Images de page

To rapture, and divine astonishment ;
The love of Nature, unconfin'd, and, chief,
Of human race: the large ambitious wish,
To make them blest ; the sigh suffering worth
Lost in obscurity; the noble scorn
Or tyrant pride ; the fearless great resolve ;
The wonder which the dying patriot draws,
Inspiring glory through remotest time ;
Th' awaken'd throb for virtue, and for fame;
The sympathies of love, and friendship dear;
With all the social offspring of the heart.*

The same influence is, by another poet, made peculiarly impressive, by a very happy artifice. In Akenside's Ode to Cheerfulness, which opens with a description of many images and impressions of gloom, and in which the Power, who alone can dispel them is invoked to perform this divine effice, he returns at last to those images of tender sorrow, which he would be unwilling to lose, and for the continuance of which, therefore, he invokes that very cheerfulness, which he had seemed before to invoke for a gayer purpose :

“ Do thou conduct my fancy's dreams,
To such indulgent placid themes,
As just the struggling breast may cheer
And just suspend the starting tear,
Yet leave that sacred sense of woe,
Which none but friends and lovers know."

How universally a certain degree of disposition to melancholy, is supposed to be connected with genius, at least with poetic genius, is manifest from every description which has been given by those who have formed imaginary pictures of the rise and progress of this high character of thought. The descriptions, I have said, are imaginary, but they still show suficiently the extent of that observation, on which so general an agreement must have been founded. The melancholy, indeed, is not inconsistent with occasional emotions of an opposite kind; on the contrary, it is always supposed to be coupled with a disposition to mirth, on occasions in

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Thomson's Seasons. Autumn, v. 1002—1027.

† V. 157-162.

be for

which others see perhaps as little cause of merriment, as they before saw of melancholy,--but the general character to which the mind most readily returns, is that of sadness,-a sadness, however, of that gentle and benevolent kind, of which I before spoke. The picture which Beattie gives of his Minstrel, is exactly of this kind; and even if it had not absolute truth, must be allowed to have at least that relative truth, which consists in agreement with the notion, which every one, of himself, would have been disposed previously to form :

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“And yet poor Edwin was no vulgar boy;

Deep thought oft seem'd to fix bis iofaot eye ;
Dainties he beeded not, nor gaud, nor toy,

Save one short pipe, of rudest minstrelsy.
Silent when glad,-affectionate though shy ;

And now his look was most demurely sad,
And now he laugh'd aloud, yet none knew wby :

The neighbours stared and sigh’d, yet bless'd the lad;
Some deem'd him wondrous wise, and some believed him mad.

"lo truth, he was a strange and wayward wight,

Fond of each gentle and each dreadful scene,
lo darkness and in storm he and delight,

No less than when on ocean-wave serene,
The Southern sun diffes'd his dazzling sheen.

Even sad vicissitudes amused his soul;
And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,

And down his cheek a tear of pity roll,
A sigh, a tear so sweet he wish'd not to control."*

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The state of melancholy, as I have already remarked, when it is not constitutional and permanent, but temporary, is a state which intervenes between the absolute affliction of any great calamity, and that peace to which, by the benevolent arrangements of Hearen, even melancholy itself ultimately leads. As it is nearer to the time of the calamity, and the consequent profound affliction-the melancholy itself is more profound, and gradually softens into tranquillity, after a period, that is in some degree proportioned to the violence of the affliction.

" Finem dolendi, etiam qui consilio non fecerat, tempore in

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Book 1. Stanza xvi. and xxii.


says Seneca.

What then, you say, shall I forget my friend? No! He is not to be forgotten. But soon, indeed, would he be forgotten, if his memory were to last only with the continuance of your grief. Fixed and sad as your brow now may be, it will soon require but a trifle to loose it into smiles. “Quid, ergo, inquis, obliviscar amici ? Brevem illi apud te memoriam promittis, si cum dolore mansura est. Jam istam frontem ad risum quælibet fortuita res transferet. Non differo in longius tempus, quo desiderium omne mulcetur, quo etiam accerimi luctus residant; cum primum te observare desieris, imago ista tristitiæ discedet. Nunc ipse custodis dolorem, sed custodienti quoque elabitur, eoque citius quo est acrior desinit."

“ The great philosopher Citophilus,” says Voltaire, in one of the most pleasing of his little tales," was one day in company with a female friend, who was in the utmost affliction, and who had very good reason to be so. Madam, said he to her, the Queen of England, the daughter of our great Henry, was as unfortunate as you. She was almost drowned in crossing our narrow channel, and she saw her royal husband perish on the scaffold.- I am very sorry for her, said the lady; and she began to weep her own misfortunes.

