« FöregåendeFortsätt »
As I was walking towards the close of day, in a somewhat meditative mood, accident led me into the grave-yard. It was evening, and the rich tints in the western sky, showed the lingering influence of the parting sun; while the balmy breathing of the air around me, the perfect silence and repose of nature, the solemnity of the place, combined to inspire thoughts of a more sombre hue than those which usually possess my breast.
As I moved along, I passed the tomb of one who had been the friend of my early days. His was a character compounded of strange materials—though he had a generous heart and warm feelings, and possessed talents which fitted him for any sphere, yet the meteor-light of fancy, and the deceptious glare of imagination too often led astray his judgment, and blinded his principles. His conceptions were never half realized, his plans were never half matured, his hopes were never half fulfilled, for fancy had taken the reins from reason, and the imagination had usurped the empire of the understanding. Still, although he disappointed his friends, and gladdened the hearts of his enemies by his eccentric course, he ever possessed enough of virtue to secure the lasting affection of all who knew him —and while friends lamented his inconstancy of feeling, and sighed over the failure of his attempts, even enemies could not deny that he possessed genius and talents, which, if properly directed, would enable him to shine as an ornament of his profession and of his country. He sent me once a short history of his life which I will transcribe here, for it may improve those who have feelings and an imagination like his. I will only premise, (for the sake of clearness,) that in it he speaks of himself in the third person, and under the name of Alonzo. He begins thus, “You ask with much solicitude after Alonzo. I do not wonder at it, but if you have vanity, let me tell you, that you are not alone in your admiration of him. The greatest have received from him lessons of wisdom and the best have listened to his lessons of morality, yet is he neither wise nor moral. In truth, he is a compound of inconsistencies, (though not an amalgamation of them,) at one moment you see an exhibition of giant strength, at the next of infant weakness; at sometimes you hear the wisdom of a sage, and close on its heels treads the folly of an idiot; one sentence will give you the wit of Lucian, and the next shall be enveloped in more than Boeotian dullness. “But enough of generals, let us come to particulars. I see you are interested in the man and his character may afford you instruction. I have known him from the cradle; and can give you his history almost from the dawn of his existence. “He was the youngest of five children. The mother who bore him brought him forth in pain and sickness and sorrow—the early hopes of her youth had been blasted,—where she had garnered up her heart thieves broke in and stole—the sun that rose bright was overclouded—she lay down in sorrow and arose in sorrow—her evening and her morning draught were from the cup of affliction; and whenever it was presented, she drained it to the very dregs, with the heart and smile of an angel. When this child came, she doated on it as the harbinger of better times, as the dove that was bringing an olive branch to show that the waters of affliction were subsiding. “Is it surprising, my friend, that this child was the idol of the family And when I add that from the moment his lips first moved with an intelligible sound, he was distinguished not only for precocity of feeling and intellect, but for what hangs longer behind, nice, accurate and acute discrimination, you will not wonder that he was worshipped. It could not be expected that maternal, brotherly or sisterly affection, should slumber over such an infant, born at such a
time; with his breath, they sighed—with his sighs, they wept— brothers and sisters were proud of him, and—better than all—a mother was not ashamed of him. All thought him a prodigy and each strove to make him so. “They were not mistaken in his intellect. It was strong. From the time when he began his letters until he took his degree in college, he was first of his class wherever he chose to be. I have known him, in four days, astonish his preceptor by reciting what his class had labored upon for three weeks during his absence. And when he had done it, he threw by his books, and went to sleep as if he had nothing else to do in the world, but to dream away the residue of a life, worth little to himself and less to his friends. “At this time his master was proud of him, and ashamed of him, raised him and blamed him, complained of him and thanked him. e was urged on from class to class—sometimes to help him, oftener to disgrace him. But from whatever cause it happened, he took the lead, and no time found him lagging behind any other one. But he indulged himself in every species of amusement—with money enough from the kindest mother and the most partial friends, he sold his books that he might get more to squander upon vices that exceeded his years, and purchase pleasures that were beyond his capacity of enjoyment. “He left the academy distinguished alike for talents and folly; for vice and virtue. And various were the sage prognostications that wise ones made as to his future success in life. Some there were that soretold his downfall; that saw, (as they supposed with unerring ken,) the very rock on which heaven had predetermined that he should be shipwrecked. They were mistaken. And you may rely upon it, that if he sinks at all, he will go down with colors flying. He would rather sink with a flag at the top, than float dismasted. “But to return to his life. He left the academy with a character for talents, no character for morals—and very much of a character for disobedience and rebellion. . Yet he deserved neither, that is, he deserved neither in the degree in which it was bestowed upon him. “As to his talents his reputation was half deserved, and the other half was the creature not of partiality, but of a kind of wonderment that had nothing of friendliness in it, and consisted merely in an abstract desire to worship, and those who had no God, thought it necessary to make an idol. “In his moral character he was never vicious from natural deo of heart, but he erred, if I may