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I turned my
sure of living a month. Happy people! thought I; you are certainly under a wise, just, and mild government, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign music. head from them to an old gray-headed one, who was single on another leaf and talking to himself. Being amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will likewise amuse her to whom I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.
“ It was,” said he, “the opinion of learned philosophers of our race who lived and flourished long before my time that this vast world, the Moulin Joly, could not itself subsist more than eighteen hours; and I think there was some foundation for that opinion, since by the apparent motion of the great luminary that gives life to all nature, and which in my time has evidently declined considerably toward the ocean at the end of our earth, it must then finish its course, be extinguished in the waters that surround us, and leave the world in cold and darkness, necessarily producing universal death and destruction. I have lived seven of those hours, a great age, being no less than four hundred and twenty minutes of time. How very few of us continue so long! I have seen generations born, flourish, and expire. My present friends are the children and grandchildren of the friends of my youth, who are now, alas ! no more. And I must soon follow them; for by the course of nature, though still in health, I cannot expect to live above seven or eight minutes longer. What now avails all my toil and labor in amassing honey-dew on this leaf which I
cannot live to enjoy? What the political struggles 1 have been engaged in for the good of my compatriot inhabitants of this bush, or my philosophical studies for the benefit of our race in general ? for in politics what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemeræ will in a course of minutes become corrupt, like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched.
And in philosophy how small our progress! Alas! art is long and life is short. My friends would comfort me with the idea of a name, they say,
I shall leave behind me, and they tell me I have lived long enough to nature and to glory. But what will fame be to an ephemera who no longer exists? And what will become of all history in the eighteenth hour, when the world itself, even the whole Moulin Joly, shall come to its end and be buried in universal ruin ?”
To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain but the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemeræ, and now and then a kind smile and a tune from the ever-amiable brillante.
TO MISS GEORGIANA SHIPLEY,
ON THE LOSS OF HER AMERICAN SQUIRREL, WHO, ESCAPING
FROM HIS CAGE, WAS KILLED BY A SHEPHERD's Dog.
LONDON, 26th September, 1772. DEAR Miss : I lament with you most sincerely the unfortunate end of poor Mungo. Few squirrels were better accomplished, for he had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world. As he had the honor of being, for his virtues, your favorite, he should not go, like common skuggs, without an elegy or an epitaph. Let us give him one in the monumental style and measure, which, being neither prose nor verse, is perhaps the properest for grief; since to use common language would look as if we were not affected, and to make rhymes would seem trifling in
Alas! poor Mungo!
Thy own felicity.
Tyrant of thy native woods,
Nor from the murdering gun
Safe in thy wired castle,
Daily wert thou fed with the choicest viands,
Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel Ranger!
Yielding piece and plenty
You see, my dear miss, how much more decent and proper this broken style is than if we were to say by way of epitaph
And yet, perhaps, there are people in the world of so little feeling as to think that this would be a good enough epitaph for poor Mungo.
If you wish it, I shall procure another to succeed him ; but perhaps you will now choose some other amusement.
Remember me affectionately to all the good family, and believe me ever your affectionate friend,
TO MISS JANE FRANKLIN.
PHILADELPHIA, 6th January, 1726–27. DEAR SISTER: I am highly pleased with the account Captain Freeman gives me of you. I always judged by your behavior when a child that you would make a good, agreeable woman, and you know you were ever my peculiar favorite. I have been thinking what would be a suitable present for me to make and for you to receive, as I hear you are grown a celebrated beauty. I had almost determined on a tea-table; but when I considered that the character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of being only a pretty gentlewoman, I concluded to send you a spinning-wheel, which I hope you will accept as a small token of my sincere love and affection.
Sister, farewell, and remember that modesty, as it makes the most homely virgin amiable and charming, so the want of it infallibly renders the most perfect beauty disagreeable and odious. But when that brightest of female virtue shines among other perfections of body and mind in the same person it makes the woman more lovely than an