“But, said Citophilus, think of Mary Stewart. She loved very honourably, a most noble musician, who sung the finest tenor in the world. Her husband killed her musician before her very eyes; and afterwards her good friend, and good relation, Queen Elizabeth, who first kept her in prison eighteen years, contrived to have her beheaded on a scaffold, covered with the finest black.—That was very cruel, answered the lady; and she sunk back into her melane holy as before.

“You have perhaps heard of the beautiful Joan of Naples, said the comforter. She was seized, you know, and strangled. I have a confused remembrance of it, said the lady.

“I must tell you, added the other, the adventures of a queen, who was dethroned in my own time, after supper, and who died in a desert island. I know the whole story, she replied. “Well, then, how can you think of being so miserable, when

Epist. 63. + Epist. 63. A passage nearer the beginning of the Letter than that first quoted.




so many queens and great ladies have been miserable before you. Think of Hecuba! Think of Niobe !--Ah! said the lady, if I had lived in their time, or in the time of those beautiful princesses of whom you speak; and, if to comfort them, you had told them my griefs, do you think they would have listened to you?

“ The next day the philosopher lost his only son, and was at the very point of death with affliction. The lady got a list made out of all the kings who had lost their children, and carried it to the philosopher. He read it,-found the list to be very accurate, and did not weep the less. Three months afterwards, they met again, and were quite astonished, at meeting, to find themselves so gay. They resolved immediately to erect a beautiful statue to Time, and ordered this inscription to be put upon it, ' To the Com


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The tale, it must be admitted, is a very faithful picture of the power of time, the universal comforter, and of the comparative in. efficacy of the ordinary topics of consolation. But how is it, that time does produce this effect? Some remarks, which I formerly made in treating of association, will aid us, I think, in explaining the mystery.

A very easy solution of it, is sometimes attempted by the analogy of bodily pains and pleasures, which become more tolerable in the one case, and less delightful in the other case, when long continued; and the analogy must be admitted to a considerable er. tent-but is far from affording the complete solution required. We feel bodily pain, indeed, less acutely, after long torture, because our nervous frame is oppressed by the continued suffering. But in the case of grief, there is not this oppression; and when we have ceased to grieve for one calamity, we are still as suscep. tible as before of the emotion itself, and require only some new calamity to feel again, with the same acuteness, all the agony which we suffered.

It is not mere corporeal exhaustion, therefore, that can account for the diminution of sorrow. It is because the source of the sor. row itself is removed as it were at a distance, and has admitted, in the meanwhile, of various soothing associations; and, still more,

• Les deux Consoles, Euvres, 4to edit. of 1771, t. xiv. p. 86, 87, with certain exclusions.

of various other emotions, which, without any relation to our grief itself, have modified and softened it, by exciting an interest that was incompatible with it, or rather that changed its very nature, by the union with it which they may have formed.

The melancholy emotion, which remains after any great affiction,-after the death, for example, of a husband or a child, is, of course, when recent, combined with few feelings that do not harmonize with the grief itself, and augment it, perhaps, rather than diminish it. In a short term, however, from the mere unavoidable events of life, other feelings, suggested by these events, combine with that melancholy, with which they coexist, so as to form with it one complex state of mind. When the melancholy remembrance recurs, it recurs, therefore, not as it was before, but as mod. ified by the combination of these new feelings. In the process of time, other feelings, that may casually, but frequently coexist with it, combine with it in like manner; the complex state of mind partaking thus gradually less and less of the nature of that pure affiction, which constituted the original sorrow, till at length it becomes so much softened and diversified by repeated combinations, as scarcely to retain the same character, and to be rather sadness, or a sort of gentle tenderness, than affliction. The coexistence of the melancholy thought, when it recurs, with other' new feelings that may be accidentally excited at the time, constitutes, then, I conceive, one of the chief circumstances on which the softening influence depends.

It must be remembered too, as a very strong circumstance additional, that the effect is not confined to the direct feeling itself, but that every surrounding object, which before was associating perhaps chiefly with the object of regret, and recalled this object more frequently than any other, becomes afterwards associated with other objects, which it recalls more frequently than the object of regret, in consequence of that secondary law of suggestion, by which feelings, recently coexisting or proximate, rise again more readily in mutual succession.

There is scarcely an object which can meet a father's eye, soon after the death of his child, which does not bring that child before him; thus aggravating, at every moment, the sorrow which was felt the very moment preceding. If, even at this period of recent affliction, we could, by any contrivance, prevent these mel

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