To some things we so dedicate ourselves, that when they leave us, they seem to take away even our soul along with them. We seldom find any who do not take a particular delight in some particular thing. David had his Absalom: Hannah’s wish was children: Hainan’s thirst was honor: Archithophel gloried in his counsel. Who would have thought that on account of these things, they should have expressed such excessive passions? Who would have believed that the neglect of his advice, would have induced Archithophel to have recourse to a halter? We begin to be miserable, when we are totally bent on some one temporal object. What one sublunary center is there, which is able to receive the circles of the spreading soul? All the things which we find here, are too narrow and insufficient for the affections of the mind. If the possession of them could afford us happiness, it would not then be such fondness to engage ourselves to them with devoted attachment: but since they cannot make us truly happy in their enjoyment, and we may be made miserable by the loss of them; it will be best not to fix our whole heart upon them. Into what ridiculous passes do they bring themselves who dote upon a rosy face? Who looks not upon Dido with a kind of smiling pity, if Virgil’s poetry does not injure her wild love to Aeneas, rather than tell the truth of her hate to Iarbas!
Uritur infelix Dido, totaque vagatur urbe furens, qualis coniecta cerva sagitta, quam procul incautam nemora inter Cresia fixit pastor agens telis, liquitque volatile ferrum nescius; illa fuga silvas saltusque peragrat Dictaeos; haeret later, letalis harundo.
Virg. _Aeneid. iv.
Scorched in fierce flames, through cities several ways,
Lost Dido wanders: like some deer that strays,
And unawares, by some rude shepherd’s dart,
In her own Crete pierced to her fearful heart,
Flies tripping through all Dictes groves and plains;
The deadly arrow sticks and pains.
Certainly they can never live in quiet, who so entirely give themselves up to particular objects. When in one object, we place all our hopes and cares, what do we do, but, like foolish merchants, venture all upon one bottom? It is not good to bring ourselves to that extreme necessity, that the failure of one aim should leave us destitute. Who that cannot swim well, would with one small thread, hazard himself on the faithless and unsounded sea? How does the wise man smile at that, which makes the lady weep, the death of her little dog? I like him who can play and win and laugh, and lose, without a care or sigh. Our love is not always constant: its objects are yet much more uncertain: and events are still more so, than they. Something I must like and love; but; nothing so violently, as to be undone by the deprivation of it: to prevent which effect, I will bend my love towards that which can neither be lost, nor can admit of excess; nor yet will I ever love a friend so little, as that he shall not command the all of an honest man.
The woman in grey had a watchful confidence not only in a multitude of men but in a multitude of things. And it is very hard for any untrained human being to practise confidence in things in motion--things full of force, and, what is worse, of forces.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.