Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

from the bed, have commenced the operations of the toilet, the battle is nearly over. The teeth chatter for a while, and the limbs shiver, and we do not feel particularly comfortable whilst breaking the ice in our jugs, and performing our cold ablutions amidst the sharp, glass-like fragments, and wiping our faces with a frozen towel. But these petty evils are quickly vanquished, and as we rush out of the house, and tread briskly and firmly on the hard ringing earth, and breathe our visible breath in the clear air, our strength and self-importance miraculously increase, and the whole frame begins to glow. The warmth and vigour thus acquired are inexpressibly delightful. As we re-enter the house, we are proud of our intrepidity and vigor, and pity the effeminacy of our less enterprising friends, who though, huddled together round the fire, like flies upon a sunny wall, still complain of cold, and instead of the bloom of health and animation exhibit pale and pinched cheeks, blue noses, and hands cold, rigid, and of a deadly hue. Those who rise with spirit on a winter morning, and stir and thrill themselves with early exercise, are indifferent to the cold for the rest of the day, and feel a confidence in their corporeal energies, and a lightness of heart that are experienced at no other season. But even the timid and luxurious are not without their pleasures. As the shades of evening draw in, the parlour twilight—the closed curtains—and the cheerful fire, make home a little paradise to all !

The warm and cold seasons of India have no charms like these, but yet people who are guiltless of what Milton so finely calls

a sullenness against nature, and who are willing in a spirit of true philosophy and piety, to extract good from everything, may make themselves happy even in this land of exile. While I am writing this paragraph, a little bird in my room, who is as much a foreigner here as I am, is pouring out his soul in a flood of song.

His notes breathe of joy. He pines not for an English meadow—he cares not for his

wiry bars—he envies not the little denizens of air that sometimes flutter past my window, nor imagines, for a moment, that they come to mock him with their freedom. He is contented with his present enjoyments, because they are utterly undisturbed by idle comparisons with those experienced in the past or anticipated in the future. He has no thankless repinings, and no vain desires. Is superior intellect then so fatal, though sublime a gift, that we cannot possess it without the poisonous alloy of care? Must grief and ingratitude inevitably find entrance into the heart, in proportion to the loftiness and number of our mental endowments ? Are we to seek for happiness in ignorance ? To these questions the reply is obvious. Every good quality may be abused, and the greatest, most; and he who perversely employs his powers of thought and imagination to a wrong purpose, deserves the misery that he gains. Were we honestly to deduct from the ills of life all those of our own creation, how trifling the amount that would remain ! We seem to invite and encourage sorrow, while happiness is, as it were, forced upon us against our will. It is wonderful how some men pertinaciously cling to care, and argue themselves into a dissatisfaction with their lot. Thus it is really a matter of little moment whether fortune smile or frown, for it is in vain to look for superior felicity amongst those who have more 'appliances and means to boot,' than their fellow-men. Wealth, rank, and reputation, do not secure their possessors from the misery of discontent.

As happiness then depends upon the right direction and employment of our faculties, and not on worldly goods or mere localities, our countrymen might be cheerful enough even in this foreign land, if they would only accustom themselves to a proper train of thinking, and be ready on every occasion to look on the brighter side of all things*. In reverting to home-scenes we

I was ever more disposed,” says Hume, " to see the favorable than the unfavorable side of things; a turn of mind which it is more happy to possess, than to be born to an estate of ten thousand a year."

" the

should regard them for their intrinsic charms, and not turn them into a source of disquiet by mournfully comparing them with those around us. India, let Englishmen murmur as they will, has many attractions and enjoyments. The princely and generous style in which we live in this country, the frank and familiar tone of our little society, and the general mildness and equality of the climate, can hardly be denied by the most determined malcontent. It is true that the weather is often, in the summer months, a great deal warmer than we like it ; but if extreme heat” did not form a convenient subject for complaint and conversation, it is perhaps doubtful if it would so often be thought of or alluded to. And what climate is without its evils ? The mornings and evenings of India are always cool enough for a drive, and the rest of the day is rarely so intolerable within doors as it is sometimes pathetically described. In the cold season a walk either in the morning or evening is delightful, and I am rejoiced to see many distinguished personages paying the climate the compliment of treating it like that of England. It is now fashionable to use our limbs in the ordinary way, and the Calcutta Strand has become a favourite promenade. It is not to be denied that besides the mere exercise, pedestrians at home have great advantages over those who are too aristocratic to leave their equipages, because they can cut across green and quiet fields, enter upon rural by-ways, and enjoy a thousand little patches of lovely scenery that are secrets to the high-road traveller. But still the Calcutta pedestrian has also his peculiar gratifications. It is true that he can enjoy no exclusive pros. pects, but he comes in more immediate contact with the rank, beauty and fashion of the place, and if, like the writer of this article, he is fond of children, he will be delighted with the numberless pretty and happy little faces that crowd about him, and awaken a tone of tender sentiment in his mind, and rekindle many sweet associations.

