Page images
PDF
EPUB

NUMBER 9.

There be, perhaps, who barren hearts avow,
Cold as the rocks on Torneo's hoary brow;
There be, whose loveless wisdom never fail'd,
In self-adoring pride securely maild:-
But triumph not, ye peace-enamoured few :
Fire, Nature, Genius, never dwelt with you !
For you no fancy consecrates the scene,
Where Rapture utter'd vows, and wept between !

And say without our hopes, without our fears,
Without the home that plighted love endears,
Without the smile from partial Beauty won,
0! what were man? World without a Sun !

CAMPBELL'S PLEASURES or Hope.

THE VISION OF BACHELORS. It is generally my custom, after the business of the day is concluded, to spend an hour or two in the perusal of some work, which, by forcibly engaging my attention, and affording matter for contemplation, may operate as an anodyne, in allaying the cares and agitations resulting from a close intercourse with the scenes of active life. Last evening, I happened to take up a volume of Plutarch, and opened upon that part wherein the regulations instituted at Sparta by the celebrated Lycurgus, are detailed. I was particu

larly struck with the laws respecting celibacy, by which bachelors, after passing a certain age, were rendered liable to a prosecution for remaining unmarried ; and, at the command of the magistrate, were compelled, in the depth of winter, to go naked round the streets of Sparta, singing a song in which themselves were held up to ridicule. Other measures of a similar nature were also adopted, calculated to render the nuptial state honourable, and throw the utmost odium upon those who appeared to condemn it, unless strong reasons could be alleged in justification of their conduct.

Revolving in my mind the regulations of Lycurgus, I was insensibly led to reflect upon the contrast which they formed with the opinions and practice of my countrymen; and to this circumstance it is undoubtedly owing, that after retiring to rest, I had a most singular dream, connected in some degree with the subject which had occupied my waking meditations.

Methought I was placed in a large amphitheatre, amidst a numerous concourse of spectators. On a seat elevated above the rest, sat a venerable old man, whose grey hairs, piercing looks, and dignified deportment, drew every eye upon him. In one part of the amphitheatre stood a crowd of persons, some of whom were of the number of my

friends, and all of them past the meridian of life. An investigation of their conduct appeared about to commence; and as I was convinced that several of those with whom I was acquainted were of an irreproachable moral character, I felt a degree of surprise at their situation that nearly overpowered me. On applying for information to a person who seemed from his actions to be an officer of the court, he told me in a few words, that the venerable personage above described, was the famous Lycurgus; and that the crowd, in whose fate I had expressed so lively a concern, were of that description styled old bachelors, whom he was about to try for an offence so opposite to the spirit of those institutions which he had formerly established at Sparta.

Whilst I was musing upon the singular nature of this tribunal, my meditations were interrupted by the annunciation of the name of one of my acquaintance, who, after the charge had been read against him pro forma, was interrogated as to what he could urge in his own defencc. He began by acknowledging the justice of the accusation, but pleaded in extenuation, that the cares and vexations of a married life were such serious drawbacks upon human happiness, that he had hitherto, on this account, abstained from forming a matrimonial connexion; that in these days of

profligacy, it was difficult to perform in a faithful manner the duties of a parent, in consequence

of the vicious habits imbibed by children in early youth, and the want of proper examples among those of riper years; that the fretful, peevish, and capricious tempers, manifested by many wives of his acquaintance, had seriously disgusted him; in short, that he considered the blessings which wedlock, under the most favourable circumstances, was calculated to bestow, as a very inadequate recompence for the loss of those pleasures attached to a single life. Such doctrines I could observe excited sentiments of indignation in the stern law-giver; and he paused a short time, as if considering what punishment sufficiently great could be inflicted upon the delinquent. At length he enquired of the persons around him, what was the situation and character of this contemner of marriage ? and was informed, that he had for many years had a woman in keeping, who was an absolute tyrant over him, and of whose imperious temper he almost daily received manual proofs. She had borne him several children, over whose education she would not suffer him to exercise any controul, but encouraged them continually, both by precept and example, to ridicule and despise him. Without waiting to hear any farther, Lycurgus

He ap

adjudged him to remain in his present situation ; assigning as a reason, that he who despised the laws of his country, the kind attentions of a wife, and the tender endearments of lawful children, could not be more properly punished than by the despotism of a strumpet, and the contempt and reproaches of an illegitimate offspring.

The next person put to the bar was a man whose squalid meagre look and tattered garb bespoke wretchedness in the extreme. peared to be upwards of sixty, although it was ascertained that he had not reached his fortieth year. Being called upon to state his reasons for continuing so long in a state of celibacy, he pleaded with great force of language and expression of countenance, his utter inability to procure those comforts and conveniences of life, which

every person with whom he had conversed acknowledged to be indispensably necessary to connubial happiness. He complimented the judge, in very encomiastic terms, for introducing such a degree of abstemiousness and economy into Sparta; and had only to complain, that he had not in this respect copied in their full extent the institutions of Minos, by which all the citizens of Crete, without distinction, were fed at the public expense. Above all he lamented that a similar regulation was not adopted in this coun

« PreviousContinue »