Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the same objects diffimilar impresfions. Exhibit the same beautiful valley to the miser and to the poet. Elegant and lovely images arise in the poet's mind : Dryads preside in the groves, and Naiads in the fountains. Notions of wealtla seize the heart of the miser: He computes the profits of the meadows and cornfields, and envies the poffeffor. The mind, dwelling with pleasure on these images that coincide with its present humour, or agree with the present passion, embellishes and improves them. The poet, by figuring additional lawns and mountains, renders the landscape more beautiful, or more sublime: But the miser, moved by no compassion for woodnymphs or naiads, lays waste the forest, changes the windings of the river into a dead canal, and purchaseth wealth at the expence of beauty. Now, as the influo ences of passion govern and arrange our ideas, these, in return, nourish and pro2

mote

thote the passion. If any object appears to us more striking and excellent than usual, it communicates a stronger impulse, and excites a keener and more vehement desire. When the lover discovers or fan. cies he discovers, new charms in the character of his mistress, if her complection glows with a softer blush, if her manner and attitude seem more engaging, his love waxes ardent, and his ardour ungovernable. Thus imaginary representations, more even than real objects, stimulate our desires, and our passions, adminiftering fewel to themselves, are immoderately inflamed. Joy is in this manner enlivened; anger more keenly exafperated; envy burns with additional malice; and melancholy, brooding over her ideas of misery and disappointment, is tortured with anguish, and plunges into despair.

Thus far ambition may be invigorated, allisted meerly by a lively temperament, and a glowing imagination. Prompted by D 2

its

its incitements, we engage with eagerness in the career of glory; and, with persever, ing courage, undergo fatigue and encounter danger. But, though imagination may dazzle and inflame, the prudent man, in the pursuit of honours, limits his desires to objects within his reach. The most active fpirit, confined to a narrow sphere, is never desirous of unattainable glory, but is ambitious of being distinguished in his condition. If, however, by succeeding in inferior enterprizes, higher objects are exhibited to us, our ambition, by partial gratification, becomes more violent than before. In producing this effect, the following causes co-operate.

The temporary and accidental emotion of joy, occasioned by success, enlivens and animates the passion upon which it depends. You love your friend; he returns unexpectedly from a long journey; your joy on his arrival heightens your affection, and you receive him with transport,

Non

[ocr errors]

Non ego sanius
Bacchabor Edonis : recepto
Dulce mibi furere eft amico.

Hor.

The new object appearing more excellent than the former, excites a livelier appetite. To the churchman, who was meek and moderate in pursuit of inferior dignity, exhibit a mitre, and you spoil his peace.

The proxiinity of the object, because no intermediate ideas divert our attention, quickens and promotes the passion. The profligate heir, who longs for the death of an avaricious father, is more eagerly impatient during his last moments, than during the course of a tedious life. And the nearer the hour of assignation approaches, the heart of the lover throbs with a keener and more intense defire. To these illustrations the following passage from a celebrated * historian, is extremely apposite : " James, harrassed with his “ turbulent and factious fubjects, cast a

D 3

« wish,

* Hume.

[ocr errors]

“ withful eye to the succession of Eng“ land; and, in proportion as the queen “ advanced in years, his desire increased

of mounting that throne.”

Success, as it produces vanity, invigorates our ambition. Eminently or unexpectedly distinguished, we fancy ourselves endowed with superior merit, and entitled to higher honour. Alexander, after the conquest of Persia, grew more vain and more extravagantly ambitious than before,

In this manner, by joy, by the prospect, and proximity of a more splendid object, and by vanity, all depending on partial gratification, the passion is swelled, and becomes excessive. Macbeth having repelled the inroads of the islanders, and having vanquished a numerous host of Norvegians, is rewarded by his king, and revered by his countrymen., He rises to unexpected honours: His ambition, fostered by imagination, and confirmed by success, becomes immoderate; And his soul, ele

vated

« PreviousContinue »