صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

spectators with such trepidation, fear and horror, that the faculty of speech and breath seemed totally suspended, even while the hope of success inclined to neither side. --But when it came to a closer engagement, not only the motions of their bodies, and the furious agitation of their weapons, arrested the eyes of the spectators, but their opening wounds, and the streaming blood. Two of the Romans fell, and expired at the feet of the Albans, who were all three wounded. Upon their fall, the Alban army shouted for joy, while the Roman legions remained without hope, but not without concern, being eagerly anxious for the surviving Roman, then surrounded by his three adversaries. Happily he was not wounded; but not being a match for three, though superiour to any of them singly, he had recourse to a stratagem for dividing them. He betook himself to flight; rightly supposing, that they would follow him at unequal distance, as their strength, after so much loss of blood, would permit. Having fled a consid erable way from the spot where they fought, he looked back, and saw the Curiatii pursuing, at a considerable distance from one another, and one of them very near hini. He turned with all his fury upon the foremost; and, while the Alban army were crying out to his brothers to succour him, Horatius, having presently dispatched his first enemy, rushed forward to a second victory. The Romans encourage their champion by such acclamations as generally proceed from unexpected success. He, on the other hand, hastens to put an end to the second combat, and slew another, before the third, who was not far off

, could come up to his assistance. There now remained only one combatant on each side. The Roman, who had still received no hurt, fired with gaining a double victory, advances with great confidence to his third combat. His antagonist, on the other hand, being weakened by the loss of blood, and spent with running so far, could scarce drag his legs after luim, and being already dispirited by the death of his brothers, presents his breast to the victor, for it could not be called a contest.

“ Two (says the exulting Roman) two have I sacrificed to the manes of my brothers—the third I will offer up to my country, that henceforth Rome may give laws to Alha." Upon which he transfixed him with his sword, and stripped him of his armour. The Ro

mans received Horatius, the victor, into their camp, with an exultation, great as their former fear. After this, each army buried their respective dead, but with very different sentiments; the one reflecting on the sovereignty they had acquired, and the other on the subjection to slavery, to the power of the Romans.

This combat became still more remarkable: Horatius, returning to Rome, with the arms and spoils of his enemy, met his sister, who was to have been married to one of the Curiatii. Seeing her brother dressed in her lover's coat of armour, which she herself had wrought, she could urt contain her grief.-She shed a flood of tears, she tore her hair, and in the transports of her sorrow, uttered the most violent imprecations against her brother. Horatius, warm with his victory, and enraged at the grief which his sister expressed, with such unseasonable passion, in the midst of the public joy, in the heat of his anger, drove a poignard to her heart. "Begone to thy lover," says he," and carry him that degenerate passion which makes thee prefer a dead enemy to the glory of thy country," Every body detested an action so cruel and inhuman. The murderer was immediately seized, and dragged before the Duumviri, the proper judges of such crimes. Horatius was condemned to lose his life; and the very day of his triumph had been the day of his punishment, if he had not by the advice of Tullus Hostilius, appealed from that judgment to the assembly of the people. He appeared there with the saine courage and resolution that he had shown in the combat with the Curiatii.--The people thought so great a service might justly excuse them, if for once they moderated the rigour of the law; and, accord. ingly, he was acquitted, rather through adıniration of his courage, than for the justice of his cause.

XIV. On the Power of Custom.SPECTATOR. THERE is not a common saying which has a better turn of sense in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that custom is second nature. - It is, indeed, able to form the man anew, and give him inclinations and capacities altogether different from those he was born with. A person who is addicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at first, by degrees contracts so

strong an inclination towards it, and gives himself up so entirely to it, that it seems the only end of his being. The love of a retired or busy life will grow upon a man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has been for some time disused. Nay, a man may smoke, or drink, or take snuff, till he is unable to pass away his time with out it; not to mention how our delight in any particular study, art, or science, rises and improves, in proportion to the application which we bestow upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise, becomes at length an entertaina ment. Our employments are changed into diversions.The mind grows fond of those actions it is accustomed to, and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which it has been used to walk.

If we consider, attentively, this property of human na. ture, it must instruct us in very fine moralities. In the first place, I would have no man discouraged with that kind of life, or series of action, in which the choice of others, or his own necessities may have engaged him. It may, perhaps, be disagreeable to him at first; but use and application will certainly render it not only less painful, but pleasing and satisfactory.

In the second place, I would recommend to every one the admirable precept which Pythagoras is said to have given to his disciples, and which that philosopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon; " Pitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and custom will render it the most delightful.”. Men, whose circumstances will permit them to choose their own way of life are inexcu sable, if they do not pursue that which their judgement tells them is the most laudable. The voice of reason is more to be regarded than the bent of any present inclination, since, by the rule abovementioned, inclination, will, at length, come over to reason, though we can never force reason to coinply with inclination.

In the third place, this observation may teach the most sensual and irreligious inan to overlook those hardships and difficulties, which are apt to discourage him from the prosecution of a virtuous life. « The Gods" says Heisod, “ have placed labour before virtue; the way to her is at first rough and difficult, but grows more

[ocr errors]

smooth and easy the farther you advance in it.” The man who proceeds in it witli steadiness and resolution, will in a little time find that her 6

ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace.”

To enforce this.consideration, we may further obserre that the practice of religion will not only be attended with that pleasure, which naturally accompanies those actions to which we are habituated ; but with those supernumera. ry joys of heart, that rise from the consciousness of such a pleasure, from the satisfaction of acting up to the dictates of reason, and from the prospect of an happy immortality.

In the fourth place, we may learn from this observation, which we have made on the mind of man, to take particular care, when we are once settled in a regular course of life, how we too frequently indulge ourselves in any the most innocent diversions and entertainments ; since the mind may insensibly fall off from the relish of virtuous actions, and, by degrees, exchange that pleasure which it takes in the performance of its duty, for delights of a much more inferiour and unprofitable nature.

The last use which I shall make of this remarkable property in human nature, of being delighted with those actions to which it is accustomed, is, io show how absolutely necessary it is for us to gain habits of virtue in this life, if we would enjoy the pleasures of the next.The state of bliss we call Heaven, will not be capable of affecting those minds which are not thus qualified for it; we must in this world gain a relish of truth and virtue, if we would be able to taste that knowledge and perfection which are to make us happy in the next.- The seeds of those spiritual joys and raptures, which are to rise up and flourish in the soul to all eternity, must be planted in it during this its present state of probation. In short, heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life.

4

XV.-On Pedantry.--MIRROR. PEDANTRY, in the common sense of the word, means an absurd ostentation of learning, and stiffness of phraseology, proceeding from a misguided knowledge of books and a total ignorance of inen.

But I have often thought, that we might extend its signification a good deal farther; and in general, apply it to that failing, which disposes a person to obtrude upon others, subjects of conversation relating to his own busiDess, studies or amusements.

In this sense of the phrase, we should find pedants in every character and condition of life. Instead of a black coat and a plain shirt, we should often see pedantry appear in an embroidered suit and Brussels lace; instead of being bedaubed with snuff, we should find it breathing perfumes; and, in place of a book worm, crawling through the gloomy cloisters of an university, we should mark it in the state of a gilded butterfly, buzzing through the gay region of the drawing room.

Robert Daisy, Esq. is a pedant of this last kind. When he tells you that his rufiles cost twenty guineas a pair; that his buttons were the first of the kind, made by one of the most eminent artists in Birmingham; that his buckles were procured by means of a friend at Paris, and are the exact pattern of those worn by the Compte d'Artois; that the loop of his hat was of his own contrivance, and has set the fashion to half a dozen of the finest fellows in town: When he descants on all these particulars, with that smile of self complacency which sits forever on his cheek, he is as much a pedant as his quandam tutor, who recites verses froin Pindar, tells stories out of Herodotus, and talks for an hour on the energy of the Greek particles.

But Mr. Daisy is struck dumb by the approach of his brother, Sir Thomas, whose pedantry goes a pitch higher, and pours out all the intelligence of France and Italy, whence the young baronet is just returned, after a tour of fifteen montlis over all the kingdoms of the continent. Talk of music, he cuts you short with the history of the first singer in Naples; of painting, he runs you down with the description of the gallery at Florence; of architecture, he overwhelms you with the dimensions of St. Peter's, or the great church at Antwerp, or, if you leave the province of art altogether, and introduce the name of a river or hill, he instantly deluges you with the Rhine, or makes you dizzy with the height of Ætna, or Mont Blanc.

Miss will have no difficulty of owning her great aunt to be a pedant, when she talks all the time of dinner, on the

« السابقةمتابعة »