Imágenes de páginas

I need not point out the beauty of that

circumstance, wherein the whole host of angels are represented as standing mute; nor show how proper the occasion was to produce such a silence in heaven. The close of this divine colloquy, with the hymn of angels that follows upon it, are so wonderfully beautiful and poetical, that I should not forbear inserting the whole passage, if the bounds of my paper would give me leave:

No sooner had th' Almighty ceas'd, but all

The multitude of angels with a shout

(Loud as from numbers without number, sweet

As from blest voices) utt'ring joy, heav'n rung

[ocr errors]

Satan’s walk upon the outside of the universe, which at a distance appeared to him of a globular form, but upon his nearer approach looked like an unbounded plain, is natural and noble; as his roaming upon the frontiers of the creation, between that mass of matter which was wrought into a world, and that shapeless unformed heap of materials which still lay in chaos and confusion, strikes the imagination with something astonishingly great and wild. I have before spoken of the Limbo of Vanity, which the poet places upon this outermost surface of the universe, and shall here explain myself more at large on that, and other parts of the poem, which are of the same shadowy nature. Aristotle observes, that the fable of an epic poem should abound in circumstances that are both credible and astonishing; or, as the French critics choose to phrase it, the fable should be filled with the probable and the marvellous. This rule is as fine and just as any in Aristotle's whole Art of Poetry. If the fable is only probable, it differs nothing from a true history; if it is only marvellous, it is no better than a romance. The great secret, therefore, of heroic poetry is to relate such circumstances as ma produce in the reader at the same time bot belief and astonishment. This is brought to pass in a well-chosen fable, by the account of such things as have really happened, or at least of such things as have happened according to the received opinions of mankind. Milton’s fable is a master-piece of this nature; as the war in heaven, the condition of the fallen angels, the state of innocence, the temptation of the serpent, and the fall of man, though they are very astonishing in themselves, are not only credible, but actual points of faith. The next method of reconciling miracles with credibility, is by a happy invention of the poet: as in particular, when he introduces agents of a superior nature, who are capable of effecting what is wonderful, and what is not to be met with in the ordinary course of things. Ulysses's ship being turned into a rock, and Æneas's fleet into a shoal of water-nvmphs, though they are very sur

prising accidents, are nevertheless probable when we are told, that they were the gods who thus transformed them. It is this kind of machinery which fills the poems both of Homer and Y. with such circumstances as are wonderful but not impossible, and so frequently produce in the reader the most pleasing passion that can rise in the mind of man, which is admiration. If there be any instance in the Æneid liable to exception upon this account, it is in the beginning of the third book, where AEneas is represented as tearing up the myrtle that dropped blood. To qualify this wonderful circumstance, Polydorus tells a story from the root of the myrtle, that the barbarous inhabitants of the country having pierced him with spears and arrows, the blood which was left in his body took root in his wounds, and gave birth to that bleeding tree. This circumstance seems to have the marvellous without the probable, because it is represented as F. from natural causes, without the interposition of any god, or other supernatural power capable of producing it. The spears and arrows grow of themselves without so much as the modern help of enchantment. If we look into the fiction of Milton’s fable, though we find it full of surprising incidents, they are generally suited to our notions of the things and persons described, and tempered with a due measure of probability. , I must only make an exception to the Limbo of Vanity, with his episode of Sin and Death, and some of the imaginary persons in his chaos.These passages are astonishing, but not credible: the reader cannot so far impose upon himself as to see a possibility in them; they are the description of dreams and shadows, not of things or persons. I know that many critics look upon the stories of Circe, Polypheme, the Sirens, may the whole Odyssey and Iliad, to be allegories; but allowing this to be true, they are fables, which, considering the opinions of mankind that prevailed in the age of the poet, might possibly have been according to the letter. The ersons are such as might have acted what is ascribed to them, as the circumstances in which they are represented might +. sibly have been truths and realities. This appearance of probability is so absolutely requisite in the greater kinds of poetry, that Aristotle observes the ancient tragic writers made use of the names of such great men as had actually lived in the world, though the tragedy proceeded upon adventures they were never engaged in, on purpose to make the subject more credible. In a word, besides the hidden meaning of an epic allegory, the plain literal sense ought to appear probable. The story should be such as an ordinary reader may acquiesce in, whatever natural, moral, or political truth may be discovered in it by men of greater penetration. Satan, after having long wandered upon

