, and initiated the higher class of periodicals, which, in our age, rank as essential organs of public sentiment, and mediums of literary triumph or pleasure.
5. A Christian spirit informs the pages, as it did the life and death of Addison, and has greatly tended to consecrate his fame. The taste of our day is for a more intense school, a more dashing rhetoric and deeper insight; compared with the essayists now in vogue, Addison seems to lack fire, breadth of purpose, and sympathy with great interests. Yet it is conceded by the judicious, that his serenity, evenness, self-possession, and quiet grace -and, especially, his unaffected English, and unexaggerated tone, might be copied, with eminent advantage, by the ambitious writers of to-day. Of his pre-eminent services to good taste and social amelioration, and of his high and permanent claim to standard authority in English literature, there, however, has been no question amid all the vicissitudes of style and taste since his time.
6. Although political disappointment, an injudicious marriage, and declining health, threw a cloud over the last days of this accomplished and beloved writer, one of his last works was a perspicuous and able treatise on the “Evidences of Christianity," since superseded by more complete expositions, but of great utility at the period of its publication. The fortitude and faith which atter.ded his tranquil departure, have been celebrated, as appropriate to the closing scene of one who, living, had been so delightful a ceusor and genial an oracle in letters, manners, und opinions :
“He taught us how to live—and, oh! too high
DISCRETION, NOT CUNNING.
1. I have often thought, if the minds of men were laid
open, we should see but little difference between that of the wise man, and that of the fool. There are infinite reveries, numberless extravagances, and a perpetual train of vanities, which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This sort of discretion, however, has no place in private conversation between intimate friends. On such occasions, the wisest men very often talk like the weakest; for, indeed, the talking with a friend, is nothing else but thinking aloud.
2. Tully* has, therefore, very justly exposed a precept delivered by some ancient writers, that a man should live with his enemy in such a manner, as might leave him room to become his friend; and with his friend, in such a manner, that, if he become his enemy, it should not be in his power to hurt him. The first part of this rule, which regards our behavior toward an enemy, is, indeed, very reasonable, as well as very prudential; but the latter part of it, which regards our behavior toward a friend, savors more of cunning than of discretion, and would cut a man off from the greatest pleasures of life, which are the freedoms of conversation with a bosom friend. Beside that, when a friend is turned into an enemy, and, as the son of Sirach calls him,t a bewrayer of secrets,” the world is just enough to accuse the perfidiousness of the friend, rather than the indiscretion of the
person who confided in him. 3. Discretion does not only show itself in words, but in all the circumstances of action, and is like an under-agent of Provi.
* This is merely an abbreviation of the middle name of Cicero his full name being Marcus Tullius Cicero. See Exercise LXX.
† Eccles. vi. 9, xxviii. 17.
dence, to gaide and direct us in the ordinary concerns of life. There are many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion; it is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the rest, which sets them at work in their proper times and places, and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weak. ness: the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice.
4. Nor does discretion only make a man the master of his own parts, but of other men's. The discreet man finds out the talents of those he converses with, and knows how to apply them to proper uses. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divisions of men, we may observe that it is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives measures to society.
5. Though a man has all other perfections, and wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world; but, if he has this single talent in perfection, and but a common share of others, he may do what he pleases in his particular situation of life. At the same time that I think discretion the most useful talent a man can be master of, I look upon cunning to be the accomplishment of little, mean, ungenerous minds. Discretion points out the noblest ends to us, and pursues the most proper and laudable methods of attaining them. Cunning has only private, selfish aims, and sticks at nothing which may make them succeed. Discretion has large and extended views, and, like a well-formed eye, commands a whole horizon. Cunning is a kind of shortsightedness, which discovers the minutest objects which are near at hand, but is not able to discern things at a distance.
6. Discretion, the more it is discovered, gives a greater authority to the person who possesses it. Cunning, when it is once detected, loses its force, and makes a man incapable of bringing about even those events which he might have done, had he passed only for a plain man. Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life: cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks out after our immediate interests and welfare. Discretion is only found in meu of strong sense and good understandings : cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves, and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them. In short, cunning is only the nimic of discretion, and may pass upon weak men, in the same manner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity for wisdom
7. The cast of mind which is natural to a discreet man, makes him look forward into futurity, and consider what will be his condition millions of ages hence, as well as what it is at present. He knows that the misery or happiness which are reserved for him in another world, lose nothing of their reality by being at so great distance from him. The objects do not appear little to him, because they are remote. He considers that those pleasures and pains which lie hid in eternity, approach nearer to him every moment, and will be present with him in their full weight and measure, as much as those pains and pleasures which he feels at this very instant. For this reason, he is careful to secure to himself that which is the proper happiness of his nature, and the ultimate design of his being. He carries his thoughts to the end of every action, and considers the most distant, as well as the most immediate effects of it. He supersedes every little prospect of gain and advantage, which offers itself here, if he does not find it consistent with his views of a hereafter. In a word, his hopes are full of immortality, his schemes are large and glorious, and his conduct suitable to one who knows his true interest, and how to pursue it by proper methods.
Taomas MOORE was born in Dublin, in the year 1779, and died in Wilt. shire, England, February 26th, 1852. Like
others of the sons of song, he found it impossible to remember when he first began to rhyme. Some of bis earlier productions were so deficient in moral purity, as to provoke the Beverest castigation from critics and reviewers. But of these, it ought to be said to his credit, he was afterwards deeply ashamed. He was a voluminous writer both in prose and poetry. As a poet, in which character he holds & most elevated rank, his merit is well measured in the following extract.
MOORE AS A POET.
1. When time shall have destroyed the attractive charm of Moore's personal qualities, and removed his works to a distance, to be judged of by their fruit alone, the want most deeply felt will be that of simplicity and genuine passion. He has worked little in the durable and permanent materials of poetry, but has spent his prime in enriching the stately structure with exquisite ornaments, foliage, flowers, and gems. He has preferred the myrtle to the olive or the oak. His longer poems want human interest. Tenderness and pathos he undoubtedly possesses ; but they are fleeting and evanescent-not embodied in his verse in any tale of melancholy grandeur, or strain of affecting morality or sentiment.
2. He often throws into his gay and festive verses, and his fanciful descriptions, touches of pensive and mournful reflection, which strike by their truth and beauty, and by the force of contrast. Indeed, one effect of the genius of Moore has been, to elevate the feelings and occurrences of ordinary life into poetry, rather than dealing with the lofty abstract elements of the art. His wit answers to the definition of Pope : it is
“Nature to advantage dressed,
3. Its combinations are, however, wonderful. Quick, subtle, and varied, ever suggesting new thoughts or images, or unexpected turns of expression—now drawing resources from classical literature or the ancient fathers—now diving into the human heart, and now skimming the fields of fancy—the wit or imagination of Moore (for they are compounded together) is a true Ariel, “a creature of the elements,” that is ever buoyant and full of life and spirit. His very satires“ give delight, and hurt not.” They are never coarse, and always witty.
4. When stung by an act of oppression or intolerance, he can be bitter or sarcastic enough; but some lively thought or sportive image soon crosses his path, and he instantly follows it into the
* See Note on Exercise CVIII.