« PreviousContinue »
gent hand maketh rich;" and it is true indeed: but he considers not that it is not in the power of riches to make a man happy; for it was wisely said, by a man of great observation, "That there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side them." And yet God deliver us from pinching poverty; and grant that, having a competency, we may be content and thankful. Let us not repine, or so much as think the gifts of God unequally dealt, if we see another abound with riches; when, as God knows, the cares that are the keys that keep those riches, hang often so heavily at the rich man's girdle, that they clog him with weary days and restless nights, even when others sleep quietly. We see but the outside of the rich man's happiness; few consider him to be like the silkworm, that when she seems to play, is, at the very same time, spinning her own bowels, and consuming herself; and this many rich men do, loading themselves with corroding cares, to keep what they have, probably, unconscionably got. Let us therefore be thankful for health and a competence; and, above all, for a quiet conscience.
Let me tell you that Diogenes walked on a day, with his friend, to see a country fair; where he saw ribbons and looking-glasses, and nut-crackers, and fiddles, and hobby-horses, and many other gimcracks; and having observed them, and all the other finnimbruns that made a complete country-fair, he said to his friend, "Lord, how many things are there in this world of which Diogenes hath no need!" And truly it is so, or might be so, with very many who vex and toil themselves to get what they have no need of. Can any man charge God, that he hath not given him enough to make his life happy? No, doubtless; for nature is content with a little. And yet you shall hardly meet with a man that complains not of some want; though he, indeed, wants nothing but his will; it may be, nothing but his will of his poor neighbour, for not worshipping or not flattering him; and thus, when we might be happy and quiet, we create trouble to ourselves. I have heard of a man that was angry with himself because he was no taller; and of a woman that broke her looking-glass because it would not show her face to be as young and handsome as her next neighbour's was. And I know another to whom God hath given health and plenty; but a wife that nature hath made peevish, and her husband's riches had made purse-proud; and must, because she was rich, and for no other virtue, sit in the highest pew in the church; which being denied her, she engaged her husband into a contention for it, and at last into a law-suit with a dogged neighbour who was as rich as he, and had a wife as peevish and purse-proud as the other: and this lawsuit begot higher oppositions, and actionable words, and more vexations and law-suits; for you must remember that both were rich, and must therefore have their will. Well! this wilful purse-proud law-suit lasted during the life of the first husband; after which his wife vexed and chid, and chid and vexed, till she also chid and vexed herself into her grave; and so the wealth of these poor rich people was curst into a punishment, because they wanted meek and thankful hearts; for those only can make us happy. I know a man that had health and riches; and several houses, all beautiful and ready furnished; and would often trouble himself and family to be removing from one house to another: and being asked by a friend why he removed so often from one house to another, replied, "It was to find content in some one of them." But his friend, knowing his temper, told him, if he would find content in any of his houses, he must leave himself behind him; for content will never dwell a meek and quiet soul. And this may appear if we read and consider what ur says in St. Matthew's Gospel; for he there says, "Blessed be the merhey shall obtain mercy. Blessed be the pure of heart, for they shall see sed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And he meek, for they shall possess the earth." Not that the meek shall not mercy, and see God, and be comforted, and at last come to the kingdom
of heaven; but in the mean time, he, and he only, possesses the earth, as he goes towards that kingdom of heaven, by being humble and cheerful, and content with what his good God has allotted him. He has no turbulent, repining, vexatious thoughts that he deserves better; nor is vexed when he sees others possessed of more honour or more riches than his wise God has allotted for his share: but he possesses what he has with a meek and contented quietness, such a quietness as makes his very dreams pleasing, both to God and himself.
