Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

have acquired no previous information: and when they fall into the hands of their cruel oppressors, a life of laborious servitude, which scarcely affords them sufficient time for sleep, deprives them of every opportunity of improving their minds. There is no reason to suppose that they differ from us in any thing but colour; which distinction arises from the intense heat of their climate. There have been instances of a few, whose situation has been favourable to improvement, who have shown strong powers of mind. Those masters, who neglect the religious and moral instruction of their slaves, add a heavy load of guilt to that already incurred, by their share in this unjust and inhuman traffic.

Charles. My indignation rises at this recital. . Why does not the Bri tish parliament exert its power to avenge the wrongs of these oppressed Africans ? What can prevent an act being passed to forbid Englishmen from buying and selling slaves ?

Fa. Many persons of great talents and virtue, have made several fruitless attempts to obtain an act for the abolition of this trade. Men inte rested in its continuance have hitherto frustrated these generous designs : but we may rely upon the goodness of that Divine Providence, who cares for all creatures, that the day will come, when their rights will be considered : and there is great reason to hope, from the light already cast upon the subject, that the rising generation will prefer justice and mercy, to interest and policy; and will free themselves from the odium we at present suffer, of treating our fellow creatures in a manner unworthy of them, and of ourselves.

Mo. Henry, repeat that beautiful apostrophe to a negro woman, which you learned the other day out of Barbauld's Hymns.

Henry. “Negro woman, who sittest pining in captivity, and weepest over thy sick child, though no one sees thee, God sees thee : though no one pities thee, God pities thee. Raise thy voice, forlorn and abandoned one; call upon him from amidst thy bonds, for assuredly he will hear thee.

Ce. I think no riches could tempt me to have any share in the slave trade. I could never enjoy peace of mind, whilst I thought I contributed to the woes of my fellow-creatures.

Mo. But, Cecilia, to put your compassion to the proof; are you willing to debar yourself of the numerous indulgences you enjoy, from the fruit of their labour ?

Ce. I would forego any indulgence to alleviate their sufferings.
The rest of the children together. We are all of the same mind.

Mo. I admire the sensibility of your uncorrupted hearts, my dear children. It is the voice of nature and virtue. Listen to it on all occasions, and bring it home to your bosoms, and your daily practice.

The same principle of benevolence, which excites your indignation at the oppression of the negroes, will lead you to be gentle towards your inferiours, kind and obliging to your equals, and in a particular manner condescending and considerate towards your domestics : requiring no more of them, than you will be willing to perform in their situation; instructing them when you have opportunity ; sympathizing in their afflictions, and promoting their best interests to the utmost of your power.

Democritus and Heraclitus. * The vices and follies of men should excite compassion rather than ridicule. Democritus. I FIND it impossible to reconcile myself to a melancholy philosophy

Heraclitus. And I am equally unable to approve of that vain philosophy, which teaches men to despise and ridicule one another. To a wise and feeling mind, the world appears in a wretched and painful light.

Dem. Thou art too much affected with the state of things; and this is a source of misery to thee.

Her. And I think thou art too little moved by it. Thy mirth and ridicule bespeak the buffoon, rather than the philosopher. Does it not excite thy compassion, to see mankind so frail, so blind, so far departed from the rules of virtue ?

Dem. I am excited to laughter, when I see so much impertinence and folly.

Her. And yet, after all, they, who are the objects of thy ridicule, include, not only mankind in general, but the persons with whom thou livest, thy friends, thy family, nay, even thyself.

Dem. I care very little for all the silly persons I meet with ; and think I am justifiable in diverting myself with their folly.

Her. If they are weak and foolish, it marks neither wisdom nor humanity, to insult rather than pity them. But is it certain, thou art not as extravagant as they are ?

Dem. I presume that I am not ; since in every point, my sentiments are the very reverse of theirs.

Her. There are follies of different kinds. By constantly amusing thyself with the errours and misconduct of others, thou mayest render thyself equally ridiculous and culpable.

Dem. Thou art at liberty to indulge such sentiments; and to weep over me too, if thou hast any tears to spare. For my part, I cannot refrain from pleasing myself with the levities and ill conduct of the world about me. Are not all men foolish or irregular in their lives?

Her. Alas! there is but too much reason to believe they are so : and on this ground, I pity and deplore their condition. We agree in this point, that men do not conduct themselves according to reasonable and just principles; but I, who do not suffer myself to act as they do, must yet regard the dictates of my understanding and feelings, which compel me to love them; and that love fills me with compassion for their mistakes and irregularities. Canst thou condemn me for pitying my own species, my brethren, persons born in the same condition of life, and destined to the same hopes and privileges ? If thou shouldst enter a hospital, where sick and wounded persons reside, would their wounds and distresses excite thy mirth? And yet, the evils of the body bear no comparison with those of the mind. Thou wouldst certainly blush at thy barbarity, it thou hadst been so unfeeling, as to laugh at, or despise a poor miserable being who had lost one of his legs : and yet thou art so destitute of humanity, as to ridicule those, who appear to be deprived of the noble powers of the understanding, by the little regard which they pay to its dictates.