the surface or outermost wall of the uni

verse, discovers at last a wide gap in it, which led into the creation, and is described as the opening through which the angels pass to and fro into the lower world, upon their errands to mankind. His sitting upon the brink of this passage, and taking a survey of the whole face of nature, that appeared to him new and fresh in all its beauties, with the simile illustrating this circumstance, fills the mind of the reader with as surprising and glorious an idea as any that arises in the whole poem. He looks down into that vast hollow of the universe with the eye, or (as Milton calls it in his first book) with the ken of an angel. He surveys all the wonders in this immense amphitheatre that lie between both the poles of heaven, and takes in at one view the whole round of the creation. His flight between the several worlds that shined on every side of him, with the articular description of the sun, are set orth in all the wantonness of a luxuriant imagination. His shape, speech, and behaviour, upon his transforming himself into an angel of light, are touched with exquisite beauty. The poet's thought of directing Satan to the sun, which, in the vulgar opinion of mankind, is the most conspicuous part of the creation, and the placing in it an angel, is a circumstance very finely contrived, and the more adjusted to a poetical probability, as it was a received doctrine among the most famous philosophers, that every orb had its intelligence; and as an apostle in sacred writ is said to have seen such an angel in the sun. In the answer which the angel returns to the disguised evil spirit, there is such a becoming majesty as is altogether suitable to a superior being. The part of it in which he represents himself as present at the creation, is very noble in itself, and not only proper where it is introduced, but requisite to prepare the reader for what follows in the seventh book:

I saw when at his word the formless mass,
This world's material mould, came to a heap:
Confusion heard his voice, and wild Uproar
Stood rul’d, stood vast infinitude confinid;
Till at his second bidding Darkness fled,
Light shone, &c.

In the following part of the speech he points out the earth, with such circumstances, that the reader can scarce forbear fancying himself employed on the same distant view of it. Look downward on that globe, whose hither side With light from hence, though but reflected, shines; That place is earth, the seat of man, that light His day, &c. I must not conclude my reflections upon this third book of Paradise Lost, without taking notice of that celebrated complaint of Milton with which it opens, and which certainly deserves all the praises that have been given it; though, as I have before hinted, it may rather be looked upon as an excrescence than as an essential part of the

poem. . The same observation might be applied to that beautiful digression upon hypocrisy in the same book. L.

No. 316.] Monday, March 3, 1711-12. Libertas; qua sera, tamen respexit inertem. Pirg. Ecl. i. 28. Freedom, which came at length, though slow to come. Dryden. “Mr. SPEctator,-If you ever read a letter which is sent with the more pleasure for the reality of its complaints, this may have reason to hope for a favourable acceptance; and if time be the most irretrievable loss, the regrets which follow will be thought, I hope, the most justifiable. The regaining of my liberty from a long state of indolence and inactivity, and the desire of resisting the farther encroachments of idleness, make me apply to you; and the uneasiness with which I recollect the past years, and the apprehensions with which I expect the future, soon determined me to it. Idleness is so general a distemper, that I cannot but imagine a speculation on this subject will be of universal use. There is hardly any one person without some allay of it; and thousands besides myself spend more time in an idle uncertainty which to begin first of two affairs, than would have been sufficient to have ended them both. The occasion of this seems to be the want of some necessary employment, to put the spirits in motion, and awaken them out of their lethargy. If I had less leisure, I should have more; for I should then find my time distinguished into portions, some for business, and others for the indulging of pleasures; but now one face of indolence overspreads the whole, and I have no landmark to direct myself by. Were one's time a little straitened by business, like water enclosed in its banks, it would have some determined course; but unless it be put into some channel it has no current, but becomes a deluge without either use or motion. “When Scanderbeg, Prince of Epirus, was dead, the Turks, who had but too often felt the force of his arm in the battles he had won from them, imagined that by wearing a piece of his bones near their heart, they should be animated with a vigour and force like to that which inspired him when living. As I am like to be but of little use whilst I live, I am resolved to do what good I can after my decease; and have accordingly ordered my bones to be disposed of in this manner for the good of my countrymen, who are troubled with too exorbitant a degree of fire. All fox-hunters, upon wearing me, would in a short time be brought to endure their beds in a morning, and perhaps even quit them with regret at ten. Instead of hurrying away to tease a poor animal, and run away from their own thoughts, a chair or a chariot would be thought the most desirable means of per

