« AnteriorContinua »
On the Duty of Children to Parents.
his Methods of establishing and evidencing the Measures of reciprocal Duty, is no where more remarkable than in the mutual Obligations between Parents and their Children. The Child comes into the World naked and helpless, and from himself more deftitute of the natural Means of Security and Support, than almost any of the inferior Creatures. In this Exigency the Parental Care and Tenderness steps in to his Relief, supplies all his Necessities, and relieves all his Wants ; bears with all his untowardly Dispositions, at an Age when he is neither capable of being corrected or convinced ; and not only provides the properest Food for him, when he is incapable of providing any for himself, but likewise adminifters it when he is incapable of feeding himself ; bears with all Degrees of his Folly and Impertinence, listens to all his trifling and idle Enquiries, not only with Patience, but with Pleasure, till they gradually conduct him to Health, and Strength, and Knowledge. But the Child is not long arrived at this perfection of his Nature, before his Parents begin to fall gradually into the fame Infirmities thro' which they but lately conducted and supported their Children, and to need the same Affittance which they lately lent. And first they begin to grow fickly, and then they call for the Aid of that Health which they cultivated and took care of in their Children. The lots of Chearfulness and good Humour commonly succeeds the loss of Health ; the old Parents are un
easy, and fret at all about them. And now is the Time for Children to return all that Tenderness and Patience to their Parents Peevishness, without Sourness or Reproof, which their Parents had long lent them in all their childish Perverseness, at an Age when they were not capable of being corrected. In the next place, the old Parents grow troublesomely talkative, and (as Youth is too apt to think) impertinent, and dwell eternally upon the Observations and Adventures of their Times and earlier Years. Remember, you also had your Time of being talkative and impertinent, and your Parents bore with you, but with this Difference, you asked them filly and trifling Questions, and they now tell you wise and useful Observations. But they are troublesome because they tell them too often. The Answer to this is very obvious; if your Parents bore your Folly, you may well bear their Wisdom ; and although perhaps they talk more than is necessary to inform you of present Things, yet their Conversation turns mostly upon Things past, perhaps past many Years before you came into the World, and consequently such as they must know a thousand times better than you. Or though they should talk more than is necessary to inform you, they do not talk more than is necessary to inform your Servants, or your Children, who are now come to an Age of asking many Questions; and therefore Providence hath well appointed, that their Grand-father or their Grand-mother are now in an Humour to answer them all, and to supply them with a Store of useful Observations which they want, nay, which they want to hear over and over again, which they want to have inculcated a thoufand times, and which without this Assistance, would require a Course of Years to acquire for themselves. So that the Humour of Talkativeness, which is commonly thought so troublesome in old People, hath its Use, and is most excellently appointed by Almighty God. But say it were not, the Children in bearing with it, do but barely return their Parents what they long since owed them. In the next place, the Strength of the old Parents fails them, and they cannot walk without a Support; but sure, you will not let them want one! How many Years did they bear you in their Arms? How many more did they lead you where you would be, and saved you from Falling and from Danger ? And will you now suffer those old Limbs to totter and fall to the Earth, which so often supported and saved yours when they were weak and tender, and unable to support and save themselves ? Certainly you will not, you cannot at once be guilty of so much
Cruelty and Ingratitude. In the last place, the Understanding of the old Parents begins to fail, and the Strength of their Minds doth not long outlive the Strength of their Bodies, but decays gradually till they become again Children; their Teeth fall, and their Tongues faulter, and they are once more Infants, and are now confin’d to their Beds, as they were at first to their Cradles. This is the last Stage of Life ; and here they demand all that Care, and Compalfion, and Tenderness at your Hands, when they are just go'ing out of the World, which you called for at theirs when you first came into it.
LESS O N II.
The Folly of PRID E.
