« PreviousContinue »
'Those several living creatures which are made for our service or sustenance, at the same time either fill the woods with their music, furnish us with game, or raise pleasing ideas in us by the delightfulness of their appearance. Fountains, lakes, and rivers, are as refreshing to the imagination, as to the soil through which they pass.
There are writers of great distinction who have made it an argument for Providence, that the whole earth is covered with green, rather than with any other colour, as being such a right mixture of light and shade, that it comforts and strengthens the eye instead of weakening or griev. ing it. For this reason, several painters have green cloth hanging near them, to ease the eye upon, after too great an application to their colouring. A famous modern philosopher accounts for it in the following manner: All colours that are more luminous, overpower and dissipate the animal spirits which are employed in sight; on the contrary, those that are more obscure do not give the animal spirits a sufficient exercise; whereas, the rays that produce in us the idea of green, fall upon the eye in such a due proportion, that they give the animal spirits their proper play, and, by keeping up the struggle in a just balance, excite a very pleasing and agreeable sensation. Let the cause be what it will, the effect is certain ; for which reason the poets ascribe to this particular colour the epithet of cheerful.
To consider further this double end in the works of nature, and how they are, at the same time, both useful and entertaining, we find that
the most important parts in the vegetable world are those which are the most beautiful. These are the seeds by which the several races of plants are propagated and continued, and which are always lodged in flowers or blossoms. Nature seems to hide her principal design, and to be industrious in making the earth gay and delightful, while she is carrying on her great work, and intent upon her own preservation. The husbandman, after the same manner, is employed in laying out the whole country into a kind of garden or landscape, and making every thing smile about him, whilst, in reality, he thinks of nothing but of the harvest, and increase which is to arise from it.
We may further observe how Providence has taken care to keep up this cheerfulness in the mind of man, by having formed it after such a manner, as to make it capable of conceiving delight from several objects which seem to have very little use in them; as from the willness of rocks and deserts, and the like grotesque parts of nature. Those who are versed in philosophy may still carry this consideration higher, by observing, that if matter had appeared to us endowed only with those real qualities which it actually possesses, it would have made but a very joyless and ancomfortable figure; and why has Providence given it a power of producing in us such imiginary qualities, as tastes and colours, sounds and smells, heat and cold, but that man, while he is converá sant in the lower stations of nature, might have his mind cheered and delighted with agreeable sensations? In short, the whole universe is a kind of theatre filled with objects that either raise in us pleasure, amusement, or admiration.
The reader's own thoughts will suggest to him the vieissitude of day and night, the change of seasons, with all that variety of scenes which di. versify the face of nature, and fill the mind with a perpetual succession of beautiful and pleasing images.
I shall not here mention the several entertainments of art, with the pleasures of friendship, books, conversation, and ather accidental diver. sions of life, because I would only take notice of such incitements to a cheerful temper, as offer themselves to persons of all ranks and conditions, and which may sufficiently show us that Providence did not design this world should be filled with murmurs and repinings, or that the heart of man should be involved in gloom and melancholy.
I the more inculcate this cheerfulness of temper, as it is a virtue in which our countrymen are observed to be more deficient than any other nation. Melancholy is a kind of demon that haunts our island, and often conveys herself to us in an easterly wind. A celebrated French novelist, in opposition to those who begin their romances with a flowery season of the year, enters on his story thus : · In the gloomy month of November, when the people of England hang and drown themselves, a disconsolate lover walked out into the fields, &c.
Every one ought to fence against the temper of his climate or constitution, and frequently to in
dulge in himself those considerations which may give him a serenity of mind, and enable him to bear up cheerfully against those little evils and misfortunes which are common to human nature, and which by a right improvement of them, will produce a satiety of joy, and an uninterrupted happiness.
At the same time that I would engage my reader to consider the world in its most agreeable lights, I must own there are many evils which naturally spring up amidst the entertainments that are provided for us; but these, if rightly considered, should be far from overcasting the mind with sorrow, or destroying that cheerfulness of temper which I have been recommending. This interspersion of evil with good, and pain with pleasure, in the works of nature, is very truly ascribed by Mr. Locke, in his Essay upon Human Understanding, to a moral reason, in the following words:
• Beyond all this, we may find another reason why God hath scattered up and down several degrees of pleasure and pain, in all the things that environ and affect us, and blended them together, in almost all that our thoughts and senses have to do with ; that we, finding imperfection, dissatisfaction, and want of complete happiness in all the enjoyments which the creatures can afford us, might be led to seek it in the enjoyment of him, with whom there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.'
AFFECTING LETTER FROM A DYING WIFE. BEFORE this can reach the best of husbands and the fondest lover, those tender names will be of no more concern to me. The indisposition in which you, to obey the dictates of your honour and duty, left me, has increased upon me, and I, am acquainted by my physicians I cannot live a week longer. At this time my spirits fail me; and it is the ardent love I have for you that ries me beyond my strength, and enables me to tell you, the most painful thing in the prospect of death, is, that I must part with you. But let it be a comfort to you, that I have no guilt hangs upon me, no unrepented folly that retards me, but I pass away my last hours in reflecting upon the happiness in which we have lived together, and in sorrow that it is so soon to have an end. This is a frailty which I hope is so far from criminal, that methinks there is a kind of piety in being so unwilling to be separated from a state which is the institution of Heaven, and in which we have lived according to its laws. As we know no more of the next life, but that it will be an happy one to the good, and miserable to the wicked, why may we not please ourselves at least, to alleviate the difficulty of resigning this being, in imagining that we shall have a sense of what passes below, and may possibly be employed in guiding the steps of those with whom we walked with innocence when mortal? Why may not I hope to go on in my usual work, and, though unknown to you, be assistant in all the conflicts of your mind? Give me