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theory they leave to others. Now next to the Turks, the English suffer most from ennui. Do but hear the account which their finest poetical genius of the present century gives of himself, when he was hardly of age.
“ With pleasure drugged he almost longed for wo,
And e’en for change of scene would seek the shades below." The complaints of a young man in the bloom of life and the vigour of early hope, cannot excite much sympathy. But he interests all our feelings, when in the fullest maturity to which Lord Byron was permitted to attain, he still draws from his own bosom the appalling picture of unalleviated feelings, and describes the horrors of permanent ennui, in language that was doubtless but the mournful echo of an unhappy mind.
“ 'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it has ceased to move;
Still let me love.
Are mine alone.
A funeral pile.
But wear the chain.' Such was the harassed state of Lord Byron's mind, at the epoch of his life which seemed to promise a crowded abundance of exciting sensations. He had hastened to the consecrated haunts of classic associations; he was struggling for honour on the parent soil of glory; he was surrounded by the stir and tumult of barbarous warfare ; he had the consciousness, that the eyes of the civilized world were fixed upon his actions; he professed to feel the impulse of enthusiasm in behalf of liberty; and yet there was not irritation enough in the new and busy life of a soldier, to overcome his apathy, and restore him to happy activity. He only sought to give away his breath on the field, and to take his rest in a soldier's grave.
The literature of the day is essentially transient. The rapid circulation of intelligence enriches the public mind by imparting and diffusing every discovery; and the active spirit of man, quickened by the easy possession of practical knowledge, rightly claims the instant distribution of useful truth. But with this is connected a feverish excitement for novelty. The world, in the earliest days of which accounts have reached us, followed after
the newest strains; and now the lessons of former ages, though they have a persuasive eloquence for the tranquil listener, are as blank and as silent as the grave to the general ear. The voice of the past, all musical as it is with the finest harmonies of human intelligence, is lost in the jangling din of temporary discussions. Philosophy steals from the crowd, and hides herself in retirement, awaiting a better day; true learning is undervalued, and almost disappears from among men. It would seem, as though the wise men of old frowned in anger on the turbulence of the petty passions, and withdrew from the noisy and contentious haunts, where wisdom has no votaries, and tranquillity no followers. In the days of ancient liberty, the public places rung with the nervous eloquence of sublime philosophy; and the streets of Athens offered nothing more attractive than the keen discussions, the piercing satire, and the calm philanthropy of Socrates. But now it is politics which rules the city and the country; the times of deep reflection, of slowly maturing thought, are past; and now that erudition is a jest, ancient learning an exploded chimera, and elaborated eloquence known chiefly by recollection, the ample gazette runs its daily career, and heralds, in ephemeral language, the deeds of the passing hours. The age of accumulated learning is past, and every thing is carried along the rushing current of public economy, or of private business. -Life is divided between excited passions and morbid apathy.
And is this current so strong, that it cannot be resisted? Are we borne without hope of rest upon the ebbing tide? Can we never separate ourselves from the theory, and with the coolness of an observer, watch the various emotions, motives, and passions by which the human world is moulded and swayed? Can we not trace the influence of the changes and chances of this mortal state on the character and minds of mortal men?
Life is a pursuit. The moralists, who utter their heathenish oracles in the commonplace complaints of a heathenish discontent, tell us, that we are born but to pursue, and pursue but to be deceived. They say, that man in his career after earthly honours, is like the child that chases the gaudy insect; the pursuit idle; the object worthless. They tell us, that it is but a deceitful though a deceptive star, which beams from the summit of the distant hill; advance, and its light recedes ; ascend, and a higher hill is seen beyond, and a wider space is yet to be traversed. And they tell us, that this is vanity; this the worthlessness of human desire; this the misery and desolation of the human heart. But how little do they know of the throbbings of that heart ! How poorly have they studied the secrets of the human breast! How imperfectly do they understand the feebleness and the strength of man's fortitude and will! If the bright object still gleams in the horizon, if the brilliancy of glory is
But when the primary motives of human conduct have failed of their effect, and the mind has become a prey to listlessness, the career, then pursued, let it be what it may, is to be ascribed to the pain of ennui. When the mind gnaws upon itself, we have ennui; the course which is pursued to call the mind from this self-destructive process, is to be ascribed to the influence of that passion.
