Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

I had some years ago an aunt of my own, by name Mrs. Martha Ironside, who would never marry beneath herself, and is supposed to have died a maid in the fourscorth year

of her age. She was the chronicle of our family, and passed away the greatest part of the last forty years of her life in recounting the antiquity, marriages, exploits, and alliances of the Ironsides. Mrs. Martha conversed generally with a knot of old virgins, who were likewise of good families, and had been very cruel all the beginning of the last century, They were every one of them as proud as Lucifer, but said their

prayers twice a day, and in all other respects were the best women in the world. If they saw a fine petticoat at church, they immediately took to pieces the pedigree of her that wore it, and would lift up their eyes to heaven at the confidence of the saucy minx, when they found she was an honest tradesman's daughter. It is impossible to describe the pious indignation that would rise in them at the sight of a man who lived plentifully on an estate of bis own getting. They were transported with zeal beyond measure, if they heard of a young woman's matching into a great family upon account only of her beauty, her merit, or her money. In short, there was not a female within ten miles of them that was in possession of a gold watch, a pearl necklace, or a piece of Mechlin lace, but they examined her title to it. My aunt Martha used to chide me very frequently for not sufficiently valuing myself. She would not eat a bit all dinnertime, if at an invitation she found she had been seated below herself; and would frown upon me for an hour together, if she saw me give place to any man under a baronet. As I was once talking to her of a wealthy citizen whom she had refused in her youth, she declared to me with great warmth, that she preferred a man of quality in his shirt to the richest man upon the 'change in a coach and six. She pretended, that our family was nearly related by the mother's side to half a dozen peers; but as none of them knew anything of the matter, we always kept it as a secret among ourselves. A little before her death she was reciting to me the history of my forefathers; but dwelling a little longer than ordinary upon the actions of Sir Gilbert Ironside, who had a horse shot under him at Edgehill fight, I gave an unfortunate pish! and asked, “ What was all this to me?" upon which she retired to her closet, and fell a scribbling for three hours together, in which time, as I afterwards found, she struck me out of her will, and left all she had to my sister Margaret, a wheedling baggage, that used to be asking questions about her great-grandfather from morning to night. She now lies buried among the family of the Ironsides, with a stone over her, acquainting the reader, that she died at the age of eighty years, a spinster, and that she was descended of the ancient family of the Ironsides. After which follows the genealogy drawn up by her own hand. 1

No. 138. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19.

one of

a

Incenditque animum famæ venientis amore. VIRG. THERE is nothing which I study so much in the course of these my daily dissertations as variety. By this means every

my readers is sure some time or other to find a subject that pleases him, and almost every paper has some particular set of men for its advocates. Instead of seeing the number of my papers every day increasing, they would quickly lie as a drug upon my hands, did not I take care to keep up the appetite of my guests, and quicken it from time to time by something new and unexpected. In short, I endeavour to treat my reader in the same manner as Eve does the angel in that beautiful description of Milton.

So saying, with despatchful looks in haste
She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent,
What choice to choose for delicacy best,
What order, so contrived as not to mix
Tastes, not well joined, inelegant, but bring
Taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change.
Whatever earth, all-bearing mother, yields,
In India east or west, or middle shore,
In Pontus or the Punic coast, or where
Alcinous reigned, fruit of all kinds, in coat
Rough or smooth rined, or bearded husk, or shell,
She gathers, tribute large, and on the board
Heaps with unsparing hand-

FIFTн Воок. If, by this method, I can furnish out a splendida farrago, according to the compliment lately paid me in a fine poem published among the exercises of the last Oxford act, I have gained the end which I propose to myself.

In
my yesterday's paper,

I showed how the actions of our ancestors and forefathers should excite us to everything that is great and virtuous ; I shall here observe, that a regard to our posterity, and those who are to descend from us, ought to have the same kind of influence on a generous mind. A noble soul would rather die than commit an action that should make his children blush when he is in his grave, and be looked upon as a reproach to those who shall live a hundred years after him. On the contrary, nothing can be a more pleasing thought to a man of eminence, than to consider that his posterity, who lie many removes from him, shall make their boast of his virtues, and be honoured for his sake.