forming a remove from one place to another. I should be a cure for the unnatural desire of John Trot for dancing, and a specific to lessen the inclination Mrs. Fidget has to motion, and cause her always to give her "Poo to the present place she is in. In fine, no Egyptian mummy was ever half so useful in physic, as I should be to these feverish constitutions, to repress the violent sallies of youth, and give each action its proper weight and repose. ‘I can stifle any violent inclination, and oppose a torrent of anger, or the solicitations of revenge, with success. Indolence is a stream which flows slowly on, but yet undermines the foundation of every virtue. A vice of a more lively nature were a more desirable tyrant than this rust of the mind, which gives a tincture of its nature to every action of one’s life. It were as little hazard to be lost in a storm, as to lie thus perpetually becalmed: and it is to no purpose to have within one the seeds of a thousand good qualities, if we want the vigour and resolution necessary for the exerting them. Death brings all persons back to an equality; and this image of it, this slumber of the mind, leaves no difference between the greatest genius, and the meanest understanding. A aculty of doing things remarkably praiseworthy, thus concealed, is of no more use to the owner than a heap of gold to the man who dares not use it. “To-morrow is still the fatal time when all is to be rectified. To-morrow comes, it goes, and still I please myself with the shadow, whilst I lose the reality: unmindful that the present time alone is ours, the future is yet unborn, and the past is dead, and can only live (as parents in their children,) in the actions it has produced. “The time we live ought not to be computed by the number of years, but by the use that has been made of it; thus, it is not the extent of ground, but the yearly rent, which gives the value to the estate. Wretched and thoughtless creatures, in the only place where covetousness were a virtue, we turn prodigals! Nothing lies upon our hands with such uneasiness, nor have there been so many devices for any one thing, as to make it slide away imperceptibly and to no purpose. A shilling shall be hoarded up with care, whilst that which is above the price of an estate is flung away with disregard and contempt. There is nothing now-a-days, so much avoided, as a solicitous improvement of every part of time; it is a report must be shunned as one tenders the name of a wit and a fine genius, and as one fears the dreadful character of a laborious plodder; but notwithstanding this, the greatest wits any age has produced thought far otherwise; for who can think either Socrates or Demosthenes lost any reputation by their continual pains both in overcoming the defects and improving the gifts of nature?. All are acquainted with the labour and assiduity with which Tuily

acquired his eloquence. Seneca in his letters to Lucilius assures him there was not a day in which he did not either write something, or read and epitomize some good author; and I remember Pliny in one of his letters, where he gives an account of the various methods he used to fill up every vacancy of time, after several employments which he enumerates; “Sometimes,” says he, “I hunt; but even then I carry with me a pocket-book, that whilst my servants are busied in disposing of the nets and other matters, I may be employed in something that may be useful to me in my studies; and that if I miss of my game, I may at the least bring home some of my own thoughts with me, and not have the mortification of having caught nothing all day.” “Thus, sir, you see how many examples I recall to mind, and what arguments I use with myself to regain my liberty: but as I am afraid it is no ordinary persuasion that will be of service, I shall expect your thoughts on this subject with the greatest impatience, especially since the good will not be confined to me alone, but will be of universal use. For there is no hope of amendment where men are pleased with their ruin, and whilst they think laziness is a desirable character; whether it be that they like the state itself, or that they think it gives them a new lustre when they do exert themselves, seemingly to be able to do that without , labour and application, which others attain to but with the greatest diligence. I am, sir, your most obliged humble servant, AMUEL SLACK.”

[blocks in formation]

AUGUSTU's, a few minutes before his death, asked his friends who stood about him, if they thought he had acted his part well; and upon receiving such an answer as was due to his extraordinary merit, “Let me, then,” says he, ‘go off the stage with your applause; using the expression with which the Roman actors made their exit at the conclusion of a dramatic piece.* I could wish that men, while they are in health, would consider well the nature of the part they are engaged in, and what figure it will make in the minds of those they leave behind them, whether it was

* Vos valete et plaudite.