Let not the blessings we receive daily from God make us not to value, or not praise Him, because they be common; let us not forget to praise Him for the innocent mirth and pleasure we have met with since we met together. What would a blind man give to see the pleasant rivers, and meadows, and flowers, and fountains, that we have met with since we met together? I have been told, that if a man that was born blind could obtain to have his sight for but only one hour during his whole life, and should, at the first opening of his eyes, fix his sight upon the sun when it was in full glory, either at the rising or setting of it, he would be so transported and amazed, and would so admire the glory of it, that he would not willingly turn his eyes from that first ravishing object, to behold all the other various beauties this world could present to him. And this, and many other like blessings, we enjoy daily. And for most of them, because they be so common, most men forget to pay their praise, but let not us; because it is a sacrifice so pleasing to Him that made that sun and us, and still protects us, and gives us flowers, and showers, and stomachs, and meat, and content, and leisure to go a-fishing.
My meaning was, and is, to plant that in your mind with which I labour to possess my own soul; that is, a meck and thankful heart. And to that end I have showed you, that riches without them (meekness and thankfulness) do not make any man happy. But let me tell you, that riches with them remove many fears and cares. And therefore my advice is, that you endeavour to be honestly rich or contentedly poor: but be sure that your riches be justly got or you spoil all. For it is well said, "He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping." Therefore be sure you look to that. And in the next place look to your health : and if you have it, praise God, and value it next to a good conscience; for health is the second blessing that we mortals are capable of; a blessing that money cannot buy; and therefore value it and be thankful for it. As for money, (which may be said to be the third blessing,) neglect it not: but note, that there is no necessity of being rich; for I told you, there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side them and if you have a competence, enjoy it with a meek, cheerful, thankful heart. I will tell you, Scholar, I have heard a grave divine say, that God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart; which Almighty God grant to me, and to my honest Scholar.
101, 102.-THE GREAT EARTHQUAKE AT LISBON.
[IN 1787 were published two octavo volumes, entitled 'Letters addressed chiefly to a Young Gentleman upon the Subject of Literature,' by the Rev. Charles Davy. In these letters there is nothing very remarkable, with the exception of a most graphic account of the earthquake at Lisbon, in 1755. We remember that our attention was first called to the book by a passage in some one of Mr. De Quincey's writings, in which he exclaims "Oh, that I could describe like Davy!" It is held, however, that Davy did not write this description, but that it was given to him by an English merchant, who was residing at Lisbon at the time of the event he narrates. In some books of extract this narrative is much curtailed; we prefer to give it entire, dividing it into two Half-hours.]
There never was a finer morning seen than the 1st of November; the sun shone out in its full lustre; the whole face of the sky was perfectly serene and clear; and
not the least signal or warning of that approaching event, which has made this once flourishing, opulent, and populous city, a scene of the utmost horror and desolation, except only such as served to alarm, but scarcely left a moment's time to fly from the general destruction.
It was on the morning of this fatal day, between the hours of nine and ten, that I was set down in my apartment, just finishing a letter, when the papers and table I was writing on began to tremble with a gentle motion, which rather surprised me, as I could not perceive a breath of wind stirring. Whilst I was reflecting with myself what this could be owing to, but without having the least apprehension of the real cause the whole house began to shake from the very foundation, which at first I imputed to the rattling of several coaches in the main street, which usually passed that way, at this time, from Belem to the palace; but on hearkening more attentively, I was soon undeceived, as I found it was owing to a strange frightful kind of noise under ground, resembling the hollow distant rumbling of thunder. All this passed in less than a minute, and I must confess I now began to be alarmed, as it naturally occurred to me that this noise might possibly be the forerunner of an earthquake, as one I remembered, which had happened about six or seven years ago, in the island of Madeira, commenced in the same manner, though it did little or no damage.
