« السابقةمتابعة »
He had been for some time blind ; malignity attributed his blindness to his writing the reply to Salmasius against the king ; it was called a Divine judgment. His eye sight had long been weak, and physicians told him the penalty of writing the book ; but it was necessary the book should be written, so he walked right onward, and embraced darkness rather than shrink from his duty. An anecdote records a visit paid him by the Duke of York, who twitted him with this mark of Divine displeasure, for writing against his father. “How angry must God have been with your father,” said the poet; “ he took my eyes, but he lost his head:” a very proper logic for such reasoners.
His letter to Leonard Phalaris, a celebrated Athenian, who was very desirious that he should consult Thevenot, a celebrated occulist; is very beautiful; it gives a fine idea of the poet's piety and repose of spirit. We have adopted the elegant translation of Mr. Hayley.
“It is about ten years, I think, since I perceived my sight to grow weak and dim, finding at the same time my intestines afflicted with flatulence and oppression.
“Even in the morning, if I began as usual to read, my eyes immediately suffered pain, and seemed to shrink from reading, but, after
some moderate bodily exercise, were refreshed; whenever I looked at a candle I saw a sort of iris around it. Not long afterwards, on the left side of my left eye (which began to fail some years before the other) a darkness arose, that hid from me all things on that side ;-if I chanced to close my right eye, whatever was before me seemed diminished.-In the last three years, as my remaining eye failed by degrees some months before my sight was utterly gone, all things that I could discern, though I moved not myself, appeared to fluctuate, now to the right, now to the left. Obstinate vapours seem to have settled all over my forehead and my temples, overwhelming my eyes with a sort of sleepy heaviness, especially after food, till the evening; so that I frequently recollect the condition of the prophet Phineus in the Argonautics :
- Him vapours dark
But I should not omit to say, that while I had some little sight remaining, as soon as I went to bed, and reclined on either side, a copious light used to dart from my closed eyes ; then, as my sight grew daily less, darker colours seemed to burst forth with vehemence, and a kind of internal noise ; but now, as if every thing lucid were extinguished, blackness, either absolute or chequered, and interwoven as it were with ash-colour, is accustomed to pour itself on my eyes; yet the darkness perpetually before them, as well during the night as in the day, seems always approaching rather to white than to black, admitting, as the eye rolls, a minute portion of light as through a crevice.
“Though from your physician 'such a portion of hope also may arise, yet, as under an evil that admits no cure, I regulate and tranquillize my mind, often reflecting, that since the days of darkness allotted to each, as the wise man reminds us, are many, hitherto my darkness, by the singular mercy of God, with the aid of study, leisure, and the kind conversation of my friends, is much less oppressive than the deadly darkness to which he alludes. For if, as it is written, man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, why should not a man acquiesce even in this ? not thinking that he can derive light from his eyes alone, but esteeming himself sufficiently enlightened by the conduct or providence of God.
“As long therefore, as he looks forward, and provides for me as He does, and leads me backward and forward by the hand as it were through my whole life; shall I not bid my eyes keep holiday, since such appears to be His pleasure? But whatever may be the event of your kindness, my dear Phalavis, with a mind not less resolute and firm, than if it were Lynæus himself, I bid you farewell.”
Thus affectingly he reverts to his blindness, upon which his anonymous and scurrilous antagonist had made himself merry:
“Thus it is clear by what motives I was governed in the measures which I took, and the losses which I sustained. Let then the calumniators of the Divine goodness cease to revile, or to make me the object of their superstitious imaginations. Let them consider, that my situation, such as it is, is neither an object of my shame nor my regret, that my resolutions are too firm to be shaken, that I am not depressed by any sense of the Divine displeasure; that on the other hand, in the most momentous periods, I have had full experience of the divine favour and protection ; and that, in the solace and the strength which have been infused into me from above, I have been enabled to do the will of God; that I may oftener think on what he has bestowed, than on what he has withheld ; that, in short, I am unwilling to exchange my consciousness of rectitude with that of any other person ; and that I feel the recollection and treasured store of tranquillity and delight. But if the choice were necessary, I would, sir, prefer my blindness to yours; yours is a cloud spread over the mind, which darkens both the light of reason and of conscience ; mine keeps from my view only the coloured surfaces of things, while it leaves me at liberty to contemplate the beauty and stability of virtue and of truth. How many things are there besides, which I would not willingly see; how many which I must see against my will; and how few which I feel any anxiety to see! There is, as the apostle has remarked, a way to strength through weakness. Let me then be the most feeble creature alive, as long as that feebleness serves to invigorate the energies of my rational and immortal spirit; as long as in that obscurity in which I am enveloped, the light of the Divine Presence more clearly shines ; then, in the proportion as I am weak, I shall be invincibly strong; and in proportion as I am blind, I shall more clearly see. 0! that I