« ForrigeFortsett »
which we, for a while, keep in our sight, and to which we propose to return. But temptation succeeds temptation, and one compliance prepares us for another; we in time lose the happiness of innocence, and solace our dis-quiet with sensual gratifications. By degrees, we let fall the remembrance of our original intention, and quit the only adequate object of rational desire. We entangle ourselves in business, immerge ourselves in luxury, and rove through the labyrinths of inconstancy, till the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obstruct our way. We then look back upon our lives with horror, with sorrow, with repentance; and wish, but too often vainly wish, that we had not forsaken the ways of virtue. Happy are they, my son, who shall learn from thy example not to despair, but shall remember, that though the day is past, and their strength is wasted, there yet remains one effort to be made; that reformation is never hopeless, nor sincere endeavors ever unassisted; that the wanderer may at length return after all his errors; and that he who implores strength and courage from above, shall find danger and difficulty give way before him. Go now, my son, to thy repose, commit thyself to the care of Omnipotence; and when the morning calls again to toil, begin anew thy journey and thy life,"
I-Description of the Amphitheatre of Titus.-GIBBON. OSTERITY admires, and will long admire the awful remains of the Amphitheatre of Titus, which so well deserves the epithet of Colossal. It was a building of an elliptic figure, five hundred and sixty four feet in length, and four hundred and sixty seven in breadth ;founded on four score arches; and rising with four successive orders of architecture, to the height of one hundred and forty feet. The outside of the edifice was encrusted with marble, and decorated with statues. The slopes of the vast concave, which formed the inside, were
filled, and surrounded with sixty or eighty rows of seats of marble, covered with cushions, and capable of receiv ing with ease, above four score thousand spectators. Sixty four vometories (for by that name the doors were very aptly distinguished) poured forth the immense multitude; and the entrances, passages, and staircases, were contriv ed with such exquisite skill, that each person, whether of the senatorial, equestrian or the plebeian order, arriv ed at his destined place, without trouble or confusion.
Nothing was omitted which, in any respect, could be subservient to the convenience and pleasure of the spec tators. They were protected from the sun and rain by an ample canopy, occasionally drawn over their heads.The air was continually refreshed by the playing of fountains, and profusely impregnated by the grateful scent of aromatics. In the centre of the edifice, the arena, or stage, was strewed with the finest sand, and successively assumed the most different forms. At one moment, it seemed to rise out of the earth, like the garden of the Hesperides; at another, it exhibited the rugged rocks and caverns of Thrace. The subterraneous pipes conveyed an inexhaustible supply of water; and what had just before appeared a level plain, might be suddenly converted into a wide lake, covered with armed vessels, and replenished with the monsters of the deep.
In the decorations of these scenes the Roman Emperors displayed their wealth and liberality; and we read, that on various occasions, the whole furniture of the amphitheatre consisted either of silver, or of gold, or of amber. The poet who describes the games of Carinus, in the character of a shepherd, attracted to the capital by the fame of their magnificence, affirms that the nets, designed as a defence against the wild beasts, were of gold wire; that the porticos were gilded; and that the belt or circle, which divided the several ranks of spectators from each other, was studded with a precious mosaic of beautiful stones.
II.-Reflections on Westminster Abbey.-SPECTATOR.
W in where the
gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condi
tion of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable. I yesterday passed a whole afternoon in the church yard, the cloisters and the church; amusing myself with the tomb stones and inscriptions, which I met with in those several regions of the dead. Most of them recorded nothing else of the buried person, but that he was born upon one day, and died upon anoth er; two circumstances that are common to all mankind, I could not but look upon those registers of existence, whether of brass or marble, as a kind of satire upon the departed persons, who had left no other memorial of themselves than that they were born, and that they died.
