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THE DISABLED SOLDIER.
BY DR. GOLDSMITH.
No observation is more common, and at the same time more true, than, That one half of the world are ignorant how the other half lives. The misfortunes of the great are held up to engage our attention; are enlarged upon in tones of declamation; and the world is called upon to gaze at the noble sufferers: the great, under the pressure of calamity, are conscious of several others sympathizing with their distress; and have, at once, the comfort of admiration and pity.
There is nothing magnanimous in bearing misfortunes with fortitude, when the whole world is lookng on: men in such circumstances will act bravely, ven from motives of vanity; but he who, in the vale of obscurity, can brave adversity; who, without friends to encourage, acquaintances to pity, or even without hope to alleviate his misfortunes, can behave with tranquility and indifference, is truly great: whether peasant or courtier, he deserves admiration, and should be held up for our imitation and respect.
While the slightest inconveniences of the great are magnified into calamities; while tragedy mouths out their sufferings in all the strains of eloquence; the miseries of the poor are entirely disregarded, and yet some of the lower ranks of people undergo more real hardships in one day than those of a more exalted station suffer in their whole lives. It is inconceivable what difficulties the meanest of our common sailors vid soldiers endure without murmuring or regret; without passionately declaiming against Providence, or calling their fellows to be gazers on their intrepidty. Every day is to them a day of misery, and yet they entertain their hard fate without repining.
With what indignation do I hear an Ovid, a Cicero, or a Rabutin, complain of their misfortunes and hardships, whose greatest calamity was that of being unable to visit a certain spot of earth, to which they had foolishly attached an idea of happiness! Theit distresses were pleasures, compared to what many of the adventuring poor every day endure without mur muring. They ate, drank, and slept; they had slave to attend them; and were sure of subsistence for life: while many of their fellow-creatures are obliged to wander without a friend to comfort or assist them, and even without shelter from the severity of the seaI have been led into these reflections from accidentally meeting, some days ago, a poor fel low, whom I knew when a boy, dressed in a sailor's jacket, and begging at one of the outlets of the town with a wooden leg. I knew him to have been hon est and industrious when in the country, and was cu rious to learn what had reduced him to his present situation. Wherefore, after having given him what I thought proper, I desired to know the history d his life and misfortunes, and the manner in which he was reduced to his present distress. The disabled soldier, for such he was, though dressed in a sailor's habit, scratching his head, and leaning on his crutch, put himself into an attitude to comply with my request, and gave me his history as follows:
As for my misfortunes, master, I can't pretend to have gone through any more than other folks; for, except the loss of my limb, and my being obliged to beg, I don't know any reason, thank Heaven, that I have to complain: there is Bill Tibbs, of our regiment, he has lost both his legs, and an eye to boot; but, thank Heaven, it is not so bad with me yet.
I was born in Shropshire; my father was a labourer, and died when I was five years old; so tha I was put upon the parish. As he had been a wan dering sort of a man, the parishioners were not able
to tell to what parish I belonged, or where I was born, so they sent me to another parish, and that par. ish sent me to a third. I thought in my heart, they kept sending me about so long that they would not let me be born in any parish at all; but at last, however, they fixed me. I had some disposition to be a scholar, and was resolved, at least, to know my letters; but the master of the workhouse put me to business as soon as I was able to handle a mallet; and here I lived an easy kind of life for five years. I only wrought ten hours in the day, and had my meat and drink provided for my labour. It is true, I was not suffered to stir out of the house, for fear, as they said, I should run away; but what of that, I had the liberty of the whole house, and the yard before the door, and that was enough for me. I was then bound out to a farmer, where I was up both early and late; but I ate and drank well, and liked my business well enough, till he died, when I was obliged to provide for myself; so I was resolved to go seek my fortune.
In this manner I went from town to town, worked when I could get employment, and starved when I could get none: when happening one day to go through a field belonging to a justice of peace, I spy'd a hare crossing the path just before me; and I believe the devil put it into my head to fling my stick at it: -well, what will you have on 't? I killed the hare, and was bringing it away, when the justice himself met me; he called me a poacher and a villain; and, collaring me, desired I would give an account of myself. I fell upon my knees, begged his worship's pardon, and began to give a full account of all that I knew of my breed, seed, and generation; but, though
gave a very true account, the justice said I could give no account; so I was indicted at sessions, found guilty of being poor, and sent up to London to Newgate, in order to be transported as a vagabond. People may say this and that of be
ing in jail, but, for my part, I found Newgate as a greeable a place as ever I was in in all my life. I had my belly-full to eat and drink, and did no work at all. This kind of life was too good to last for ever; so I was taken out of prison, after five months, put on board a ship, and sent off, with two hundred more, to the plantations. We had but an indifferent pas sage, for being all confined in the hold, more than a hundred of our people died for want of sweet air; and those that remained were sickly enough, Gol knows. When we came a-shore, we were sold to the planters, and I was bound for seven years more. As I was no scholar, for I did not know my letters, I was obliged to work among the negroes; and I serv. ed out my time, as in duty bound to do.
"When my time was expired, I worked my passage home, and glad I was to see Old England again,. because I loved my country. I was afraid, however, that I should be indicted for a vagabond once more, so I did not much care to go down into the country but kept about the town, and did little jobs when i could get them. I was very happy in this manner for some time, till one evening coming home ffom work, two men knocked me down, and then desired me to stand. They belonged to a press-gang: I was carried before the justice, and, as I could give o account of myself, I had my choice left, whether go on board a man of war, or list for a soldier: I chose the latter; and in this post of a gentleman, I served two campaigns in Flanders, was at the battles of Val and Fontenoy, and received but one wound, through the breast here; but the doctor of our regiment soon made me well again. 'When the peace came on I was discharged; and, as I could not work, because my wound was sometimes troublesome, I listed for a landman in the East India com pany's service. I have fought the French in six pitched battles; and I verily believe that, if I could read