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LINES TO A LADY
WHO PRESENTED THE AUTHOR WITH SOME ENGLISH FRUITS AND
GREEN herbs and gushing springs in some hot waste,
How small a spark may kindle fancy's flame,
Gone is the sweet illusion-like a scene
As o'er the fairest skies
As when this outward world
Attracts the mortal eye,
So in the realms of mind,
SONNETS_WRITTEN AT SEA.
[FINE WEATHER.] The plain of ocean 'neath the crystal air Its azure bound extends—the circle wide Is sharply clear,—contrasted hues divide The sky and water. Clouds, like hills that wear The winter's snow-wrought mantle, brightly fair, Rest on the main's blue marge. As shadows glide O’er dew-decked fields, the calm ship seems to slide O'er glassy paths that catch the noon-tide glare As if bestrown with diamonds. Quickly play The small crisp waves that musically break Their shining peaks.—And now, if aught can make Celestial spirits wing their downward way, Methinks they glitter in the proud sun's wake, And breathe a glorious beauty on the day!
[A CALM, AFTER A GALE. ]
ON THE FREQUENT COMPLAINT OF A WANT OF
Nothing is more common than the confession of a defect of memory, which may be taken as a proof that it is not generally considered one of the nobler faculties of the mind. Men rarely acknowledge, even to themselves, a deficiency in any quality which ranks highly in their own estimation, or which they suppose to be essential to the dignity or grace of their intellectual character. People sometimes complain of the want of extrinsic advantages, such as a large income or a handsome equipage, because these things form no portion of their own moral or mental being. They conceive that they have higher and less equivocal claims to the respect of their fellow creatures; and while railing at Fortune, enjoy a secret consciousness, and sometimes even venture on a pretty open implication, that their merit is deserving of a better fate. Men are discontented with every thing but their own minds and persons. They never complain that nature has made them silly or ill-featured. In some respects what a happy circumstance is that law of our nature by which, with the clearest eyes for the defects of others, we are blinded to our own! The feeble-minded and the deformed in body would shrink into themselves with bitter shame and forlorn despondency, if they were to see their own deficiencies as they appear to others. The perpetual mirror of self-reflection would drive them to despair. It is remarkable that in proportion as nature is niggard in real gifts, she is liberal in those of fancy. Fools and dwarfs are proverbially vain. When we consider how much of the happiness of life depends upon our being well deceived, it is perhaps scarcely consistent with a humane philosophy to object to the self-complacency of the meanest human creature in existence, especially as he is in no degree answerable for his natural defects. If we lower a man in his own esteem we not only deprive him of the chief source of consolation amidst the positive ills of life, but render him less capable of a noble sentiment or
a generous exertion. It is only when egotism leads to selfishness and arrogance, that it becomes necessary to repress it. The principle, however, of self-approval is so deeply ingrafted in our system, that it is impossible to eradicate it. By terribly severe and caustic handling its growth may be checked for a season, but it cannot be utterly destroyed. The cherished weed shoots out again in defiance of every obstacle, and with renewed force and freshness.
As no man wilfully depreciates his own character in matters which he thinks materially affect its influence over others, the frequent complaint of the want of memory is, as I have already intimated, rather a slight to that faculty than an acknowledgment of its value. People are often ready to resign all pretensions to it for the praise of candour, because they think they can well afford the sacrifice. A weakness in this faculty is not thought any indication of a correspondent weakness in the higher powers of the mind. On the contrary, many persons have a notion that an exact and vigorous memory is generally associated with a feeble judgment and a cold and barren imagination. Pope ha sanctioned this opinion in his Essay on Criticism.
“ Thus in the soul while memory prevails
The solid power of understanding fails ;
Those who have weak memories and who wish to be reconcil. ed to their misfortune, should peruse Montaigne, who is perpetu