[ocr errors]

worth coming into the world for; whether it be suitable to a reasonable being; in short, whether it appears graceful in this life, or will turn to an advantage in the next. Let the sycophant, or the buffoon, the satirist, or the good companion, consider with himself, when his body shall be laid in the grave, and his soul pass into another state of existence, how much it will redound to his praise to have it said of him that no man in England ate better, that he had an admirable talent at turning his friends into ridicule, that nobody out-did him at an illnatured jest, or that he never went to bed before he had despatched his third bottle. These are, however, very common funeral orations and eulogiums on deceased persons who have acted among mankind with some figure and reputation. But if we look into the bulk of our species, they are such as are not likely to be remembered a moment after their disappearance. They leave behind them no traces of their existence, but are forgotten as though they had never been. They are neither wanted by the poor, regretted b the rich, nor celebrated by the learned. They are neither missed in the commonWealth, nor lamented by private persons. Their actions are of no significancy to mankind, and might have been performed by creatures of much less dignity than those who are distinguished by the faculty of reason. An eminent French author speaks somewhere to the following purpose: have often seen from my chamber window two noble creatures, both of them of an erect countenance and endowed with reason. These two intellectual beings are employed from morning to night in rubbing two smooth stones one upon another; that is, as the vulgar phrase is, in polishing marble. My friend, Sir Andrew Freeport, as we were sitting in the club last night, gave us an account of a sober citizen, who died a few days since. This honest man being of greater consequence in his own thoughts than in the eye of the world, had for some years past kept a journal of his life. Sir Andrew showed us one week of it. Since the occurrences set down in it mark out such a road of action as that I have been speaking of, I shall present my reader with a faithful copy of it; after having first informed him, that the deceased person had in his youth been bred to trade, but finding himself not so well turned for business, he had for several years last past lived altogether upon a moderate annuity.”

Monday, eight o'clock. I put on my clothes and walked into the parlour.

Nine o'clock ditto. Tied my knee-strings, and washed my hands.

* It has been conjectured that this journal was intended to ridicule a gentleman who was a member of the congregation named Independents, where a Mr. Nes. bit officiated as minister. See John Dunton's account of his Life, Errors and Opinions.

Hours ten, eleven, and twelve. Smoked three pipes of Virginia. Read the Supplement and Daily Courant. Things go ill in the north. Mr. Nisby's opinion thereupon.

One o'clock in the afternoon. Chid Ralph for mislaying my tobacco-box.

Two o'clock. Sat down to dinner. Mem. Too many plumbs, and no suet.

From §. to four. Took my afternoon’s

From four to six. Walked in the fields.
Wind S. S. E.
From six to ten. At the Club. Mr.

Nisby's opinion about the peace.
Ten o'clock. Went to bed, slept sound.

TUEsday, being holiday, eight o'clock, rose as usual. Nine o'clock. Washed hands and face, shaved, put on my double-soled shoes. Ten, eleven, twelve. Took a walk to Islington. One. Took a pot of Mother Cob’s mild. Between two and three. Returned, dined on a knuckle of veal and bacon. Mem. Sprouts wanting. Three. Nap as usual. From four to six. Coffee-house. Read the news. A dish of twist. Grand vizier strangled. From six to ten. At the club. Mr. Nisby’s account of the Great Turk. Ten. Dream of the grand vizier. Broken sleep,

WEDNEspay, eight o'clock. Tongue ; my shoe-buckle broke. Hands but not ace. Nine. Paid off the butcher’s bill. Mem. To be allowed for the last leg of mutton. Ten, eleven. At the Coffee-house. More work in the north. Stranger in a black wig asked me how stocks went. From twelve to one. Walked in the fields. Wind to the south. om one to two. Smoked a pipe and a half. Two. Dined as usual. Stomach good. Three. Nap broke by the falling of a pewter dish. em. Cook-maid in love, and grown careless. From four to six. At the coffee-house. Advice from Smyrna that the grand vizier was first of all strangled, and afterwards beheaded. Six o'clock in the evening. Was half an hour in the club before any body else came. Mr. Nisby of opinion that the rand vizier was not strangled the sixth instant. Ten at night. Went to bed. Slept without waking until nine the next morning.

[blocks in formation]

Three. Could not take my nap.

Four and five. Gave Ralph a box on the ear. Turned off my cook-maid. Sent a messenger to Sir Timothy. Mem., I did not go to the club to night. Went to bed at nine o’clock.