Dem. He who has lost a leg is to be pitied, because the loss is not to be imputed to himself: but he who rejects the dictates of reason and conscience, voluntarily deprives himself of their aid. The loss originates in his own folly.

* Democritus and Heraclitus were two ancient philosophers; the former of whors laughed, and the latter wept, at the errours and follies of mankind.

Her. Ah! so much the more is he to be pitied! A furious maniac who should pluck out his own eyes, would deserve more compassion than an ordinary blind man.

Dem. Come, let us accommodate the business. There is something to be said on each side of the question. There is every where reason for laughing, and reason for weeping. The world is ridiculous, and I laugh at it; it is deplorable, and thou lamentest over it. Every person views it in his own way, and according to his own tem per. One point is unquestionable, that mankind are preposterous ; to think right, and to act well, we must think and act differently from them. To submit to the authority, and follow the example of the greater part of men, would render us foolish and miserable.

Her. All this is, indeed, true ; but then, thou hast no real love or feeling for thy species. The calamities of mankind excite thy mirth; and this proves that thou hast no regard for men, nor any true respect for the virtues which they have unhappily abandoned,

Dionysius, Pythias, and Damon.

Genuine virtue commands respect, even from the bad. Dionysius. AMAZING! What do I see? It is Pythias just arrived. It is indeed Pythias. I did not think it possible. He is come to die, and redeem his friend !

Pythias. Yes, it is Pythias. I left the place of my confinement, with no other views than to pay to Heaven the vows I had made; to settle my family concerns according to the rules of justice ; and to bid adieu to my children, that I might die tranquil and satisfied.

Dio. But why dost thou return? Hast thou no fear of death? Is it not the character of a madman, to seek it thus voluntarily?

Py. I return to suffer, though I have not deserved death. Every pris. ciple of honour and goodness, forbids me to allow my friend to die for me. Dio. Dost thou, then, love him better than thyself?

Py. No; I love him as myself. But I am persuaded that I ought to suffer death, rather than my friend; since it was me whom thou hadst de creed to die. It were not just that he should suffer, to deliver me from the death which was designed, not fo- him, but for me only.

Dio. But thou supposest that it is ag. unjust to inflict death upon thee, as upon thy friend.

Py. Very true; we are both entirely innocent; and it is equally unjust to make either of us suffer.

Dio. Why dost thou then assert, that it were injustice to put him to death, instead of thee?

Py. It is unjust, in the same degree, to intlict death, either on Damon, or on myself; but Pythias were highly culpable to let Damon suffer that death, which the tyrant had prepared for Pythias only.

Dio. Dost thou then return hither on the day appointed, with no other view than to save the life of a friend, by losing thy own?

Py. I return, in regard to thee, to suffer an act of injustice which is common for tyrants to indict; and with respect to Damon, to perform my duty, by rescuing him from the danger he incurred by his generosity to me.

Dio. And now, Damon, let me address myself to thee. Didst thou not really fear, that Pythias would never return; and that thou wouldst be put to death on his account?

Damon. I was but too well assured that Pythias would punctually return; and that he would be more solicitous to keep his promise, than to preserve his life. Would to heaven, that his relations and friends had forcibly detained him! He would then have lived for the comfort and benefit of good men ; and I should have had the satisfaction of dying for him !

Dio. What, does life displease thee?
Da. Yes; it displeases me when I see and feel the power of a tyrant!

Dio. It is well! Thou shalt see him no more. I will order thee to be put to death immediately.

Py. Pardon the feelings of a man who sympathizes with his dying friend. But remember, it was Pythias who was devoted by thee to destruction. I come to submit to it, that I may redeem my friend. Do not refuse me this consolation in my last hour.

Dio. I cannot endure men who despise death, and set my power at defiance.

Da. Thou canst not, then, endure virtue,

Dio. No; I cannot endure that proud, disdainful virtue, which contemns life; which dreads no punishment; and which is insensible to the charms of riches and pleasure.

Da. Thou seest, however, that it is a virtue, which is not insensible to the dictateś of honour, justice, and friendship.

Dio. Guards, take Pythias to execution. We shall see whether Damon will continue to despise my authority.

Da. Pythias, by returning to submit himself to thy pleasure, has merited his life, and deserved thy favour; but I have excited thy indignation, by resigning myself to thy power, in order to save him : be satisfied, then,, with this sacrifice, and put me to death.

Py. Hold, Dionysius ? Remember, it was Pythias alone who offended thee; Damon could not.

