Imágenes de páginas

Telemachus, after having passed through the dark avenues of death, in the retinue of Mercury, who every day delivers up a certain tale of ghosts to the ferryman of Styx, is admitted into the infernal bark. Among the companions of his voyage, is the shade of Nabopharzon, a king of Babylon, and tyrant of all the East. Among the ceremonies and pomps of his funeral, there were four slaves sacrificed, according to the custom of the country, in order to attend him among the shades. The author having described this tyrant in the most odious colours of pride, insolence, and cruelty, tells us, that his four slaves, instead of serving him after death, were perpetually insulting him with reproaches and affronts for his past usage; that they spurned him as he lay upon the ground, and forced him to show his face, which he would fain have covered, as lying under all the confusions of guilt and infamy; and, in short, that they kept him bound in a chain, in order to drag him before the tribunal of the dead.

Telemachus, upon looking out of the bark, sees all the strand covered with an innumerable multitude of shades, who, upon his jumping ashore, immediately vanished. He then pursues his course to the palace of Pluto, who is described as seated on his throne in terrible majesty, with Proserpine by his side. At the foot of his throne was the pale hideous spectre, who, by the ghastliness of his visage, and the nature of the apparitions that surrounded him, discovers himself to be Death. His attendants are Melancholy, Distrust, Revenge, Hatred, Avarice, Despair, Ambition, Envy, Impiety, with frightful Dreams, and waking Cares, which are all drawn very naturally in proper actions and postures. The author, with great beauty, places near his frightful dreams, an assembly of phantoms, which are often employed to terrify the living, by appearing in the shape and likeness of the dead.

The young hero, in the next place, takes a survey of the different kinds of criminals that lay in torture among clouds of sulphur and torrents of fire. The first of these were such as had been guilty of impieties, which every one hath an

subject, which no man should treat with levity, or so much as think of but with awe, it is not easy to conceive. It is very unhappy when men of parts are content to purchase the fame of ingenuity, at the expense of decency and common sense; and it is still more to be lamented, that men of religion should be, sometimes, indiscreet enough, to give in to those freedoms of men, who have none.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

horror for: to which is added, a catalogue of such offenders that scarce appear to be faulty in the eyes of the vulgar. Among these," says the author, are malicious critics, that have endeavoured to cast a blemish upon the perfections of others;" with whom he likewise places such as have often hurt the reputation of the innocent, by passing a rash judgment on their actions without knowing the occasion of them. "These crimes (says he) are more severely punished after death, because they generally meet with impunity upon earth."

Telemachus, after having taken a survey of several other wretches in the same circumstances, arrives at that region of torments in which wicked kings are punished. There are very fine strokes of imagination in the description which he gives of this unhappy multitude. He tells us, that on one side of them there stood a revengeful fury, thundering in. their ears incessant repetitions of all the crimes they had committed upon earth, with the aggravations of ambition, vanity, hardness of heart, and all those secret affections of mind that enter into the composition of a tyrant. At the same time, she holds up to them a large mirror, in which every one sees himself represented in the natural horror and deformity of his character. On the other side of them stands another fury, that, with an insulting derision, repeats to them all the praises that their flatterers had bestowed upon them while they sat upon their respective thrones. She too, says the author, presents a mirror before their eyes, in which every one sees himself adorned with all those beauties and perfections in which they had been drawn by the vanity of their own hearts and the flattery of others. To punish them for the wantonness of the cruelty which they formerly exercised, they are now delivered up to be treated according to the fancy and caprice of several slaves, who have here an opportunity of tyrannizing in their turns.

The author having given us a description of these ghastly spectres, who, says he, are always calling upon death, and are placed under the distillation of that burning vengeance which falls upon them drop by drop, and is never to be exhausted, leads us into a pleasing scene of groves, filled with the melody of birds, and the odours of a thousand different plants. These groves are represented as rising among a great many flowery meadows, and watered with streams that

diffuse a perpetual freshness in the midst of an eternal day and a never-fading spring. This, says the author, was the habitation of those good princes who were friends of the gods, and parents of the people. Among these, Telemachus. converses with the shade of one of his ancestors, who makes a most agreeable relation of the joys of Elysium, and the nature of its inhabitants. The residence of Sesostris among these happy shades, with his character and present employment, is drawn in a very lively manner, and with a great elevation of thought.

The description of that pure and gentle light which overflows these happy regions, and clothes the spirits of these virtuous persons, hath something in it of that enthusiasm which this author was accused of by his enemies in the Church of Rome; but however it may look in religion, it makes a very beautiful figure in poetry.

