REAT was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, even as the tree that he saw in his dream; for, by the avowal of the Hebrew prophet who interpreted that dream, the king was, indeed become strong, and his greatness was grown, and reached unto the heaven, and his dominion unto the ends, of the earth. But sentence had gone forth, as against the tree, so against the king. Nebuchadnezzar was to be degraded; despoiled of his kingdom, cast down from his throne, and driven from men, to eat grass as oxen.
This counsel, however, the prophet urged upon the sovran, that he should break off his sins by righteousness, and his " iniquities by showing mercy to the poor "; if it might be a lengthening of his tranquillity, or a healing of his error. What error? That of which ex-king Lear accused himself, when he owned, amid words of frenzy, all however with more or less of tragic significance in them, that he had taken too little care of this,-of sympathy with desolate indigence, and of readiness to relieve the sufferings of the destitute and forlorn.
The storm is raging on the heath, and faithful Kent implores his aged master to take shelter, such as it is, within a hovel hard by; some friendship will it lend him against the tempest; the tyranny of the open night's too rough for nature to endure.
But Lear would be let alone. Again the drenched, discrowned old man is urged to enter the hovel on the heath. But he stays outside, to reason on his past and present, till reason gives way. Kent may think it a matter of moment that this contentious storm. But Lear has deeper griefs to shatter him; and "where the greater malady is fixed, the lesser is scarce felt. Poor naked wretches, he apostrophises them, wheresoever they are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,-how shall their houseless heads, and unfed sides, their looped and windowed raggedness, defend them from seasons such as these?
And then, in an outburst of repentant self-reproach, he that had been King of Britain breaks forth into the avowal,' O I have ta'en Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel; That thou mayst shake the superflux to them, And show the heavens more just. And it is observable that when Gloster too, another duped and outcast father, is wandering in his turn on the same heath, and is accosted by "poor mad Tom,"-the sightless, miserable father thus addresses the "naked fellow" whose identity he so little suspects: " Here, take this purse, thou whom the heaven's plagues Have humbled to all strokes: that I am wretched, Makes thee the happier: —Heavens, deal so still!
Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man, That slaves your ordinance, that will not see Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly; So distribution should undo the excess, And each man have enough. The words of Amos, the herdman of Tekoa, include a denunciation of woe to them that lie upon beds of ivory, and. As the minor prophet with his woe to them that are thus at ease in Zion, so a major prophet declares this to have been the iniquity of a doomed race-pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness, with disregard of all means to strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
Lazarus the beggar was, as some scholars interpret the passage, "content to be fed" on the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; in which case he would not appear to have been refused the crumbs: indeed, had this been the case, it would scarcely, they contend, have been omitted in the rebuke of Abraham.
Repo man hits the big man where it hurts
La Bruyere observes that " la sante et les richesses otent aux hommes l'experience du mal, leur inspirent la duret6 pour leurs semblables;" and adds, that'"les gens deja charges de leur propre misere sont ceux qui entrent davantage, par leur compassion, dans celle d'autrui. Hraud ignari mali, miseris succurrere discunt. In another chapter of his "' Characters," La Bruyere sketches the portrait of one he styles Champagne, who " au sortir d'un long diner qui lui enfle l'estomac, et dans les douces fumees d'un vin d'Avenay ou de Sillery, signe un ordre qu'on lui presente, qui oterait le pain i toute une province, si l'on n'y remediait: il est excusable.
Quel moyen de comprendre, dans la premiere heure de la digestion, qu'on puisse quelque part mourir de faim? Luke xvi.
Trollope's in loc. Miss Hannah More that he used to hate that king and t'other prince-but that on reflection he found the censure ought to fall on human nature in general. Poor creatures! To be educated properly, they should be led through hovels [as Lear was on the heath-somewhat late in life], and hospitals, and prisons.
Instead of being reprimanded and perhaps immediately afterwards szugar-plum'd for not learning their Latin or French grammar, they now and then should be kept fasting; and, if they cut their finger, should have no plaster till it festered. No part of a royal brat's memory, which is good enough, should be burthened but with the remembrance of human suffering. Adam Smith, however, made a dead set against what he calls those " whining and melancholy moralists," who he complains, are perpetually reproaching us with our happiness, while so many of our brethren are in misery, who regard as impious the natural joy of prosperity, which does not think of the many wretches that are at every instant labouring under all sorts of calamities, in the languor of poverty, in the agony of disease, etc.
