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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 567 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume 2.
for those five thoughtless virgins.—­I have never made an acquaintance since, that lasted; or a friendship, that answered; with any that had not some tincture of the absurd in their characters.  I venerate an honest obliquity of understanding.  The more laughable blunders a man shall commit in your company, the more tests he giveth you, that he will not betray or overreach you.  I love the safety, which a palpable hallucination warrants; the security, which a word out of season ratifies.  And take my word for this, reader, and say a fool told it you, if you please, that he who hath not a dram of folly in his mixture, hath pounds of much worse matter in his composition.  It is observed, that “the foolisher the fowl or fish,—­woodcocks,—­dotterels,—­cod’s-heads, &c. the finer the flesh thereof,” and what are commonly the world’s received fools, but such whereof the world is not worthy? and what have been some of the kindliest patterns of our species, but so many darlings of absurdity, minions of the goddess, and, her white boys?—­Reader, if you wrest my words beyond their fair construction, it is you, and not I, that are the April Fool.

A QUAKER’S MEETING

  Still-born Silence! thou that art
  Flood-gate of the deeper heart! 
  Offspring of a heavenly kind! 
  Frost o’ the mouth, and thaw o’ the mind! 
  Secrecy’s confident, and he
  Who makes religion mystery! 
  Admiration’s speaking’st tongue! 
  Leave, thy desert shades among,
  Reverend hermits’ hallowed cells,
  Where retired devotion dwells! 
  With thy enthusiasms come,
  Seize our tongues, and strike us dumb![1]

Reader, would’st thou know what true peace and quiet mean; would’st thou find a refuge from the noises and clamours of the multitude; would’st thou enjoy at once solitude and society; would’st thou possess the depth of thy own spirit in stillness, without being shut out from the consolatory faces of thy species; would’st thou be alone, and yet accompanied; solitary, yet not desolate; singular, yet not without some to keep thee in countenance; a unit in aggregate; a simple in composite:—­come with me into a Quaker’s Meeting.

Dost thou love silence deep as that “before the winds were made?” go not out into the wilderness, descend not into the profundities of the earth; shut not up thy casements; nor pour wax into the little cells of thy ears, with little-faith’d self-mistrusting Ulysses.—­Retire with me into a Quaker’s Meeting.

For a man to refrain even from good words, and to hold his peace, it is commendable; but for a multitude, it is great mastery.

What is the stillness of the desert, compared with this place? what the uncommunicating muteness of fishes?—­here the goddess reigns and revels.—­“Boreas, and Cesias, and Argestes loud,” do not with their inter-confounding uproars more augment the brawl—­nor the waves of the blown Baltic with their clubbed sounds—­than their opposite (Silence her sacred self) is multiplied and rendered more intense by numbers, and by sympathy.  She too hath her deeps, that call unto deeps.  Negation itself hath a positive more and less; and closed eyes would seem to obscure the great obscurity of midnight.

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