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Platonist tell us, that the soul, during her residence in the body, contracts many virtuous and vicious habits, so as to become a beneficent, mild, charitable, or an angry, malicious, revengeful being : a substance inflamed with lust, avarice and pride : or on the contrary, brightened with pure, generous, and humble dispositions: that these and the like habits of virtue and vice growing into the very essence of the soul, survive and gather strength in her after her dissolution; that the torments of a vicious soul in a future state arise principally from those importunate passions which are not capable of being gratified without a body; and that on the contrary, the happiness of virtuous minds very much consists in their being employed in sublime speculations, innocent diversions, sociable afsections, and all the ecstacies of passion and rapture which are agreeable to reasonable natures, and of which they gained a relish in this life. Upon this foundation the poet raises that beautiful description of the secret haunts and walks, which he tells us are inhabited by deceased lovers. Not far from hence, says he, lies a great waste of plains, that are called the fields of melancholy. In these there grows a forest of myrtle, divided into many shady retirements and covered walks, and inhabited by the souls of those who pined away with love. The passion, says he, continues with them after death. He then gives a list of this languishing tribe, in which his own Dido makes the principal figure, and is described as living in this soft romantic scene, with the skade of her first husband Sichaeus. The poet in the next place mentions another plain that was peopled with the ghosts of warriors, as still delighting in each other's company, and pleased with the exercise of arms. He there represents the Grecian generals and common soldiers, who perished in the siege of Troy, as drawn up in squadrons, and terrified at the approach of Æneas, which renewed in them those impressions of fear they had before received in battle with the Trojans. He afterwards likewise, upon the same notions, gives a view of the Trojan heroes who lived in former ages, amidst a visionary scene of chariots and arms, flowery meadows, shining spears, and generous steeds, which he tells us were their pleasures upon earth, and now make up their happiness in Elysium. For the same reason also, he mentions others as singing poeans, and songs of triumph, amidst a beautiful grove of laurel. The chief of the concert was the poet Musæus, who stood inclosed with a circle of admirers, and rose by the head and shoulders above the throng of shades that surrounded him. The habitations of unhappy spirits, to shew the duration of their torments, and the desperate condition they are in, are represented as guarded by a fury, moated round with a lake of fire, strengthened with towers of iron, encompassed with a triple wall, and sortified with pillars of adamant, which all the gods together are not able to heave from their foundations. The noise of stripes, the clank of chains, and the groans of the tortured, strike the pious AEneas with a kind of horror. The poet afterwards divides the criminals into two classes: the first and blackest catalogue consists of such as were guilty of outrages against the gods; and the next, of such who were convicted of injustice between man and man : the greatest number of whom, says the poet, are those who followed the dictates of avarice. It was an opinion of the Platonists, that the souls of men having contracted in the body great stains and pollutions of vice and ignorance, there were several purgations and cleansings necessary to be passed through both here and hereafter, in order to refine and purify them. Virgil, to give this thought likewise a cloathing of Poetry, describes some spirits as bleaching in the winds, others as cleansing under great falls of waters,
and others as purging in fire, to recover the primitive beauty and purity of their natures. It was likewise an opinion of the same sect of philosophers, that the souls of all men exist in a separate state, long before their union with their bodies; and that upon their emersion into flesh, they forget every thing which passed in the state of pre-existence; so that what we here call knowledge, is nothing else but memory, or the recovery of those things which we knew before. In pursuance of this scheme, Virgil gives us a view of several souls, who, to prepare themselves for living upon earth, flock about the river Lethe, and swill themselves with the waters of oblivion. The same scheme gives him an opportunity of making a noble compliment to his countrymen, where Anchises is represented taking a survey of the long train of heroes that are to descend from him, and giving his son Æneas an account of all the glories of his TâCe. I need not mention the revolution of the Platonic year, which is but just touched upon in this book; and as I have consulted no author's thoughts in this explication, shall be very well pleased, if it can make the noblest piece of the most accomplished poet more agreeable to my female readers, when they think fit to look into Dryden's translation of it.
No. CLV. THURSDAY, APRIL 6.
------------ Aliena negotia curat,
From my own Afiartment, Afril 5.
THERE lived some years since, within my neighbourhood, a very grave person, an upholsterer, who seemed a man of more than ordinary application to business. He was a very early riser, and was often abroad two or three hours before any of his neighbours. He had a particular carefulness in the knitting of his brows, and a kind of impatience in all his motions, that plainly discovered he was always intent on matters of importance. Upon my enquiry into his life and conversation, I found him to be the greatest newsmonger in our quarter; that he rose before day to read the Postman; and that he would take two or three turns to the other end of the town before his neighbours were up, to see if there were any Dutch mails come in. He had a wife and several children; but was much more inquisitive to know what passed in Poland than in his own family, and was in greater pain and anxiety of mind for King Augustus's welfare than that of his nearest relations. He looked extremely thin in a dearth of news, and never enjoyed himself in a westerly wind. This indefatigable kind of life was the ruin of his shop; for about the time that his favourite prince left the crown of Poland, he broke and disappeared. This man and his affairs had been long out of my mind, until about three days ago, as I was walking in St. James's Park, I heard somebody at a distance hemming, after me: and who should it be but my old neighbour the upholsterer? I saw he was reduced to extreme poverty, by certain shabby superfluities in his olreso for notwithstanding it was a very sultry day for the time of the year, he wore a loose great coat and a muff, with a long campaign wig out of curl; to which he had added the ornament of a pair of black garters, buckled under the knee. Upon his coming up to me, I was going to enquire into his present circumstances; but was prevented by his asking me, with a whisper, whether the last letters brought any accounts that one might rely upon from Bender 2 I told him, none that I heard of; and asked him, whether he had yet marfied his eldest daughter? He told me, no. But pray, says he, tell me sincerely, what are your thoughts of the king of Sweden : for though his wife and children were starving, I found his chief concern at present was for this great monarch. I told him, that I looked upon him as one of the first heroes of the age. But pray, says he, do you think there is any thing in the story of his wound? And finding me surprised at the question, nay, says he, I only propose it to you. I answered, that I thought there was no reason to doubt of it. But why in the heel, says he, more than in any other part of the body ? Because, said I, the bullet chanced to light there. This extraordinary dialogue was no sooner ended, buthe began to launch out into a long dissertation upon the affairs of the north; and after having spent some time on them, he told me, he was in a great perplexity how to reconcile the supplement with the English post, and had been just now examining what the other papers say upon the same subject. The Daily Courant, Says he, has these words, we have advices from very good hands, that a certain prince has some matters of great importance under consideration. This is very mysterious; but the Post-boy leaves us more in the dark, for he tells us, that there are private intimations of measures taken by a certain prince, which time will bring to light. Now the Post-man, says he, who weed to be very clear, refers to the same news in these Words; the late conduct of a certain prince affords great matter of speculation. This certain prince, says :