« EelmineJätka »
CHAPTER THE SECOND.
THE INFLUENCE OF SOLITUDE
UPON THE MIND.
THE true value of liberty can only be conceived
by minds that are free: Slaves remain indolently contented in captivity. Men who have been long toffed upon the troubled ocean of life, and have learned by fevere 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 honeft 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 impelled to it by melancholy and discontent, but by a real diftafte to the idle pleasures of the world, a rational contempt for the deceitful joys of life, and just apprehenfions of being corrupted and seduced by its infinuating and destructive 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 refifted, 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 fenfe cannot degenerate even in the most dreary feclufion.
SOLITUDE, indeed, fometimes renders the mind in a flight 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 conclufion of his fourth letter, warns Dion to guard against that aufterity or haughtiness which is the companion of Solitude,” « δε αυθάδεια ερχμια ξυνοικο
youth, is fucceeded by firmness, and a high difdain of thofe falfe notions by which it was difmayed: the observations once fo dreaded lofe all their ftings; the mind views objects not as they are, but as they ought to be; and, feeling a contempt for vice, rifes into a noble enthufiafm for virtue, gaining from the conflict a rational experience and a compaffionate feeling which never decay.
THE science of the heart, indeed, with which youth should be familiarized as early as poffible, is too frequently neglected. It removes the afperities 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 reafon 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 fervility of courts, accustomed to a life of foftness
* Dion, the fon of Hipparinus, was related to, and employed in the fervice of, Dionyfius the Elder, the tyrant of Syracufe. He perfuaded Dionyfius to invite Plato, the celebrated Grecian philofopher, to his court. Dion, liftening to his divine
and effeminacy, and, what is still worse, tainted by oftentation, luxury, and every species of vicious pleasure; but no fooner did he liften to the divine Plato, and acquired thereby a taste for that fublime philosophy which inculcates the practice of VIRTUE, than his whole foul became deeply enamoured of its charms. The fame love of virtue with which Plato infpired the mind of Dion, may be filently, and almost imperceptibly, infused by every tender mother into the mind of her child. Philofophy, from the lips of a wife and fenfible woman, glides quietly, but with ftrong effect, into the mind through the feelings of the heart. Who is not fond of walking even through the most
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 refolved to release his country from flavery. In this enterprize he confirmed the observation of his philofophic inftructor, "that power and fortune muft concur with prudence and "justice to effect any thing great in a political capacity." He entered the port of Syracufe only with two ships; and in three days reduced under his power an empire which had subfifted for fifty years, and which was guarded by 500 ships of war, and above 100,000 troops. The tyrant (then Dionyfius the Younger) fled 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," fays Plato, in his feventh letter," the principles "of philofophy and humanity to Dior, I little thought I was "infenfibly opening the way to the fubverfion of tyranny, and "the liberties of mankind."