Imatges de pÓgina
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ed, to desert her ordinary measure for one very different? I know not that this question ever has been resolved; the false estimates I have suggested being so common and familiar, that no writer has thought of their cause. And, indeed, to enter upon this matter without preparation, might occasion some difficulty: to encounter which we luckily are prepared, by what is said upon the power of passion to bias the mind in its perceptions and opinions. Among the circumstances that terrify a condemned criminal, the short time he has to live is one; which time, by the influence of terror, is made to appear still shorter than it is in reality. In the same manner, among the distresses of an absent lover, the time of separation is a capital circumstance, which for that reason is greatly magnified by his anxiety and impatience: he imagines that the time of meeting comes on very slow, or rather that it will never come: every minute is thought of an intolerable length. Here is a fair, and, I hope, satisfactory reason, why time is thought to be tedious when we long for a future event, and not less fleet when we dread the event.

The reason is confirmed by other instances. Bodily pain, fixed to one part, produceth a slow train of perceptions, which, according to the common measure of time, ought to make it appear short: yet we know, that, in such a state, time has the opposite appearance; and the reason is, that bodily pain is always attended with a degree of impatience, which makes us think every minute to be an hour. The same holds where the pain shifts from place to place; but not so remarkably, because such a pain is not attended with the same degree of impatience. The impatience a man hath in travelling through a barren country, or in a bad road, makes him think, during the journey, that time goes on with a very slow pace. We shall see afterward, that a very different computation is made when the journey is over.

How ought it to stand with a person who apprehends bad news? It will probably be thought that the case of this person resembles that of a criminal, who, terrified at his approaching execution, believes every hour to be but a minute : yet the computation is directly opposite. Reflecting upon the difficulty, there appears one capital distinguishing circumstance: the fate of the criminal is determined ; in the case under consideration, the person is still in suspense. Every one has felt the distress that accompanies suspense: we wish to get rid of it at any rate, even at the expense of bad news. This case, therefore, upon a more narrow inspection, resembles that of bodily pain: the present distress, in both cases, makes the time appear extremely tedious.

The reader probably will not be displeased, to have this branch of the subject illustrated, by an author who is acquainted with every maze of the human heart, and who bestows ineffable grace and ornament upon every subject he handles :

Rosalinda. I pray you, what is't a-clock ?

Orlando. You should ask me, what time o’day ; there's no clock in the forest.

Ros. Then there is no true lover in the forest ; else, sighing every minute, and groaning every hour, would detect the lazy foot of Time, as well as a clock.

Orla. Why not the swift foot of Time ? Had not that been as proper ? Ros. By no means, Sir. Time travels in diverse

paces

with diverse persons. I'll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal ?

Orla. I pr’ythee whom doth he trot withal ?

Ros. Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnised: if the interim be but a se’ennight, Time's pace is so hard, that it seems the length of seven years.

Orla. Who ambles Time withal ?
Ros. With a priest that lacks Latin, aud a rich man that hath

not the gout; for the one sleeps easily, because he cannot study; and the other lives merrily, because he feels no pain : the one lacking the burthen of lean and wasteful learning : the other knowing no burthen of heavy tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.

Orla. Whom doth he gallop withal ?

Ros. With a thief to the gallows : for, tho' he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

Orla. Whom stays it still withal ?

Ros. With lawyers in the vacation : for they sleep between term and term, and then they perceive not

w Time moves. As you

like it, Act III. Sc. 8.

The natural method of computing present time, shows how far from the truth we may be led by the irregular influence of passion: nor are our eyes immediately opened when the scene is past; for the deception continues while there remain any traces of the passion. But looking back upon past time when the joy or distress is no longer remembered, the computation is very different: in that condition we coolly and deliberately make use of the ordinary measure, namely, the course of our perceptions. And I shall now proceed to the errors that this measure is subjected to. Here we must distinguish between a train of perceptions, and a train of ideas: 'real objects make a strong impression, and are faithfully remembered: ideas, on the contrary, however entertaining at the time, are apt to escape a subsequent recollection. Hence it is, that in retrospection, the time that was employed upon real objects, appears longer than that employed upon ideas: the former are more accurately recollected than the latter; and we measure the time by the number that is recollected. This doctrine shall be illustrated by examples. After finishing a journey through a populous country, the frequency of agreeable objects distinctly recollected by the traveller, makes the time spent in the journey appear to him longer than it was in reality ; which

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is chiefly remarkable in the first journey, when every object is new, and makes a strong impression. On the other hand, after finishing a journey through a barren country thinly peopled, the time appears short, being measured by the number of objects, which were few, and far from interesting. Here in both instances a computation is made, directly opposite to that made during the journey. And this, by the way, serves to account for what may appear singular, that, in a barren country, a computed mile is always longer than near the capital, where the country is rich and populous : the traveller has no natural measure of the miles he has travelled, other than the time bestowed upon the journey; nor any natural measure of the time, other than the number of his

perceptions : now these, being few from the paucity of objects in a waste country, lead him to compute that the time has been short, and consequently that the miles have been few : by the same method of computation, the great number of perceptions, from the quantity of objects in a populous country, make the traveller conjecture that the time has been long, and the miles many. The last step of the computation is obvious : in estimating the distance of one place from another, if the miles be reckoned few in number, each mile must of course be long : if many in number, each must be short.

Again, the travelling with an agreeable companion, produceth a short computation both of the road and of time; especially if there be few objects that demand attention, or if the objects be familiar: and the case is the same of young people at a ball, or of a joyous company over a bottle : the ideas with which they have been entertained, being transitory, escape the memory: after the journey and the entertainment are over, they reflect that they have been much diverted, but scarce can say about what.

When one is totally occupied with any agreeable work

that admits not many objects, time runs on without observation: and upon a subsequent recollection, must appear short, in proportion to the paucity of objects. This is still more remarkable in close contemplation and in deep thinking, where the train, composed wholly of ideas, proceeds with an extreme slow pace: not only are the ideas few in number, but are apt to escape an after reckoning. The like false reckoning of time may proceed from an opposite state of mind : in a reverie, where ideas float at random without making any impression, time goes on unheeded, and the reckoning is lost. A reverie may be so profound as to prevent the recollection of any one idea : that the mind was busied in a train of thinking may in general be remembered : but what was the subject, has quite escaped the memory. In such a case we are altogether at a loss about the time, having no data for making a computation. No cause produceth so false a reckoning of time as immoderate grief: the mind, in that state, is violently attached to a single object, and admits not a different thought: any other object breaking in, is instantly banished, so as scarce to give an appearance of succession. In a reverie, we are uncertain of the time that is past; but, in the example now given, there is an appearance of certainty, that the time must have been short, when the perceptions are so few in number.

The natural measure of space, appears more obscure than that of time. I venture, however, to mention it, leaving it to be further prosecuted, if it be thought of any importance.

The space marked out for a house appears considerably larger after it is divided into its proper parts. A piece of ground appears larger after it is surrounded with a fence ; and still larger when it is made a garden and divided into different compartments.

On the contrary, a large plain looks less after it is divided into parts. The sea must be excepted, which looks

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