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-The sun's sick too,
Shortly he 'll be an earth
As Dryden's Cleomenes is acquainted with the Copernican hypothesis two thousand years before its invention.
I am pleased with my own work; Jove was not more
Had rounded this huge ball of earth and seas,
To give it the first push, and see it roll
Along the vast abyss
"I have now Mr. Dryden's Don Sebastian before me, in which I find frequent allusions to ancient history, and the old mythology of the heathen. It is not very natural to suppose a king of Portugal would be borrowing thoughts out of Ovid's Metamorphoses when he talked even to those of his own court; but to allude to these Roman fables when he talks to an emperor of Barbary, seems very extraordinary. But observe how he defies him out of the classics in the following lines:
Why didst thou not engage me man to man,
And try the virtue of that Gorgon face
To stare me into statue ?
Almeyda, at the same time, is more book-learned than Don Sebastian. She plays an Hydra upon the emperor, that is full as good as the Gorgon.
Oh that I had the fruitful heads of Hydra,
That one might bourgeon where another fell!
Still would I give thee work, still, still, thou tyrant,
And hiss thee with the last
"She afterwards, in allusion to Hercules, bids him 'lay down the lion's skin, and take the distaff;' and in the following speech utters her passion still more learnedly.
No, were we joined, e'en though it were in death,
Our bodies burning in one funeral pile,
The prodigy of Thebes would be renewed,
And my divided flame should break from thine.
"The emperor of Barbary shows himself acquainted with the Roman poets, as well as either of his prisoners, and answers the foregoing speech in the same classic strain.
Serpent, I will engender poison with thee.
Our offspring, like the seed of dragon's teeth,
"Ovid seems to have been Muley Molock's favourite author, witness the lines that follow.
She's still inexorable, still imperious
And loud, as if, like Bacchus, born in thunder.
"I shall conclude my remarks on his part, with that poetical complaint of his being in love, and leave my reader to consider how prettily it would sound in the mouth of an emperor of Morocco.
The God of Love once more has shot his fires
Into my soul, and my whole heart receives him.
Muley Zeydan is as ingenious a man as his brother Muley Molock; as where he hints at the story of Castor and Pollux.
-May we ne'er meet!
For like the twins of Leda, when I mount
He gallops down the skies
"As for the Mufti, we will suppose that he was bred up a scholar, and not only versed in the law of Mahomet, but acquainted with all kinds of polite learning. For this reason, he is not at all surprised when Dorax calls him a Phaëton in one place, and in another tells him he is like Archimedes.
"The Mufti afterwards mentions Ximenes, Albornoz, and Cardinal Wolsey, by name. The poet seems to think he may make every person in his play know as much as himself, and talk as well as he could have done on the same occasion. At least I believe every reader will agree with me, that the above-mentioned sentiments, to which I might have added several others, would have been better suited to the court of Augustus, than that of Muley Molock. I grant they are beautiful in themselves, and much more so in that noble language which was peculiar to this great poet. I only observe that they are improper for the persons who make use of them. Dryden is, indeed, generally wrong in his sentiments. Let any one read the dialogue between Octavia and Cleopatra, and he will be amazed to hear a Roman lady's mouth filled with such obscene raillery. If the virtuous Octavia departs from her character, the loose Dolabella is no less inconsistent with himself, when, all of a sudden, he drops the Pagan, and talks in the sentiments of revealed religion.
-Heaven has but
And infinite would rather want perfection
"I might show several faults of the same nature in the celebrated Aurenge-Zebe. The impropriety of thoughts in the speeches of the Great Mogul and his Empress has been generally censured. Take the sentiments out of the shining dress of words, and they would be too coarse for a scene in Billingsgate.
Hic aliquis de gente hircosâ centurionum Dicat: quod satis est sapio mihi; non ego curo Esse quod Arcesilas, ærumnosique Solones. I AM very much concerned when I see young gentlemen of fortune and quality so wholly set upon pleasures and diversions, that they neglect all those improvements in wisdom. and knowledge, which may make them easy to themselves, and useful to the world. The greatest part of our British youth lose their figure and grow out of fashion, by that time they are five and twenty. As soon as the natural gaiety and amiableness of the young man wears off, they have nothing left to recommend them, but lie by the rest of their lives among the lumber and refuse of the species. It sometimes happens, indeed, that for want of applying themselves in due time to the pursuits of knowledge, they take up a book in their declining years, and grow very hopeful scholars by that time they are threescore. I must, therefore, earnestly press my readers, who are in the flower of their youth, to labour at those accomplishments which may set off their persons when their bloom is gone, and to lay in timely provisions for manhood and old age. In short, I would advise the youth of fifteen to be dressing up every day the man of fifty, or to consider how to make himself venerable at threescore.
Young men, who are naturally ambitious, would do well to observe how the greatest men of antiquity made it their ambition to excel all their contemporaries in knowledge. Julius Cæsar and Alexander, the most celebrated instances of human greatness, took a particular care to distinguish themselves by their skill in the arts and sciences. We have still extant several remains of the former, which justify the character given of him by the learned men of his own age. As for the latter, it is a known saying of his, that he was more obliged to Aristotle who had instructed him, than to Philip who had given him life and empire. There is a letter of his recorded by Plutarch and Aulus Gellius, which he wrote to Aristotle, upon hearing that he had published those lectures he had given him in private. This letter was written in the following words, at a time when he was in the height of his Persian conquests.
Alexander to Aristotle, greeting.
"You have not done well to publish your books of Select Knowledge; for what is there now in which I can surpass others, if those things which I have been instructed in are communicated to everybody? For my own part, I declare to you, I would rather excel others in knowledge than in power. "Farewell."
We see, by this letter, that the love of conquest was but the second ambition in Alexander's soul. Knowledge is, indeed, that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another. It finishes one half of the human soul. It makes being pleasant to us, fills the mind with entertaining views, and administers to it a perpetual series of gratifications. It gives ease to solitude, and gracefulness to retirement. It fills a public station with suitable abilities, and adds a lustre to those who are in possession of them.
Learning, by which I mean all useful knowledge, whether speculative or practical, is in popular and mixed governments the natural source of wealth and honour. If we look into most of the reigns from the Conquest, we shall find that the favourites of each reign have been those who have raised themselves. The greatest men are generally the growth of that particular age in which they flourish. A superior capacity for business, and a more extensive knowledge, are the
steps by which a new man often mounts to favour, and outshines the rest of his contemporaries. But when men are actually born to titles, it is almost impossible that they should fail of receiving an additional greatness, if they take care to accomplish themselves for it.
The story of Solomon's choice does not only instruct us in that point of history, but furnishes out a very fine moral to us, namely, that he who applies his heart to wisdom, does, at the same time, take the most proper method for gaining long life, riches, and reputation, which are very often not only the rewards, but the effects of wisdom.
As it is very suitable to my present subject, I shall first of all quote this passage in the words of sacred writ; and afterwards mention an allegory, in which this whole passage is represented by a famous French poet: not questioning but it will be very pleasing to such of my readers as have a taste of fine writing.
"In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee, and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as