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habituates his imagination to other entertainments, till, by slow degrees, he quits his first pursuit, and suffers some other project to take possession of his thoughts, in which the same ardour of mind promises him again certain success, and which disappointments of the same kind compel him to abandon.
Thus too much vigour in the beginning of an undertaking, often intercepts and prevents the steadiness and perseverance always necessary in the conduct of a complicated scheme, where many interests are to be connected, many movements to be adjusted, and the joint effort of distinct and independent powers to be directed to a single point. In all important events which have been suddenly brought to pass, chance has been the agent rather than reason; and therefore, however those who seemed to preside in the transaction, may have been celebrated by such as loved or feared them, succeeding times have commonly considered them as fortunate rather than prudent. Every design in which the connection is regularly traced from the first motion to the last, must be formed and executed by calm intrepidity, and requires not only courage which danger cannot turn aside, but constancy which fatigues cannot weary, and contrivance which impediments cannot exhaust.
All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance: it is by this that
quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals.
If a man was to compare the effect of a single stroke of a pickax, or of one impression of the spade, with the
general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion ; yet those petty operations, incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled, and oceans bounded, by the slen. der force of human beings.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that those who have any intention of deviating from the beaten roads of life, and acquiring a reputation superior to names hourly swept away by time among the refuse of fame, should add to their reason, and their spirit, the power of persisting in their purposes ; acquire the art of sapping what they cannot batter, and the habit of vanquishing obstinate resistance by obstinate attacks.
The student who would build his knowledge on solid foundations, and proceed by just degrees to the pinnacles of truth, is directed by the great philosopher of France to begin by doubting of his own existence. In like manner, whoever would complete any arduous and intricate enterprise should, as soon as his imagination can cool after the first blaze of hope, place before his own eyes every possible embarrasment that may retard or defeat him. He should first question the probability of success, and then endeavour to remove the objections that he has raised.
It is proper, says old Markham, to exercise your horse on the more inconvenient side of the course, that if he should be forced
may not be discouraged; and Horace advises his poetical friend to consider every day as the last which he shall enjoy, because that will always give pleasure which we receive beyond our hopes.
If we alarm oure
in the race,
upon it, he
selves beforehand with more difficulties than we really find, we shall be animated by unexpected facility with double spirit ; and if we find our cautions and fears justified by the consequence, there will however happen nothing against which provision has not been made, no sudden shock will be received, nor will the main scheme be disconcerted.
There is indeed some danger lest he that too scrupulously balances probabilities, and too perspicaciously foresees obstacles, should remain always in a state of inaction, without venturing upon attempts on which he may perhaps spend his labour without advantage. But previous despondence is not the fault of those for whom this essay is designed; they who require to be warned against precipitation, will not suffer more fear to intrude into their contemplations than is necessary to allay the effervescence of an agitated fancy. As Des Cartes has kindly shewn how a man may prove to himself his own existence, if once he can be prevailed upon to question it, so the ardent and adventurous will not be long without finding some plausible extenuation of the greatest difficulties. Such indeed, is the uncertainity of all human affairs, that security and despair are equal follies ; and as it is presumption and arrogance to anticipate triumphs, it is weakness and cowardice to prognosticate miscarriages. The numbers that have been stopped in their career of happiness are sufficient to shew the uncertainty of human foresight; but there are not wanting contrary instances of such success obtained against all appearances, as may warrant the beldest Aights of genius, if they are supported by unshaken perseverance.
N°44. SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 1750.
“Οναρ ε'χ Δίος ε'ει.
Dreams descend from Jove.
TO THE RAMBLER.
SIR, I had lately a very remarkable dream, which made so strong an impression on me, that I remember it every word; and if
you are not bet: ter employed, you may read the relation of it, as follows :
Methought I was in the midst of a very entertaining set of company, and extremely delighted in attending to a lively conversation, when on a sudden I perceived one of the most shocking figures imagination can frame, advancing towards me. She was drest in black, her skin was contracted into a thousand wrinkles, her eyes deep sunk in her head, and her complexion pale and livid as the countenance of death. Her looks were filled with terror and unrelenting severity, and her hands armed with whips and scorpions. As soon as she came near, with a horrid frown, and a voice that chilled my very blood, she bid me follow her. I obeyed, and she led me through rugged paths, beset with briars and thorns, into a deep soli
tary valley. Wherever she passed, the fading verdure withered beneath her steps ; her pestilential breath infected the air with malignant vapours, obscured the lustre of the sun, and involved the fair face of heaven in universal gloom. Dismal howlings resounded through the forest, from every baleful tree the night-raven uttered his dreadful note, and the prospect was filled with desolation and horror. In the midst of this tremendous scene my execrable guide addressed me in the following manner :
“ Řetire with me, O rash unthinking mortal, “ from the vain allurments of a deceitful world, “ and learn that pleasure was not designed the “ portion of human life. Man was born to mourn 6 and to be wretched ; this is the condition of “ all below the stars, and whoever endeavours to
oppose it, acts in contradiction to the will of “ Heaven. Fly then from the fatal enchantments “ of youth and social delight, and here consecrate “ the solitary hours to lamentation and woe. Mi.
sery is the duty of all sublunary beings, and
every enjoyment is an offence to the deity, who “ is to be worshipped only by the mortification of
every sense of pleasure, and the everlasting exer“ cise of sighs and tears.”
This melancholy picture of life quite sunk my spirits, and seemed to annihilate every principle of joy within me. I threw myself beneath a blasted yeugh, where the winds blew cold and dismalround my head, and dreadful apprehensions chilled my heart. Here I resolved to lie till the hand of death, which I impatiently invoked, should put an end to the miseries of a life so deplorably wretched.