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pieces of criticism that I have ever read. I shall make the plan of it the subject of this day's paper.
It is commonly known, that Pope Leo the Tenth was a great patron of learning, and used to be present at the performances, conversations, and disputes, of all the most polite writers of his time. Upon this bottom Strada founds the following narrative. When this pope was at his villa, that stood upon an eminence on the banks of the Tiber, the poets contrived the following pageant or machine for his entertainment. They made a huge floating mountain, that was split at the top in imitation of Parnassus. There were several marks on it that distinguished it for the habitation of heroic poets. Of all the Muses, Calliope only made her appearance. It was covered up and down with groves of laurel. Pegasus appeared hanging off the side of a rock, with a fountain running from his heel. This floating Parnassus fell down the river to the sound of trumpets, and in a kind of epic measure, for it was rowed forward by six huge wheels, three on each side, that by their constant motion carried on the machine until it arrived before the pope's villa.
The representatives of the ancient poets were disposed in stations suitable to their respective characters. Statius was posted on the highest of the two summits, which was fashioned in the form of a precipice, and hung over the rest of the mountain in a dreadful manner, so that people regarded him with the same terror and curiosity as they look upon a daring rope-dancer whom they expect to fall every moment.
Claudian was seated on the other summit, which was lower, and at the same time more smooth and even than the former. It was observed likewise to be more barren, and to produce, on some spots of it, plants that are unknown to Italy, and such as the gardeners call exotics.
Lucretius was very busy about the roots of the mountain, being wholly intent upon the motion and management of the machine, which was under his conduct, and was, indeed, of his invention. He was sometimes so engaged among the wheels, and covered with machinery, that not above half the poet appeared to the spectators, though at other times, by the working of the engines, he was raised up and became as conspicuous as any of the brotherhood.
Ovid did not settle in any particular place, but ranged cover all Parnassus with great nimbleness and activity. But
as he did not much care for the toil and pains that were requisite to climb the upper part of the hill, he was generally roving about the bottom of it.
But there was none who was placed in a more eminent station, and had a greater prospect under him, than Lucan. He vaulted upon Pegasus with all the heat and intrepidity of youth, and seemed desirous of mounting into the clouds upon the back of him. But as the hinder feet of the horse stuck to the mountain while the body reared up in the air, the poet, with great difficulty, kept himself from sliding off his back, insomuch that the people often gave him for gone, and cried out every now and then, that he was tumbling.
Virgil, with great modesty in his looks, was seated by Calliope, in the midst of a plantation of laurels which grew thick about him, and almost covered him with their shade. He would not, perhaps, have been seen in this retirement, but that it was impossible to look upon Calliope without seeing Virgil at the same time.
This poetical masquerade was no sooner arrived before the pope's villa, but they received an invitation to land, which they did accordingly. The hall prepared for their reception was filled with an audience of the greatest eminence for quality and politeness. The poets took their places, and repeated each of them a poem written in the style and spirit of those immortal authors whom they represented. The subjects of these several poems, with the judgment passed upon each of them, may be an agreeable entertainment for another day's paper.
No. 116. FRIDAY, JULY 24.
Fortius et melius
THERE are many little enormities in the world, which our preachers would be very glad to see removed; but at same time dare not meddle with them, for fear of betraying the dignity of the pulpit. Should they recommend the tucker in a pathetic discourse, their audiences would be apt to laugh out. I knew a parish, where the top woman of it used always to appear with a patch upon some part of her
forehead: the good man of the place preached at it with great zeal for almost a twelvemonth; but instead of fetching out the spot which he perpetually aimed at, he only got the name of Parson Patch for his pains. Another is to this day called by the name of Doctor Topknot, for reasons of the same nature. I remember the clergy, during the time of Cromwell's usurpation, were very much taken up in reforming the female world, and showing the vanity of those outward ornaments in which the sex so much delights. I have heard a whole sermon against a white-wash, and have known a coloured ribbon made the mark of the unconverted. The clergy of the present age are not transported with these indiscreet fervours, as knowing that it is hard for a reformer to avoid ridicule, when he is severe upon subjects which are rather apt to produce mirth than seriousness. For this reason, I look upon myself to be of great use to these good men; while they are employed in extirpating mortal sins, and crimes of a higher nature, I should be glad to rally the world out of indecencies and venial transgressions. While the Doctor is curing distempers that have the appearance of danger or death in them, the Merry Andrew has his separate packet for the meagrims and the tooth-ache.
