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mountain oak, or as a cedar on the top of Tirzah, which in three or four hundred years will fade away, and never be thought of by posterity, unless a young wood springs from its roots. Think well on this, and remember thy neighbour in the mountains.”
Having here inserted this letter, which I look upon as the only antediluvian billet-doux now extant, I shall in my
next paper give the answer to it, and the sequel of this story.
No. 585. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25.
Ipsi lætitia voces ad sidera jactant
The sequel of the story of Shalum and Hilpa. The letter inserted in my last had so good an effect upon Hilpa, that she answered it in less than a twelve-month after the following manner. Hilpa, mistress of the Valleys, to Shalum, master
of Mount Tirzah.
In the 789th year of the Creation. “ What have I to do with thee, O Shalum ? Thou praisest Hilpa's beauty, but art thou not secretly enamoured with the verdure of her meadows ? Art thou not more affected with the prospect of her green valley, than thou wouldest be with the sight of her person? The lowings of my herds, and the bleatings of my flocks, make a pleasant echo in thy mountains, and sound sweetly in thy ears. What though I am delighted with the wavings of thy forests, and those breezes of perfumes which flow from the top of Tirzah : are these like the riches of the valley ?
I know thee, O Shalum; thou art more wise and happy than any of the sons of men. Thy dwellings are among the cedars; thou searchest out the diversity of soils, thou understandest the influences of the stars, and markest the change of seasons. Can a woman appear lovely in the eyes of such
a one ? Disquiet me not, O Shalum ; let me alone, that I may enjoy those goodly possessions which are fallen to my lot. Win me not by thy enticing words. May thy trees increase and multiply; mayest thou add wood to wood, and shade to shade; but tempt not Hilpa to destroy thy solitude, and make thy retirement populous.”
The Chinese say, that a little time afterwards she accepted of a treat, in one of the neighbouring hills, to which Shalum had invited her. This treat lasted for two years, and is said to have cost Shalum five hundred antelopes, two thousand ostriches, and a thousand tun of milk; but what most of all recommended it, was that variety of delicious fruits and pot-herbs, in which no person then living could any way equal Shalum.
He treated her in the bower which he had planted amidst the wood of nightingales. The wood was made up of such fruit trees and plants as are most agreeable to the several kinds of singing birds ; so that it had drawn into it all the music of the country, and was filled, from one end of the year to the other, with the most agreeable concert in season.
He showed her every day some beautiful and surprising scene in this new region of wood-lands; and as, by this means, he had all the opportunities he could wish for of opening his mind to her, he succeeded so well, that upon her departure, she made him a kind of promise, and gave him her word to return him a positive answer in less than fifty years.
She had not been long among her own people in the valleys, when she received new overtures, and at the same time a most splendid visit, from Mishpach, who was a mighty man of old, and had built a great city, which he called after his own name. Every house was made for at least a thousand years, nay, there were some that were leased out for three lives; so that the quantity of stone and timber consumed in this building is scarce to be imagined by those who live in the present age of the world. This great man entertained her with the voice of musical instruments, which had been lately invented, and danced before her to the sound of the timbrel. He also presented her with several domestic utensils wrought in brass and iron, which had been newly found out for the convenience of life. In the mean time, Shalum grew very uneasy with himself, and was sorely displeased at Hilpa, for the reception which she had given to Mishpach, insomuch that he never wrote to her, or spoke o her, during a whole revolution of Saturn; but, finding that this intercourse went no further than a visit, he again renewed his addresses to her, who, during his long silence, is said very often to have cast a wishing eye upon Mount Tirzah.
Her mind continued wavering about twenty years longer, between Shalum and Mishpach; for though her inclinations favoured the former, her interest pleaded very powerfully for the other. While her heart was in this unsettled condition, the following accident happened, which determined her choice. A high tower of wood, that stood in the city of Mishpach, having caught fire by a flash of lightning, in a few days reduced the whole town to ashes. Mishpach resolved to rebuild the place, whatever it should cost him; and, having already destroyed all the timber of the country, he was forced to have recourse to Shalum, whose forests were now two hundred years old. He purchased these woods, with so many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, and with such a vast extent of fields and pastures, that Shalum was now grown more wealthy than Mishpach; and, therefore, appeared so charming in the eyes of Zilpah's daughter, that she no longer refused him in marriage. On the day in which he brought her up into the mountains, he raised a most prodigious pile of cedar, and of every sweet-smelling wood, which reached above 300 cubits in height: he also cast into the pile bundles of myrrh, and sheaves of spikenard, enriching it with every spicy shrub, and making it fat with the gums of his plantations. This was the burnt-offering which Shalum offered in the day of his espousals: the smoke of it ascended up to heaven, and filled the whole country with incense and perfume.
