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tastical meditations, which are like unto dreams, and they will hardly be drawn from them, or willingly interrupted; so pleasant their vain conceits are, that they hinder their ordinary tasks and necessary business, they cannot address themselves to them, or almost to any study or employment. These fantastical and bewitching thoughts so covertly, so feelingly, so urgently, so continually set upon, creep in, insinuate, possess, overcome, distract, and detain them; they cannot, I say, go about their more necessary business, stave off or extricate themselves, but are ever musing, melancholizing, and carried along, as he (they say) that is led round about a heath with a Puck in the night, they run earnestly on in this labyrinth of anxious and solicitous melancholy meditations, and cannot well or willingly refrain, or easily leave off, winding and unwinding themselves, as so many clocks, and still pleasing their humours, until at last the scene is turned upon a sudden, by some bad object, and they being now habituated to such
vain meditations and solitary places, can endure no company, can ruminate of nothing but harsh and distasteful subjects. Fear, sorrow, suspicion, subrusticus pudor, discontent, cares, and weariness of life surprise them in a moment, and they can think of nothing else, continually suspecting. No sooner are their eyes open, but this infernal plague or melancholy seizeth on them, and terrifies their souls, representing some dismal object to their minds, which now by no means, no labour, no persuasions they can avoid : hæret lateri lethalis arundo."* This passage should be carefully read by young persons of fine taste and delicate sentiments, for it contains a just account of the first inroads of melancholy on susceptible imaginations. Nothing is more seductive, or more hazardous to minds of this cast, than that kind of mental luxury, which is generally called castle-building. It appears a happy privilege to possess the direction of an ideal world, into which we can withdraw at pleasure, when disgusted with the gross material scene before us. But in this fairyland lurk terrible phantoms, ready to seize the incautious wanderer, in moments of dejection and weakness, and to deprive him for ever of ease and liberty.
* Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 52, 53. My copy is the eighth edition, 1676. The first edition was published in 1617.
Burton has introduced a great part of these ideas into his poetical abstract of melancholy.
When I go musing all alone,
All my joys to this are folly,
When I go walking all alone,
Whether I tarry still or go,
When to myself I act and smile,
All my joys beside are folly,
The first four chapters of Tristram Shandy, are founded on some passages in Burton, which I shall transcribe. Sterne's improvements I shall leave to the reader's recollection.
* The resemblance between these yerses, and Milton's Allegro and Penseroso, has been noticed by Mr. Warton. One line in the former,
The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes, was probably suggested by the following passage in Burton; “ She is his Cynosure, Hesperus, and Vesper, his morning and evening star," P. 316.
* Filii ex senibus nati raro sunt firmi temperamenti, &c. Nam spiritus cerebri si tum malé afficiantur, tales procreant, & quales fuerint affectus, tales filiorum, ex tristibus tristes, ex jucundis jucundi nascuntur. (Cardan.] 6 If she (the mother) be over-dull, heavy, angry, peevish, dicontented, and melancholy, not only at the time of conception, but even all the while she carries the child in her womb (saith Fernelius) her son will be so likewise, and worse, as Lemnius adds, &c. ways are we plagued and punished for our father's defaults ;* insomuch that as Fernelius truly saith, it is the greatest part of our felicity to be well-born, and it were happy for human kind,t if only such parents as are sound of body and mind should be suffered to marry. Quanto id diligentius in procreandis liberis observandum.”I I can
* This idea runs through Tristram Shandy.