NOTE TO THE FOREGOING ESSAY.

I have touched upon the subject of the seasons in England and in India in a series of papers entitled The Council of Three. In the following passages, (extracted from those papers,) I have endeavored to show what might be said on both sides of the question by persons taking different views of it:

C.-It is some time now since we have had our last meeting. I began to ask, “When shall we three meet again ?"

J.-I was in hopes that it would have been “in thunder, lightning and in rain;" but the north-westers have held off very vexatiously.

S.--I had no such desire. I am like many other old Indians in my feelings, and greatly prefer the hot weather to the cold. I rarely find it too warm. While the cuticle is drenched in a wholesome moisture the climate is a very tolerable one. It is when there is a hot sun and a cold wintry wind that the health suffers. There is undoubtedly more sickness in the cold weather than the hot. The hot season, particularly on or near the river, when the air comes over the water, is not much more oppressive than the same season in Italy or the South of France.

J.-The worst season in India is the Rains. The lulls between the gales and showers are absolutely awful. I suffer at such times under a kind of waking night-mare.

C.- It was Charles the first, I think, who said that that was the best climate to which men might expose themselves with impunity the greatest number of hours in the day. He thought on this principle that the climate of England was the best in the world. Judging in this way the climate of Bengal is about the worst.

J.-It is perhaps doubtful whether the actual proportion of deaths in England is not more than equal to those in India. The deaths by consumption alone (the English disease) are frightfully numerous.

J.-If I had not been born and bred in England, I do not think I should ever have wished to live there. Some of England's own children have renounced her for more sunny lands. Byron talks of

“ The cold and cloudy clime Where he was born, but where he would not die.”

[blocks in formation]

When I left England some fifteen or sixteen years ago, I was a mere boy. I wept bitterly as the white cliffs receded and grew dim, and I then thought that England was the glory of the earth and the favourite of heaven. The climate, the scenery and the people were all that could be wished for. When I returned after a twelve years' exile, having brooded fondly all that time over all that once enchanted me, I was “electrified with disappointment," as Campbell has it. I found the people as cold and dismal as the climate, and I wondered how a nation could so completely change its character in so short a time. Before I left the shores of England for the first time, every familiar face seemed the face of a generous friend; and now I saw none but cold and cautious strangers. Selfish cares-mercenary feelings—and the habits and anxieties produced by the necessity of making both ends meet, seemed to have stamped a mean and peculiar expression on every countenance. I had never recognized this melancholy aspect in the crowds that surrounded me in my happy youth. It was the observer, however, that had changed, and not the people. They were neither worse nor better ; but my own head had grown clearer and my heart colder.

S.- I cannot say that I experienced the same disappointment on my first return to England. I found her the same dear unrivalled country that I knew in my youth. Though I looked on the hills and vallies with older eyes, my inward vision had not been dimmed, even by a long exile and many heavy afflictions. I had been a good deal in the upper provlnces of India, and had travelled over the arid rocks and plains of Bundelcund in the hot winds. I recollect a day that I passed in one of its treeless, herbless, grassless, shadowless plains, that filled me with more horrible images of the infernal regions than are to be met with in the pages of Dante or of Milton. The hot wind was like a blast from hell, and nature withered beneath the light of a sun that scorched her like a ball of fire. In the midst of all this, I suddenly thought of the fresh green meadows of England, and burst into tears.

J.-I visited England in November 1819, and landed on a gloomy drizzling day that seemed better fitted for a converse with the Blue Devils than any day I ever passed in India. The rain continued with slight intermissions for nearly three weeks. I thought I should never again see the blessed sun in heaven. I put up at an inn in the city that had a dark, deadly

« ZurückWeiter »