Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

cause he has the distribution of their fortunes. It is therefore the inadvertency, negligence, or guilt of princes to let any thing grow into custom which is against their laws. A court can make fashion and duty walk together; it can never, without the guilt of a court, happen, that it shall not be unfashionable to do what is unlawful. But alas ! in the dominions of Pharamond, by the force of a tyrant custom, which is misnamed a point of honour, the duellist kills his friend whom he loves; and the judge condemns the duellist, while he approves his behaviour. Shame is the greatest of all evils; whạt avail laws, when death only attends the breach of them, and shame obedience to them? As for me, oh Pharamond, were it possible to describe the nameless kinds of compunctions and tendernesses I feel, when I reflect upon the little accidents in our former familiarity, my mind swells into sorrow which cannot be resisted enough to be silent in the presence of Pharamond. (With that he fell into a flood of tears, and wept aloud.) Why should not Pharamund hear the anguish he only can relieve others from in time to come? Let him hear from me, what they feel who have given death by the false mercy of his administration, and form to himself the vengeance called for by those who have perished by his negligence.”

STEELE.

R3.

3 Steele, in his admirable comedy of “ The Conscious Lovers,” has a fine scene, to exhibit the absurdity of duelling.

N° 85. THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 1711.

Interdum speciosa locis, morataque rectè
Fabula, nullius Veneris, sine pondere & arte,
Valdiùs oblectat populum, meliùsque moratur,
Quàm versus inopes rerum, nugeque canora.

HOR, Ars Poet. v. 319.
Sometimes in rough and undigested plays
We meet with such a lucky character,
As, being humour'd right, and well pursu'd,
Succeeds much better than the shallow verse,
And chiming trifles of more sudious pens.

ROSCOMMON.

It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see any printed or written paper upon the ground, to take it up and lay it aside carefully, as not knowing but it may contain some piece of their Alcoran. I must confess I have so much of the Mussulman in me, that I cannot forbear looking into every printed paper which comes in my way, under whatsoever despicable circumstances it may appear; for as no mor, tal author, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, knows to what use his works may some time or other be applied, a man may often meet with very celebrated names in a paper of tobacco. I have lighted ny pipe more than once with the writings of a prelate; and know a friend of mine, who, for these several years, has converted the essays of a man of quality into a kind of fringe for his candlesticks. I remember in particular, after having read over a poem of an eminent author on a victory, I met with several fragments of it upon the next rejoicing day, which had been employed in squibs and crackers, and by that means celebrated its subject in a double capacity. I once met with a page of Mr. Baxter under a Christmas-pye. Whether or no the pastry-cook had made use of it through chance or waggery, for the defence of that superstitious viande, I know not; but upon the perusal of it, I conceived so good an idea of the author's piety, that I bought the whole book. I have often profited by these accidental readings, and have sometimes found very curious pieces that are either out of print, or not to be met with in the shops of our London booksellers. For this reason, when my friends take a survey of my library, they are very much surprised to find upon the shelf of folios two long bandboxes standing upright among my books; till I let them see that they are both of them lined with deep erudition and abstruse literature. I might likewise mention a paper-kite, from which I have received great improvement: and a hat-case which I wouid not exchange for all the beavers in Great-Britain. This my inquisitive temper, or rather impertinent humour of prying into all sorts of writing, with my natural aversion to loquacity, give me a good deal of employment when I enter any house in the country; for I cannot for my heart leave a room, before I have thoroughly studied the walls of it, and exa. mined the several printed papers which are usually pasted upon them. The last piece that I met with upon this occasion gave me most exquisite pleasure. My reader will think I am not serious, when I acquaint him that the piece I am going to speak of, was the old ballad of the two children in the wood', which is one of the darling songs of the com: mon people, and has been the delight of most Englishmen in some part of their age.

This song is a plain simple copy of nature, destitute of the helps and ornaments of art. The tale of it is a pretty tragical story, and pleases for no other reason but because it is a copy of nature. There is even a despicable simplicity in the verse ; and yet because the sentinients appear genuine and unaffected, they are able to move the mind of the most polite reader with inward meltings of humanity and compassion. The incidents grow out of the subject, and are such as are the most proper to excite pity; for which reason the whole narration has something in it very moving, notwithstanding the author of it (whoever he was) has delivered it in such an abject phrase and poorness of expression, that the quoting any part of it would look like a design of turning it into ridicule. But though the language is mean, the thoughts, as I have before said, from one end to the other, are natural, and therefore cannot fail to please those who are not judges of language, or those who, notwithstanding they are judges of language, have a true and unprejudiced taste of nature. The condition, speech, and behaviour of the dying parents, with the age, innocence, and distress of the children, are set forth in such tender circumstances, that it is impossible for a reader of common humanity not to be affected with them.

'Percy's Reliqnes of Antient Poetry, vol. iii. This simple tale has been pleasingly dramatized lately by Thomas Morton, esq; author of " The Cure for the Heart Ache; Speed the Plough,” &c. &c.

As for the circumstance of the robin-red-breast, it is indeed a little poetical ornament; and to shew the genius of the author amidst all his simplicity, it is just the same kind of fiction which one of the greatest of the Latin poets has made use of upon a parallel occasion ; I mean that passage in Horace, where he describes himself when he was a child, fallen asleep in a desert wood, and coyered with leaves by the turtles that took pity on him.

Me fabulosæ vulture in Apulo,
Altricis extra limen Apulia,

Ludo fatigatumque somno

Fronde novâ puerum palumbes
Texere-

4 od. iii. v. 9.
In lofty vulture's rising grounds,
Without my nurse Apulia's bounds,
When young, and tir'd with sport and play,
And bound with pleasing sleep I lay,
Doves cover'd me with myrtle boughs.

[ocr errors]

CREECH.

I have heard that the late lord Dorset, who had the greatest wit tempered with the greatest candour, and was one of the finest critics as well as the best poets of his age, had a numerous collection of old English ballads, and took a particular pleasure in the reading of them. I can affirm the same of Mr. Dry, den, and know several of the most refined writers of our present age who are of the same humour.

Į might likewise refer my reader to Moliere's thoughts on this subject, as he has expressed them in the character of the Misanthrope; but those only who are endowed with a true greatness of soul and genius, can divest'themselves of the little images of ridicule, and admire nature in her simplicity and nakedness. As for the little conceited wits of the

« НазадПродовжити »