Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

my female concert to another occasion, If he has a mind to know where these several characters are to be met with, I could direct him to a whole club of drums; not to mention another of bag-pipes, which I have before given some account of in my description of our nightly meetings in Sheer-lane. The lutes may often be met with in couples upon the banks of a chrystal stream, or in the retreats of shady woods, and flowery meadows; which for different reasons are likewise the great resort of your hunting-horns. Bass-viols are frequently to be found over a glass of stale beer, and a pipe of tobacco; whereas those who set up for violins, seldom fail to make their appearance at Will's once every evening. You may meet with a trumpet any where on the other side of Charing-Cross.

That we may draw something for our advantage in life out of the foregoing discourse, I must entreat my reader to make a narrow search into life and conversation, and upon his leaving any company, to examine himself seriously, whether he has behaved himself in it like a drum or a trumpet, a violin or a bass-viol; and accordingly endeavour to mend his music for the future. For my own part, I must confess, I was a drum for

many years; nay, and a very noisy one, till having polished myself a little in good company, I threw as much of the trumpet into my conversation, as was possible for a man of an impetuous temper, by which mixture of different musics, I look upon myself, during the course of many years, to have resembled a tabor and pipe. I have since very much endeavoured at the sweetness of the lute; but in spite of all my resolutions, I must confess, with great confusion, that I find myself daily degenerating into a bag-pipe; whether it be the effect of my old age, or of the company I keep, I know not. All that I can do, is to keep a watch over my conversation, and to silence the drone as soon as I find it begin to hum in my discourse, being determined rather to hear the notes of others,

than to play out of time, and encroach upon their parts in the concert by the noise of so tiresome an instrument.

I shall conclude this paper with a letter which I received last night from a friend of mine, who knows very well my notions upon this subject, and invites me to pass the evening at his house, with a select company of friends, in the following words:

66 DEAR ISAAC, Ó I INTEND to have a concert at my house this evening, having by great chance got a harpsichord, “ which I am sure will entertain you very agreeably. « There will be likewise two lutes and a trumpet: “ let me beg you to put yourself in tune, and believe

me

66 Your very

faithful

servant,
66 NICHOLAS HUMDRUM.”

No. CLIV. TUESDAY, APRIL 4.

Obscuris vera involvens.

VIRG

From my own Apartment, April 3. WE have already examined Homer's description of a future state, and the condition in which he hath placed the souls of the deceased. I shall in this paper make some observations on the account which Virgil hath given us of the same subject, who, besides a greatness of genius, had all the lights of philosophy and human learning to assist and guide him in his discoveries.

Æneas is represented as descending into the empire of death, with a prophetess by his side, who instructs him in the secrets of those lower regions.

Upon the confines of the dead, and before the very gates of this infernal world, Virgil describes several inhabitants, whose natures are wonderfully suited to the situation of the place, as being either the occasions or resemblances of death. Of the first kind are the shadows of sickness, old age, fear, famine and poverty; (apparitions very terrible to behold) with several others, as toil, war, contention and discord, which contribute all of them to people this common receptacle of human souls. As this was likewise a very proper residence for every thing that resembles death, the poet tells us, that sleep, whom he represents as a near relation to death, has likewise his habitation in these quarters, and describes in them a huge gloomy elmtree, which seems a very proper ornament for the place, and is possessed by an innumerable swarm of dreams, that hang in clusters under every leaf of it. He then gives us a list of imaginary persons, who very naturally lie within the shadow of the dream-tree, as being of the same kind of make in themselves, and the materials, or (to use Shakspeare's phrase) the stuff of which dreams are made. Such are the shades of the giant with an hundred hands, and of his brother with three bodies; of the double-shaped Centaur and Scylla; the Gorgon with snaky hair; the Harpy with a woman's face and lion's talons; the seven-headed Hydra; and the Chimæra, which breathes forth a flame, and is a compound of three animals. These several mixed natures, the creatures of imagination, are not only introduced with great art after the dreams; but as they are planted at the very entrance, and within the very gates of those regions, do probably denote the wild deliriums and extravagancies of fancy, which the soul usually falls into when she is just upon the verge of death.

Thus far Æneas travels in an allegory. The rest of the description is drawn with great exactness, according to the religion of the heathens, and the opinions of the Platonic philosophy. I shall not trouble my reader with a common dull story, that gives an account why the heathens first of all supposed a ferryman in hell, and his name to be Charon; but must not pass over in silence the point of doctrine which Virgil hath very much insisted upon in this book, that the souls of those who are unburied, are not perinitted to go over into their respective places of rest, till they have wandered a hundred years upon the banks of Styx. This was probably an invention of the heathen priesthood, to make the people extremely careful of performing proper rites and ceremonies to the memory of the dead. I shall not however, with the infamous scribblers of the age, take an occasion from such a circumstance, to run into declamations against priestcraft, but rather look upon it even in this light as a religious artifice, to raise in the minds of men an esteem for the memory of their forefathers, and a desire to recommend themselves to that of posterity ; as also to excite ir them an ambition of imitating the virtues of the deceased, and to keep alive in their thoughts the sense of the soul's immortality. In a word, we may say in defence of the severe opinions relating to the shades of unburied persons, what hath been said by some of our divines in regard to the rigid doctrines concerning the souls of such who die without being initiated into our religion, that supposing they should be erroneous, they can do no hurt to the dead, and will have a good effect upon the living, in making them cautious of neglecting such necessary solemnities.

Charon is no sconer appeased, and the triple-headed dog laid asleep, but Æneas makes his entrance into the dominions of Pluto. There are three kinds of persons described as being situated on the borders;

[blocks in formation]

and I can give no reason for their being stationed there in so particular a manner, but because none of them seem to have had a proper right to a place among the dead, as not having run out the whole thread of their days, and finished the term of life that had been allotted them upon earth. The first of these are the souls of infants, who are snatched away by untimely ends: the second are those who are put to death wrongfully, by an unjust sentence; and the third, of those who grew weary of their lives, and laid violent hands upon themselves. As for the second of these, Virgil adds with great beauty, that Minos, the judge of the dead, is employed in giving them a rehearing, and assigning them their several quarters suitable to the parts they acted in life. The poet, after having mentioned the souls of those unhappy men who destroyed themselves, breaks out into a fine exclamation; “O! how gladly,

, says he, would they now endure life with all “its miseries! But the destinies forbid their return to “ earth, and the waters of Styx surround them with 6 nine streams that are unpassable.” It is very remarkable, that Virgil, notwithstanding self-murder was so frequent among the heathens, and had been practised by some of the greatest men in the very age before him, hath here represented it as so heinous a crime. But in this particular he was guided by the doctrines of his great master Plato, who says on this subject, that a man is placed in his station of life, like a soldier in his proper post, which he is not to quit whatever may happen, until he is called off by his commander who planted him in it.

There is another point in the Platonic philosophy, which Virgil has made the ground-work of the greatest part in the piece we are now examining, having with wonderful art and beauty materialized (if I may so call it) a scheme of abstracted notions, and cloathed the most nice refined conceptions of philosophy in sensible images, and poetical representations. The

« AnteriorContinuar »