Upon this I threw down my pen, and started upon my feet, remaining a moment in suspense, whether I should stay in the apartment or run into the street, as the danger in both places seemed equal; and still flattering myself that this tremor might produce no other effects than such inconsiderable ones as had been felt at Madeira; but in a moment I was roused from my dream, being instantly stunned with a most horrid crash, as if every edifice in the city had tumbled down at once. The house I was in shook with such violence, that the upper stories immediately fell, and though my apartment (which was the first floor) did not then share the same fate, yet every thing was thrown out of its place, in such a manner that it was with no small difficulty I kept my feet, and expected nothing less than to be soon crushed to death, as the walls continued rocking to and fro in the frightfullest manner, opening in several places; large stones falling down on every side from the cracks, and the ends of most of the rafters starting out from the roof. To add to this terrifying scene, the sky in a moment became so gloomy that I could now distinguish no particular object; it was an Egyptian darkness indeed, such as might be felt; owing, no doubt, to the prodigious clouds of dust and lime raised from so violent a concussion, and, as some reported, to sulphureous exhalations, but this I cannot affirm; however, it is certain I found myself almost choked for near ten minutes.
As soon as the gloom began to disperse, and the violence of the shock seemed pretty much abated, the first object I perceived in the room was a woman sitting on the floor with an infant in her arms, all covered with dust, pale and trembling. I asked her how she got hither, but her consternation was so great she could give me no account of her escape. I suppose that when the tremor first began, she ran out of her own house, and finding herself in such imminent danger from the falling stones, retired into the door of mine, which was almost contiguous to hers, for shelter, and when the shock increased, which filled the door with dust and rubbish, ran upstairs into my apartment, which was then open; be it as it might, this was no time for curiosity. I remember the poor creature asked me, in the utmost agony, if I did not think the world was at an end; at the same time she complained of being choked, and begged, for God's sake, I would procure her a little drink. Upon this I went to a closet where I kept a large jar of water, (which you know is sometimes a pretty scarce commodity in Lisbon,) but finding it broken in pieces, I
told her she must not now think of quenching her thirst but saving her life, as the house was just falling on our heads, and if a second shock came, would certainly bury us both. I bade her take hold of my arm, and that I would endeavour to bring her into some place of security.
I shall always look upon it as a particular providence that I happened on this occasion to be undressed; for had I dressed myself as proposed when I got out of bed, in order to breakfast with a friend, I should, in all probability, have run into the street at the beginning of the shock, as the rest of the people in the house did, and, consequently, have had my brains dashed out, as every one of them had. However, the imminent danger I was in did not hinder me from considering that my present dress, only a gown and slippers, would render my getting over the ruins almost impracticable: I had, therefore, still presence of mind enough left to put on a pair of shoes and a coat, the first that came in my way, which was everything I saved, and in this dress I hurried down stairs, the woman with me. holding by my arm, and made directly to that end of the street which opens to the Tagus. Finding the passage this way entirely blocked up with the fallen houses to the height of their second stories, I turned back to the other end which led into the main street, (the common thoroughfare to the palace,) having helped the woman over a vast heap of ruins, with no small hazard to my own life. Just as we were going into this street, as there was one part I could not well climb over without the assistance of my hands as well as feet, I desired her to let go her hold, which she did, remaining two or three feet behind me, at which instant there fell a vast stone from a tottering wall, and crushed both her and the child in pieces. So dismal a spectacle at any other time would have affected me in the highest degree; but the dread I was in of sharing the same fate myself, and the many instances of the same kind which presented themselves all around, were too shocking to make me dwell a moment on this single object.
I had now a long narrow street to pass, with the houses on each side four or five stories high, all very old, the greater part already thrown down, or continually falling, and threatening the passengers with inevitable death at every step, numbers of whom lay killed before me, or what I thought far more deplorable-so bruised and wounded that they could not stir to help themselves. For my own part, as destruction appeared to me unavoidable, I only wished I might be made an end of at once, and not have my limbs broken, in which case I could expect nothing else but to be left upon the spot, lingering in misery, like these poor unhappy wretches, without receiving the least succour from any person.