This, of course, is assuming the wretchedness in question to be beyond the sympathiser's relief. Smith may be supposed to have had in view Thomson's celebrated passage: "Ah!
So Burns"' ye who, sunkr in beds of down, Feel not a want but what yourselves create, Think for a moment on his wretched fate Whom friends and fortune quite disown. Ill-satisfied keen nature's clam'rous call, Stretch'd on his straw he lays himself to sleep, While through the ragged roof and chinky wall, Chill, o'er his slumbers, piles the drifty heap.
Affliction's sons are brothers in distress: A brother to relieve, how exquisite the bliss! If Dives, it is asked, feels bound to give Lazarus so much, where does he draw the line? The writings of such men as Hood are little more than embodiments of it in a variety of forms, ludicrous or pathetic. It forms the burden of a whole class of literature, not the less influential because it is somewhat vague in its Aoctrines, and rests rather on sentiments than on dogmas.
And the answer, at least in part, in this instance, he takes to be that the antithesis is only sentimental, and not logical.
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The poverty of the very poor is not, he contends, either a cause or an effect of the riches of the very rich, nor would it be relieved by their permanent impoverishment. The uneasiness is supposed to rankle in him for some time, spoiling his digestion, and making him very cross to his wife and daughters. Not that he "'for a.
He feels that he has no time for visiting the sick, and that if he had, the sick would think him a great nuisance; and he knows that when he got to the bedside, he would probably be at his wits' ends for anything to say, and would end by twisting his watch-chain, and remarking that it was a cold day. HTe, at least, will vindicate himself, so far as that vicarious beneficence may avail, from any possible charge of branded fellowship with such as the poet of the Seasons depicts, in "'The cruel wretch Who, all day long in sordid pleasure rolled, Himself a useless load, has squandered vile Upon his scoundrel train, what might have cheered A drooping family of modest worth.
The affluent, I fear, do not consider what a benefit-ticket has fallen to their lot out of millions not so fortunate; yet less do they reflect that chance, not merit, drew the prize out of the wheel. Thus passed the seasons, and to Dinah's board Gave what the seasons to the rich afford; For she indulged," etc. Not so serenely does Bishop Jeremy Taylor imagine a gazer from the skies to look down on the sorrows of this earth of ours, in the celebrated paragraph beginning, "But if we could from one of the battlements of heaven espy how many men and women lie fainting and dying," etc.
And, by the way, there is another of Crabbe's Tales, in which, too late, a self-upbraiding spirit thus accuses itself for neglecting a ruined wrong-doer, whose death she has just discovered: "To have this money iii my purse-to know What grief was his, and what to grief we owe; To see him often, always to conceive How he must pine and languish, groan and grieve;e, And every day in ease and peace to dine, And rest in comfort! Whitehead pictures him, bitterly conversant with cold and hunger, a houseless vagrant through the streets by night, and a famishing lounger in them by day, apostrophises Mr.
Overseer in his pursy prosperity, much as muzatzis 1n1tandis Lear apostrophises pomp. They are best taken at night, when God only sees you-when the east wind is abroad, making you shake like the sinner who was hanged for breaking into your dwelling-house. It is so. But tell me whether, on the fourth night, when thou liest stretched on thy blessed bed, thy heart is not warmer than it was wont to be-whether.
Sayest thou, no? God help thee! He was ill when he got back to his quarters, went to bed, and was treated by his landlady to a little toast and wine. Roscoe's tragedies: "We may be wrecked a dozen times, for what our betters care; but being aboard themselves, they see some spice of danger in it, and that breeds a fellow-feeling. Ruskin demands whether, even supposing it guiltless, luxury would be desired by any of us, if we saw clearly at our sides the suffering which accompanies it in the world. A sovran's interest in the sufferings of his or her subjects is always of exceptional interest in the eyes of fellowsubjects.
Leigh Hunt knew this, when he pictured, in her. She likens them to the dweller on African mountains, who, gazing from the verdant table-land, refreshed by the rills of melted snow, cannot comprehend that the dwellers in the plains below him are perishing from hunger and thirst in the midst of their lands, burnt up by the heat of the sun.