Thus much I thought fit to premise, before I resume the subject which I have already handled, I mean the naked bosoms of our British ladies. I hope they will not take it ill of me, if I still beg that they will be covered. I shall here present them with a letter on that particular, as it was yesterday conveyed to me through the lion's mouth. It comes from a Quaker, and is as follows:
Our friends like thee. We rejoice to find thou beginnest to have a glimmering of the light in thee: we shall pray for thee, that thou mayest be more and more enlightened. Thou givest good advice to the women of this world to clothe themselves like unto our friends, and not to expose their fleshly temptations, for it is against the record. Thy lion is a good lion; he roareth loud, and is heard a great way, even unto the sink of Babylon; for the scarlet whore is governed by the voice of thy lion. Look on his order.
"Rome, July 8, 1713. A placard is published here, forbidding women, of whatsoever quality, to go with naked
breasts; and the priests are ordered not to admit the transgressors of this law to confession, nor to communion; neither are they to enter the cathedrals under severe penalties.'
"These lines are faithfully copied from the nightly paper, with this title written over it, The Evening Post, from Saturday, July the 18th, to Tuesday, July the 21st.
Seeing thy lion is obeyed at this distance, we hope the foolish women in thy own country will listen to thy admonitions. Otherwise thou art desired to make him still roar, till all the beasts of the forests shall tremble. I must again repeat unto thee, friend Nestor, the whole brotherhood have great hopes of thee, and expect to see thee so inspired with the light, as thou mayest speedily become a great preacher of the word. I wish it heartily.
In everything that is praiseworthy,
Tom's Coffee-house in Birchin Lane, the 23rd day of the month called July.
It happens very oddly that the pope and I should have the same thought much about the same time. My enemies will be apt to say that we hold a correspondence together, and act by concert in this matter. Let that be as it will, I shall not be ashamed to join with his Holiness in those particulars which are indifferent between us, especially when it is for the reformation of the finer half of mankind. We are both of us about the same age, and consider this fashion in the same view. I hope that it will not be able to resist his bull and my lion. I am only afraid that our ladies will take occasion, from hence, to show their zeal for the Protestant religion, and pretend to expose their naked bosoms only in opposition to Popery.
No. 117. SATURDAY, JULY 25.
Cura pii Diis sunt
LOOKING Over the late edition of Monsieur Boileau's works, I was very much pleased with the article which he has added to his notes on the translation of Longinus. He
there tells us, that the sublime in writing rises either from the nobleness of the thought, the magnificence of the words, or the harmonious and lively turn of the phrase, and that the perfect sublime arises from all these three in conjunction together. He produces an instance of this perfect sublime in four verses from the Athaliah of Monsieur Racine. When Abner, one of the chief officers of the court, represents to Joad the high priest, that the queen was incensed against him, the high priest, not in the least terrified at the news, returns this answer.
Celui qui met un frein à la fureur des flots,
Sçait aussi des mechans arrêter les complots.
Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n'ai point d'autre crainte.
"He who ruled the raging of the sea, knows also how to check the designs of the ungodly. I submit myself with reverence to his holy will. O Abner, I fear my God, and I fear none but him.' Such a thought gives no less a sublimity to human nature, than it does to good writing. This religious fear, when it is produced by just apprehensions of a Divine Power, naturally overlooks all human greatness that stands in competition with it, and extinguishes every other terror that can settle itself in the heart of man: it lessens and contracts the figure of the most exalted person; it disarms the tyrant and executioner, and represents to our minds the most enraged and the most powerful as altogether harmless and impotent.
There is no true fortitude which is not founded upon this fear, as there is no other principle of so settled and fixed a nature. Courage that grows from constitution very often forsakes a man when he has occasion for it; and when it is only a kind of instinct in the soul, breaks out on all occasions, without judgment or discretion. That courage which proceeds from the sense of our duty, and from the fear of offending him that made us, acts always in an uniform manner, and according to the dictates of right reason.
What can the man fear, who takes care in all his actions to please a Being that is Omnipotent? a Being who is able to crush all his adversaries? a Being that can divert any misfortune from befalling him, or turn any such misfortune to his advantage? The person who lives with this constant and habitual regard to the great Superintendent of the world,