As self-preservation, however, is the first law of nature, these sad thoughts did not so far prevail as to make me totally despair. I proceeded on as fast as I conveniently could, though with the utmost caution; and having at length got clear of this horrid passage, I found myself safe and unhurt in the large open space before St. Paul's church, which had been thrown down a few minutes before, and buried a great part of the congregation, that was generally pretty numerous, this being reckoned one of the most populous parishes in Lisbon. Here I stood some time considering what I should do, and not thinking myself safe in this situation, I came to the resolution of climbing over the ruins of the west end of the church, in order to get to the river's side, that I might be removed as far as possible from the tottering houses, in case of a second shock.
This, with some difficulty, I accomplished; and here I found a prodigious concourse of people of both sexes, and of all ranks and conditions, among whom I observed some of the principal canons of the patriarchal church, in their purple robes and rochets, as these all go in the habit of bishops; several priests who had run from the altars in their sacerdotal vestments in the midst of their celebrating
mass; ladies half dressed, and some without shoes all these, whom their nutusi dangers had here assembled as to a place of safety, were on their knees it gravers, with the terrors of death in their countenances, every one striking is breast u crying out incessantly Miserecordia men Dios.
Amidst this crowd I could not avoid taking notice of an old venerable priest. n a stole and surplice, who, I apprehend, had escaped from St. Paul's. He was continually moving to and fro among the people, exhorting them to repentance, ani endeavouring to comfort them. He told them, with a flood of tears, that God was grievously provoked at their sins, but that if they would call upon the biessei Virgin, she would intercede for them. Every one now flocked around him, earnestly begging his benediction, and happy did that man think himself who could get near enough to touch the hem of his garment; several I observed had little wooden crucifixes and images of saints in their hands, which they offered me to kiss, and one poor Irishman, I remember, held out a St. Antonio to me for this purpose, and when I gently put his arm aside, as giving him to understand that I desired to be excused this piece of devotion, he asked me with some indignation, whether I thought there was a God. I verily believe many of the poor bigoted creatures wh0 saved these useless pieces of wood, left their children to perish. However, you must not imagine that I have now the least inclination to mock at their superstitions. I sincerely pity them, and must own, that a more affecting spectacie was never seen. Their tears, their bitter sighs and lamentations, would have touched the most flinty heart. I knelt down amongst them, and prayed as fervently as the rest, though to a much properer object, the only Being who could hear my prayers to afford me any succour.
In the midst of our devotions, the second great shock came on, little less violent than the first, and completed the ruin of those buildings which had been already much shattered. The consternation now became so universal, that the shrieks and cries of Miserecordia could be distinctly heard from the top of St. Catherine's Hill, at a considerable distance off, whither a vast number of people had likewise retreated; at the same time we could hear the fall of the parish church there, whereby many persons were killed on the spot, and others mortally wounded. You may judge of the force of this shock, when I inform you it was so violent that I could scarce keep on my knees; but it was attended with some circumstances still more dreadful than the former. On a sudden I heard a general outcry, “the sca is coming in, we shall be all lost." Upon this, turning my eyes towards the river, which in that place is near four miles broad, I could perceive it heaving and swelling in a most unaccountable manner, as no wind was stirring. In an instant there appeared, at some small distance, a large body of water, rising as it were like a mountain. It came on foaming and roaring, and rushed towards the shore with such impetuosity, that we all immediately ran for our lives as fast as possible; many were actually swept away, and the rest above their waist in water at a good distance from the banks. For my own part, I had the narrowest escape, and should certainly have been lost, had I not grasped a large beam that lay on the ground, till the water returned to its channel, which it did almost at the same instant, with equal rapidity. As there now appeared at least as much danger from the sea as the land, and I scarce knew whither to retire for shelter, I took a sudden resolution of returning back, with my clothes all dripping, to the area of St. Paul's. Here I stood some time, and observed the ships tumbling and tossing about as in a violent ste some had broken their cables, and were carried to the other side of the Tags; others were whirled round with incredible swiftness; several large boats turned keel upwards; and all this without any wind, which seemed the astonishing. It was at the time of which I am now speaking, that the fine