It is hard to say, whether the beauty and novelty of the subject, or the Oriental cast of thought and expression, so finely imitated by the writer, contributes most to our entertainment, in reading these two papers. It was difficult to preserve (as the author has done) an air of seriousness, and even of sublimity, amidst the liveliest strokes of humour.
No. 590. MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6.
-Assiduo labuntur tempora motu
We consider infinite space as an expansion without a circumference: we consider eternity, or infinite duration, as a line that has neither beginning nor an end. In our speculations of infinite space, we consider that particular place in which we exist, as a kind of centre to the whole expansion. In our speculations of eternity, we consider the time which is present to us as the middle, which divides the whole line into two equal parts. For this reason, many witty authors compare the present time to an isthmus or narrow neck of land, that rises in the midst of an ocean, immeasurably diffused on either side of it.
Philosophy, and indeed common sense, naturally throws eternity under two divisions ; which we may call in English, that eternity which is past, and that eternity which is to
The learned terms of æternitas a parte ante, and æternitas a parte post, may be more amusing to the reader, but can have no other idea affixed to them than what is conveyed to us by those words, an eternity that is past, and an eternity that is to come. Each of these eternities is bounded at the one extreme; or, in other words, the former has an end, and the latter a beginning.
Let us, first of all, consider that eternity which is past, reserving that which is to come for the subject of another paper. The nature of this eternity is utterly inconceivable by the mind of man: our reason demonstrates to us that it “has been,” but, at the same time, can frame no idea of it, but what is big with absurdity and contradiction. We can have no other conception of any duration which is past, than that all of it was once present, and whatever was once present, is at some certain distance from us; and whatever is at any certain distance from us, be the distance never so
remote, cannot be eternity. The very
duration's being past, implies that it was once present; for the idea of being once present, is actually included in the idea of its being past. This, therefore, is a depth not to be sounded by human understanding. We are sure that there has been an eternity, and yet contradict ourselves when we measure this eternity by any notion which we can frame of it.
If we go to the bottom of this matter, we shall find that the difficulties we meet with in our conceptions of eternity proceed from this single reason, that we can have no other idea of any kind of duration, than that by which we ourselves, and all other created beings, do exist; which is a successive duration, made
up of past, present, and to come. There is nothing which exists after this manner, all the parts of whose existence were not once actually present, and consequently may be reached by a certain number of years applied to it. We may ascend as high as we please, and employ our being to that eternity which is to come, in adding millions of years to millions of years, and we can never come up to any fountain-head of duration, to any beginning in eternity: but, at the same time, we are sure, that whatever was once present, does lie within the reach of numbers, though perhaps we can never be able to put enough of them together for that purpose. We may as well say, that anything may be actually present in any part of infinite space, which does not lie at a certain distance from us, as that any part of infinite duration was once actually present, and does not also lie at some de
| Be the distance never so remote.) Some have thought this mode of expression incongruous and ungrammatical: but, never, is the same as not ever ; and the sentence is to be filled up thus-“ be the distance not (near, but] ever so remote.” This, then, is one of those elliptical forms (see No. 535) which are to be explained, by observing nicely the posture of the mind in discoursing, (to use Mr. Locke's words,) and not by attending merely to the obvious sense of the terms employed. For, in discoursing, we love to contrast our ideas, though the opposition be not always, or but imperfectly, expressed. Never so remote, if we regard this posture of the mind, is, therefore, as intelligible, and as proper, as-ever so remote-and, till of late, was more commonly used.
We now say -ever so remote-more clearly, indeed, but with something less force: for-never so-implies an effort, or vehemence in asserting, which-ever 80--has not. However, as perspicuity is the main object of grammar, I acknowledge it to be a good general rule, to avoid not only real, but seeming incongruities of speech.