« PreviousContinue »
We estimate their importance, not as they really are, but as they affect us in our present state; we undervalue and despise them.
Qu'en fes plus beaux habits l'Aurore au teint ver meil,
Annonce à l'univers le retour du foleil,
Et, que devant fon char, fes legeres fuivantes
We may also obferve, that focial and beneficent affections are in their own nature gay and exhilarating; and that, by extending their influence to other passions that are not opposed to them, they accelerate their motions and augment their vivacity. They animate, and even inflame the inferior appetites; and where reafon, and other ferious principles are not invested with fupreme authority, they expose us to the anarchy of unlawful pasL 3 fions.
fions. There are many inftances of men betrayed into habits of profligacy and dif fipation, by the influence of their focial affections. These men, disappointed and chagreened with the world, and confequently, with every pleasure, to whose energy the love of fociety contributed, confider the enjoyments arifing from inferior appetites, not as they really are, when governed, and guided by reafon, but immoderate and pernicious, agreeably to their own experience. Reformed profligates are in general the most eloquent teachers of abftinency and felf-denial. Polemo, converted by Xenocrates from a course of wild extravagance, became eminent in the fchool of Plato. The wifdom of Solomon. was, in like manner, the child of folly. And the melancholy Jaques would not, have moralized fo profoundly, had he not been, as we are told in the play, a dif fipated and fenfual libertine.
To the foregoing obfervations, and to the confiftency of Jaques's character, one thing may be objected: He is fond of mufic. But furely music is an enjoyment of fenfe; it affords pleasure; it is admitted to every joyous fcene, and augments their gaiety. How can this be explained ?
Though action feems effential to our happiness, the mind never exerts itself, unless it be actuated by fome paffion or defire. Thinking appears to be neceffary to its existence; for furely that quality is neceffary, without which the object cannot be conceived. But the existence of thinking depends upon thoughts or ideas: And, confequently, whether the mind is active or not, ideas are prefent to the thinking faculty. The motions and laws obferved by our thoughts in the impreffions they make on us, vary according as the foul may be influenced by various paffions. At one time, they move with incredible celerity; they seem to rufh upon us in the L 4 wildeft
wildeft diforder; and thofe of the most oppofite character and complexion unite in the fame assemblage. At other times, they are flow, regular, and uniform. Now, it is obvious, that their rapidity must be occafioned by the eagernefs of an impelling paffion, and that their wild extravagance proceeds from the energies of various paffions operating at once or alternately. Paffions, appetites, and defires are the principles of action, and govern the motions of our thoughts: Yet they are themselves dependent: They depend on our prefent humour, or ftate of mind, and on our temporary capacity of receiving pleasure or pain. It is always to obtain fome enjoyment, or to avoid fome pain or uneafinefs, that we indulge the violence of defire, and enter eagerly into the hurry of thoughts and of action. But, if we are languid and defponding, if melancholy diffufes itself through the foul, we no longer cherish the gay illufions of hope;
no pleasure seems worthy of our attention; we reject confolation, and brood over the images of our diftrefs. In this ftate of mind, we are animated by no vigorous or lively paffion; our thoughts are quickened by no violent impulfe; They resemble one another: We frequently return to the fame images: Our tone of mind continues the fame, unless a defire or wifh intervenes, that our condition were fome how different; and as this suggests to us a ftate of circumftances and events very different from what we fuffer, our affliction is aggravated by the contrast, and we fink into deeper forrow. Precifely agreeable to this description, is the character of melancholy mufic. The founds, that is, the ideas it conveys to the mind, move flowly; they partake of little variety, or, if they are confiderably varied, it is by a contraft that heightens the expreffion. The idea of a found has certainly no resemblance to that of a misfortune: