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THE APPROACH TO THE INDIAN SHORE.
Th' impatient wish that never feels repose;
There is an anxiety—a restlessness in the bow som of man, which is continually presenting something new to his imagination, and urging him on to some new project. He is seeking after contentment, after comfort; and he fixes upon a point where he makes sure it is to be found, and promises himself that when he gets to this point he will have gained the summit of his wishes. There he will rest free from desire, for there all that he wants will be supplied. But, when he has reached it, he finds not what he counted on; something is still wanting; some feeling is still unsatisfied, and ere he can gain altogether what he is in quest of, he must press to another point a little further on. Yet, let him reach even this, and still he has not all. His views change, and new objects appear, and new wants are found out the farther on he goes. Just as one wish is satisfied another takes its place; as one difficulty is overcome another starts up; the object flits just as he speeds. There is, indeed, no boundary to his desires, no point at which he can gain contentment; and thus does he go on projecting and plodding; thus does one wish follow close upon another, and ever is his bosom in restless eagerness, until death, perhaps very unexpectedly, steps in, and carries him away from all his hopes and all his ambitions.
Does he not after fairy shadows run?
Follows he not some wild illusive dream ?
Grasping its image in the glittering stream!
And this spirit of anxiety is well exemplified
in an Indian voyage. Immediately the ship has started from her port, every one is wishing for a certain wind, but no sooner has this wind come and satisfied the wish, than they have something else to ask; they would like to be a certain length on—in, some particular latitude. Well, by and by they get to this latitude, but still there is just as little appearance of satisfaction as before. Some other point is immediately marked out; if they were just half way, they would be pleased. But, when the half way has been fully measured, and we expect that all anxiety is ended, still we find it as before. Indeed, the anxiety increases just as the distance diminishes; and, when the vessel has nearly run her course, and the land is supposed not to be far off, then is it seen at its greatest height, and the eagerness then evinced by almost every one is truly astonishing. Then those who never ventured from sure footing before, are seen high upon the mast, eagerly looking out for the expected object; and then there is such calculating and prophesying; and should the wind veer in
the least from the favourable point, oh! there is such grieving and lamenting. Frequently is the land seen long before it is in sight, and its fresh fragrance felt at a most unconscionable distance. And a bird which is known never to stray far from the land, or a little piece of sea-weed, because it is likely to have come from the shore, or a butterfly, which must have travelled from the same quarter, is then hailed with as much joy as if it were the Governor of the Indies himself come to receive and welcome them.
Now, I think I am right when I say, that this spirit of restlessness, although it appears to be natural, to be congenial with the feelings, when it exists in a very great degree, is rather an unlucky ingredient in the disposition. By giving ourselves so much thought, and looking with so much anxiety upon things that are before, we notice less, and lose much of the enjoyment we might draw from, those that are really present. It seems as if this continual stepping of the mind from one object to another, by keeping it always on the stretch, gives it no time to dwell upon, or
really to find out, any single circumstance of gratification; and thus, in its eagerness to reach the very summit of happiness, hardly to taste of happiness at all.
It is certainly necessary to possess the spirit in some degree. As we are so liable, in every situation, to have our hopes so often disappointed, if there were not something to stimulate and urge us on-if we could not fix them again upon some object before, we would sink into a miserable state of indolence and despondency. It is well for us, no doubt, that when the mind loses one hold it can readily seize upon another; that upon the ruins of one prospect it can instantly build up perhaps a better; for thus it is kept strong and encouraged to go on in the pursuit of happiness. It is our hopes and fears that give us life, that keep a heartless apathy away from
But when the anxiety increases along with the success; when, after a wish has been satisfied, a thing obtained, it is no more valued, but something else is looked for with still