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manner as the hours of the day are marked upon the ordinary dial-plate. They then fixed one of the needles on each of these plates in such a manner that it could move round without impediment, so as to touch any of the four and twenty letters. Upon their separating from one another into distant countries, they agreed to withdraw themselves punctually into their closets at a certain hour of the day, and to converse with one another by means of this their invention. Accordingly when they were some hundred miles asunder, each of them shut himself up in his closet at the time appointed, and immediately cast his eye upon his dial-plate. If he had a mind to write anything to his friend, he directed his needle to every letter that formed the words which he had occasion for, making a little pause at the end of every word or sentence, to avoid confusion. The friend, in the mean while, saw his own sympathetic needle moving of itself to every letter which that of his correspondent pointed at: by this means they talked together across a whole continent, and conveyed their thoughts to one another in an instant over cities or mountains, seas or deserts.
The whole audience were pleased with the artifice of the poet who represented Lucretius, observing very well how he had laid asleep their attention to the simplicity of his style in some verses, and to the want of harmony in others, by fixing their minds to the novelty of his subject, and to the experiment which he related. Without such an artifice they were of opinion that nothing would have sounded more harsh than Lucretius's diction and numbers. But it was plain that the more learned part of the assembly were quite of another mind. These allowed that it was peculiar to Lucretius above all other poets, to be always doing or teaching something, that no other style was so proper to teach in, or gave a greater pleasure to those who had a true relish for the Roman tongue. They added further, that if Lucretius had not been embarrassed with the difficulty of his matter, and a little led away by an affectation of antiquity, there could not have been anything more perfect than his poem.
Claudian succeeded Lucretius, having chosen for his subject the famous contest between the nightingale and the
To the novelty—and to the experiment-it should be on, in both places.
lutanist, which every one is acquainted with, especially since Mr. Phillips has so finely improved that hint in one of his pastorals.
He had no sooner finished, but the assembly rung with acclamations made in his praise. His first beauty, which every one owned, was the great clearness and perspicuity which appeared in the plan of his poem. Others were wonderfully charmed with the smoothness of his verse, and the flowing of his numbers, in which there were none of those elisions and cuttings-off so frequent in the works of other poets. There were several, however, of a more refined judgment, who ridiculed that infusion of foreign phrases with which he had corrupted the Latin tongue, and spoke with contempt of the equability of his numbers, that cloyed and satiated the ear for want of variety: to which they likewise added a frequent and unseasonable affectation of appearing sonorous and sublime.
The sequel of this prolusion shall be the work of another day.
No. 122. FRIDAY, JULY 31.
Nec magis expressi vultus per ahenea signa. HOR.
THAT I may get out of debt with the public as fast as I can, I shall here give them the remaining part of Strada's criticism on the Latin heroic poets. My readers may see the whole work in the three papers numbered 115, 119, 122. Those who are acquainted with the authors themselves, cannot but be pleased to see them so justly represented; and as for those who have never perused the originals, they may form a judgment of them from such accurate and entertaining copies. The whole piece will show, at least, how a man of genius (and none else should call himself a critic) can make the driest art a pleasing amusement.
THE SEQUEL OF STRADA'S PROLUSION.
The poet who personated Ovid gives an account of the chryso-magnet, or of the loadstone which attracts gold, after the same manner as the common loadstone attracts iron.
The author, that he might express Ovid's way of thinking, derives this virtue to the chryso-magnet from a poeticalmetamorphosis.
"As I was sitting by a well, (says he,) when I was a boy, my ring dropped into it, when immediately my father, fastening a certain stone to the end of a line, let it down into the well. It no sooner touched the surface of the water, but the ring leaped up from the bottom, and clung to it in such a manner, that he drew it out like a fish. My father seeing me wonder at the experiment, gave me the following account of it. When Deucalion and Pyrrha went about the world to repair mankind by throwing stones over their heads, the men who rose from them differed in their inclinations, according to the places on which the stones fell. Those which fell in the fields became ploughmen and shepherds. Those which fell into the water produced sailors and fishermen. Those that fell among the woods and forests gave birth to huntsmen. Among the rest there were several that fell upon mountains, that had mines of gold and silver in them. This last race of men immediately betook themselves to the search of these precious metals; but nature being displeased to see herself ransacked, withdrew her treasures towards the centre of the earth. The avarice of man, however, persisted in its former pursuits, and ransacked her inmost. bowels in quest of the riches which they contained. Nature seeing herself thus plundered by a swarm of miners, was so highly incensed, that she shook the whole place with an earthquake, and buried the men under their own works. The Stygian flames which lay in the neighbourhood of these deep mines broke out at the same time with great fury, burning up the whole mass of human limbs and earth, until they were hardened and baked into stone. The human bodies that were delving in iron mines were converted into those common loadstones which attract that metal. Those which were in search of gold became chryso-magnets, and still keep their former avarice in their present state of petrifaction.
Ovid had no sooner given over speaking, but the assembly pronounced their opinions of him. Several were so taken with his easy way of writing, and had so formed their tastes upon it, that they had no relish for any composition which was not framed in the Ovidian manner. A great many, how
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 up 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 nounced 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.