Bless me! The chariot was drawn by eight horses in golden harness, and the whole represented his triumphal return, after he had conquered the world. It passed me with a splendour I had never seen before, and shined so luminously up into the country, that I discovered innumerable shades sitting under the trees, which before were invisible.
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As there were two persons in the chariot equally splendid, I could not distinguish which was Alexander, and on requiring that information of the shade, who still stood by, he replied, Alexander is not there. Did you not, continued I, tell me that Alexander was coming, and bid me get out of the way?
Yes, answered the shade, because he was the forehorse on the side next to us. I mean Alexander the Emperor. I mean the same, replied the shade, for whatever he was on the other side of the water is nothing now, he is a HORSE here; and not always that, for when he is apprehensive that a good licking is intended for him, he watches his opportunity to roll out of the stable in the shape of a piece of dung, or in any other disguise he can escape by.
On this information I turned instantly away, not being able to bear the thought of such astonishing degradation, notwithstanding the aversion I have to his character. But curiosity got the better of my compassion, and having a mind to see what sort of a figure the conqueror Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] of the world cut in the stable, I directed my flight thither; he was just returned with the rest of the horses from the journey, and the groom was rubbing him down with a large furz bush, but turning himself round to get a still larger and more prickly one that was newly brought in, Alexander catched the opportunity, and instantly disappeared, on which I quitted the place, lest I should be suspected of stealing him: when I had reached the bands of the river, and was preparing to take my flight over, I perceived that I had picked up a bug among the Plutonian gentry, and thinking it was needless to increase the breed on this side the water, was going to dispatch it, when the little wretch screamed out, Spare Alexander the GREAT.
On which I withdrew the violence I was offering to his person, and holding up the emperor between my finger and thumb, he exhibited a most contemptible figure of the downfall of tyrant greatness Affected with a mixture of concern and compassion which he was always a stranger to I suffered him to nibble on a pimple that was newly risen on my hand, in order to refresh him; after which I placed him on a tree to hide him, but a Tom Tit coming by, chopped him up with as little ceremony as he put whole kingdoms to the sword.
The tale is told—The scene is ended—and the curtain falls. As an emblem of the vanity of all earthly pomp, let his Monument be a globe, but be that globe a bubble; let his Effigy be a man walking round it in his sleep; and let Fame, in the character of a shadow, inscribe his honours on the air.
To be a lord or a slave, to return loaded with the spoils, or remain mingled with the dust of India. Though his feelings suffered, his conscience would be acquitted. The sad remembrance would move serenely, and leave the mind without a wound. Departed from India, and loaded with plunder, I see him doubling the Cape and looking wistfully to Europe. I see him Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] contemplating on years of pleasure, and gratifying his ambition with expected honours.
Happily for him he arrived before his fame, and the short interval was a time of rest. From the crowd I follow him to the court, I see him enveloped in the sunshine of sovereign favour, rivalling the great in honours, the proud in splendour, and the rich in wealth. From the court I trace him to the country, his equipage moves like a camp; every village bell proclaims his coming; the wondering peasants admire his pomp, and his heart runs over with joy. But, alas! I mark the variety of countenances which appear at his landing.
Confusion spreads the news. Every passion seems alarmed. The wailing widow, the crying orphan, and the childless parent remember and lament; the rival Nabobs court his favour; the rich dread his power, and the poor his severity. Fear and terror march like pioneers before his camp, murder and rapine accompany it, famine and wretchedness follow in the rear.
Resolved on accumulating an unbounded fortune, he enters into all the schemes of war, treaty, and intrigue. The British sword is set up for sale; the heads of contending Nabobs are offered at a price, and the bribe taken from both sides. Thousands of men or money are trifles in an India bargain.
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The field is an empire, and the treasure almost without end. The wretched inhabitants are glad to compound for offences never committed, and to purchase at any rate the privilege to breathe; while he, the sole lord of their lives and fortunes, disposes of either as he pleases, and prepares for Europe. Uncommon fortunes require an uncommon date of life to enjoy them in. The usual period is spent in preparing to live: And unless nature prolongs the time, fortune bestows her excess of favours in vain. The conqueror of the east having nothing more to expect from the one, has all his court to make to the other.
