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Norfolk is almost out of his wits upon account of a greyhound, that, after having been his inseparable companion for ten years, is at last run mad. Another (who I believe is serious) complains to me, in a very moving manner, of the loss of a wife ; and another, in terms still more moving, of a purse of money that was taken from him on Bagshot Heath, and which, he tells me, would not have troubled him if he had given it to the poor. In short, there is scarce a calamity in human life that has not produced me a letter.
It is, indeed, wonderful to consider, how men are able to raise affliction to themselves out of everything. Lands and houses, sheep and oxen, can convey happiness and misery into the hearts of reasonable creatures. Nay, I have known a muff, a scarf, or a tippet, become a solid blessing or misfortune. A lap-dog has broke the hearts of thousands. Flavia, who had buried five children, and two husbands, was never able to get over the loss of her parrot. How often has a divine creature been thrown into a fit, by a neglect at a ball or an assembly! Mopsa has kept her chamber ever since the last masquerade, and is in greater danger of her life upon being left out of it, than Clarinda from the violent cold which she caught at it. Nor are these dear creatures the only sufferers by such imaginary calamities : many an author has been dejected at the censure of one whom he ever looked upon as an idiot; and many a hero cast into a fit of melancholy, because the rabble have not hooted at him as he passed through the streets. Theron places all his happiness in a running horse, Suffenus in a gilded chariot, Fulvius in a blue string, and Florio in a tulip-root. It would be endless to enumerate the many fantastical afflictions that disturb mankind; but as a misery is not to be measured from the nature of the evil, but from the temper of the sufferer, I shall present my readers, who are unhappy either in reality or imagination, with an allegory, for which I am indebted to the great father and prince of poets.
As I was sitting after dinner in my elbow chair, I took up Homer, and dipped into that famous speech of Achilles to Priam, in which he tells him, that Jupiter has by him two great vessels, the one filled with blessings, and the other with misfortunes; out of which he mingles a composition for every man that comes into the world. This passage so exceedingly pleased me, that as I fell insensibly into my after
noon's slumber, it wrought my imagination into the following dream.
When Jupiter took into his hands the governinent of the world, the several parts of nature, with the presiding deities, did homage to him. One presented him with a mountain of winds, another with a magazine of hail, and a third with a pile of thunder-bolts. The stars offered
their influences, the ocean gave in his trident, the earth her fruits, and the sun his seasons. Among the several deities who came to make their court on this occasion, the Destinies advanced with two great tuns carried before them, one of which they fixed at the right hand of Jupiter as he sat upon his throne, and the other on his left. The first was filled with all the blessings, and the other with all the calamities, of human life. Jupiter, in the beginning of his reign, finding the world much more innocent than it is in this iron age, poured very plentifully out of the tun that stood at his right hand; but as mankind degenerated, and became unworthy of his blessings, he set abroach the other vessel, that filled the world with pain and poverty, battles and distempers, jealousy and falsehood, intoxicating pleasures and untimely deaths.
He was at length so very much incensed at the great depravation of human nature, and the repeated provocations which he received from all parts of the earth, that having resolved to destroy the whole species, except Deucalion and Pyrrha, he commanded the Destinies to gather up the blessings which he had thrown away upon the sons of men, and lay them up till the world should be inhabited by a more virtuous and deserving race of mortals.
The three sisters immediately repaired to the earth, in search of the several blessings that had been scattered on it; but found the task which was enjoined them to be much more difficult than they had imagined. The first places they resorted to, as the most likely to succeed in, were cities, palaces, and courts; but instead of meeting with what they looked for here, they found nothing but envy, repining, uneasiness, and the like bitter ingredients of the left-hand vessel. Whereas, to their great suprise, they discovered content, cheerfulness, health, innocence, and other the most substantial blessings of life, in cottages, shades, and solitudes.
There was another circumstance no less unexpected than the former, and which gave them very great perplexity in the
discharge of the trust which Jupiter had committed to them. They observed, that several blessings had degenerated into calamities, and that several calamities had improved into blessings, according as they fell into the possession of wise or foolish men. They often found power with so much insolence and impatience cleaving to it, that it became a misfortune to the person on whom it was conferred. Youth had often distempers growing about it, worse than the infirmities of old age: wealth was often united to such a sordid avarice, as made it the most uncomfortable and painful kind of poverty. On the contrary, they often found pain made glorious by fortitude, poverty lost in content, deformity beautified with virtue. In a word, the blessings were often like good fruits planted in a bad soil, that by degrees fall off from their natural relish, into tastes altogether insipid or unwholesome; and the calamities, like harsh fruits, cultivated in a good soil, and enriched by proper grafts and inoculation, till they swell with generous and delightful juices.
