« PreviousContinue »
did it not come into thy mind,-" this is the country that gave me birth; here I was nourished in my infancy; here I was brought up?"- And couldest thou have the heart to lay it waste? When thou sawest the walls of Rome from afar, was it possible to forget, that within those walls were thy household gods, thy mother, thy wife, thy children? Yet none of these reflections had any power to move thee. The most amicable offers, repeated offers from the senate, by ambassadors, men of the highest worth, and chosen from among thy friends, have been rejected by thee with scorn. The intercession, the earnest entreaties of the whole body of the priesthood, those sacred ministers of religion, have had no power to move thy compassion. No; to satisfy thy boundless revenge, Rome, thy native city, must be sacked, and its inhabitants reduced to slavery. A frenzy, a madness of anger transports thee! Heaven is appeased by supplications, vows, and sacrifices: shall mortals be implacable? Will Marcius set no bounds to his resentment?-But allowing that thy enmity to thy country is too violent to let thee listen to her pe tition for peace; yet be not deaf, my son, be not inexorable to the prayers and tears of thy mother. Thou dreadest the very appearance of ingratitude towards the Volsci; and shall thy mother have reason to accuse thee of being ungrateful? Call to mind the tender care I took of thy infancy and earliest youth; the alarms, the anxiety, I suffered on thy account, when, entered into the state of manhood, thy life was almost daily exposed in foreign wars; the apprehensions, the terrours, I underwent when I saw thee so warmly engaged in
our domestic quarrels, and, with heroic courage, opposing the unjust pretensions of the furious. plebeians. My sad forebodings of the event have been but too well verified. Consider the wretched life I have endured, if it may be called life, the time that has passed since I was deprived of thee. O Marcius, refuse me not the only request I ever made to thee; I will never importune thee with any other. Cease thy immoderate anger; be reconciled to thy country; this is all I ask: grant me but this, and we shall both be happy. Freed from those tempestuous passions which now agitate thy soul, and from all the torments of self-reproach, thy days will flow smoothly on in the sweet serenity of conscious virtue: and as for me, if I carry back to Rome the hopes of an approaching peace, an assurance of thy being reconciled to thy country, with what transports of joy shall I be received. In what honour, in what delightful repose, shall I pass the remainder of my life! What immortal glory shall I have acquired! And, if it be true, that there are different places for our souls after death, I shall be in no danger of descending to those subterraneous and gloomy caverns where the wicked are confined. Nay, the Elysian fields, that delightful abode allotted for the virtuous, will not be the place of my habitation, but the pure and sublime region of the air, which is said to be inhabited by the most exalted spirits. My soul shall there publish the praises of thy piety and affection to me, and never cease importuning Heaven to grant thee a full recompense of all thy merit.'
Coriolanus made no attempt to interrupt Ve
turia while she was speaking; and when she had ceased, he still continued in deep silence. Anger, hatred, and desire of revenge, balanced in his heart those softer passions which the sight and discourse of his mother had awakened in his breast. She, perceiving his irresolution, and fearing the event, thus renewed her expostulation.
'Why dost thou not answer me, my son? Is there then such greatness of mind in giving all to resentment? Art thou ashamed to grant any thing to a mother who thus entreats thee, thus humbles herself to thee? If it be so, to what purpose should I longer endure a wretched life? As she uttered these last words, interrupted by sighs, she threw herself prostrate at his feet. His wife and children did the same; and all the other women, with united voices of mournful accent, begged and implored his pity.
The Volscian officers, not able unmoved to behold this scene, turned away their eyes: but Coriolanus, almost beside himself to see Veturia at his feet, passionately cried out: Ah! mother, what art thou doing? And tenderly pressing her hand, in raising her up, he added, in a low voice, 'Rome is saved, but thy son is lost.'
Early the next morning, Coriolanus broke up his camp, and peaceably marched his army homewards. Nobody had the boldness to contradict his orders. Many were exceedingly dissatisfied with his conduct; but others excused it, being more affected with his filial respect to his mother, than with their own interests..
FROM external beauty we come to the charms of conversation and writing. Words, by representing ideas, become the picture of our thoughts, and communicate them with the greatest fidelity. But they are not only the signs of sensible ideas, they exhibit the very image and distinguishing likeness of the mind that uses them.
Conversation does not require the same merit to please that writing does. The human soul is endued with a kind of natural expression, which it does not acquire. The expression I speak of consists in the significant modulations and tones of voice, accompanied, in unaffected people, by a propriety of gesture. This native language was not intended by nature to represent the transitory ideas that come by the senses to the imagination, but the passions of the mind and its emotions only; therefore modulation and gesture give life and passion to words; their mighty force in oratory is very conspicuous: but although their effects be milder in conversation, yet they are very sensible; they agitate the soul by a variety of gentle sensations, and help to form that sweet charm that makes the most trifling subjects engaging. This fine expression, which is not learned, is not so much taken notice of as it deserves, because it is much superseded by the use of artificial and acquired language. The modern system of philosophy has also concurred to shut it out from our reflections.
It is in conversation people put on all their graces, and appear in the lustre of good-breeding.
It is certain, good-breeding (I mean a good edu cation), that sets so great a distinction between individuals of the same species, creates nothing new, but only draws forth into prospect, with skill and address, the agreeable dispositions and sentiments that lay latent in the mind. You may call goodbreeding artificial; but it is like the art of a gardener, under whose hand a barren tree puts forth its own bloom, and is enriched with its specific fruit. It is scarce possible to conceive any scene so truly agreeable, as an assembly of people elaborately educated, who assume a character superior to ordinary life, and support it with ease and familiarity.
The heart is won in conversation by its own passions. Its pride, its grandeur, its affections, lay it open to the enchantment of an insinuating address. Flattery is a gross charm, but who is proof against a gentle and yielding disposition, that infers your superiority with a delicacy so fine, that you cannot see the lines of which it is composed? Generosity, disinterestedness, a noble love of truth that will not deceive, a feeling of the distresses of others, and greatness of soul, inspire us with admiration along with love, and take our affections as it were by storm; but, above all, we are seduced by a view of the tender and affectionate passions; they carry a soft infection, and the heart is betrayed to them by its own forces. If we are to judge from symptoms, the soul, that engages us so powerfully by its reflected glances, is an object of infinite beauty. I observed before, that the modulations of the human voice that express the soul, move us powerfully; and indeed we