It is not perhaps much thought of, but it is certainly a very important Lesson, to learn how to enjoy ordinary Life, and to be able to relish your Being without the Transport of some Passion or Gratification of some Appetite. For want of this Capacity, the World is filled with Whetters, Tipplers, Cutters, Sippers, and all the numerous Train of those who, for want of Thinking, are forced to be ever exercising their Feeling or Tasting. It would be hard on this Occasion to mention the harmless Smoakers of Tobacco and Takers of Snuff.
The slower Part of Mankind, whom my Correspondent wonders should get Estates, are the more immediately formed for that Pursuit: They can expect distant things without Impatience, because they are not carried out of their Way either by violent Passion or keen Appetite to any thing. To Men addicted to Delight[s], Business is an Interruption; to such as are cold to Delights, Business is an Entertainment. For which Reason it was said to one who commended a dull Man for his Application,
No Thanks to him; if he had no Business, he would have nothing to do.
[Footnote 1: i.e. The Duke of Buckingham, in Part I. of ’Absalom and Achitophel’.]
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No. 223. Thursday, Nov. 15, 1711. Addison.
O suavis Anima! qualem te dicam bonam
Antehac fuisse, tales cum sint reliquiae!
When I reflect upon the various Fate of those Multitudes of Ancient Writers who flourished in Greece and Italy, I consider Time as an Immense Ocean, in which many noble Authors are entirely swallowed up, many very much shattered and damaged, some quite disjointed and broken into pieces, while some have wholly escaped the Common Wreck; but the Number of the last is very small.
Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.
Among the mutilated Poets of Antiquity, there is none whose Fragments are so beautiful as those of Sappho. They give us a Taste of her Way of Writing, which is perfectly conformable with that extraordinary Character we find of her, in the Remarks of those great Criticks who were conversant with her Works when they were entire. One may see by what is left of them, that she followed Nature in all her Thoughts, without descending to those little Points, Conceits, and Turns of Wit with which many of our modern Lyricks are so miserably infected. Her Soul seems to have been made up of Love and Poetry; She felt the Passion in all its Warmth, and described it in all its Symptoms. She is called by ancient Authors the Tenth Muse; and by Plutarch is compared to Cacus the Son of Vulcan, who breathed out nothing but Flame. I do not know, by the Character that is given of her Works, whether it is not for the Benefit of Mankind that they are lost. They were filled with such bewitching Tenderness and Rapture, that it might have been dangerous to have given them a Reading.