F there be any thing which makes human Nature appear
Pride. They know so well the Vanity of those imaginary Perfections that swell the Heart of Man, and of those little fupernumerary Advantages, whether in Birth, Fortune, or Title, which one Man enjoys above another, that it must certainly very much astonish, if it does not very much divert them, when they see a Mortal puffed up, and valuing himself above his Neighbours on any of these Accounts, at the same time that he is obnoxious to all the common Calamities of the Species. To set this Thought in its true Light, we will fancy, if you please, that yonder Mole-hill is inhabited by reasonable Creatures, and that every Pismire (his Shape and Way of Life excepted) is endowed with human Passions. How should we smile to hear one give us an Account of the Pedigrees, Distinctions, and Titles that reign among them!-Observe how the whole Swarm divides and makes way for the Pismire that passes through them! You must understand he is an Emmet of Quality, and has better Blood in his Veins than any Pismire in the Mole-hill. Don't you see how sensible he is of it, how slow he marches forward, how the whole Rabble of Ants keep their Distance? -Here you may observe one placed upon a little Eminence, and looking down on a long Row of Labourers. He is the richest Insect on this Side the Hillock, he has a Walk of half a Yard in Length, and a quarter of an Inch in Breadth; he
keeps a hundred menial Servants, and has at least fifteen Barly-corns in his Granary. He is now chiding and beslaving the Emmet that stands before him, and who, for all that we can discover, is as good an Emmet as himself.
But here comes an Insect of Figure ! Don't you take notice of a little white Straw that he carries in his Mouth? That Straw, you must understand, he would not part with for the longest Tract about the Mole-hill; did you but know what he has undergone to purchase it! See, the Ants of all Qualities and Conditions swarm about him; should this Straw drop out of his Mouth, you would see all this numerous Circle of Attendants follow the next that took it up, and leave the discarded Insect, or run over his Back to come at his Successor.-If now you have a mind to see all the Ladies of the Mole-hill, observe first the Pismire that liftens to the Emmet on her Left Hand, at the same time that she seems to turn her Head away from him. He tells this poor Infect that she is a Goddess, that her Eyes are brighter than the Sun, that Life and Death are at her Disposal. She believes him. and gives herself a thousand little Airs upon it.Mark the Vanity of the Pismire on your Left Hand ! she can scarce crawl with Age, but you must know the values herself upon her Birth, and if you mind, spurns at every one that comes within her Reach. The little nimble Coquette that is running along by the Side of her is a Wit; she has broke many a Pilmire's Heart; do but obferve what a Drove of Lovers are running after her.-We will here finish this imaginary Scene; but first of all, to draw the Parallel closer, will suppose, if you please, that Death comes down upon the Mole-hill in the Shape of a Cock-Sparrow, who picks up without Distinction, the Pismire of Quality and his Flatterers, the Pismire of Substance and his Day-Labourers, the White Straw Officer and his Sycophants, with all the Goddesses, Wits and Beauties of the Mole-hill.
May we not imagine, that Beings of fuperior Natures and Perfections regard all the Instances of Pride and Vanity among our own Species in the same kind of View, when they take a Survey of those who inhabit the Earth? Or, in the Language of an ingenious French Poet, those Pismires that people this Heap of Dirt, which human Vanity has divided into Climates and Regions ?
LESS ON III,
OCIETY fubfifts amongst Men by a mutual Com
munication of their Thoughts to each other. Words, Looks, Gesture, and different Tones of Voice, are the Means of that Communication. I speak, and in an Instant my Ideas and Sentiments are communicated to the Person who hears me; my whole Soul in a manner passes into his. This Communication of my Thoughts, is again the Occafion of others in him, which he communicates to me in his turn. Hence arises one of the most lively of our Pleasures; by this means too we enlarge our Knowledge, and this reciprocal Commerce is the principal Source of our intellectual Wealth.
The first Rule with regard to Conversation, is to observe all the Laws of Politeness in it. This Rule is of all others the most indispensable. It is not in every one's Power perhaps to have fine Parts, say witty Things, or tell a Story. agreeably; but every Man may be polite, if he pleases, at least to a certain Degree. Politeness has infinitely more Power to make a Person be loved, and his Company fought after, than the most extraordinary Parts or Attainments he can be Master of. These scarce ever fail of exciting Envy, and Envy has always some Ill-will in it. If you would be esteemed, make yourself be loved; we always esteem the Person we love more than he deserves, and the Person we do not love, as little as ever we can; nay, we do all we can to despise him, and commonly succeed in it.
Great Talents for Conversation require to be accompanied with great Politeness; he who eclipfes others owes them great Civilities; and whatever a mistaken Vanity may tell us, it is better to please in Conversation than to fine in it.
Another general Rule in Conversation is, to conform yourself to the Taste, Character, and present Humour of the Persons you converse with. This Rule is a Consequence of the foregoing; Politeness dictates it, but it requires a large Fund of good Nature and Complaisance to observe it; not but that a Person must follow his Talent in Conversation ; do not force Naturę, no one ever did it with Succefs. If you have not a Talent for Humour, or Raillery, or Story-telling, never attempt them. Contain yourself also