When, in the same romance-by courtesy historical; only the proportion of history to romance in it is much about that of Falstaff's bread bill to his running account for sack-one of Anne of Austria's sons, the reigning king, young Lewis the Fourteenth, is substituted in the Bastille for his ill-starred brother, and so comes to taste of suffering i p r op ria personza,-the royal prisoner tries to remember at what hour the first repast is served to the captives in that fortress — but his ignorance of this detail occasions a feeling of remorse that smites him like the keen thrust of a dagger: "that he should have lived for five and twenty years a king, and in the.
The king blushed for very shame. He felt that Heaven, in permitting this fearful humiliation, did no more than render to the man the same torture as was inflicted by that man upon so many others. Arsene Houssaye delivers himself of this pensive aside: " Et la musique de Lulli acheve d'enivrer tout ce beau monde, qui ne pense pas un seul instant que pres de la, i la grille melme du chateau des merveilles, une pauvre femme prie et pleure, tout affamee, pour ses enfants. Comment t'appelles-tu, bonne femme? Our hearts are waxed light within us then But when the hour of trouble comes-and seldom may it visit your leddyship-and when the hour of death comes, that comes to high and low-lang and late may it be yours- 0 my leddy, then it isna what we hae dune for oursells, but what we hae dune for others, that we think on maist pleasantly.
The imperial children, I have no doubt, wonder why, if the peasants have no bread to eat, they don't take to plum-cake; the Emperor is affected, but goes to work," etc. Which last expression, by the way, reminds us of a quasiquotation by Mr. Carlyle of Shakespeare's text in juxtaposition with mention of'the greatest of czars: "Descend, 0 Donothing Pomp; quit thy down-cushions; expose thyself to learn what wretches feel, and how to cure it!
The czar of Russia became a dusty toiling shipwright;. The prince is said to have expressed himself thankful for even this nauseous food"' salt-water drammock " —and to have declared, on the occasion, that if ever he mounted a throne, he should not fail to remember "those who dined with him to-day. Another time we find him spending the night in an open cave, on the top of a high hill between the Braes of Glenmorriston and Strathglass, —a cave too narrow to let him -stretch himself, and in which he lay drenched to the skin, with no possibility of getting a fire to dry him.
In that paradoxical essay of his, on saying grace before meat, Charles Lamb remarks that the indigent man, who hardly knows whether he shall have a meal the next day or not, sits down to his fare with a present sense of the blessing, which can be but feebly acted by the rich, into whose minds the conception of wanting a dinner could never, but by some extreme theory, have entered. According to the essayist, the heats of epicurism put out the gentle flame of devotion: the incense which rises round is pagan, and the belly-god intercepts it for his own.
The Giver is veiled by his gifts. You are startled at the injustice of returning thanks-for what? It is to praise the gods amiss. Edmund's shrine, Mr.
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Carlyle moralises on how much would many a Serene Highness have learnt, had he travelled through the world with water-jug and empty wallet, sirze omni expensds, and returned only to sit down at the foot of St. Edmund's shrine to shackles and bread and water. Patriotism itself, a political economist has remarked, can never be generated by a passive enjoyment of good; the evil tendency of which he bids us see by merely looking to a city like London; where the rich who live together in streets of fine houses many miles long, and have every comfort provided for them.
We may choose. The day will come when He will require an account of these neglects of ours-not in the gross. Gaskell ably describes the fear of Margaret Hale, in "North and South," lest, in her West-end ease, she should become sleepily deadened into forgetfulness of anything beyond the life that was lapping her round with luxury. An essayist of Mr. Dickens's Christmas books affected him: " sanative, I dare say, to the spirit, but making us despise and loathe ourselves for passing our days in luxury, while better and gentler creatures are living such lives as make us wonder that such things can be in a society of human beings, or even in the world of a good God.
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I never dreamed of this before! I thought what was invisible to me was non-existent in itself-I will remember this dread experiment. From grief exempt, she had never dreamt of such a world of woe as appals her in apocalyptic visions of the night; never dreamt till now of the hearts that daily break, and the tears that hourly fall, and the many, many troubles of life that grieve this earthly balldisease, and hunger, and pain, and want; but now she dreams of them all-of the naked she might have clad, the famished she might have fed, the sorrowing she might have solaced; of each pleading that, long ago, she scanned with a heedless eye.
But I never remembered the wretched ones That starve for want of food.