« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Though a man has all other perfections, and wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world; but if he has this single talent in perfection, and but a common share of others, he may do what he pleases in his particular station of life.
At the same time that I think discretion the most useful talent a man can be master of, I look upon cunning to be the accomplishment of little, mean, ungenerous minds. Discretion points out the noblest ends to us, and pursues the most proper and laudable methods of attaining them: cun ning has only private selfish aims, and sticks at nothing which may make them succeed. Discretion has large and extended views, and like a wellformed eye, commands a whole horizon, cunning is a kind of short-sightedness that discovers the minutest objects which are near at hand, but is not able to discern things at a distance. Discretion, the more it is discovered, gives a greater authority to the person who possesses it; cunning, when it is once detected, loses its force, and makes a man incapable of bringing about even those events which he might have done had he passed only for a plain man. Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life, cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks out after our immediate interest and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understandings: cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves, and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them. In short, cunning is only the mimic of discretion, and may pass upon weak men, in the same man
ner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity for wisdom.
The cast of mind which is natural to a discreet man, makes him look forward into futurity, and consider what will be his condition millions of ages hence, as well as what it is at present. He knows that the misery or happiness which is reserved for him in another world, lose nothing of their reality by being placed at so great a distance from him.—The objects do not appear little to him because they are remote. He considers that those pleasures and pains which lie hid in eternity, approach nearer to him every moment, and will be present with him in their full weight and measure as much as those pains and pleasures which he feels at this very instant. For this reason he is careful to secure to himself that which is the proper happiness of his nature, and the ultimate design of his being. He carries his thoughts to the end of every action, and considers the most distant as well as the most immediate effects of it. He supersedes every little prospect of gain and advantage which offers itself here, if he does not find it consistent with his views of an hereafter. In a word, his hopes are full of immortality, his schemes are large and glorious, and his conduct suitable to one who knows his true interest, and how to pursue it by proper methods.
I have, in this essay upon discretion, considered it both as an accomplishment and as a virtue, and have therefore described it in its full extent; not only as it is conversant about worldly affairs, but as it regards our whole existence; not only as it is the guide of a mortal creature, but as it is in
general the director of a reasonable being. It is in this light that discretion is represented by the wise man, who sometimes mentions it under the name of discretion, and sometimes under that of wisdom. It is indeed (as described in the latter part of this paper) the greatest wisdom, but at the same time in the power of every one to attain. Its advantages are infinite, but its acquisition easy, or, to speak of her in the words of the apocryphal writer, whom I quoted in my last Saturday's per:* “Wisdom is glorious and never fadeth away, yet she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her. She preventeth them that desire her, in making herself first known unto them. He that seeketh her early, shall have no great travel, for he shall find her sitting at his doors. To think therefore upon her, is the perfection of wisdom; and whoso watcheth for her shall quickly be without care. For she goeth about seeking such as are worthy of her, showeth herself favourably unto them in the ways, and meeteth them in every thought.'
No. 226. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19.1 Mutum est pictura poema.
Hor. A picture is a poem without words. I HAVE very often lamented, and hinted my sor row in several speculations, that the art of paint
* Wisdom of Sol. Ch. vi. v. 12.
+“Do you read the Spectators? I never do; they never come in my way; I go to no coffee-houses. They say
ing is made so little use of to the improvement of our manners. When we consider that it places the action of the person represented in the most agreeable aspect imaginable, that it does not only express the passion or concern as it sits upon him who is drawn, but has under those features the height of the painter's imagination, what strong images of virtue and humanity might we not expect would be instilled into the mind from the labours of the pencil? This is a poetry which would be understood with much less capacity, and less expense of time, than what is taught by writings; but the use of it is generally perverted, and that admirable skill prostituted to the basest and most unworthy ends. Who is the better man for beholding the most beautiful Venus, the best wrought Bacchanal, the images of sleeping Cupids, languishing nymphs, or any of the representations of gods, goddesses, demi-gods, satyrs, Polyphemes, sphinxes, or fawns? But if the virtues and vices, which are sometimes pretended to be represented under such drafts, were given us by the painter in the characters of real life, and the persons of men and women, whose actions have rendered them laudable or infamous, we should not see a good history piece without receiving an instructive lecture. There needs no other proof of this truth, than the testimony of every reasonable creature who has seen the cartoons in her majesty's gallery at Hampton-court: these are representations of no less actions than
abundance of them are very pretty; they are going to be printed in small volumes; I'll bring them over with me.”
Letter of Swift to Mrs. Johnson, dated Nov. 18, 1711.
those of our blessed Saviour and his apostles. As I now sit and recollect the warm images which the admirable Raphael has raised, it is impossible, even from the faint traces in one's memory, of what one has not seen these two years, to be unmoved at the horror and reverence which appear in the whole assembly when the mercenary man fell down dead; at the amazement of the man born blind when he first receives his sight; or at the graceless indignation of the sorcerer when he is struck blind. The lame, when they first find strength in their feet, stand doubtful of their new vigour. The heavenly apostles appear acting these great things with a deep sense of the infirmities which they relieve, but no value of themselves who administer to their weakness. They know themselves to be but instruments; and the generous distress they are painted in when divine honours are offered to them, is a representation in the most exquisite degree of the beauty of holiness. When St. Paul is preaching to the Athenians, with what wonderful art are almost all the different tempers of mankind represented in that elegant audience! You see one credulous of all that is said, another wrapt up in deep suspense, another saying there is some reason in what he says, another angry that the apostle destroys a favourite opinion which he is unwilling to give up, another wholly convinced and holding out his hands in rapture, while the generality attend, and wait for the opinion of those who are of leading characters in the assembly. I will not pretend so much as to mention that chart on which is drawn the appearance of our blessed Lord after his resurrection. Present authority, late suffer