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ON THE PRONOUN POSSESSIVE.
THERE is no pronoun, except it be the pronoun personal, that is so fond of going into company and playing the first fiddle there as the pronoun possessive. The latter is as 'omnipotent as any fairy of old, for it has a transforming power, against which we can not be too much on our guard, since it sometimes throws over every person and every thing that belongs to us, a lustre which may be mere delusion, like the mirage on the sea shore. That “I” is a hero, we have long known, from good authority, "and I the little hero of each tale,” says the poet of good sense; but then I must consider my or mine as a hero also; nay, I must own that I feel his influence so much, and he forces himself so continually into my conversation, against my sense of propriety, that, in revenge, I have resolved to hold him and his daring up to public reprehension. It is in vain that I say to myseif why should I talk of myself? Who cares about my symp. toms, my invitations, or my acquaintances, my works, or my plans, or any thing belonging to me, or whether
relatives or friends
be sick, or well, alive, or dead, promoted or transported? Yet, that tyrant my is always forcing me to talk of somebody or something belonging to myself, and probably of no interest whatever to any one who hears me!
But though this egotism, or rather meumism is dangerous, so far as it may make me laughed at, and lead others into the snare of laughing at me as soon as my back is turned, or even before; (and it is no new thing to me, to be laughed at in my presence,) this is not the most dangerous part of the influence of the pronoun possessive; it is most dangerous when it blinds us to the defects of all who belong to us; when it elevates their charms, talents, and virtues, to a height pernicious both to us and to themselves, by feeding our selfconsequence and theirs alsó, filling us with a degree of family arrogance fatal to the character of a humble Christian; yet, who that have ever looked into themselves, or ever regarded others with observing eyes, but must be sensible of the power of the pronoun my and mine, in little as well as great things, and will not own that the following fable, written by that accurate judge of nature, Æsop, one of the earliest friends of youth, is a faithful picture of the delusions of self-love, and of the pronoun possessive?
The Owl and Eagle once were apt to quarrel;
But, wiser grown they long'd for peace.
I know not which of them obtain'd most laurel;
But, as both thought that war had better cease,
The one on a king's honour swore,
And by an owl's the other,
That they, sweet peaceful souls,
Would, from that moment, ever more,
All sparks of former hatred smother;
And ne'er, though hungry, kill and eat
Each other's little ones, however sweet,
But let the eaglets live, and tiny owls.
But, in the head of wisdom's bird,
Popt this sage question—" Though thy word,
Dear friend, I doubt not, fain I'd learn
(And thou the reason wilt discern)
Whether the race of owls, and most my own,
To thee are personally known.”
“No!” cried the Eagle, “none ere met my sight."
“ Then,” cried the mother, in a fright,
“For my sweet little ones I tremble!”
“Why so, dear friend?” the Eagle said,
Suppress this foolish dread;
Tell me what owlets most resemble;
Describe them so as I may know them,
(Thy own especially) and I'll forego them.
Nay! may I from my throne be hurld,
If I would kill thy dears for all the world!”
The owl bow'd low, and on her heart
Her claw in gratitude she laid;
And then, with fond, deceptive art,
Her young ones thus pourtray'd
“My dears are always small, well made, and beautiful,
All other owls above, as well as dutiful.
Thou, by their beauty, wilt at once
Know them for owls, and wilt be sure they're mine,
Therefore thou wilt to spare them all incline,
Nor on their lovely forms destroying pounce.'
The Eagle then repeated to himself,
(Not knowing she for Dresden took her Delf)
“Small, beautiful, well made!
0! without further aid,
I now must know them, and if e'er I meet them,
As I'm a gentleman, I will not eat them."
“ Thanks!” cried the Owl, and bade good bye,
While her friend soar'd along the sky;
And she into a hole retir'd
Within a moss-crown'd rock; and there,
Ere many days expird,
She gave the owlet darlings birth,
Sweet objects of her tender care,
Whom, ere they grac'd the earth,
She bade her dread ally, the Eagle spare.
And he, in truth, of noble nature,
Would have rejoic'd to spare each owlet creature,
Had not the weakly partial owl,
Quite blinded by the strong control
Of My and Mine, the pronoun call'd POSSESSIVE,
Described her ugly race as fraught with every grace,
And fam’d.indeed for beauty e'en excessive.
But this maternal and too common blindness
Made vain the royal bird's intended kindness;
For when, one luckless day,
Upon his sounding wings
He sought for prey
Within the hole upon the rock,
And spy'd some wry-nosed, croaking things,
Big-eyed and hideous,
And with heads so prodigious,
They gave his feelings quite a shock,
He could not think he saw those birds so pretty,
Whom he was taught to admire as well as pity;
“No, no,” said he,
" These can not be
The owlets I was ask'd to spare;
These monsters, and not beauties, are;
And, with their ugliness o'er rid,
I think them only fit to be deyour'd;
So, sans façon, I shall upon them sup;"
Then, in a trice, they all were eaten up!
When the too partial owl return'd,
And found the nest bereft;
And, of the forms she left,
Nought but the bony feet remaining,
Oh! loud indeed was her complaining;
And like another Niobe she mourn'd.
Then to the gods the sufferer went,
In hopes Minerva, her protector,
Would in her sorrows not neglect her;
But bring to punishment condign,
The false destroyer of the owlet line.
“No!” cried Minerva, “I'm too just for that;
Thou hast to blame thyself,
For thy poor owlets' most untimely fate;
Thou bad'st the royal bird expect to find
In them the brightest of the feather'd kind,
And when he monsters saw, instead of beauties,
(As he declares in self-defence,)
How, in the name of common sense,
Could he believe he saw thy dears?
Therefore, with no misgiving fears,
He thought it one of his first duties
To put an end to such a frightful race.
Know then, poor injured one, though hard's thy case,
'Twas not the royal bird's unkindness
That kill'd thy darlings, but their mother's blindness.