Dio. Alas! What do I see and hear? where am I? How miserable ; and how worthy to be so ! I have hitherto known nothing of true virtue. I have spent my life in darkness and errour. A" my power and honours are insufficient to produce love. I cannot boast of having acquired a single friend, in the course of a reign of thirty years. And yet these two persons, in a private condition, love one another tenderly, unreservedly confide in each other, are mutually happy, and ready to die for each other's preservation.

Py. How couldst thou, who hast never loved any person, expect to have friends? If thou hadst loved and respected men, thou wouldst have secured their love and respect. Thou hast feared mankind--and they fear thee-they detest thee.

Dio. Damon, Pythias, condescend to admit me as a third friend, in a connection so perfect. I give you your lives; and I will load you with riches.

Da. We have no desire to be enriched by thee; and, in regard to thy friendship, we cannot accept or enjoy it, tili thou become good and just. Without these qualities, thou canst be connected with none but trembling slaves, and base flatterers. To be loved and esteemed by men of free and generous minds, thou must be virtuous, affectionate, disinterested, benefi. cent; and know how to live in a sort of equality with those who share and deserve thy friendship.

ON THE SLIDES OR INFLECTIONS OF VERSE.

1. The first general rule for reading verse is, that we ought to give it that measured har munious flow of sound which distinguishes it from prose, without falling into a bombastic, chanting pronunciation, which makes it ridiculous.

2. It will not be improper, before we read verse with its poetical graces, to pronounce it exactly as if it were prose : this will be depriving verse of its beauty, but will tend to preserve it from deformity: the tones of voice will be frequently different, but the inflections will be nearly the same.

3. But though an elegant and harmonious pronunciation of verse will sometimes oblige. us to adopt different inflections from those we use in prose, it may still be laid down as a good general rule, that verse requires the same inflections as prose, though less strongly marked, and more approaching to monotones.

4. Wherever a sentence, or member of a sentence, would necessarily require the falling infection in prose, it ought always to have the same inflection in poetry; for though, if we we were to read verse prosaically, we should often place the falling inflection where the style of verse would require the rising, yet, in those parts where a portion of perfect sense, er the conclusion of a sentence, necessarily requires the falling infection, the same inflec tion must be adopted both in verse and prose.

5. In the same manner, though we frequently suspend the voice by the rising inflection in verse, where, if the composition were prose, we should adopt the falling; yet, wherever in prose, the member or sentence would nccessarily require the rising infection, this inflection must necessarily be adopted in verse.

6. It may be observed, indeed, that it is in the frequent use of the rising infection, where prose would adopt the falling, that the song of poetry consists: familiar, strong, argumen tative subjects naturally enforce the language with the falling inflection, as this is naturally expressive of activity, force, and precision, but grand, beautiful, and plaintive subjects slide naturally into the rising inflection, as this is expressive of awe, admiration, and me. lancholy; where the mind may be said to be passive: and it is this general tendency of the plaintive tone to assume the rising infleetion, which inclines injudicious readers to adopt it At those pauses where the falling infection is absolutely necessary, and, for want of whichi, the pronunciation degenerates into the whine, so much and so justly disliked; for it is very remarkable, that if, where the sense concludes, we are careful to preserve the falling inflection, and let the voice drop into the nataral talking tone, the voice may be suspended in the rising inflection on any other part of the verse, with very little danger of falling into the chant of bad readers.

OF THE ACCENT AND EMPHASIS OF VERSE. In verse, every syllable must have the same accent, and every word the same emphasis, as ia prose.

In words of two syllables, however, when the poet transposes the accent from the second syllable to the first, we may comply with him, without occasioning any harshness in the verse; but when, in such words, he changes the recent from the first to the second syllable, every reader who has the least delicacy of feeling will certainly preserve the common accent of these words on the first syllable.

In risaccented words of three syllables, perhaps the least offensive method to the ear of preserving the accent, and not entirely violating the quantity, would be to place an accept cu the syllable immediately preceding that on which the poet has misplaced it, without dropring that which is so misplaced.

The same rule seems to hold good where the poet has placed the accent on the first and last syllable of a word which ought to have it on the middle syllable.

Wiere a word admits of some diversity in placing the accent, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that the verse ought, in this case, to decide.

But when the poet has, with great judgment, contrived that his numbers shall be harsh and grating, in order to correspond to the idcas they suggest, the common accentuation must be preserved. HOW THE VOWELS E AND O ARE TO BE PRONOUNCED, WHEN

APOSTROPHIZED. The vowel e, which, in poetry, is so often cut off by an apostrophe in the word the, and in unaccented syllables before r, as dang'rous, gen'rous, &c. ought always to be preserved in pronunciation, because the syllable it forms is so short as to admit of being sounded with the succeeding syllable, so as not to increase the number of syllables to the ear, or, at least, to hurt the melody,

The same observations, in every respect, hold good in the pronunciation of the preposit tion to, which ought always to be sounded long, like the adjective two, however it may be printed.

« ZurückWeiter »