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ever, were of a contrary opinion, until, at length, it was determined by a plurality of voices, that Ovid highly deserved the name of a witty man, but that his language was vulgar and trivial, and of the nature of those things which cost no labour in the invention, but are ready found out to a man's hand. In the last place they all agreed, that the greatest objection which lay against Ovid, both as to his life and writings, was his having too much wit, and that he would have succeeded better in both, had he rather checked than indulged it. Statius stood up next with a swelling haughty air, and made the following story the subject of his poem.
A German and a Portuguese, when Vienna was besieged, having had frequent contests of rivalry, were preparing for a single duel, when on a sudden the walls were attacked by the enemy. Upon this, both the German and Portuguese consented to sacrifice their private resentments to the public, and to see who could signalize himself most upon the common foe. Each of them did wonders in repelling the enemy from different parts of the wall. The German was at length engaged amidst a whole army of Turks, until his left arm, that held the shield, was unfortunately lopped off, and he himself so stunned with a blow he had received, that he fell down as dead. The Portuguese seeing the condition of his rival, very generously flew to his succour, dispersed the multitudes that were gathered about him, and fought over him as he lay upon the ground. In the mean while, the German recovered from his trance, and rose up to the assistance of the Portuguese, who a little after had his rightarm, which held his sword, cut off by the blow of a sabre. He would have lost his life at the same time by a spear which was aimed at his back, had not the German slain the person who was aiming at him. These two competitors for fame having received such mutual obligations now fought in conjunction, and as the one was only able to manage the sword and the other the shield, made
but one warrior betwixt them. The Portuguese covered the German, while the German dealt destruction among the enemy. At length, finding themselves faint with loss of blood, and resolving to perish nobly, they advanced to the most shattered part of the wall, and threw themselves down, with a huge fragment of it, upon the heads of the besiegers.
When Statius ceased, the old factions immediately broke
out concerning his manner of writing. Some gave him very loud acclamations, such as he had received in his lifetime, declaring him the only man who had written in a style which was truly heroical, and that he was above all others in his fame as well as in his diction. Others censured him as one who went beyond all bounds in his images and expressions, laughing at the cruelty of his conceptions, the rumbling of his numbers, and the dreadful pomp and bombast of his expressions. There were, however, a few select judges, who moderated between both these extremes, and
pronounced upon Statius, that there appeared in his style much poetical heat and fire, but withal so much smoke as sullied the brightness of it. That there was a majesty in his verse, but that it was the majesty rather of a tyrant than of a king. That he was often towering among the clouds, but often met with the fate of Icarus. In a word, that Statius was among the poets, what Alexander the Great is among heroes, a man of great virtues and of great faults.
Virgil was the last of the ancient poets who produced himself upon this occasion. His subject was the story of Theutilla, which being so near that of Judith in all its circumstances, and at the same time translated by a very ingenious gentleman in one of Mr. Dryden's miscellanies, I shall here give no farther account of it. When he had done, the whole assembly declared the works of this great poet a subject rather for their admiration than for their applause, and that if anything was wanting in Virgil's poetry, it was to be ascribed to a deficiency in the art itself
, and not in the genius of this great man. There were, however, some envious murmurs and detractions heard among the crowd, as if there were very frequently verses in him which flagged or wanted spirit, and were rather to be looked upon as faultless than beautiful. But these injudicious censures were heard with a general indignation.
I need not observe to my learned reader, that the foregoing story of the German and Portuguese is almost the same in every particular with that of the two rival soldiers in Cæsar's commentaries. This prolusion ends with the performance of an Italian poet, full of those little witticisms and conceits which have infected the greatest part of modern poetry.
-hic murus aheneus esto
Nil conscire sibi-
Thy father's merit sets thee up to view,
To make thy virtues or thy faults conspicuous. Cato.
| Fortune or birth have placed.] Though two things are spoken of, the disjunctive, or, shows that each is considered singly; the verb, therefore, should not have been in the plural number. But, perhaps, the turn of the sentence may admit the subjunctive mood, and then, have placed will be right, have, in that mood, being singular as well as plural. My meaning will be conceived by reading thus:--though his fortune or birth have placed him in as low a station as any whatever.
a mind which had not yet recovered its temper after so great a provocation. I present the reader with it as I received it, because I think it gives a lively idea of the affliction which a fond parent suffers on such an occasion.
-shire, July, 1713. The other day I went into the house of one of my tenants, whose wife was formerly a servant in our family, and (by my grandmother's kindness) had her education with my mother from her infancy; so that she is of a spirit and understanding greatly superior to those of her own rank. I found the poor woman in the utmost disorder of mind and attire, drowned in tears, and reduced to a condition that looked rather like stupidity than grief. She leaned upon her arm over a table, on which lay a letter folded
and directed to a certain nobleman, very famous in our parts for low intrigue, or (in plainer words) for debauching country girls ; in which number is the unfortunate daughter of my poor tenant, as I learn from the following letter written by her mother. I have sent you here a copy of it, which, made public in your paper, may perhaps furnish useful reflections to many men of figure and quality, who indulge themselves in a passion which they possess but in common with the vilest part of mankind.”' “ MY LORD,
Last night I discovered the injury you have done to my daughter. Heaven knows how long and piercing a torment that short-lived shameful pleasure of yours must bring upon me;
upon me, from whom you never received any offence. This consideration alone should have deterred a noble mind from so base and ungenerous an act. But, alas ! what is all the grief that must be my share, in comparison of that with which you have requited her by whom you have been obliged ? loss of good name, anguish of heart, shame and infamy, are what must inevitably fall upon her, unless she gets over them by what is much worse, open impudence, professed lewdness, and abandoned prostitution. These are the returns you have made to her, for putting in your power all her livelihood and dependence, her virtue and reputation. O my lord, should my son have practised the like on one of your daughters - I know you swell with indignation at, the very mention of it, and would think he deserved a thousand deaths, should he make such an attempt upon the honour of your family. It is well, my lord. And is then the honour of your daughter, whom still, though it had been violated, you might have maintained in plenty, and even luxury, of greater moment to her, than to my daughter hers, vhose only sustenance was ? and must my son, void of all the advantages of a generous education, must he, I say, consider, and may your lordship be excused from all reflection ? Eternal contumely attend that guilty title which claims exemption from thought, and arrogates to its wearers the prerogative of brutes. Ever cursed be its false lustre, which could dazzle my poor daughter to her undoing. Was it for this that the exalted merits and godlike virtues of your great ancestor were honoured with a coronet, that it might be a pander to his posterity, and confer a privilege of dishonouring the innocent and defenceless ? at this rate the laws of rewards should be inverted, and he who is generous and good should be made a beggar and a slave; that industry and honest diligence may keep his posterity unspotted, and preserve them from ruining virgins, and inaking whole families unhappy. Wretchedness is now become my everlasting portion! Your crime, my lord, will draw perdition even upon my head. I may not sue for forgiveness of my own failings and misdeeds, for I never can forgive yours; but shall curse you
with my dying breath, and at the last tremendous day shall hold fortń in my arms my much wronged child, and call aloud for vengeance on her defiler. Under these present horrors of mind, I could be content to be your chief tormentor, ever paying you mock reverence, and sounding in your ears, to your unutterable loathing, the empty title which inspired you with presumption to tempt, and overawed my daughter to comply.
“ Thus have I given some vent to my sorrow, nor fear I to awaken you to repentance, so that your sin may be forgiven : the divine laws have been broken, but much injury, irreparable injury, has been also done to me, and the just Judge will not pardon that until I do.
‘My lord, Your conscience will help you to my name.”