Page images
PDF
EPUB

tinual change of place without use or purpose, testify their joy, and the exultation which they feel in their lately discovered faculties. A bee among the flowers, in spring, is one of the cheerfullest objects that can be looked upon.

Its life appears to be all enjoyment; so busy, so pleased it seems: yet it is only a specimen of insect life, with which, because the animal is half domesticated, we are better acquainted than with that of others. The whole winged insect tribe, it is probable, are equally intent upon their proper employments, and under every variety of constitution, gratified, and perhaps equally, by the offices which the Author of their nature has assigned to them.

Nor are the waters less peopled with active and happy inhabitants. The 'margins of rivers, of lakes and of the sea itself produce shoals of the fry of fish. These are so happy that they know not what to do with themselves. Their attitudes, their vivacity, their wanton frolics, their leaps out of the water shew their excess of spirits and are simply the effects of that excess.

What scene can present a finer picture of calm enjoyment than large herds of cattle when grazing and reposing in the meadows; intermingled with flocks of sheep accompanied by their frisking young. If, moreover, we reflect that each individual of the numerous species which cover the earth or fill the air and the waters, is in a state of positive enjoyment, what a scene of gratification and pleasure is brought before our view when we consider the whole collectively.

The youug of all animals appear to me to receive pleasure, simply from the exercise of their limbs and bodily faculties. A child is delighted with speaking without having any thing to say, and with walking without knowing where to go. And, prior to both these, I am disposed to believe the waking hours of infancy are agreeably taken up with the exercise of vision, or, perhaps, more properly speaking with learning to see.

But it is not for youth alone that the great parent of creation hath provided. Happiness is found in the arm chair of dozing age, as well as in the sprightliness of the dance, and the animation of the chace. To novelty, to acuteness of sensation, to hope, to ardour of pursuit, succeeds, what is, in no considerable degree, and equivalent for them all, “perception of ease.

This “perception" often times renders old age a condition of great comfort; especially when riding at its anchor, after a busy and tempestuous lile. The appearance of satisfaction, with which most animals, as their activity subsides, seek and enjoy rest, affords reason to believe, that this source of gratification is appointed to advanced life, under all, or most, of its varied forms. In the species with which we are best acquainted, namely our own, I am far, even as an observer of human life, from thinking, that youth is its happiest season, much less the only happy onę; as a christian, I am willing to believe that there is a great deal of truth, in the following representation given by a very pious writer as well as excellent man.

“ To the intelligent and virtuous, old age presents a scene of tranquil enjoyments, of obedient appetites, of well regulated affections, of maturity in knowledge, and of calm preparation for immortality. In this serene and dignified state, placed, as it were, on the confines of two worlds, the mind of a good man, reviews what is past with the complacency of an approving conscience, and looks forward with humble confidence in the mercy of God and with devout aspirations, towards his eternal and ever increasing Favor.

What is seen in different stages of the same life is still more exemplified in the lives of different animals. Animal enjoyments are infinitely diversified. The modes of life, to which the organization of different animals respectively determines them, are not only of various, but of opposite kinds. Yet each is happy in its own. For instance, animals of prey live much alone; those of milder constitution in so

[ocr errors]

ciety. Yet the herring which lives in shoals and the sheep which lives in flocks, are not more happy in a crowd, or more contented amongst their companions than is the pike or the lion, with the deep solitudes of the pool or the forest.

Or temper

DOMESTIC HAPPINESS.

COWPER'S TASK.
Domestic happiness, thou only bliss
Of Paradise, that has survived the fall!
Though few now taste thee unimpaired and pure,
Or tasting, long enjoy thee! too infirm,
Or too incautious, to preserve thy sweets
Unmixed with drops of bitter, which neglect

sheds into thy crystal cup;
Thou art the nurse of Virtue, in thine arms
She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is,
Heav'n-born, and destin'd to the skies again.
Thou art not known, where Pleasure is adored,
That reeling Goddess with the zoneless waist
And wandering eyes, still leaning on the arm
Of novelty, her fickle, frail support;
For thou art meek and constant, hating change,
And finding in the calm of truth-tried love,
Joys that her stormy raptures never yield.

EXTRACT FROM THE TASK.

BOOK III.-COWPER. I was a stricken deer, that left the herd Long since. With many an arrow deep infixed My panting side was charged, when I withdrew, To seek a tranquil death in distant shades. There was I found by one, who had himself Been hurt by the archers. In his side he bore, And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars. With gentle force soliciting the darts, He drew them forth, and healed, and bade me live. Since then, with few associates, in remote And silent woods I wander, far from those

My former partners of the peopled scene;
With few associates, and not wishing more.
Here much. I ruminate, as much I may,
With other views of men and manners now
Than once, and others of a life to come.
I see that all are wanderers, gone astray
Each in his own delusions; they are lost
In chase of fancied happiness, still woo'd
And never won.

Dream after dream ensues;
And still they dream that they shall still succeed,
And still are disappointed Rings the world
With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind,
And add two thirds of the remaining half,
And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay,
As if created only like the fly,
That spreads his motly wings in the eye of noon,
To sport their season, and be seen no more.
The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise,
And frequent with discoveries new and rare.
Some write a narrative of wars, and feats
Of heroes little known; and call the rant
A history: describe the man, of whom
His own coevals took but little note,
And paint his person, character, and views,
As they had known him from his mother's womb.
They disentangle from the puzzled skein,
In which obscurity has wrapp'd them up,
The threads of politic and shrewd design,
That ran through all his purposes and charge
His mind with meanings that he never had,
Or having, kept concealed. Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn,
That he who made it, and revealed its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
Some more acute, and more industrious still,
Contrive creation; travel nature up
To the sharp peak of her sublimest height,
And tell us whence the stars; why some are fixed,
And planetary some; what gave them first

Rotation, from what fountain flowed their light.
Great contests follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life's poor shallow lamp
In playing tricks with nature, giving laws
To distant worlds, and trifling in their own.
Is't not a pity now, that tickling rheums
Should ever tease the lungs, and blear the sight
Of oracles like these? Great pity too,
That having wielded the elements, and built
A thousand systems, each in his own way,
They should go out in fume, and be forgot!
Ah! what is life thus spent? and what are they
But frantic, who thus spend it? all for smoke-
Eternity for bubbles, proves at last
A senseless bargain.

When I see such games
Play'd by the creatures of a Power, who swears.
That he will judge the Earth, and call the fool
To a sharp reckoning, that has lived in vain;
And when I weigh this seeming wisdom well,
And prove it in the infallible result
So hollow and so false-I feel my heart
Dissolve in pity, and account the learned,
If this be learning, most of all deceived,
Great crimes alarm the conscience, but it sleeps,
While thoughtful man is plausibly amused.
Defend me therefore, common sense, say I,
From reveries so airy, from the toil
Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
And growing old in drawing nothing up!

'Twere well, says one sage erudite profound, Terribly arch'd and aqueline his nose, And overbụilt with most impending brows, "Twere well, could you permit the world to live As the world pleases: what's the world to you? Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk As sweet as charity from human breasts. I think, articulate, I laugh and weep, And exercise all functions of a man. How then should I and any man that lives

« PreviousContinue »