« AnteriorContinua »
Nor, Fanny, can a love like mine,
With time decay, in sickness falter ;
Born of the soul and cannot alter ;
Our earthly pilgrimage shall sever,
United in the skies for ever.
HOW TO OBTAIN THE CAP OF
“ He that within his bounds will keep,
May baffle all disasters;
Which worldlings call their masters;
May be mad, may be sad, may be jolly:
In the deep serenity of an autumnal evening, I placed myself upon the terrace of the chateau at Versailles to enjoy the setting sun, the rays of which enamelled the glassy surface of the waters before me with a golden bloom, burnished the bronze figures of the marble fountains by which I was surrounded, glistened like fire upon the windows of the great gallery, illuminated by reflections from the wall of mirrors within ; and, after flickering along the casements of the eastern wing, threw a rosy tinge over the Bois de Satory where it is embosomed, the leaves of which were as motionless as if the whole wood were already reposing in the first flush of sleep. Having recently visited the stupenduus aqueducts of Buc and Marly, works worthy of the ancient Romans, and observed how the whole of the circumjacent country was perforated with tunnels and reservoirs for the supply of the palace, I doubted whether that pile, with its
six thousand rooms, had cost so much human labour as, the various subterraneous works radiating from it in all directions; and I appreciated the difficulties to be overcome when the vain-glorious Louis Quatorze resolved to conquer nature, and to make this spot, situated upon a sandy height, the most celebrated place in all Europe for those elaborate playthings, its waterworks. All around me were the evidences of his apotheosis and deification. In the baths of Apollo I had seen him sculptured as that deity, while the matchless chisel of Girardon had been prostituted to the representation of his six mistresses, as attendant nymphs, performing the most menial offices about his person. On the ceilings of the great gallery I had gazed upon the paintings of Le Brun, in which he appears wielding the thunder of Jupiter, while Venus, Diana, and Juno, were on all sides compelled to wear the faces of his shameless courtesans. When I reflected that the greater part of Europe was convulsed with war by his mad attempts at foreign supremacy, at the very moment that the whole resources of the country were lavished for the gra.. tification of his magnificencc and his vices at home, I endeavoured to calculate how much actual enjoyment had probably been attained by that individual for whom so many millions of men had sacrificed theirs.
When the decrepit monarch was obliged to be wheeled about his stately terraces in an arm-chair, he could hardly fail to draw humiliating comparisons between the palsied reality of his fleshly limbs, and the divine syinmetry of his marble portraits ; nor could he well avoid sharing the feeling of Vespasian, who, being flattered upon his deathbed, exclaimed in bitter spirit, “O yes, I feel that I am becoming a god.” But we will take him in the vigor of his health and youth, without availing ourselves of Bacon's observation, that it is a sad thing to have nothing farther to desire and a thousand things to fear; or of his equally apposite position, that monarchs are like the heavenly bodies, which have a great deal of glory and very little repose. Legitimate as he was, and misgoverning by unquestionable right divine, it will still be admitted that he had but five senses, or inlets of bodily pleasure ; and nature herself, in the beneficent equality of her dispensations, has prevented us from usurping any undue share of pleasurable sensation, by limiting our capacities to that portion of enjoyment which is pretty much within the reach of all classes. She has not only placed a sentinel at each gate to warn us against over-indulgence, but has provided an express and complicated economy by which she compels us to reject every excess with disgust and loathing. A king cannot devour more than one dinner in a day-a peasant eats no less ; and as to the different qualities of the ingredients, custom, which makes the soldier's “ Ainty and steel couch of war his thrice driven bed of down," produces the same effects in an opposite direction, and renders the banquet of the palace not more stimulant or palatable than the frugal ineal of the cottage. Probably it is less so, if there be any truth in the old adage, that health is the most exquisite cook, and hunger the best sauce. It is the same with the other senses as with the appetite. You cannot discount life and spend it before it is due. You cannot live upon the capital of your body, instead of contenting yourself with its legal interest, without inevitable exhaustion and poverty. Your portion being limited, the more you condense your gratifications, the more you curtail their duration, and the more inevitably do you condemn yourself to the horrors of debility, satiety, tædium, and ennui. This is the lot of those kings who, having blunted and worn out those sensations by abuse, sit down in a blank and torpid desolation, and
would willingly, like the Roman emperor, offer an immense reward for the discovery of a new pleasure. Henry the Eighth and Francis of France, in their meeting on the field of Gold Cloth, had completely exhausted, in fourteen days, all the means of gratification which the wealth and genius of their respective countries could supply or devise ; and when we recollect the enormous riches of King Solomon, and his multifarious, luxuries, among which we should, perhaps, be hardly warranted in including his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, we need not wonder at his declaring that all was vanity and vexation of spirit.
These, it may be urged, are the mere pleasures of sense, which are for all classes equally grovelling and evanescent ; but the high in station may still preserve a wider range over the pure world of intellect, and all those enduring delights that emanate from the head and heart. Alas! the spirit and matter whereof we are compounded are fellowtravellers, one of whom cannot be goaded beyond his strength without fatiguing the other. We cannot exhaust the body by intemperance without debauching and emasculating the mind; and even where a rare course of personal temperance has preserved the faculties unimpaired, it is almost impossible to drink largely of power without superinducing that mental intoxication which has precipitated so many rulers into the mischievous pranks of ambition. Where it assumes not this active tendency, it is apt to bemubble its victim into that morbid and pitiable state of fretful lethargy termed ennui. As nothing is so deplorable as the want of a want, there is not one of us who would not be a miserable loser by being “as happy as a king.” They are the spoilt children of Fortune, and, like the juvenile members of the class, are too often wayward, peevish, and ill at ease.
As to the pleasures of intellect, Lord Walpole's Researches have
not been able to redeem many royal authors from the dust ; for it is much easier to win and wear a dozen crowns, than to achieve a single wreath of bays. Too busy or too indolent for literary pursuits, they read despatches instead of books, and pension laureates instead of perusing them. Reasons of state equally debar them from the solace of those delights that emanate from the heart. Cupid is a Carbonaro who owns no allegiance to thrones ; there is no sweet courtship in Courts : a king goes a wooing in the person of his privy counsellors, marries one whom he never saw, to please the nation, of which he is the master only to be its slave; views his bride with indifference or dislike, and is generally cut off from those domestic enjoyments which constitute the highest charms of existence. Friendship cannot offer itself as a substitute, for equality is the basis of that delicious sentiment, and he who wears a crown is at once prevented by station, and prohibited by etiquette, from indulging in any communion of hearts. Verily he ought to be exempted from all other taxes, since he pays quite enough already for his painful pre-eminence.
If it be bad to have nothing to hope for, it is not much better to have every thing to fear. It is humiliating enough for such exalted personages to be perpetually giddy with the height they have attained : to envy the meanest mortal who can exclaim that
“ Treason has done his worst; nor steel, nor poison,
Can touch him farther;" to be incapacitated from looking out upon the face of nature or art without encountering some impertinent memento. If they gaze upon an eclipse, they are forthwith perplexed with fear of change; the full moon snubs them with the reflection that they, like her, have accomplished their sphere-that they