There was still a third circumstance that occasioned as great a surprise to the three sisters as either of the foregoing, when they discovered several blessings and calamities which had never been in either of the tuns that stood by the throne of Jupiter, and were nevertheless as great occasions of happiness or misery as any there. These were that spurious crop of blessings and calamities which were never sown by the hand of the Deity, but grow of themselves out of the fancies and dispositions of human creatures. Such are dress, titles, place, equipage, false shame, and groundless fear, with the like vain imaginations that shoot up in trifling, weak, and irresolute minds.
The Destinies finding themselves in so great a perplexity, concluded, that it would be impossible for them to execute the commands that had been given them according to their first intention ; for which reason they agreed to throw all the blessings and calamities together into one large vessel, and in that manner offer them up at the feet of Jupiter.
This was performed accordingly, the eldest sister presenting herself before the vessel, and introducing it with an apology for what they had done.
“O Jupiter! (says she,) we have gathered together all the good and evil, the comforts and distresses of human life, which we thus present before thee in one promiscuous hear. We beseech thee that thou thyself wilt sort them out for the future, as in thy wisdom thou shalt think fit. For we acknowledge, that there is none beside thee that can judge what will occasion grief or joy in the heart of a human creature, and what will prove a blessing or a calamity to the person on whom it is bestowed.”
No. 147. SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 1709.
-Ut ameris amabilis esto. Ovid.
From my own Apartment, March 18. READING is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. As by the one health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated; by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed. But as exercise becomes tedious and painful when we make use of it only as the means of health, so reading is apt to grow uneasy and burthensome, when we apply ourselves to it only for our improvement in virtue. For this reason, the virtue which we gather from a fable, or an allegory, is like the health we get by hunting; as we are engaged in an agreeable pursuit that draws us on with pleasure, and makes us insensible of the fatigues that accompany it.
After this preface, I shall set down a very beautiful allegorical fable of the great poet whom I mentioned in my last paper, and whom it is very difficult to lay aside when one is engaged in the reading of him: and this I particularly design for the use of several of my fair correspondents, who in their letters have complained to me, that they have lost the affections of their husbands, and desire my advice how to recover them.
Juno, says Homer, seeing her Jupiter seated on the top of Mount Ida, and knowing that he conceived an aversion to her, began to study how she should regain his affections, and make herself amiable to him. With this thought she immediately retired into her chamber, where she bathed herself in ambrosia, which gave her person all its beauty, and diffused so divine an odour, as refreshed all nature, and sweetened both heaven and earth. She let her immortal tresses flow in the most graceful manner, and took a par
ticular care to dress herself in several ornaments, which the poet describes at length, and which the goddess chose out as the most proper to set off her person to the best advantage. In the next place, she made a visit to Venus, the deity who presides over love, and begged of her, as a particular favour, that she would lend her for a while those charms with which she subdued the hearts both of gods and men. the goddess, I would make use of them to reconcile the two deities, who took care of me in my infancy, and who, at present, are at so great a variance that they are estranged from each other's bed. Venus was proud of an opportunity of obliging so great a goddess, and therefore made her a present of the cestus which she used to wear about her own waist, with advice to hide it in her bosom, till she had accomplished her intention. This cestus was a fine partycoloured girdle, which, as Homer tells us, had all the attractions of the sex wrought into it. The four principal figures in the embroidery were love, desire, fondness of speech, and conversation, filled with that sweetness and complacency which, says the poet, insensibly steal away the hearts of the wisest men.
Juno, after having made these necessary preparations, came as by accident into the presence of Jupiter, who is said to have been as much inflamed with her beauty, as when he first stole to her embraces without the consent of their parents. Juno, to cover her real thoughts, told him, as she had told Venus, that she was going to make a visit to Oceanus and Tethys. He prevailed upon her to stay with him, protesting to her, that she appeared more amiable in his
eye, than ever any mortal, goddess, or even herself, had appeared to him till that day. The poet then represents him in so great an ardour, that (without going up to the house which had been built by the hands of Vulcan, according to Juno's direction) he threw a golden cloud over their heads as they sat upon the top of Mount Ida, while the earth beneath them sprung up in lotuses, saffrons, hyacinths, and a bed of the softest flowers for their repose.
This close translation of one of the finest passages in Homer, may suggest abundance of instruction to a woman who has a mind to preserve or recall the affection of her husband. The care of the person, and the dress, with the particular blandishments woven in the cestus, are so plainly re