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النشر الإلكتروني

No. XVI.

διηπες φυλλων γενεη, τοιηδε και Ανδρα.

HOMER,

Frail as the leaves that quiver on the sprays,
Like them man flourishes, like them decays.

I have been impatient for an opportunity of returning thanks to the ingenious gentleman, who sent me the following serious entertainment, which has laid by me ever since the nineteenth of February. The uncommon cast of invention, and the freedom of imagination, which shine through this amusing little piece, will recommend it to persons of a lively thought: to engage their attention yet more earnestly, I may justly say, that the author's bold allusion conveys an instruction of the greatest moment; a lesson, the most effectual of any in the compass of philosophy, to humble the vanity and ambition of men.

“ Cicero, in the first book of his Tusculan Questions, finely exposes the vain judgment we are apt to form of the duration of human life, compared to eternity. In illustrating this argument, he quotes a passage of natural history from Aristotle, concerning a species of insects on the banks of the river Hypanis, that never out-live the day wherein they are born.

“ To pursue the thoughts of this elegant writer; let us suppose one of the most robust of these Hypanians (so famed in history) was in a manner coeval with time itself; that he began to exist at the break of day; and that, from the uncommon strength of his constitution, he has been able to shew himself active in life through the numberless minutes of ten or twelve hours.

“ Through so long a series of seconds, he must have acquired vast wisdom in his way, from observation and experience. He looks upon his fellow-creatures, who died about noon, to be happily delivered from the many inconveniences of old age; and

and can perhaps recount to his grandson a surprising tradition of actions, before any records of their nation were extant. The young swarm, who may be advanced one hour in life, approach his person with respect, and listen to his improving discourse. Every thing he says will seem wonderful to this short-lived generation. The compass of a day will be esteemed the whole duration of time; and the first dawn of light will, in their chronology, be styled the great æra of their creation,

-Let us now suppose this venerable insect, this Nestor of Hypanis, should, a little before his death, and about sun-set, send for all his descend. ants, his friends, and his acquaintance; out of the desire he may have to impart his last thoughts to them, and admonish them with his departing breath. They meet, perhaps, under the spacious shelter of a mushroom ; and the dying sage addresses himself to them after the following manner :

• Friends and fellow-citizens, I perceive the longest life must have an end: the period of mine is now at hand: neither do I repine at my fate, since my great age is become a burden; and there is nothing new to me under the sun. The calamities and revolutions I have seen in my country; the manifold private misfortunes to which we are all liable; and the fatal diseases incident to our race; have abundantly taught me this lesson—that no happiness can be secure nor lasting, which is placed in things that are out of our power. Great is the uncertainty of life! a whole brood of infants has perished in a moment by a keen blast: shoals of our straggling youth have been swept into the waves by an unexpected breeze: what wasteful deluges have we suffered from a sudden shower! our strongest holds are not proof against a storm of

any can

hail; and even a dark cloud makes the stoutest hearts to quail.

I have lived in the first ages, and conversed with insects of a larger size and stronger make, and (I must add) of greater virtue, than boast of in the present generation. I must conjure you to give yet farther credit to my latest words, when I assure you, that yonder sun, which now appears westward beyond the water, and seems not to be far distant from the earth, in my remembrance stood in the middle of the sky,and shot his beams directly down upon us. The world was much more enlightened in those ages, and the air much warmer. Think it not dotage in me if I affirm, that glorious being moves : I saw his first setting-out in the east; and I began my race of life near the time when he began his immense career. He has for several ages advanced along the sky with vast heat, and unparalleled brightness; but now, by his declension, and a sensible decay (more especially of late) in his vigour, I foresee that all nature must fail in a little time, and that the creation will lie buried in darkness in less than a century of minutes.

“Alas! my friends, how did I once flatter myself with the hopes of abiding here for ever! How magnificent are the cells which I hollowed

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out for myself! What confidence did I repose in the firmness and spring of my joints, and in the strength of my pinions!. But I have lived enough to nature, and even to glory: neither will any of you whom I leave behind have equal satisfaction in life, in the dark, declining age, which I see is already begun.”

Thus far my unknown correspondent pursues his fiction upon

the thought of Cicero; neither will it seem extravagant to those who are acquainted with the manner of instruction prac-, tised by the early teachers of mankind. Solomon sends the sluggard to the ant; and, after his example, we may send the ambitious or the covetous man, who seems to oyerlook, the shortness and uncertainty of life, to the little animals, upon the banks of the Hypanis; let him consider their transitory state, and be wise. We, like the, ephemeri, have but a day, to, live: the morning, and noon, and the evening of life, is the whole portion of our time: many perish in the very dayn; and the man (out of a million) who, lingers, on, to the evening twilight, is not accounted happy.', . . ;

The right use of this reflection is, not to make, men regardless of posterity; nor to slacken their diligence in the pursuit of any kind of knowledge that becomes a reasonable mind; nor yet

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