so call it, from necessity. here were none with whom he could associate—none to appreciate his heart and feelings—none to pardon the frailties of his nature. His quick sensibilities were made the subjects of jesting, and the romance of his imagination became a matter for every-day ridicule. It is no wonder then, that reared as he had been, with a tenderness which exceeded even a mother's love, he should turn away with disgust from the heartlessness of the world around him. The contrast was too overpowering, and as a relief from his sorrows he fled to dissipation. “But the general tenor of his life and character was correct, and under all circumstances it is not surprising that Alonzo's vanity was made somewhat dropsical. He was puffed up beyond a faithful measurement. Still he withheld himself, and during his collegiate course he kept a steady curb upon his feelings; yet, suffering them and his imagination with them, to run as fast and as far, as sound judgment could whistle them back; sometimes, perhaps, a little farther. “When he entered College, he measured his classmates, and found none as tall when standing as he himself was when sitting. Knowing, therefore, that he could look over their heads without the exertion of rising, he seldom took the pains to get up. He determined at once what rank to take in the class—and he took it. Industry toiled after him in vain; genius started on eagle-pinion, but her flight was below him, and he looked laughing down on fluttering talent and panting labor, in the full consciousness that neither the one nor the other could approach near enough to breathe upon the the skirts of his garments. “The knowledge of his own strength and an almost unbounded confidence in it, prevented its regular exertion. He needed no experiment to convince himself of his power, and he saw that others already felt and acknowledged it. Finding how easily he could win the race, he stopped to amuse himself with the flowers that grew in the hedges, and trusted to speed to bring him in first at the winningpost. Thus while friends grieved and enemies rejoiced in the belief that he was loitering away his time by the way-side, competitors were suddenly astonished to find that he had distanced them. “This part of his character has been little understood, and less by himself than by others. . In its consequences it has nearly destroyed him. His natural indolence was indulged by such a remission of labor; time enough was given to confirm the dreamy languor of his life; his pride was gratified in feeling that he could leap the whole course at a single bound; his vanity was flattered in showing it, and he sound an additional source of amusement in the gaping wonder of those who gazed upon him, as if his performances were little less than miraculous. All these feelings conspired to make his course erratic. . He never revolved in any regular orbit; but coming occasionally into the system like a comet, he was running at one time nearly on the disk of the sun, and at the next, perhaps, he flew away to an almost returnless distance from the regions of light. “But this mode of life could not last forever. The hunger of the mind, the cravings of the heart, require more substantial food than air. And even vanity herself, will in the end become tired and sickened with the gaping of fools.
“What then was to be done? Courted and caressed by all—though understood by none; laughed with for wit he never had, because it was the fashion to believe he had it; admired for sagacity that was nothing more than a set of lucky blunders; praised for courage, that was only the courage of fools who rush in where “angels fear to tread;” looked up to for information that was in truth a mere patchwork, made by culling here and there a shred that the poorest beggar in literature would have cast away; sought after as the genius of conviviality, but found an untimely preacher of morals; the very essence of mirth, and yet the constant cause of sorrow, what should Alonzo have done *
“The wide world was before him; all the varieties of happiness stood within his reach; he had but to choose and take. Pity it is he chose so ill. Friends wept and foes sneered as he pushed off his little bark into what he thought an ocean of delight. Caution offered to stand at the helm ; wisdom would have furnished him with a chart; but no—curiosity impelled—beauty smiled—pleasure beckoned—and he launched upon the waters, reckless of tempests and fearful only of a calm. Many and many a year has he been tossing about in alternate elevation and depression; now on the sparkling summit of the wave and now sinking in its abyss. His voyage has been a voyage of discovery as well as of traffic. He has coasted the whole ocean of iniquity—not an island rises on its surface, not a promontory juts into its sides, not a bay recedes from the lash of its waters, that he has not often visited, and at each visit thrown ashore a portion of his conscience. He is now seeking to return, and as one just awakened from sleep by the cry of fire, gazes about him, half in anxiety and half in stupor, so he looks out into the darkness, with the vain hope of descrying that peaceful shore, which, in a thoughtless, not a guilty moment, he abandoned; vain hope 1 The ocean is trackless; his boat is crazy; the winds and the waves are against him; he is without chart and without compass; the only reckoning that he has kept is an enumeration of follies and crimes upon the little scrap of his conscience that is left, and he has not one friend on shore to throw a signal rocket into the sky to direct his course—poor fellow ! I fear he is lost.
“Such is the man you have admired; such is the man the public has envied; such is the man whom friends have loved and foes have feared; such is the man who substituted his fancy for his reason, and worshipped himself instead of his God. Now what is he? The owner of a broken constitution, a rusty mind, and a rotten heart. The intellect that once coruscated with flashes that showed their own quality, while they lightened up surrounding objects, is now obscured and cloudy; the imagination that peopled the kingdom of his mind with brighter creations than poets dream of, has left his cold bosom for some more congenial region; the heart that once throbbed responsively to every thing that was good, like the Eolian