Are our definitions indistinct? Let us attempt illustration. When the several powers and affections of man are, in the usual course of existence, called into healthy exercise, on objects sufficient to interest and satisfy them; this is happiness. When those powers and affections are exercised by objects sufficient to excite them in their highest degree, but where, being thus excited, there exists no harmony between the mind and its pursuits, where the affections are aroused without being soothed, where the chime is rung, but rung discordantly, there is misery. Wher the powers of the mind are vigorous but unoccupied; where there exist a restless craving, an inquiet mobility, yet without any definite purpose or commensurate object, there is ennui.
The state of mind is strongly delineated in the language of the sacred writer.
“I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do ; and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly; for what can the man do that cometh after the king ? Even that which hath already been done. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far ag light excelleth darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness; and I perceived also, that one event happeneth to them all. Then I said in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me ; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is, in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? As the fool. Therefore, I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me; for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Or, to take an example from the earliest monument of Grecian genius. Achilles, in the pride of youth, engaged in his favourite profession of arms, making his way to an immortality secured to him by the voice of his goddess mother, sure to gain the victory in any contest, and selecting for his reward the richest spoils and the fairest maid, Achilles, the heroic heathen, was then fully and satisfactorily employed, and according to his semi-barbarous notions of joy and right, was happy within his own breast, and was happy in the world around him. When the same youthful warrior was insulted by the leader under whose banners he had rallied, when the private recesses of his tent were invaded, and his domestic peace disturbed, his mind was strongly agitated by love, anger, hatred, the passion for strife, and the intense effort at forbearance ; and though there was here room
enough for activity, there was nothing but pain and misery. But when the dispute was over, and the pupil of the Centaur, trained for strife, and victory, and glory, separated from the army, and gave himself up to an inactive contemplation of the struggle against Troy, his mind was abandoned to the sentiment of discontent, and his passions were absorbed in the morbid feeling of ennui. Homer was an exact painter of the human passions. The picture which he draws of Achilles, * receiving the subsequent deputation from the Greeks, illustrates our subject exactly. It was in vain for the hero to attempt to sooth his mind with the melodies of the lyre; his blood kindled only at the music of war; it was idle for him to seek sufficient pleasure in celebrating the renown of heroes ; this was but a vain effort to quell the burning passion for surpassing them in glory. He listens to the deputation, not tranquilly, but peevishly. He charges them with duplicity, and avows that he loathes their king like the gates of hell. He next reverts to himself : The warrior has no thanks, he exclaims in the bitterness of disappointment—“The coward and the brave man are held in equal honour.” Nay, he goes further, and quarrels with providence and fixed destiny. " After all, the idler, and the man of many achievements, each must die."I To-morrow, he adds, his vessels shall float on the Hellespont. The morning dawned; but the ships of Achilles still lingered near the banks of the Scamander. The notes of battle sounded, and his mind was still in suspense between the fiery impulse for war and the haughty reserve of revenge.
When Bruce found himself approaching the sources of the Nile, a thousand sentiments of pride rushed upon his mind; it seemed to him, that destiny had marked out for him a more fortunate and more glorious career, than for any European, kings or warriors, conquerors or travellers, that had ever attempted to penetrate into the interior of Africa. This was a moment of exultation and triumphant delight. But when that same traveller had actually reached the ultimate object of his research, he has himself recorded the emotions which were awakened within him. At the fountain-head of the Nile, Bruce was almost a victim to sentimental ennui.
In this anecdote of the Abyssinian traveller, we have an example of the rapidity with which ennui treads on the heels of triumph, and banishes the feelings of exulting joy. We will