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effect between us, urged my proceeding to the chamber he had ordered to be prepared, for the purpose of changing my dripping dress. This would not have been easily accomplishedas, although I was plentifully supplied, as far as under-garments went, I had not taken the pains to purchase myself a complete change of attire, when I habited myself in mourning at Calaisbut my worthy host accompanied me himself to my chamber, and insisted upon my putting on his black velvet morning-gown, and thus descending to the supper-table.
The monk had apparently exhausted the train of thought in which he had been engaged at our first entrance; for on our return to the small cabinet in which we left him, he rose and soon joined our conversation, as a man of talent and knowledge of the world. There was something of stern austerity, indeed, pervaded his manners; but withal, there mingled in the webs of all his ideas a thread of deep feeling, which gave a splendid hue to the whole texture. The secret, I believe, of exciting the sympathies of our fellow-creatures, and awakening an interest for ourselves in the bosoms of others, is this alone to feel deeply; not as some men do, to let our minds dance like a light water-fly on the current of all events; but to have hearts which, like a fine instrument, give back full and distinct tones to all that touches them, whether the chords that are struck be gay or gloomy, be tuneful or discordant.
Notwithstanding the rigor and sternness of the Benedictine's demeanor, and what appeared to me a frivolous attention to minute forms-the crossing of his breast, the long and silent prayer, the plate of herbs, and the cup of cold water,—yet there was a power and an intensity in all his thoughts, that commanded attention and interest. There was a degree of fancifulness too in his conversation, notwithstanding its austere gravity, which gave it a singular and exciting character. Nothing was mentioned-not the most trifling circumstancebut had its peculiar associations in his mind; and those often so remote, and at first sight so irrelevant, that the thoughts of his hearers were obliged to labor after, startled and yet not shocked by the rapid progress of his.
I remember two or three instances, though perhaps not the most striking ones, which occurred in the course of our conversation during that evening. We spoke of the wind, as it howled, and whistled, and rushed past the old building, as if in anger at the massive walls which defied its power.
"In France," said Monsieur de Vitray, "our glorious climate is so happily tempered to our benignant soil, that these gales, which happen only at the equinoxes, find our seed sown and safely germed in the spring, and our fruits gathered, and corn granaried in the autumn. They then come to clear and purify the air for the rest of the year.
Hark, how it howls!" said the monk, taking his own peculiar view, as the clamorous raging of the importunate blast compelled attention to its angry murmurs. Hark, how it howls! telling of shipwreck, and desolation, and death. Wo to the sea-tossed mariner! Wo to the anxious and expectant wife that, waiting the sailor's or the fisherman's return, hears the furious voice of the tempest trumpeting his death at the shaking door of her poor cabin! Wo to the lordly merchant, whose wealth is on the main, and who hears in every gust the tidings of ruined speculations, and broken hopes, and bankruptcy, and shame! Well has Satan been called the prince of the powers of the air, and never do I hear the equinoctial blasts go howling and reveling through the pathless sky, without thinking it may be that the evil spirits that hover round mankind, are then for a season unchained, to ride careering over the earth, and in the agony of their joy to work their will of mischief and dismay.'
We spoke of the rain; and I, foolishly enough, in mentioning all the annoyance it had occasioned me, loaded it with maledictions.
"Call it not accursed, my son," said the monk. "Oh, no! remember that every drop that falls, bears into the bosom of the earth a quality of beautiful fertility. Remember that each glorious tree, and herb, and shrub, and flower, owes to those drops its life, its freshness, and its beauty. Remember that half the loveliness of the green world is all their gift; and that without them we should wander through a dull desert as dusty as the grave. Take but a single drop of rain, cloistered in the green fold of a blade of grass, and pour upon it one ray of the mor ning sun-where will you get lapidary with his utmost skill, to cut a diamond that shall shine like that? Oh, no! blessed forever be the beautiful drops of the sky, the refreshing soothers of the seared earth-the nourishers of the flowers-that calm race of beings which are all loveliness and tranquility, without passion, or pain, or desire, or disappointment-whose life is beauty, and whose breath is perfume."
I would have fain heard more; for to me there was a freshness in the character of the Benedictine, that was well worthy of more deep remark; but, unhappily, Monsieur de Vitray did not share the same feelings, and with the one eternal current of thought which had so channeled his mind, that I defy the strength and perseverance of Hercules to have turned the stream, he once more bore away the conversation to France. The monk showed no signs of annoyance, whatever he felt; but rose and retired to his chamber, leaving me to an excellent bottle of Burgundy, a more substantial supper than he had made himself, and the eternal chiming in of Monsieur de Vitray's laud of France; which, with reverence be it spoken, was worse than a Greek chorus.