Anxiety for wealth gives place to anxiety for life; and wisely recollecting that the sea is no respecter of persons, resolves on taking his route to Europe by land. Little beings move unseen, or unobserved, but he engrosses whole kingdoms in his march, and is gazed at like a comet. The burning desert, the pathless mountains, and the fertile valleys, are in their turns explored and passed over.
No material accident distresses his progress, and England once more receives the spoiler. How sweet is rest to the weary traveller; the retrospect heightens the enjoyment; and if the future prospect be serene, the days of ease and happiness are arrived. An uninquiring observer might have been inclined to consider Lord Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] Clive, under all these agreeable circumstances, one whose every care was over, and who had nothing to do but sit down and say, Soul, take thine case, thou hast goods laid up in store for many years. The reception which he met with on his second arrival, was in every instance equal to, and in many exceeded, the honours of the first.
Generous of their praise, they frequently bestow it unworthily: but when once the truth arrives, the torrent stops, and rushes back again with the same violence.
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The newspapers, fatal enemies to ill-gotten wealth! Every post gave a stab to his fame—a wound to his peace—and a nail to his coffin. Like spectres from the grave they haunted him in every company, and whispered murder in his ear. A life chequered with uncommon varieties is seldom a long one. Action and care will in time wear down the strongest frame, but guilt and melancholy are poisons of quick despatch. Say, cool deliberate reflection was the prize, though abstracted from the guilt, worthy of the pains?
Ah no! Fatigued with victory he sat down to rest, and while he was recovering breath he lost it. A conqueror more fatal than himself beset him, and revenged the injuries done to India. As a cure for avarice and ambition let us take a view of him in his latter years. How visibly is the melancholy heart delineated on his countenance. He mourns no common care—His very steps are timed to sorrow—He trembles with a kind of mental palsy. Some debtor started from his sleepless pillow, to ruminate on poverty, and ponder on the horrors of a jail.
Poor man! Bless me, what a change!
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He makes, I see, for yonder cypress shade—fit scene for melancholy hearts! Lord Clive. Erewhile I heard a ragged wretch, who every mark of Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] poverty had on, say to a sooty sweep, Ah, poor Lord Clive! Volumes of morality are dull and spiritless compared to me. Lord Clive is himself a treatise upon vanity, printed in a golden type. The most unlettered clown writes explanatory notes thereon, and reads them to his children. Yet I could bear these insults could I but bear myself. In company I seem no company at all.
The joyous toast is like the sound of murder, and the loud laughs are groans of dying men. The scenes of India are all rehearsed, and no one sees the tragedy but myself. I discover things which are not, and hear unuttered sounds—.
Whither art thou fled? Here take my gold, and all the world calls mine, and come thou in exchange. Or thou, thou noisy sweep, who mix thy food with soot and relish it, who canst descend from lofty heights and walk the humble earth again, without repining at the change, come teach that mystery to me. Or thou, thou ragged wandering beggar, who, when thou canst not beg successfully, will pilfer from the hound, and eat the dirty morsel sweetly; be thou Lord Clive, and I will beg, so I may laugh like thee.
AS the little amorous deity was one day winging his way over a village in Arcadia, he was drawn by the sweet sound of the pipe and tabor, to descend and see what was the matter. The gods themselves are sometimes ravished with the simplicity of mortals. The groves of Arcadia were once the country seats of the celestials, where they relaxed from the business of the skies, and partook of the diversions of the villagers.
Cupid being descended, was charmed with the lovely appearance of the place.
Every thing he saw had an air of pleasantness. Every shepherd was in his holyday dress, and every shepherdess was decorated with a profusion of flowers. The sound of labour was not heard among them. The little cottages had a peaceable look, and were almost hidden with arbours of jessamine and myrtle. The way to the temple was strewed with flowers, and enclosed with a number of garlands and green arches. Surely, quoth Cupid, here is a festival today. What is the matter, said Cupid to a swain who was sitting under a sycamore by the way-side, and humming a very melancholy tune, why are you not at the Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] feast, and why are you so sad?
What is it, said Cupid, come tell me, for perhaps I can help you. I was once happier than a king, replied the swain, and was envied by all the shepherds of the place, but now everything is dark and gloomy, because—Because what? A wedding, quoth Cupid, and I know nothing of it, you must be mistaken, shepherd, I keep a record of marriages, and no such thing has come to my knowledge.
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