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Merc. Delightful amusements, indeed!
accomplishments, I must confess!
Sportsm. Yes, yes; but nothing like the chase—
What can equal the joys of the field?
[Sings, and is going.
Merc. But have you never any fear that Death may overtake you in the chase?
Sportsm. Not I, indeed. He is a lover of cities and populous towns, and seldom shows his head among us jovial fellows.
Merc. He is often prowling, nevertheless, about the forest here: and, in a little time, if I mistake not, will pay you a visit uncalled.
Sportsm. Well, let him come. He will meet with his match in me. I will wrestle with him for what he dares.
Merc. It is the privilege of youth to boast. But you will assuredly get a fall.
Sportsm. Not I, indeed. I am another Hercules, I tell you, for strength; can pitch the bar, and throw the best fellow living within twenty miles.
Merc. Alas! alas! the strength of Hercules and Atlas combined, would be as a reed against the force and power of Death: he was never yet overthrown.
Sportsm. I am of a very different opinion. He attacked me several years ago, like a coward as he is, in disguise, and I beat him.
Merc. In disguise! True, he can assume as many shapes as Proteus. But how did he appear to you then? Sportsm. In the shape of a consumption. Did the wily monster think to worm me out of my life? But I gave him the slip, you see. Look at me now, and observe the effect of the physic of the fields.
Merc. You are certainly very robust; but, when a fever rages in your veins
Sportsm. Ah! mercy on me, what a pang! Help me, iny friends, or I die.
Merc. O, ho! young Sir. So you begin to feel the sting of him you deride? Where are all your boastings and vapourings now?
Sportsm. Oh! these pangs! I now feel that I have been to blame but spare me, spare me a little longer, and I will henceforth reverence the immortal gods, whom I have so greatly offended, and whose will I have attempted to dispute.
Merc. Those offended powers comply with your request. Away! and, in proportion as your life is valuable to you, strive to mend it: but remember, and challenge not Death again; lest he should enter the lists armed with that dart, against which no mail is proof.
Fur. RAPAX! Do I see aright? The youthful Rapax, whom I so lately left in the upper world, and in a state of Asiatic splendour.-Rapax, on whom both rich and poor have gazed in wonder and mute astonishment at his inordinate wealth, which was acquired by his indefatigable sire?
Rap. Wherefore your surprise at seeing me here? Do you suppose, my honest fellow, that wealth, or even youth, can be a defence against the arrow of Death?
Fur. Such were not my thoughts. I was merely reflecting on your "few brief years," and, consequently, evinced a little surprise at the unexpected stroke which has sent you to the shades. But, by the epithet honest,
which you now bestow upon me, you have surely forgotten Furax-the wretched, the unfortunate man who, in a moment of desperation and want, deprived you on the highway of a paltry'sum! and whom, in the severity of your justice, you brought to the fatal tree-a sum, by the way, which, in your convivial hours, you would have bestowed on a buffoon or a parasite, however base, and unworthy of your aid.
Rap. I had, indeed, entirely forgotten you; so distant were we placed from each other by the hand of fortune when on earth.
Fur. Now, however, we are equals. I have been tried by Minos, that most equitable judge; and my virtues have been found so far to out-balance my vices, that I am admitted to the joys of the Elysian fields.
Rap. Well, then, here let all animosities subside: and as we are now equals, so let us be friends.
Fur. Resentment would certainly avail me nothing here; yet, when I reflect on your barbarity—
Rap. But why address me thus, and in a tone of indignation and reproach? He who transgresses against the laws of his country, is unquestionably amenable to them. You proceeded with a sense of the attendant danger in your affair with me: you knew the consequence which must inevitably follow, in case you were brought to trial and convicted of the offence.
Fur. I knew it, certainly, too well: but can reason be found in madness? I acknowledge, indeed, that it will sometimes appear in the arguments of the maniac; but never, I believe, is it to be seen in his actions. I was frantic and furious, from repeated wrongs. Laws, divine as well as human, were, I fear, at that time, wholly disregarded by me.
Rap. You attempt to argue from false and mistaken principles; you would awaken pity for individual sufferings, without attending to the general safety, or adverting to the public good.
Fur. Can the general safety be ensured by the
sacrifice of a few miserable objects to the vengeance of the laws? Can the public good be promoted by a lavish expenditure in securing punishment for the guilty, when half the money so employed would, perhaps, suffice for holding out encouragement to the distressed ?*
Rap. You are of opinion, then, that the penal laws of certain countries should, in part, be abolished: that they are sanguinary and disgraceful to a state. In imitation of the Porcian law, you would, perhaps, inflict on none but murderers the punishment of death. But will not this, by many, be called weakness; and will not weakness (or, as you would term it, mildness,) in a government necessarily lead to the perpetration of crimes?
Fur. Not when the beauty of virtue is displayed as it ought to be not when moral goodness is inculcated and generally known. The mischiefs which are so commonly experienced, and the offences which are so frequently committed, proceed, in most instances, I am persuaded, from ignorance; which is the parent and the nurse of vice. The Porcian edict, of which you have just spoken, and which ordained that no Roman citizen should be put to death, was not, you may remember, productive of any ill consequences to the state. Thus much for lenity in a government, and its effects on the minds of men. But what I would principally insist on is this,—let a good and a virtuous education be given to the people, and there will scarcely be occasion for penal laws: continue to behave towards them as the statutes of former times have directed-times comparatively barbarian with the present—and you punish them for actions, the turpitude of which they hardly know. Cruel and inhuman are the givers of such laws; and I boldly maintain, that they who thus proceed towards their indigent and mistaken fellows, are the greater criminals in the sight of This subject has been touched on in a former dialogue; but, as it cannot be too frequently urged, I shall not apologize for introducing it
Heaven, and more particularly deserving of earthly reproach.
Rap. If the plan could be adopted, and a public education were ultimately to put a stop to the commission of crimes, it would, no doubt, in a moral point of view, be deserving of particular praise: politically considered, however, I fear the objections to it would be many and great.
Fur. If I understand you aright, you argue that the people, by learning to distinguish between right and wrong, and by the exercise of that most discriminative faculty, reason, would soon know themselves to be men, and with such intellectual advantages might become a little troublesome to the ruling powers.
Rap. Perhaps so: and, by this means, stir up sedition and revolt. As a philosopher, you may be right in what you propose, but you cannot possibly be so as a politician. The lesser evil, indeed, and which you so feelingly deplore, might perhaps be remedied: but the greater one, and which I so seriously dread, would be seen in all its terrors. In fine, you would scatter firebrands among the nations; and, when the injury is manifest, you would perhaps attempt to exculpate yourself, by saying, with the madman, you were in sport.
Fur. Away with all such narrow, such contemptible, prejudices! Perish the sentiment which would debase mankind, which would bring them to a level with the beasts of the field. Shall the people be blinded, that they may the better keep clear of pitfalls? shall a want of knowledge the better secure to them their happiness and peace? A negative kind of happiness at best!
Can it be sin to know,
And must they only stand by ignorance?-PAR. Lost.
But be it remembered, that men in power, of whatever country, would do well to provoke inquiry into their measures, instead of endeavouring to avoid it. If their politics be sound and good, they will, like the doctrines. of Christianity, be received and cherished by almost all.