JUSTICE AS IT RESPECTS REPUTATION.-WAYLAND.
We are forbidden to judge, that is, to assign unnecessarily bad motives to the actions of men. I say unnecessarily, for some actions are in their nature such, that to presume a good motive is impossible.
This rule would teach us, first, to presume no unworthy motive, when the action is susceptible of an innocent one.
And, secondly, never to ascribe to an action which we confess to be good, any other motive than that from which it professes to proceed.
This is the rule by which we are bound to be governed in our own private opinions of men. And if, from any circumstances, we are led to entertain any doubts of the motives of men, we are bound to retain these doubts within our own bosoms, unless we are obliged, for some sufficient reason, to disclose them. But if we are obliged to adopt this rule respecting our opinion of others, by how much more are we obliged to adopt it in the publication of our opinions! If we are not allowed, unnecessarily, to suppose an unworthy motive, by how much less are we allowed to circulate it, and thus render it
universally supposed! Charity thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity."
The reasons for this rule are obvious:
1. The motives of men, unless rendered evident by their actions, can be known to God alone. They are, evidently, out of the reach of man. In assigning motives unnecessarily, we therefore undertake to assert as fact, what we at the outset confess that we have not the means of knowing to be such; which is, in itself, falsehood: and we do all this for the sake of gratifying a contemptible vanity, or a wicked envy; or, what is scarcely less reprehensible, from a thoughtless love of talking.
2. There is no offence by which we are excited to a livelier or more just indignation, than by the misinterpretation of our own motives. This quick sensitiveness in ourselves, should admonish us of the guilt which we incur, when we traduce the motives of others.
By the same rule, we are forbidden to lessen the estimation in which others are held, by ridicule, mimicry, or by any means by which they are brought into contempt. No man can be greatly respected by those to whom he is the frequent subject of laughter. It is but a very imperfect excuse for conduct of this sort, to plead that we do not mean any harm. What do we mean? Surely, reasonable beings should be prepared to answer this question. Were the witty calumniator to stand concealed, and hear himself made the subject of remarks precisely similar to those in which he indulges respecting others, he would have a very definite conception of what others mean. Let him, then, carry the lesson home to his own bosom.
Nor is this evil the less for the veil under which it is frequently and hypocritically hidden. Men and women propagate slander under the cover of secrecy, supposing that, by uttering it under this injunction, the guilt is of course removed. is not so. The simple question is this: Does my duty either to God or to man require me to publish this, which will injure another? If it do, publish it wherever that duty requires, and do it fearlessly. If it do not, it is just as great guilt to publish it to one as to another. We are bound, in all such cases, to ask ourselves the question, Am I under obligation to tell this fact to this person? If not, I am under the contrary obligation to be silent. And still more. This injunction of secrecy is generally nothing better than the mere dictate of cowardice.We wish to gratify our love of detraction, but are afraid of the consequences to ourselves. We therefore converse under this
injunction, that the injury to another may be with impunity to ourselves. And hence it is, that in this manner the vilest and most injurious calumnies are generally circulated.
ON THE REGULATION AND CONTROL OF THE SUCCESSION OF OUR THOUGHTS.-ABERCROMBIE.
This remarkable faculty is very much under the influence of cultivation, and on the power so acquired depends the important habit of regular and connected thinking. It is primarily a voluntary act; and in the exercise of it in different individuals, there are the most remarkable differences. In some, the thoughts are allowed to wander at large, without any regulation, or are devoted only to frivolous and transient objects; while others habitually exercise over them a stern control, directing them to subjects of real importance, and prosecuting these in a regular and connected manner. This important habit gains strength by exercise, and nothing, certainly, has a greater influence in giving tone and consistency to the whole character. It may not, indeed, be going too far to assert that our condition, in the scale both of moral and intellectual beings, is in a great measure determined by the control which we have acquired over the succession of our thoughts, and by the subjects on which they are habitually exercised.
The regulation of the thoughts is, therefore, a high concern; in the man who devotes his attention to it as a study of supreme importance, the first great source of astonishment will be, the manner in which his thoughts have been occupied in many an hour and many a day that has passed over him. The leading objects to which the thoughts may be directed are referable to three classes:
1. The ordinary engagements of life, or matters of business, with which every man is occupied in one degree or another; including concerns of domestic arrangement, personal comfort, and necessary recreation. Each of these deserves certain degree of attention, but this requires to be strictly guided by its real and relative importance; and it is entirely unworthy of a sound and regulated mind to have the attention solely or chiefly occupied with matters of personal comfort, or of trivial importance, calculated merely to afford amusement for the passing hour.