« AnteriorContinuar »
cleansing under great falls of waters, and others as purging in fire, to recover the primitive beauty and purity of their
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 immersion into flesh, they forget everything 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 banks of 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 Eneas an account of all the glories of his race.
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.1
No. 155. THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 1710.
-Aliena negotia curat
From my own Apartment, April 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
A very poor reason for giving the foregoing analysis of this poem, which the learned reader only will admire, or can possibly understand.
his motions, that plainly discovered he was always intent on matters of importance. Upon my inquiry 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 mind, till 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 dress: for, notwithstanding that it was a very sultry day for the time of 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 inquire 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?" I told him, "None that I heard of;" and asked him, "Whether he had yet married 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 anything 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 it." "But why in the heel,' says he, more than in any other part of the body?" says I, " "the bullet chanced to light there." This extraordinary dialogue was no sooner ended, but he
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 Postman, (says he,) who used 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 the upholsterer,) whom they are all so cautious of naming, I take to be upon which, though there was nobody near us, he whispered something in my ear, which I did not hear, or think worth my while to make him repeat.
We were now got to the upper end of the Mall, where were three or four very odd fellows sitting together upon the bench. These I found were all of them politicians, who used to sun themselves in that place every day about dinnertime. Observing them to be curiosities in their kind, and my friend's acquaintance, I sat down among them.
The chief politician of the bench was a great assertor of paradoxes. He told us, with a seeming concern, that by some news he had lately read from Muscovy, it appeared to him that there was a storm gathering in the Black Sea, which might in time do hurt to the naval forces of this nation. To this he added, that for his part, he could not wish to see the Turk driven out of Europe, which he believed could not but be prejudicial to our woollen manufacture. He then told us, that he looked upon those extraordinary revolutions which had lately happened in these parts of the world, to have risen chiefly from two persons who were not much talked of; and those, says he, are Prince Menzikoff, and the Duchess of Mirandola. He backed his assertions with so many broken hints, and such a show of depth and wisdom, that we gave ourselves up to his opinions.
The discourse at length fell upon a point which seldom escapes a knot of true-born Englishmen, whether in case of
a religious war, the Protestants would not be too strong for the Papists? This we unanimously determined on the Protestant side. One who sat on my right hand, and, as I found by his discourse, had been in the West Indies, assured us, that it would be a very easy matter for the Protestants to beat the pope at sea; and added, that whenever such a war does break out, it must turn to the good of the Leeward Islands. Upon this, one who sat at the end of the bench, and, as I afterwards found, was the geographer of the company, said, that in case the Papists should drive the Protestants from these parts of Europe, when the worst came to the worst, it would be impossible to beat them out of Norway and Greenland, provided the northern crowns hold together, and the Czar of Muscovy stand neuter.
He further told us for our comfort, that there were vast tracts of land about the pole, inhabited neither by Protestants nor Papists, and of greater extent than all the Roman Catholic dominions in Europe.
When we had fully discussed this point, my friend the upholsterer began to exert himself upon the present negotiations of peace, in which he deposed princes, settled the bounds of kingdoms, and balanced the power of Europe, with great justice and impartiality.
I at length took my leave of the company, and was going away; but had not been gone thirty yards, before the upholsterer hemmed again after me. Upon his advancing towards me, with a whisper, I expected to hear some secret piece of news, which he had not thought fit to communicate to the bench; but instead of that, he desired me in my ear to lend him half-a-crown. In compassion to so needy a statesman, and to dissipate the confusion I found he was in, I told him, if he pleased, I would give him five shillings, to receive five pounds of him when the Great Turk was driven out of Constantinople; which he very readily accepted, but not before he had laid down to me the impossibility of such an event, as the affairs of Europe now stand.
This paper I design for the particular benefit of those worthy citizens who live more in a coffee-house than in their shops, and whose thoughts are so taken up with the affairs of the allies, that they forget their customers.1
The ridicule of this paper is incomparably fine and well placed.
No. 156. SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 1710.
-Sequiturque patrem non passibus æquis. VIRG.
From my own Apartment, April 7.
WE have already described out of Homer the voyage of Ulysses to the infernal shades, with the several adventures that attended it. If we look into the beautiful romance published not many years since by the Archbishop of Cambray, we may see the son of Ulysses bound on the same expedition and after the same manner making his discoveries among the regions of the dead. The story of Telemachus is formed altogether in the spirit of Homer, and will give an unlearned reader a notion of that great poet's manner of writing, more than any translation of him can possibly do. As it was written for the instruction of a young prince, who may one day sit upon the throne of France, the author took care to suit the several parts of his story, and particularly the description we are now entering upon, to the character and quality of his pupil. For which reason, he insists very much on the misery of bad, and the happiness of good kings, in the account he hath given of punishments and rewards in the other world.
We may, however, observe, notwithstanding the endeavours of this great and learned author, to copy after the style and sentiments of Homer, that there is a certain tincture of Christianity running through the whole relation. The prelate in several places mixes himself with the poet; so that his future state puts me in mind of Michael Angelo's last judgment, where Charon and his boat are represented as bearing a part in the dreadful solemnities of that great day.
1 Because the peculiar fictions and superstitions of Homer are omitted, or turned in such a way, as is more consistent with philosophical, and even Christian ideas. In other words, the writer treats the subject, as Homer would, most probably, have done, if he had lived in our days. This confession of Mr. Addison justifies the remark before made on the impropriety of giving extracts from the two pagan poets, on the subject of a future state, for the entertainment of common readers.
2 This way of paganizing a future state, was unavoidable in the plan of Telemachus, as it also was in that of Fontenelle's Dialogues. But it was something to be serious in his paganism. Thus much may be said for the French Homer. But how the French Lucian could hope to serve the cause of virtue and religion, by indulging the way of humour on a