FRIDAY. Passed the morning in meditation upon Sir Timothy, who was with me a quarter before twelve. Twelve o’clock. Bought a new head to my cane, and a tongue to my buckle. Drank a glass of purl to recover appetite. wo and three. Dined and slept well. From four to six. Went to the coffeehouse. Met Mr. Nisby there. Smoked several pipes. . Mr. Nisby of opinion that laced coffee is bad for the head. Six o'clock. At the club as steward. Sat late. Twelve o’clock. Went to bed, dreamt that I drank small beer with the grand vizier.

SATURDAY. Waked at eleven, walked in the fields, wind N. E.

Twelve. Caught in a shower.

One in the afternoon. Returned home and dried myself.

Two. Mr. Nisby dined with me. First course, marrow-bones; second, ox-cheek, with a bottle of Brooks and Hellier.

Three. Overslept myself. ..."

Six. Went to the club. Like to have fallen into a gutter. Grand vizier certainly dead, &c.

I question not but the reader will be surrised to find the above-mentioned iournalist taking so much care of a life that was filled with such inconsiderable actions, and

received so very small improvements; and |g

yet, if we look into the behaviour of many whom we daily converse with, we shall find that most of their hours are taken up in those three important articles of eating, drinking, and sleeping. I do not suppose that a man loses his time, who is not engaged in public affairs, or in an illustrious course of action. On the contrary, I believe our hours may very often be more profitably laid out in such transactions as make no figure in the world, than in such as are apt to draw upon them the attention of mankind. One may become wiser and better by several methods of employing one’s self in secrecy and silence, and do what is laudable without noise or ostentation. I would, however, recommend to every one of my readers, the keeping a journal of their lives for one week, and setting down punctually, their whole series of employments during that space of time. his kind of self-examination would give them a true state of themselves, and incline them to consider seriously what they are about. One day would rectify the omissions of another, and make a man weigh all those indifferent actions, which though they are easily forgotten, must certainly be accounted for. L.

No. 318.] Wednesday, March 5, 1711-12.

non omnia possumus omnes. Virg. Ecl. viii. 63.

With different talents form'd, we variously excel.•

*MR. SPECTATOR,-A certain vice, which you have lately attacked, has not yet been considered by you as growing so deep in the heart of man, that the affectation outlives the practice of it. You must have observed, that men who have been bred in arms preserve to the most extreme and feeble old age, a certain daring in their aspect. In like manner, they who have passed their time in gallantry and adventure, keep up, as well as they can, the appearance of it, and carry a petulant incli– nation to their last moments. Let this serve for a preface to a relation I am going to give you of an old beau in town, that has not only been amorous, and a follower of women in general, but also, in spite of the admonition of grey hairs, been from his sixty-third year to his present seventieth, in an actual pursuit of a young lady, the wife of his friend, and a man of merit. The gay old Escalus has wit, good health, and is perfectly well-bred; but from the fashion and manners of the court when he was in his bloom, has such a natural tendency to amorous adventure, that he thought it would be an endless, reproach to him to make no use of a familiarity he was allowed at a gentleman’s house, whose good humour and confidence exposed his wife to the addresses of any who should take it in their head to do him the good office. It is not impossible that Escalus might also resent that the husband was particularly ne— ligent of him; and though he gave man

intimations of a passion towards the wife, the husband either did not see them, or put him to the contempt of overlooking them. In the mean time Isabella, for so we shall call our heroine, saw his passion, and rejoiced in it, as a foundation for much diversion, and an opportunity of indulging herself in the dear delight of being admired, addressed to, and flattered, with no ill consequence to her reputation. This lady is of a free and disengaged, behaviour, ever in good-humour, such as is the image of innocence with those who are innocent, and an encouragement to vice with those who are abandoned. From this kind of carriage, and an apparent approbation of his gallantry, Escalus had frequent opportunities of laying amorous epistles in her way, of fixing his eyes attentively upon her actions, of performing a thousand little of fices which are neglected by the unconcerned, but are so many approaches towards happiness with the enamoured. It was now, as is above hinted, almost the end of

the seventh year of his passion, when Escalus, from general terms, and the ambigu

* The motto to this paper in folio was, • Rideat, et pulset lasciva decentius metas.”—ffor

[ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »