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Cowley's plan of retirement is interesting and poetic; and such a mode of life may possibly be less open to temptation than any other. But, alas, few days glide by in which the best men have not some idle words or vainer thoughts, to sully “the fair whiteness of their souls." Some new pleasure is ever striving to win us to its arms, from which we escape only to find ourselves shorn of our noblest qualities. Various are the forms and disguises under which the Destroyer creeps upon its victim. Sometimes it crushes him in a sudden grasp; but is ordinarily contented to climb up, as it were, on the shoulders of its fellow, whenever a seasonable opportunity may occur. For one sin is always ready to hold out a helping hand to its brother. So in the ancient warfare, Death crept along the stooped shoulders of a legion, until it sprang from that ladder of shields into the affrighted citadel.
Every one, says a writer whom you are fond of quoting, is planted in the world that he may grow
in the world; and as venomous plants delight in the shade, so a sullen retiring argues a sullen and venomous disposition. Surely virtue, however excellent she be in the dangerless Academy of Plato, shines still more nobly when she walketh with
intrepid heart through the battles of Marathon, Pharsalia, Poictiers, and Agincourt *.
The arena where the race is to be run is, indeed, hot and dusty, full of strife and contention; for envy and malice are always ready, with violence and clamour, to molest the candidate for the Immortal Garland. But it does not become us, on that account, to slink out of it, as Milton indignantly exclaims, without the wound of a single dart upon our armour. For consider how the danger enhances the reward. So he, whom a kindred genius called our “ sage serious Spenser," conducts Guyon through the Cave of Mammon and the Bower of Bliss, that Temperance might be ennobled by the trials through which it passed, and come pure and spotless out of every temptation.
The great difficulty in our intercourse with the world, is to know how far to go, and when to stop; what sacrifices to make, and what to decline. The worshippers of Moloch commenced their adoration with a cake of flour, and finished them with driving a tender infant through the flames. Our practice is not dissimilar. We too often begin with the tribute of some unimportant habit or amusement, and conclude by laying our soul upon the altar.
Thus, it has been said *, we sin by degrees, and go down to ruin step by step; until the atoms swell into a heap, and we perish by trifling instances, and, as the son of Sirach declared, by little and little. For the wanderer may arrive at the gate of everlasting death by a narrow and bye-path, as well as by the broad and beaten road.
But, after all, little reliance is to be placed upon any outward defences. Sin can leap over the loftiest bulwark as lightly as over a hedge of roses. Our great protection must be looked for in the grace of God, and the careful culture of our time. A portion of every day ought to be set apart for prayer and meditation—a little spot of ground enclosed for a garden of sweet flowers, to refresh and to heal. Into this paradise, while a watchful purity keeps the gate, the serpent will never glide.
The passage you have taken from Donne admits of another interpretation. Every man, indeed, is planted in the world, that he may grow in the world; but as in the vegetable world different trees require different soils, so in the moral; and the tree which would have perished in the unhealthy atmosphere of a town, may grow into beauty under a purer sky. How often has the voice, whose tones might have fallen unheeded in the senate, or the courtly chamber, cheered the drooping spirits
By Jeremy Taylor.
of a sequestered village, and caused the plough to rest for an hour, while it explained, in simple and affectionate language, the good tidings of the Gospel. Such was the seclusion of the gentle Herbert, the judicious Hooker, and the amiable poet of Weston. Nor less beautiful is the spirit of religious philosophy and meekness that breathes a sabbath-quiet over those beloved abodes by the smooth Greta, on Rydal Mount, and the sweet garden of Bremhill. Thrice happy Bards! for whom Memory weaves a posy, that no sharpness of the wintry air, no blight of popular envy, can ever destroy,--and to which every day adds another flower of fresher hues, and richer perfume.
GRAY AND MASON.
A SUMMER DAY WITH THE MUSES.
But hail, ye mighty masters of the lay!
childhood and inform'd my youth.
For well I know wherever ye reside,
Then the bees did not settle round
No,-the first dawning of poetical feeling that I can remember, was when I began to read Virgil, at Eton, out of school-hours for my own amusement. I had previously studied him chiefly with a view to his language, for I was fond of writing Latin verses. Jacob Bryant, who sat next to me, and who was already esteemed a youthful prodigy, always repeated with praise a couplet from one