Upon my going into the church, I entertained myself with the digging of a grave; and saw in every shovelful of it that was thrown up, the fragment of a bone or skuil, intermixed with a kind of fresh mouldering earth, that, some time or other had a place in the composition of a human body. Upon this I began to consider with myself, what innumerable multitudes of people lay confused together, under the pavement of that ancient cathedral; how men and women, friends and enemies, priests and soldiers, monks aud prebendaries, were crumbled amongst one another, and blended together in the same common mass; how beauty, strength and youth, with old age, weakness and deformity, lay undistinguished, in the same promiscuous heap of matter.
After having thus surveyed this great magazine of mortality, as it were, in the lump, l'examined it more particularly, by the accounts which I found on several of the monuments, which are raised in every quarter of that ancient fabric. Some of them are covered with such extravagant epitaphs, that, if it were possible for the dead person to be acquainted with them, he would blush at the praise which his friends have bestowed upon him. There are others so excessively modest, that they deliv er the character of the person departed in Greek or Hebrew; and by that means, are not understood once in a twelvemonth. In the poetical quarter, I found there were poets who had no monuments, and monum nts which balno poets. I observed, indeed, that the present war had filled the church with many of these uninhabited monuments, which had been erected to the
memory of persons, whose bodies were perhaps buried in the plains of Blenheim, or in the bosom of the ocean. I could not but be very much delighted with several modern epitaphs, which are written with great elegance of expression and justness of thought, and which, therefore, do honor to the living as well as to the dead. As a foreigner is very apt to conceive an idea of the ignorance or politeness of a nation, from the turn of their public monuments and inscriptions, they should be submitted to the perusal of men of learning and genius before they are put into execution. Sir Cloudsly Shovel's monument has very often given me great offence. Instead of the brave rough English Admiral, which was the distinguished character of that plain gallant man, he is represented on his tomb by the figure of a beau, dressed in a long periwig, and reposing himself upon velvet cushions, under a canopy of state. The inscription is answerable to the monument; for, instead of celebrating the many remarkable actions he had performed in the services of his country, it acquaints us only with the manner of his death, in which it was impossible for him to reap any honor. The Dutch, whom we are apt to despise for want of genius, show an infinitely greater taste in their buildings and works of this nature, than we meet with in those of our own country. The monuments of their admirals, which have been erected at the public expense, represent them like themselves, and are adorned with rostral crowns and naval ornaments, with beautiful festoons of seaweed, shells and coral.
I know that entertainments of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds and gloomy imaginations; but for my own part though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy; and can, therefore, take a view of nature in her deep and solemn scenes, with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. By this means, I can improve myself with objects which others consider with terror. When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaph of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those
whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them; when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes; Ieflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some Six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be cotemporaries, and make our appearance together.
III.-The Character of Mary, Queen of Scots.--
O all the charms of beauty, and the utmost elegance of external form, Mary added those accomplishments which render their impression irresistible. Polite, affable, insinuating, sprightly, and capable of speaking and of writing with equal ease and dignity. Sudden, however, and violent in all her attachments, because her heart was warm and unsuspicious. Impatient of contradiction, because she had been accustomed, from her infancy, to be treated as a queen. No stranger, on some occasions, to dissimulation, which, in that perfidious court, where she received her education, was reckoned among the necessary arts of government. Not insensible to flattery, nor unconscious of that pleasure with which almost every woman beholds the influence of her own beauty. Formed with the qualities that we love, not with the talents that we admire, she was an agreeable woman, rather than an illustrious queen,
The vivacity of her spirit, not sufficiently tempered with sound judgment, and the warmth of her heart, which was not at all times under the restraint of discretion, betrayed her both into errors and into crimes. To say that she was always unfortunate, will not account for that long and almost uninterrupted succession of calamities which befel her; we must likewise add, that she was often imprudent. Her passion for Darnly was rash, youthful and excessive. And though the sudden transition to the opposite extreme, was the natural effect of her ill requited love, and his ingratitude, insolence and brutality;-yet neither these, nor Bothwell's artful address and impor