« ForrigeFortsæt »
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
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 Æneas 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
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."
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 he 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 hindered 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-rival1 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,
Augustus, promised oft, and long foretold,
Sent to the realm that Saturn ruled of old;
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.
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.
Not though the brazen-footed hind he slew;
1 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.
From Nisus' top descending on the plains;
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 the space of one year.
Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultrà
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.
No. 139. THURSDAY, AUGUST 20.
-prisca fides facto, sed fama perennis. VIRG.
"MOST VENERABLE NESTOR,
I find that everybody is very much delighted with the voice of your lion. His roarings against the tucker have been most melodious and emphatical. It is to be hoped, that the ladies will take warning by them, and not provoke him to greater outrages; for I observe, that your lion, as you yourself have told us, is made up of mouth and paws. For my own part, I have long considered with myself how I might express my gratitude to this noble animal, that has so much the good of our country at his heart. After many thoughts on this subject, I have at length resolved to do honour to him, by compiling a history of his species, and extracting out of all authors whatever may redound to his reputation. In the prosecution of this design, I shall have no manner of regard to what Æsop has said upon the subject, whom I look upon to have been a republican, by the unworthy treatment which he often gives to this king of beasts, and whom, if I had time, I could convict of falsehood and forgery in almost every matter of fact which he has related of this generous animal. Your romance writers are likewise a set of men whose authority I shall build upon very little in this case. They all of them are born with a particular antipathy to lions, and give them no more quarter than they do giants, wherever they chance to meet them. There is not one of the seven champions, but when he has nothing else to do, encounters with a lion, and you may be sure always gets the better of him. In short, a knight-errant lives in a perpetual state of enmity with this noble creature, and hates him more than all things upon the earth, except a dragon. Had the stories recorded of them by these writers been true, the whole species would have been destroyed before now. After having thus renounced all fabulous authorities, I shall begin my memoirs of the lion with a story related of him by Aulus Gellius, and extracted by him out of Dion Cassius, an historian of undoubted veracity. It is the famous story of Androcles the Roman slave, which I premise for
the sake of my learned reader, who needs go no further in it if he has read it already.
"Androcles was the slave of a noble Roman who was proconsul of Afric. He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put him to death, had not he found an opportunity to escape out of his hands, and fled1 into the deserts of Numidia. As he was wandering among the barren sands, and almost dead with heat and hunger, he saw a cave in the side of a rock. He went into it, and finding at the further end of it a place to sit down upon, rested there for some time. At length, to his great surprise, a huge overgrown lion entered at the mouth of the cave, and seeing a man at the upper end of it, immediately made towards him. Androcles gave himself for gone; but the lion, instead of treating him as he expected, laid his paw upon his lap, and with a complaining kind of voice fell a licking his hand. Androcles, after having recovered himself a little from the fright he was in, observed the lion's paw to be exceedingly swelled by a large thorn that stuck in it. He immediately pulled it out, and by squeezing the paw very gently, made a great deal of corrupt matter run out of it, which probably freed the lion from the great anguish he had felt some time before. The lion left him upon receiving this good office from him, and soon after returned with a fawn which he had just killed. This he laid down at the feet of his benefactor, and went off again in pursuit of his prey. Androcles, after having sodden the flesh of it by the sun, subsisted upon it until the lion had supplied him with another. He lived many days in this frightful solitude, the lion catering for him with great assiduity. Being tired at length of this savage society, he was resolved to deliver himself up into his master's hands, and suffer the worst effects of his displeasure, rather than be thus driven out from mankind. His master, as was customary for the proconsuls of Afric, was at that time getting together a present of all the largest lions that could be found in the country, in order to send them to Rome, that they
1 And fled.] Better, and fly-it is more natural to connect fly with escape, than fled with found; not only from the greater distance of these last verbs, but because the verb found is transitive, and the other two, escape and fly, neutrals, which, therefore, have a more immediate relation to each other.