« ForrigeFortsæt »
No. 464. FRIDAY, AUGUST 22.
Auream quisquis mediocritatem
AM wonderfully pleased when I meet with any passage in an old Greek or Latin author, that is not blown upon, and which I have never met with in a quotation. Of this kind is a beautiful saying in Theognis; “Vice is covered by wealth, and virtue by poverty;" or, to give it in the verbal translation, “ Among men there are some who have their vices concealed by wealth, and others who have their vir. tues concealed by poverty.” Every man's observation will supply him with instances of rich men, who have several faults and defects that are overlooked, if not entirely hidden, by means of their riches; and, I think, we cannot find a more natural description of a poor man, whose merits are lost in his
poverty, than that in the words of the wise man: “ There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he, by his wisdom, delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Then said I, wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless, the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard."
The middle condition seems to be the most advantageously situated for the gaining of wisdom. Poverty turns our thoughts too much upon the supplying of our wants, and riches upon enjoying our superfluities; and as Cowley has said in another case, “ It is hard for a man to keep a steady eye upon truth who is always in a battle or a triumph.”
If we regard poverty and wealth, as they are apt to produce virtues or vices in the mind of man, one may observe, that there is a set of each of these growing out of poverty, quite different from that which rises out of wealth. "Humility and patience, industry and temperance, are very often the good qualities of a poor man. Humanity and good-nature, magnanimity, and a sense of honour, are as often the qualifications of the rich. On the contrary, poverty is apt to betray a man into envy, riches into arrogance. Poverty is too often attended with fraud, vicious compliance, repining, murmur and discontent. Riches expose à man to pride and luxury, a foolish elation of heart, and too great a fondness for the present world. In short, the middle condition is most eligible to the man who would improve himself in virtue; as I have before shewn, it is the most advantageous for the gaining of knowledge. It was upon this consideration that Agur founded his prayer, which for the wisdom of it is recorded in Holy Writ. “Two things have I required of thee, deny me them not before I die. Remove far from me vanity and lies ; give me neither poverty, nor' riches; feed me with food convenient for me'; lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord ? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.'
I shall fill the remaining part of my paper with a very pretty allegory, which is wrought into a play by Aristophanes, the Greek comedian.
It seems originally designed as a satire upon the rich; though in some part of it, it is like the foregoing discourse, a kind of comparison between wealth and poverty.
Chremylus, who was an old and a good man, and withal exceeding poor, being desirous to leave some riches to his son, consults the oracle of Apollo upon the subject. The oracle bids him follow the first man he should see upon his going out of the temple. The person he chanced to see, was to appear. ance an old sordid blind man; but upon his following him from place to place, he at last found by his own confession, that he was Plutus, the god of riches, and that he was just come out of the house of a miser. Plutus further told him, that when he was a boy, he used to declare, that as soon as he came to age, he would distribute wealth to none but virtuous and just men; upon which Jupiter, considering the pernicious consequences of such a resolution, took his sight away from him, and left him to stroll about the world in the blind condition wherein Chremylus beheld him. With much ado, Chremylus prevailed upon him to go to his house, where he met an old woman in a tattered raiment, who had been his guest for many years, and whose name was Poverty. The old woman refusing to turn out so easily as he would have her, he threatened to banish her not only from his own house, but out of all Greece, if she made any more words upon the matter. Poverty on this occasion pleads her cause very notably, and represents to her old landlord, that should she be driven out of the country, all their trades, arts, and sciences, would be driven out with her; and that if every one was rich, they would never be supplied with those pomps, ornaments, and conveniencies of life, which made riches desirable. She likewese represented to him the several advantages which she bestowed upon her votaries, in regard to their shape, their health, and their activity, by preserving them from gouts, dropsies, unwieldiness, and intempe
But whatever she had to say for herself, she was at last forced to troop off. Chremylus immediately considered how he might restore Plutus to his sight; and in order to it, conveyed him to the temple of Æsculapius, who was famous for cures and miracles of this nature. By this means the deity recovered his eyes, and began to make a right use of them, by enriching every one that was distinguished by piety towards the gods, and justice towards men;
and at the same time by taking away his gifts from the impious and undeserving. This produces several merry incidents; till in the last act Mercury descends with great complaints from the gods, that since the good men were grown rich, they had received no sacrifices, which is confirmed by a priest of Jupiter, who enters with a remonstrance, that since the late innovation, he was reduced tu a starving condition, and could not live upon his office. Chremylus, who in the beginning of the play was religious in his poverty, concludes it with a proposal, which was relished by all the good men who were now grown rich, as well as himself
, that they should carry Plutus in a solemn procession to the temple, and instal him in the place of Jupiter.” This allegory instructed the Athenians in two points ; first, as it vindicated the conduct of Providence in its ordinary distributions of wealth ; and in the next place, as it shewed the great tendency of richés to corrupt the morals of those who possessed them.
No. 465. SATURDAY, AUGUST 23.
Qua ratione queas traducere leniter ætum :
Hor. Having endeavoured in my last Saturday's paper to shew the great excellency of faith, I shall here consider what are the proper means of strengthening and confirming it in the mind of man. Those who delight in reading books of controversy, which are written on both sides of the question in points of faith, do very seldom arrive at a fixed and settled habit of it. They are one day entirely convinced of its important truths, and the next meet with something that shakes and disturbs them. The doubt which was laid revives again, and shews itself in new difficulties, and that generally for this reason, because the mind which is perpetually, tost in controversies and disputes, is apt to forget the reasons which had once set it at rest, and to be disquieted with any former perplexity, when it appears in a new shape, or is started by a different hand. As nothing is more laudable than an enquiry after truth; so nothing is more irrational than to pass away our whole lives, without determining ourselves one way or other in those points which are of the last importance to us. - There are, indeed, many things from which we may withhold our assent; but in cases by which we are to regulate our lives, it is the greatest absurdity to be wavering and unsettled, without closing with that side which appears the most safe and the most probable. The first rule, therefore, which I shall lay down is this, that when, by reading or discourse, we find ourselves thoroughly convinced of the truth of any article, and of the reasonableness of our belief in it, we should never after suffer ourselves to call it into question. We may perhaps forget the arguments which occasioned our conviction, but we ought to remember the strength they had with us, and therefore still to retain the conviction which they once produced. This is no more than what we do in every common art or science; nor is it possible to act otherwise, considering the weakness and limitation of our intellectual faculties. It was thus that Latimer, one of the glorious army of martyrs, who introduced the reformation in England, behaved himself in that great conference which was managed between the most learned among the Protestants and Papists in the reign of Queen Mary. This venerable old man, knowing how his abilities were impaired by age, and that it was impossible for him to recollect all those reasons which had directed him in the choice of his religion, left his companions, who were in the full possession of their parts and learn.