페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER THE SECOND.

THE INFLUENCE OF SOLITUDE

UPON THE MIND.

THEtru

HE true value of liberty can only be conceived by minds that are free : Slaves remain indolently contented in captivity. Men who have been long tossed upon the troubled ocean of life, and have learned by severe experience to entertain juft notions of the world and its concerns, to examine every object with unclouded and impartial eyes, to walk erect in the strict and thorny paths of virtue, and to find their happiness in the reflection of an honest mind, alone are FREE.

The path of virtue, indeed, is devious, dark, and dreary; but though it leads the traveller over hills of difficulty, it at length brings him into the delightful and extensive plains of permanent happiness and fecure repose.

The love of Solitude, when cultivated in the morn of life, elevates the mind to a noble independence : but, to acquire the advantages which Solitude is capable of affording, the mind must not

be

be impelled to it by melancholy and discontent, but by a real distaste to the idle pleasures of the world, a rational contempt for the deceitful joys of life, and just apprehensions of being corrupted and seduced by its insinuating and deftructive gaieties.

Many men have acquired and exercised in Solitude that transcendent greatness of mind which defies events; and, like the majestic cedar, which braves the fury of the most violent tempeft, have resisted, with heroic courage, the severest storms of fate. Some few, indeed, have retained in retirement the weaknesses of human nature; but the conduct of greater numbers has clearly evinced that a man of good sense cannot degenerate even in the most dreary seclufion.

SOLITUDE, indeed, sometimes renders the mind in a slight degree arrogant and conceited *; but these effects are easily removed by a judicious intercourse with mankind. Misanthropy, contempt of folly, and pride of spirit, are, in noble minds, changed by the maturity of age into dignity of character: and that fear of the opinion of the world which awed the weakness and inexperience of

youth,

* Plato, towards the conclusion of his fourth letter, warns Dion to guard against that austerity or haughtiness which is the companion of Solitude," " y do autadela sprpusa fuvoixo."

9

youth, is succeeded by firmness, and a high dirdain of those false notions by which it was difmayed: the observations once so dreaded lose all their stings; the mind views objects not as they are, but as they ought to be; and, feeling a contempt for vice, rises into a noble enthusiasm for virtue, gaining from the conflict a rational experience and a compassionate feeling which never decay.

The science of the heart, indeed, with which youth should be familiarized as early as possible, is too frequently neglected. It removes the asperities and polishes the rough surfaces of the mind. This science is founded on that noble philosophy which regulates the characters of men; and, operating more by love than by rigid precept, corrects the cold dictates of reason by the warm feelings of the heart; opens to view the dangers to which they are exposed; animates the dormant faculties of the mind; and prompts them to the practice of all the virtues.

Dion* was educated in all the turpitude and servility of courts, accustomed to a life of softness

and * Dion, the son of Hipparinus, was related to, and employed in the service of, Dionyfius the Elder, the tyrant of Syracuse. He persuaded Dionysius to invite Plato, the celebrated Grecian philosopher, to his court. Dion, listening to his divine

precepts,

and effeminacy, and, what is still worse, tainted by oftentation, luxury, and every species of vicious pleasure; but no sooner did he listen to the divine Plato, and acquired thereby a taste for that sublime philosophy which inculcates the practice of virtue, than his whole soul became deeply enamoured of its charms. The fame love of virtue with which Plato inspired the mind of Dion, may be silently, and almost imperceptibly, infused by every tender mother into the mind of her child. Philofophy, from the lips of a wise and sensible woman, glides quietly, but with strong effect, into the mind through the feelings of the heart. Who is not fond of walking even through the most

rough

precepts, became immediately inspired with the love of virtue ; and, by his exemplary good conduct, rendered himself fo extremely popular, that he became odious in the eyes of the tyrant, who banished him to Greece, where he collected a numerous force, and resolved to release his country from Navery. In this enterprize he confirmed the observation of his philofophic inftructor, “ that power and fortune must concur with prudence and “ justice to effect any thing great in a political capacity." He entered the port of Syracuse only with two ships ; and in three days reduced under his power an empire which had subsisted for fifty years, and which was guarded by 500 ships of war, and above 100,000 troops. The tyrant (then Dionyfius the Younger) filed to Corinth; and Dion kept the reins of government in his own hands until he was betrayed and murdered by Callicrates, one of his moft intimate and familiar friends. " When I ex“ plained,” says Plato, in his seventh letter, “ the principles “ of philofophy and humanity to Dior, I little thought I was “ insensibly opening the way to the subversion of tyranny, and " the liberties of mankind.”

« 이전계속 »