"The rays of the sun (says he) are darkness in comparison with this light, which rather deserves the name of glory than that of light. It pierces the thickest bodies, in the same manner as the sun-beams pass through crystal; it strengthens the sight instead of dazzling it; and nourishes in the most inward recesses of the mind, a perpetual serenity that is not to be expressed. It enters and incorporates itself with the very substance of the soul: the spirits of the blessed feel it in all their senses, and in all their perceptions. It produces a certain source of peace and joy that arises in them for ever, running through all the faculties, and refreshing all the desires of the soul. External pleasures and delights, with all their charms and allurements, are regarded with the utmost indifference and neglect by these happy spirits, who have this great principle of pleasure within them, drawing the whole mind to itself, calling off their attention from the most delightful objects, and giving them all the transports of inebriation, without the confusion and the folly of it.'

I have here only mentioned some master-touches of this admirable piece, because the original itself is understood by the greater part of my readers. I must confess, I take a particular delight in these prospects of futurity, whether grounded upon the probable suggestions of a fine imagination, or the more severe conclusions of philosophy; as a man loves to hear all the discoveries or conjectures relating to a foreign country which he is, at some time, to inhabit. Prospects of

this nature lighten the burden of any present evil, and refresh us under the worst and lowest circumstances of mortality. They extinguish in us both the fear and envy of human grandeur. Insolence shrinks its head, power disappears; pain, poverty, and death fly before them. In short, the mind that is habituated to the lively sense of an hereafter, can hope for what is the most terrifying to the generality of mankind, and rejoice in what is the most afflicting.

No. 158. THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 1710.

Faciunt næ intelligendo, ut nihil intelligant. TEr.
From my own Apartment, April 12.

TOм Folio is a broker in learning, employed to get together good editions, and stock the libraries of great men. There is not a sale of books begins till Tom Folio is seen at the door. There is not an auction where his name is not heard, and that too in the very nick of time, in the critical moment, before the last decisive stroke of the hammer. There is not a subscription goes forward, in which Tom is not privy to the first rough draught of the proposals; nor a catalogue printed, that doth not come to him wet from the press. He is an universal scholar, so far as the title-page of all authors,1 knows the manuscripts in which they were discovered, the editions through which they have passed, with the praises or censures which they have received from the several members of the learned world. He has a greater esteem for Aldus and Elzevir, than for Virgil and Horace. If you talk of Herodotus, he breaks out into a panegyric upon Harry Stephens. He thinks he gives you an account of an author, when he tells the subject he treats of, the name of the editor, and the year in which it was printed. Or if you draw him into further particulars, he cries up the goodness of the paper, extols the diligence of the corrector, and is transported with the beauty of the letter. This he looks

1 So far as the title-page of all authors.] Elliptically expressed.-He should have said:" so far as the title-page of all authors can make him so."-Or, I would have put it thus:-"He is deeply read in the titlepages of all authors."

upon to be sound learning and substantial criticism. As for those who talk of the fineness of style, and the justness of thought, or describe the brightness of any particular passages; nay, though they write themselves in the genius and spirit of the author they admire, Tom looks upon them as men of superficial learning and flashy parts.

I had yesterday morning a visit from this learned idiot, (for that is the light in which I consider every pedant,) when I discovered in him some little touches of the coxcomb, which I had not before observed. Being very full of the figure which he makes in the republic of letters, and wonderfully satisfied with his great stock of knowledge, he gave me broad intimations, that he did not "believe" in all points as his forefathers had done. He then communicated to me a thought of a certain author upon a passage of Virgil's account of the dead, which I made the subject of a late paper. This thought hath taken very much among men of Tom's pitch and understanding, though universally exploded by all that know how to construe Virgil, or have any relish of antiquity. Not to trouble my reader with it, I found upon the whole, that Tom did not believe a future state of rewards and punishments, because Æneas, at his leaving the empire of the dead, passed through the gate of ivory, and not through that of horn. Knowing that Tom had not sense enough to give up an opinion which he had once received, that he might avoid wrangling, I told him, that Virgil possibly had his oversights as well as another author. "Ah! Mr. Bickerstaffe," says he, "you would have another opinion of him, if you would read him in Daniel Heinsius's edition. I have perused him myself several times in that edition," continued he;" and after the strictest and most malicious examination, could find but two faults in him: one of them is in the Eneid, where there are two commas instead of a parenthesis; and another in the third Georgic, where you may find a semicolon turned upside down." Perhaps," (said I,) "these were not Virgil's thoughts, but those of the transcriber." "I do not design it," says Tom, as a reflection on Virgil: on the contrary, I know that all the manuscripts reclaim' against such a punctuation. Oh! Mr. Bickerstaffe," says he, "what would a man give to see one simile of Virgil writ in his own hand ?" I asked him which was the simile he meant; but was answered, "Any simile



« AnteriorContinuar »