« ÎnapoiContinuă »
HENRY V. TO HIS SOLDIERS.
WHAT'S be that wishes for more men from England?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin,
To do our country loss; and if to live,
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian :
The feats they did that day. Then shall our names,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
Ir was at a time, when a certain friend, whom I highly value, was my guest. We had been sitting together, entertaining ourselves with Shakspeare. Among many of his characters we had looked into that of Wolsey. How soon, says my friend, does the Cardinal in disgrace abjure that happiness, which he was lately so fond of! Scarcely out of office, but he begins to exclaim,
Vain pomp and glory of the world, I hate ye!
So true is it, that our sentiments ever vary with the season; and that in adversity we are of one mind, in prosperity of another. As for his mean opinion, said I, of human happiness, it is a truth, which small reflection might have taught him long before. There seems little need of distress, to inform us of this. I rather commend the seeming wisdom of that eastern monarch, who in the affluence of prosperity, when he was proving every pleasure, was yet so sensible of their emptiness, their insufficiency to make him happy, that he proclaimed a reward to the man who should invent a new delight. The reward indeed was proclaimed, but the delight was not to be found. If by delight, he said, you
mean some good; something conducing to real happiness; it might have been found, perhaps, and yet not hit the monarch's fancy. Is that, said I, possible? It is possible, replied he, though it had been the sovereign good itself. And indeed what wonder? Is it probable, that such a mortal as an eastern monarch; such a pampered, flattered, idle mortal, should have attention or capacity for a subject so delicate? A subject, enough to exercise the subtlest and most acute?
What then is it you esteem, said I, the sovereign Good to be? It should seem, by your representation, to be something very uncommon. Ask me not the question, said he ; you know not where it will carry us. It's general idea indeed is easy and plain; but the detail of particulars is perplexed and long; passions and opinions for ever thwart us; a paradox appears in almost every advance. Besides, did our inquiries succeed ever so happily, the very subject itself is always enough to give me pain. That, replied I, seems a paradox indeed. It is not, said he, from any prejudice, which I have conceived against it; for to man I esteem it the noblest in the world. Nor is it for being a subject to which my genius does not lead me; for no subject at all times has more employed my attention. But the truth is, I can scarce ever think of it, but an unlucky story still occurs to my mind:-" A certain stargazer with his telescope was once viewing the moon; and describing her seas, her "mountains, and her territories. Says a clown to his com
panion, Let him spy what he pleases; we are as near to "the moon as he and all his brethren." So fares it, alas! with these our moral speculations. Practice too often creeps, where theory can soar. The philosopher proves as weak, as those whom he most contemns. A mortifying thought to such as well attend to it. Too mortifying, replied I, to be long dwelt on. Give us rather your general idea of the Sovereign Good. This is easy from your own account, however intricate the detail.
Thus then, said he, since you are so urgent, it is thus that I conceive it. The Sovereign Good is that, the possession of which renders us happy. And how, said I, do we possessit? Is it sensual or intellectual? There you are entering, said he, upon the detail. This is beyond your question. Not a small advance, said I, to indulge poor curiosity ?>
Will you raise me a thirst, and be so cruel not to allay it? It is not, replied he, of my raising, but your own. Besides, L am not certain, should I attempt to proceed, whether you will admit such authorities, as it is possible I may vouch. That, said I, must be determined by their weight and character. Suppose, said he, it should be mankind; the whole human race. Would you not think it something strange, to seek of those concerning Good, who pursue it a thousand ways, and many of them contradictory? I confess, said I, it seems so. And yet, continued he, were there a point in which such dissentients ever agreed, this agreement would be no. mean argument in favour of it's truth and justness. But where, replied I, is this agreement to be found?
He answered me by asking, what if it should appear, that there were certain original characteristics and preconceptions of good, which were natural, uniform, and common to all men; which all recognized in their various pursuits; and that the difference lay only in the applying them to parti culars? This requires, said I, to be illustrated. As if, continued he, a company of travellers, in some wide forest, were all intending for one city, but each by a rout peculiar to himself. The roads indeed would be various, and many perhaps false; but all who travelled, would have one end in view. It is evident, said I, they would. So fares it then, added he, with mankind in the pursuit of good. The ways indeed are many, but what they seek is one.
For instance: Did you ever hear of any, who in pursuit of their good were for living the life of a bird, an insect, or a fish? None. And why not? It would be inconsistent, answered I, with their nature. You see, then, said he, they all agree in this, that what they pursue ought to be consistent and agreeable to their proper nature. So ought it, said 1, undoubtedly. If so, continued he, one preconception is discovered, which is common to good in general. It is, that all good is supposed something agreeable to nature. This indeed, replied I, seems to be agreed on all hands.
But again, said he, Is there a man scarcely to be found of a temper so truly mortified, as to acquiesce in the lowest and shortest necessaries of life? Who aims not, if he be able, at something farther, something better? I replied, scarcely