Virgil represents this consideration as an incentive of glory to Æneas, when, after having shown him the race of heroes who were to descend from him, Anchises adds with a noble warmth,

Et dubitamus adhuc virtutem extendere factis ?
And doubt we yet through dangers to pursue
The paths of honour ?—

MR. DRYDEN. Since I have mentioned this passage in Virgil, where Æneas was entertained with the view of his great descendants, I cannot forbear observing a particular beauty, which I do not know that any one has taken notice of. The list which he has there drawn up was in general to do honour to the Roman name, but more particularly to compliment Augustus. For this reason, Anchises, who shows Àneas most of the rest of his descendants in the same order that they were to make their appearance in the world," breaks his method for

ور

In the same order that they were to make their appearance in the world.] This sentence is only elliptical in omitting the preposition in; for the relative, that, is used for which ; and the preposition is omitted in sentences of this form, to avoid the ill effect which a repetition of in would have on the ear. Our language loves these ellipses, in the familiar style, especially; and gains this advantage by the use of them, that it emulates the conciseness of those languages, where the case includes the preposition; as—" eodem ordine quo.'

It is true, the perspicuity is not equal in the two cases; and, therefore, we do not take this liberty, or we take it with more caution, in the solemn style, that is, when we treat matters of importance, or, when we would express what we say with energy. But in conversation, to which the familiar style conforms itself, it is graceful to be concise where there is small danger of being obscure. In this case, to insert the preposition, or sometimes the relative itself, would be to affect perspicuity, which, too, could only serve—“ nugis addere pondus."

[ocr errors]

the sake of Augustus, whom he singles out immediately after having mentioned Romulus, as the most illustrious person who was to rise in that empire which the other had founded. He was impatient to describe his posterity raised to the utmost pitch of glory, and therefore passes over all the rest to come at this great man, whom by this means be implicitly represents as making the most conspicuous figure among them. By this artifice, the poet did not only give his emperor the greatest praise he could bestow upon him ; but ħindered his reader from drawing a parallel, which would have been disadvantageous to him, had he been celebrated in his proper place, that is, after Pompey and Cæsar, who each of them eclipsed the other in military glory.

Though there have been finer things spoken of Augustus than of any other man, all the wits of his age having tried to out-rival? one another on that subject, he never received a compliment, which, in my opinion, can be compared, for sublimity of thought, to that which the poet here makes him. The English reader may see a faint shadow of it in Mr. Dryden's translation, for the original is inimitable.

Hic vir, hic est, &c.
But next behold the youth of form divine,
Cæsar himself, exalted in his line;
Augustus, promised oft, and long foretold,
Sent to the realm that Saturn ruled of old ;
Born to restore a better age of gold.
Afric, and India, shall his power obey,
He shall extend his propagated sway
Beyond the solar year, without the starry way;
Where Atlas turns the rolling heavens around,
And his broad shoulders with their light are crowned.
At his foreseen approach, already quake
The Caspian kingdoms, and Mæotian lake.
Their seers behold the tempest from afar ;
And threatening oracles denounce the war.
Nile hears him knocking at his sevenfold gates;
And seeks his hidden spring, and fears his nephew's fates.
Nor Hercules more lands or labours knew,
Not though the brazen-footed hind he slew;
Freed Erymanthus from the foaming boar,
And dipped his arrows in Lernæan gore.
Nor Bacchus, turning from his Indian war,

By tigers drawn triumphant in his car.

Tried to out-rival.] Ill expressed, and means no more than-tried to out-try. It should be tried to out-go, or exceed, one another.

a

the.space

From Nisus' top descending on the plains ;
With curling vines around his purple reins.
And doubt we yet through dangers to pursue

The paths of honour ?I could show out of other poets the same kind of vision as this in Virgil, wherein the chief persons of the poem have been entertained with the sight of those who were to descend from them; but instead of that, I shall conclude with a rabbinical story which has in it the Oriental way of thinking, and is therefore very amusing.

“ Adam, (say the Rabbins,) a little after his creation, was presented with a view of all those souls who were to be united to human bodies, and take their turn after him upon the earth. Among others, the vision set before him the soul of David. Our great ancestor was transported at the sight of so beautiful an apparition ; but to his unspeakable grief was informed, that it was not to be conversant among men

of

one year.
Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultrà

Esse sinent. Adam, to procure a longer life for so fine a piece of human nature, begged that threescore and ten years (which he heard would be the age of man in David's time) might be taken out of his own life, and added to that of David. Accordingly (say the Rabbins) Adam falls short of a thousand years, which was to have been the complete term of his life, by just so many years as make up the life of David. Adam having lived 930 years, and David 70."

This story was invented to show the high opinion which the Rabbins entertained of this man after God's own heart, whom the prophet, who was his own contemporary, could not mention without rapture, where he records the last poetical composition of David, of David the son of Jesse, of the man who was raised up on high, of the anointed of the God of Jacob, of the sweet psalmist of Israel.

« AnteriorContinuar »