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That what seem'd fair in all the world, seem'd now
She disappear’d, and left me dark; I wak'd
6. This turn hath made amends : thou hast fulfillid
She heard me ihus, and though divinely bronght, Yet innocence and virgin modesty, Her virtue, and ihe conscience of her worth, That would be woo'd, and not uusought be won, Not obvious, not obtrusive, but retird The more desirable, or to say all, Nature herself, though pure of sinful thought, W onglit in her so, that sering me she turn'd. I follow'd her: she what was honour knew, And with obsequions majesty approv'd My pleaded reason. To the nuptial bower I led ber blushing like the morn
PARADISE Lost, viji. 469-511. L.
No 90. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 1711.
Magnus sine riribus ignis
Virg. Georg iii. 99.
They feel a quenchless flame, a fruitless fire. There is not, in my opinion, a consideration more effectual to extinguish inordinate desires in the soul of man, than the notions of Plato and his followers upon that subject. They tell us, that every passion which has been contracted by the soul during her residence in the body, remains with her in a separate state; and that the soul in the body, or out of the body, differs no more than the man does from himself when he is in his house, or in open air.When therefore the obscene passions in particular have once taken root, and spread themselves in the soul, they cleave to her inseparably, and remain in her for ever, after the body is cast off and thrown aside. As an argument to confirm this their doctrine, they, observe, that a lewd youth who goes on in a continued course of voluptuousness, advances by degrees into a libidinous old man; and that the passion survives in the mind when it is altogether dead in the body; nay, that the desire grows more violent, and (like all other habits) gathers strength by age, at the same time that it has no power of executing its own purposes. If, say they, the soul is the most subject to these passions at a time when it has the least instigations from the body, we may well suppose she will still retain them when she is entirely divested of it. The very substance of the
soul is festered with them, the gangrene is
too far to be ever cured; the inflammation will all eternity.
In this therefore (says the Platonists) consists the punishment of a voluptuous man after death. He is tormented with desires which it is impossible for him to gratify; solicited by a passion that has neither objects nor organs adapted to it. He lives in a state of invincible desire and impotence, and always burns in the pursuit of what he always despairs to possess. It is for this reason (says Plato) that the souls of the dead appear frequently in cemeteries, and hover about the places where their bodies are buried, as still hankering after their old brutal pleasures, and desiring again to enter the body that gave them an opportunity of fulfilling them.
Some of our most eminent divines have made use of this Platonic notion, so far as it regards the subsistence of our passions after death, with great beauty and strength of reason. Plato indeed carries the thought very far when he grafts upon it his opinion of ghosts appearing in places of burial. Though, I must confess, if one did believe that the departed souls of men and women wandered up and down these lower regions, and entertained themselves with the sight of their species, one could not devise a more proper hell for an impure spirit than that which Plato has touched upon.
The ancients seem to have drawn such a state of torments in the description of Tantalus, who was punished with the rage of an eternal thirst, and set up to the chin in water that fled from his lips whenever he attempted to drink it.
Virgil, who has cast the whole system of Platonic philosophy, so far as it relates to the soul of man, into beautiful allegories, in the sixth book of his Æneid
gives us the punishment of a voluptuary after death, not unlike that which we are here speaking of:
-Lucent genialibus altis
DRYDEN. That I may a little alleviate the severity of this my speculation (which otherwise may lose me several of my polite readers), I shall translate a story that has been quoted upon another occasion by one of the most learned men of the present age, as I find it in the original. The reader will see it is not foreign to my present subject, and I dare say will think it a lively representation of a person lying under the torments of such a kind of tantalism, or Platonic hell, as that which we have now under consideration. Monsieur Pontignan, speaking of a loveadventure that happened to him in the country, gives the following account of it*.
• When I was in the country last summer, I was often in company with a couple of charming women, who had all the wit and beauty one could desire in female companions, with a dash of coquetry, that from time to time gave me a great many agreeable torments. I was, after my way, in love with both
• The substance of the story here paraphrased, is taken from a little book entitled Academie Galante, printed at Paris and in Holland in 1682, and afterwards at Amst. in 1708. See that edit. p. 125 ; and first Dutch edit. p. 160.
of them, and had such frequent opportunities of pleading my passion to them when they were asunder, that I had reason to hope for particular favours from each of them. As I was walking one evening in my chamber with nothing about me but my nightgown, they both came into my room, and told me they had a very pleasant trick to put upon a gentleman that was in the same house, provided I would bear a part in in. Upon this they told me such a plausible story, that I laughed at their contrivance, and agreed to do whatever they should require of me. They immediately began to swaddle me up in my night gown, with long pieces of linen, which they folded about me till they had wrapt me in above an hundred yards of swathe. My arms were pressed to my sides, and my legs closed together by so many wrappers one over another, that I looked like an Ægyptian mummy. As I stood bolt-upright upon one end in this antique figure, one of the ladies burst out a laughing. “And now, Pontignan," says she,
we intend to perform the promise that we find you have extorted from each of us. You have often asked the favour of us, and I dare say you are a better bred cavalier than to refuse to go to bed to two ladies that desire it of you.” After having stood a fit of laughter, I begged them to uncase me, and do with me what they pleased. “No, no," said they, “ we like you very well as you are;" and upon
that ordered me to be carried to one of their houses, and put to bed in all my swaddles. The room was lighted up on all sides: and I was laid very decently between a pair of sheets, with my head (which was indeed the only part I could move) upon a very high pillow: this was no sooner done, but my two female friends came into bed to me in their finest nightclothes. You may easily guess at the condition of a man that saw a couple of the most beautiful wo