« PreviousContinue »
gives to its reader a continually increasing interest in it; so that no author of imaginary tales has impressed so many persons with the belief that they have been reailing a true, rather than a fictitious narrative. Of that most popular, delightful, and extraordinary of all his works, “ Robinson Crusoe,” which had lost none of its original attractions even at the distance of half a century, D: Johnson observed, “Nobody ever laid it down without wishing it were Inger."
ROBINSON CRUSOE DISCOVERS THE FOOT-PRINT. It happened one day about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen in the sand : I stood like one thunder-struck, or as if I had seen an apparition : I listened. I looked round me, I could hear nothing, nor see any thing; I went up to a rising ground to look farther: I went up the shore. and down the shore, but it was all one, I could see no other impression but that one: I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my fancy; but there was no room for that, for there was exactly the very print of a foot toes, heel, and every part of a foot. How it came thither I knew not, nor could in the least imagine. But after innumerable fluttering thoughts, like a man perfectly confused, and out of myself, I came home to my fortification, not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man; nor is it possible. to describe how many various shapes an affrighted imagination represented things to me in ; how many wild ideas were formed every moment in my fancy, and what strange, unaccountable whimsies came into my thoughts by the way.
When I came to my castle, for so I think I called it ever a ter This, I fled into it like one pursued; whether I went over by the Indder, at first contrived, or went in at the hole in the rock, which I called a door, I cannot remember; for never frighted hare fled to cover, or fox to earth, with more terror of mind than I to this retreat.
How strange a chequer-work of Providence is the life of man! And by what secret differing springs are the affections hurriel about, as differing circumstances present! To-day we love what 10-morrow we hate : to-day we seek what tomorrow we shun; 10-day we desire what to-morrow we fear; nay, even tremble at the apprehensions of. This was exemplified in me at this tune in the inost lively manner imaginable ; for I, whose only affliction was, that I seemed banished from human society, that I was alone, circumscribed by the boundless ocean, cut off from mankind, and condemned to what I call a silent life; that I was as one whom Heaven thought not worthy to be numbered among the living, y
lo appear among the rest of his creatures ; that to have seeli one of my own species would have seemed to me a raising nc from death to life, and the greatest blessing that Heaven itself, wext to the supreme blessing of salvation, could bestow ; I say, that I should now tremble at the very appreheusions of seeing a man, and was ready to sink into the ground, at but the shadow, oj silent ppearance of a man's having set his foot on the island !
Such is the uneven state of human life; and it afforded me a great many curious speculations afterwards, when I had a little recovered my first surprise. I considered that this was the station of life the infinitely wise and good providence of God had determined for me; that as I could not foresee what the ends of divino wisdom might be in all this, so I was not to dispute his sovereignty, who, as I was his creature, had an undoubted riş:ht by creation to govern and dispose of me absolutely as he thougnt fit; and who, as I was a creature who had offended him, had line wise a judicial right to condemn me to what punishment he thought fit; and that it was my part to submit to bear his indignation, because I had sinned against him.
I then reflected, that God, who was not only righteous, but omnipotent, as he had thought fit thus to punish and afflict me, so he was able to deliver me; that if he did not think fit to do it, it was my unquestioned duty to resign myself absolutely and entirely to his will: and, on the other hand, it was my duty also to hope in him, pray to him, and quietly to attend the dictates and direcsions of his daily providence.
These thoughts took me up many hours, days, nay, I may say, weeks and months; and one particular effect of my cogitations on :his occasion I cannot omit; viz., one morning early, lying in my bed, and filled with thoughts about my danger from the appear. ance of savages, I found it discomposed me very much; upon which those words of the Scripture came into my thoughts, Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
Upon this, rising cheerfully out of my bed, my heart was not only comforted, but I was guided and encouraged to pray earnestly to God for deliverance. When I had done praying, I took up my Bible, and, opening it to read, the first words that presented to me, were, Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord. It is impossible to express the comfort this gave me ; and in return, I thankfully laid down the book, and was no more sad, at least, not on that occasion.
In the middle of these cogitations, apprehensions, and reflec tions, it came into my thoughts one day, that all this might be a more chimera of my own, and that this foot rnight be the print of
my own foot, when I came on shore from my boat: this cheered me up a little too, and I began to persuade myself it was all a delusion; that it was nothing else but my own foot; and why might not I come that way froin the boat, as well as I was going that way to the boat? Again, I considered also, that I could by no means tell for certain where I had trod, and where I had not ; and that if at last this was only the print of my own foot, I had played the part of those fools, who strive to make stories of sper. Trus and apparitions, and then are themselves frighted at them more than anybody else.
