Page images
PDF
EPUB

reading there; and he, being a good scholar for a gentleman, ran over the names of Horace, Tibullus, Ovid, and others, to know which I would have.

Bring Virgil,” said I; “and if I fall asleep, take care of the candle.” I read the sixth book over with the most exquisite delight, and had gone half through it a second time, when the pleasing ideas of Elysian fields, deceased worthies walking in them, sincere lovers enjoying their languishment without pain, compassion for the unhappy spirits who had misspent their short day-light, and were exiled from the seats of bliss for ever; I say, I was deep again in my reading, when this mixture of images had taken place of all others in my imagination before, and lulled me into a dream, from which I am just aw

awake, to my great disadvantage. The happy mansion of Elysium, by degrees, seemed to be wafted from me, and the very traces of my late waking thoughts began to fade away, when I was cast by a sudden whirlpool upon an island, encompassed with a roaring and troubled sea, which shaked its very centre, and rocked its inhabitants as in a cradle. The islanders lay on their faces, without offering to look up, or hope for preservation; all her harbours were crowded with mariners, and tall vessels of war lay in danger of being driven to pieces on her shore. “ Bless me!” said I, “why have I lived in such a manner, that the convulsion of nature should be so terrible to me, when I feel self that the better part of me is to survive it? Oh! may that be in happiness!” A sudden shriek, in which the whole people on their faces joined, interrupted my soliloquy, and turned my eyes and attention to the object that had given us that sudden start, in the midst of an inconsolable and speechless affliction. Immediately the winds grew calm, the waves subsided, and the people stood up, turning their faces upon a magnificent pile in the midst of the island. There we be

same

held an hero of a comely and erect aspect, but pale and languid, sitting under a canopy of state. By the faces and dumb sorrow of those who attended, we thought him in the article of death. At a distance sat a lady, whose life seemed to hang upon the thread with his. She kept her eyes fixed upon him, and seemed to smother ten thousand thousand nameless things, which urged her tenderness to clasp him in her arms; but her greatness of spirit overcame these sentiments, and gave her power to forbear disturbing his last moment; which immediately approached*. The hero looked up with an air of negligence, and satiety of being, rather than of pain to leave it; and leaning back his head, expired.

When the heroine, who sat at a distance, saw his last instant come, she threw herself at his feet, and, kneeling, pressed his hand to her lips; in which posture she continued under the agony of an unutterable sorrow, until conducted from our sight by her attendants. That commanding awe, which accompanies the grief of great minds, restrained the multitude while in her presence; but as soon as she retired they gave way to their distraction, and all the highlanders called upon their deceased hero.

To him, methought, they cried out as to a guardian being; and I gathered from their broken accents, that it was he who had the empire over the ocean and its powers, by which he had long protected the island from shipwreck and invasion. They now give a loose to their moan, and think themselves exposed without hopes of human or divine assistance. While the people ran wild, and expressed all the different forms of lamentation, methought a sable cloud overshadowed the whole land, and covered its inhabitants with darkness: no glimpse of light appeared, except one ray from Heaven upon the place in which the heroine now secluded herself from the world, with her eyes fixed on those abodes to which her consort was ascended. Methought a long period of tine had passed away in mourning and in darkness, when a twilight began by degrees to enlighten the hemisphere; and, looking round me, I saw a boat rowed towards the shore, in which sat a personage adorned with warlike trophies, bearing on his left arm a shield, on which was engraven the image of Victory, and in his right had a branch of olive. His visage was at once so winning and so awful, that the shield and the olive seemed equally suitable to his genius.

* George Prince of Denmark.

When this illustrious person* touched on the shore, he was received by the acclamations of the people, and followed to the palace of the heroine. No pleasure in the glory of her arms, or the acclamations of her applauding subjects, were ever capable to suspend her sorrow for one moment, till she saw the olive-branch in the hand of that auspicious messenger. At that sight, as Heaven bestows its blessings on the wants and importunities of mortals, out of its native bounty, and not to increase its own power or honour, in compassion to the world, the celestial mourner was then first seen to turn her regard to things below; and, taking the branch out of the warrior's hand, looked at it with much satisfaction, and spoke of the blessings of peace with a voice and accent, such as that in which guardian spirits whisper to dying penitents assurance of happiness. The air was hushed, the multitude attentive, and all nature in a pause while she was speaking. But as soon as the messenger

had made some low reply, in which, methought, I heard the word Iberia, the heroine, assuming a more severe air, but such as spoke resolution without rage, returned him the olive, and again veiled her face. Loud cries and clashing of arms immediately followed, which forced me from my charming vision, and drove me back to these mansions of care and sorrow.

of peace

4

* About this time the Duke of Marlborough returned from Holland, with the Preliminaries of a Peace.

Mr. Bickerstaff thanks Mr. Quarterstaff for his kind and instructive letter dated the 26th inst.

N° 9. SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 1709.

Quicquid agunt homines

nostri est farrago libelli.

Jov. Sat. i. 85, 86.
Whate'er men do, or say, or think, or dream,
Our motley paper seizes for its theme.

P. Will's Coffee-house, April 28. This evening we were entertained with The Old Bachelor, a comedy of deserved reputation. In the character which gives name to the play, there is excellently represented the reluctance of a battered debauchee to come into the trammels of order and, decency: he neither languishes nor burns, but frets for love. The gentlemen of more regular behaviour are drawn with more spirit and wit, and the drama introduced by the dialogue of the first scene with uncommon, yet natural conversation. The part of Fondlewife is a lively image of the unseasonable fondness of age and impotence. But instead of such agreeable works as these, the town has for half an age been tormented with insects called Easy Writers, whose abilities Mr. Wycherly one day described excellently well in one word :

among these fellows is called Easy Writing, which any one may easily write:

“ That,

[ocr errors]

says he,

Such janty scribblers are so justly laughed at for their sonnets on Phillis and Chloris, and fantastical descriptions in them; that an ingenious kinsman of mine, of the family of the Staffs, Mr. Humphrey Wagstaff by name, has, to avoid their strain, run into a way perfectly new, and described things exactly as they happen* : he never forms fields, or nymphs, or groves, where they are not; but makes the incidents just as they really appear. example of it; I stole out of his manuscript the lollowing lines : they are a description of the morning, but of the morning in town; nay, of the morning at this end of the town, where my kinsman at present lodges.

For an

Now hardly here and there an hackney coach
Appearing, show'd the ruddy morn's approach.
Now Betty from her master's bed had flown,
And softly stole to discompose her own;
The slipshod 'prentice from his master's door,
Had par'd the street, and sprinkled round the floor :
Now Moll had whirl'd her mop with dex'trous airs,
Prepar’d to scrub the entry and the stairs.
The youth with broomy stumps began to trace
The kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.
The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep,
Till drown'd in shriller notes of chimney-sweep:
Duns at his Lordship’s gates began to meet,
And brick-dust Moll had scream'd thro' half a street.
The turnkey now his flock returning sees,
Duly let out a'nights to steal for fees;
The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands,
And school-boys lag with satchels their hands.

All that I apprehend is, that dear Numps will be angry I have published these lines ; not that he has any reason to be ashamed of them, but for fear of those rogues, the bane to all excellent performances, the imitators. Therefore, before-hand, I bar all descriptions of the evening; as, a medley of

* Dr. Swift.

« PreviousContinue »