Sidor som bilder


Written by himself.-Translated from the Latin.

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I WRITE this in defence of my own character, which has been maliciously traduced by ignorant idle monks and wily lawyers. I have been despised by the nobility on account of the obscurity of my birth, and envied by my own class, because I am a lover of science. I know that language has been often and aptly compared to dress ; but it is not to be expected, that I should appear to any advantage in point of style : I never selected one epithet in my life; and if I attempted it; perhaps I should pluck a weed instead of a flower. My object is truth :-and

a nothing but the truth shall flow from my pen. I was born in Bistrikia in Hungary, on the third of March 1593. My parents were very poor, and could not afford to send me to school, if there even was a school in the neighbourhood, Learning was a plant at the time of little estimation in my native country. A Pole, that worked in the mines, used to call sometimes at our little cottage, in preference to any other in the neighbourhood, as my father could speak 'broken La


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tin with greater fluency than the rest of the peasants--so that they could converse together on several subjects. The Pole fell ill, and, as my mother was skilled in the virtues of many plants, she was lucky enough to alight on one at last, that restored him to his health. His gratitude to Heaven and our family was boundless :-he taught me to read the Psalter; and, as it was the only book that could be procured, I got it all by rote, and would not part with it for all the mines of Hungary. I was about eight years of age, when the sudden death of our Polish friend put an end to the hopes that I even then cherished of being one day able to read the writings of those men who taught us "to wander through eternity.” My father was contented with his lot: and as he had never tasted the sweets of learning, looked


it as a kind of sin in the son of a poor peasant to aspire to any thing beyond the humble line in which he was bred ; and in order to cure me of that folly, as he called it, I was hired out to a nobleman in the vicinity to herd swine. The steward was almost as great a man as his Jord, and as ignorant as his lord, and as proud of his ignorance too. He could scarce speak his native language; yet every word was uttered with such pomp, that my poor father looked at me with a face of wonder mixed

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with awe, as much as to say, “ Listen to the words of a great man, for they come with weight and authority.” The head swineherd was called,

” and presented me with a horn as the insignia of my office; I was highly pleased with it, as it was curiously carved, and hung with some shells which I had not seen before. I did not forget to bring my Psalter, my dear companion, with me, but I took care that the steward should not see it; and I entreated my father, of all things, that he would not let him know that I could read a little.

The head swineherd seemed very well pleased with my answers; and promised and assured me, that if I fulfilled them, he would take care that I should be promoted in the course of time. This was some comfort; especially as it came from a man who seemed to pity my youth, and the difficulties I had to encounter, in the task that fortune had assigned to me.

I shall not repeat these difficulties--they were numerous : if one of the grunting race happened to be lean, it was my fault; if one happened to stray, it was my fault; and if I attempted to speak, I was sure of a beating. The steward surveyed and numbered all the herds once a quarter ; hence he was known

amongst the herdsmen by the name of the Inspecting General. The parade he assumed on these occasions cannot be described ; if the least D4




remark on his part called forth a single word, all his bristles were on end in an instant; and as soon as words could find vent, an explosion of oaths that would shock the ears of the most hardened sinner. I thought myself well off if I escapedatone of these reviews with a dozen blows,

а and as many threats, accompanied by looks sufficient to petrify the beholder. I was treated so cruelly by this monster and all his underlings, that I preferred the company of swine to my own species, and began to think what I now find in a great measure to be true, that man is the worst animal in the creation. One day, as I was sitting under


favourite tree, reading my Psalter, the steward stole on me unawares. The first thing he did was to snatch the book out of my hand, which he trampled under his feet. I was so alarmed, that I could scarce persuade myself I was awake; as soon as my senses began to return, I felt my veins swell with rage at the treatment which my book received; and I am sure, if my strength had been equal to my fury, that I would have torn the rascal limb from limb. As I plainly saw that the tide of his wrath would be immediately turned on myself, I sought for safety in fight : a wood at a little distance spread its friendly arms, and seemed to invite me to fly for shelter to its boughs. He pursued me, but fear winged my steps, and no wonder ;


the prize was life ; for if I had fallen into his hands, it would have been like a sparrow in the talons of an eagle. He followed me into the wood with such force and celerity, that he ran between two trees : he thought to disengage himself by main force, but in vain. When I saw that he was entangled, and that all his efforts to free himself were ineffectual, I walked up to him, seized his own hunting-pole, and beat him with it as long as I was able to wield it. I then walked off, and left him to the mercy of the hungry wolves, and his own reflections, if he had any. As my passion had subsided, I threw myself on my knees, and poured forth praise and thanksgivings to the Father of mercies, who had delivered me out of the hands of such a ferocious monster. My heart began to emerge : every thing about me seemed to smile: the flowers put on fresh garments, and the leaves of the trees fluttered in the gale. I often reflect with pleasure on the thoughts that came into my mind as I sat under a large oak, the patriarch of the wood. “ Well, I have now fled from the face of man, the tyrant of the creation; I am become a solitary tenant of the forest. How can I call this solitude ? The birds sing; I hear the voice of nature in the gentlest breeze ; and, as for books, I want none. Nature spreads her pages before me; the texture of that flower, the va


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