Now I began to take courage, and to peep abroad again ; for I had not stirred out of my castle for three days and nights, so that I began to starve for provision; for I had little or nothing within doors, but some barley-cakes and water. Then I knew that my goats wanted to be milked too, which usually was my evening diversion; and the poor creatures were in great pain and inconvenience for want of it; and indeed it almost spoiled some of them, and almost dried up their milk.
Heartening myself, therefore, with the belief, that this was nothing but the print of one of my own feet, (and so I might be truly said to start at my own shadow,) I began to go abroad again, and went to my country-house to milk my flock; but to see with what fear I went forward, how often I looked behind me, how I was ready, every now and then, to lay down my basket, and run for my life; it would have made any one have thought I was haunted with an evil conscience, or that I had been lately most terribly frighted ; and so indeed I had.
However, as I went down thus two or three days, and having seen nothing, I began to be a little bolder, and to think there was really nothing in it but my own imagination. But I could not per: suade myself fully of this, till I should go down to the shore again, and see this print of a foot, and measure it by my own, and see if there was any similitude or fitness, that I might be assured it was my own foot. But when I came to the place first, it appeared evidently to me, that when I laid up my boat, I could not possibly be on shore anywhere thereabouts. Secondly, when I came to measure the mark with my own foot, I found my foot not so large by a great deal. Both these things filled my head with new iniaginations, and gave me the vapors again to the highest degree; 80 that I shook with cold, like one in an ague; and I went home again, filled with the belief, that some man or men had been on shore there; or, in short, that the island was inhabited, and I might be surprised before I was aware ; and what course to take for my security, I knew not. O what ridiculous resolutions men take, when possessed with fear! It deprives them of the use of those means which reason offers for their relief.
JOHN GAY. 1688–1732. John Gay, descended from a respectable family in Devonshire, was borr in 1688, the year of the “glorious Revolution.” When young he was pu. apprentice to a silk-mercer in London; but having imbibed a taste for poctry and classical literature, his indentures were cheerfully cancelled by his m is ter, and a poem, entitled “ Rural Sports," which he soon published and delicated to l'ope, obtained the sincere and lasting friendship of that poel. By him Gay was introduced to that brilliant circle of wits, of which Pope was the centre, and of it he ever continued the favorite. In 1712 he was appointed tecretary to the Duchess of Monmouth, which situation left him at full liberty to indulge his taste for elegant literature. Soon after, he published his “ Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London," "a fine specimen," says Dr. Drake, “of that species of burlesque, in which elevated language is em ployed in the detail of trifling, mean, or ludicrous circumstances." He :hen entered the walks of dramatic literature, but without any success, until, in 1727, he published his “ Beggar's Opera," designed to ridicule the Italian opera, and to satirize the court. He offered it to Rich, the manager of Drury. Lane Theatre, and such was its great popularity, that it was humorously remarked that this opera had made Gay rich, and Rich gay.
But the most finished productions of our poet, and those to which he will ow: his reputation with posterity, are his “ Fables, the finest in the language. They are written with great spirit and vivacity; the versification is generally smooth and flowing; the descriptions happy and appropriate, and the moral designed to be conveyed is, for the most part, impressive and instructive. Besides these, he was the author of the “Fan," a mythological fiction; of * Dione," a pastoral drama; of “ Achilles," an opera, and many songs and ballads. The publication of these various works placed him in easy circum. stances as to fortune; but no sooner was he released from pecuniary anxiety, than his health began to decline; and he was at length seized with an in flaminatory disease, which carried him off in three days, and he expired on 'he 4th of December, 1732, in the forty-fourth year of his age. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a handsome monument was erected to his me. mory, for which Pope wrote an inscription.
Few men were more beloved by those who intimately knew him than Gay His moral character was excellent, his temper peculiarly sweet and engaging, but he possessed a simplicity of manner and character which, thongh it enleared him to his friends, rendered him very unfit for the general business of life The two first lines of the epitaph of Pope most truthfully characte! ize hiin :
“or manners gentle, of affections mild;
THE BULL AND THE MASTIFF.
As on a time, in peaceful reign,
A Mastiff pass d ; inflamed with ire,
Spurning the ground, the monarch stond,
The surly Mastiff thus returns :
“Cursed Dog," the Bull replied, “no more
THE HARE AND MANY FRIENDS.
A Hare, who, in a civil way,
As forth she went at early dawn, To taste the dew-besprinkled lawn, Behind she hears the hunter's cries, And from the deep-mouth'd thunder flies, She starts, she stops, she pants for breath She hears the near advance of death; She doubles, to mislead the hound, And measures back her mazy round; Till, fainting in the public way, Half-dead with fear, she gasping lay.