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It is no wonder that those scenes fhould be very surprising which were contrived by two poets of different nations, and raised by two magicians of different sexes. Armida (as we are told in the argument) was an Amazonian enchantress, and poor Signior Cassani (as we learn from the persons represented) a Christian-conjurer (Mago Chriftiano), I must confefs I am very much puzzled to find how an Amazon should be versed in the black art, or how a good Christian, for such is the part of the magican, should deal with the devil.
To consider the poer after the conjuror, I shall give you a taste of the Italian from the first lines of his preface Eccoti, benigno lettore, un parto di poche fere, che se ben nato di notte, non è pero aborto di tenebre, mà fi farà conoscere figlio d'Apollo con qualche raggio di Parnasso. Behold, gentle reader, the birth of a few
evenings, which, though it be the offspring of the
night, is not the abortive of darkness, but will make • itfelf known to be the son of Apollo, with a certain ray
of Parnassus.' He afterwards proceeds to call Mynheer Handel the Orpheus of our age, and to acquaint us, in the same sublimity of stile, that he composed this opera in a fortnight. Such are the wits to whose tastes we fo ambitiously conform ourselves. The truth of it is, the finest writers among the modern Italians express themselves in such a forid form of words, and such tedious circumlocutions, as are used by none but pedants in our own country; and at the fame time fill their writings with such poor imaginations and conceits, as our youths are ashamed of be. fore they have been two years at the university. Some may be apt to think that it is the difference of genius which produces the difference in the works of the two nations; but to shew there is nothing in this, if we look into the writings of the old Italians, such as Cicero and Virgil, we shall find that the English writers, in their way of thinking and expressing themselves, resemble those authors much inore than the modern Italians pretend to do. And as for the poet himself, from whoin the dreams of this opera are taken, I must intirely agree
with Monsieur Boileau, that onc verse in Virgil is worth all the Clincant or Tinsel of Tafio.
But to return to the sparrows; there have been so many flights of them let loofc in this opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid of them; and that in other plays they may make their entrance in very wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in a Lady's bed-chamber, or perching upon a King's throne; befides the inconveniencies which the heads of the audiences may sometimes suffer from them. I am credibly informed, that there was once a design of cafting into an opera the story of Whittington and his cat, and that in order to it, there had been got together a great quantity of mice; but Mr. Rich, the proprietor of the play-house, very prudently considered that it would be impoflible for the cat to kill them all, and that conse. quently the princes of the stage might be as much infefted with mice, as the prince of the island was before the cat's arrival upon it; for which reason he would not permit it to be acted in his house. And indeed I cannot blame him; for, as he said very well upon that occasion, I do not hear that any of the performers in our opera pretend to equal the famous pied piper, who made all the mice of a great town in Germany follow his music, and by that means cleared the place of those little noxious animals.
Before I dismiss this paper, I must inform my reader, that I hear there is a treaty on foot with London and Wife (who will be appointed gardeners of the playhouse) to furnish the opera of Rinaldo and Arinida with an orange-grove; and that the next time it is acted, the finging-birds will be perfonated by tom-tits; the undertakers being resolved to spare neither pains nor money for the gratification of the audience.
No. VI. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7.
Credebant hoc grande nefas, & morte piandum,
I Know no evil under the fun so great as the abuse of the understanding, and yet there is no one vice more
It has diffused itself through both sexes, and all qualities of mankind; and there is hardly that person to be found, who is not more concerned for the reputation of wit and sense than honesty and virtue. But this unhappy affectation of being wife rather than honest, witty than good-natur’d, is the fource of most of the ill habits of life. Such false impreffions are owing to the abandoned writings of men of wit, and the aivkward imitation of the rest of mankind.
For this reason Sir Roger was saying last night, that he was of opinion, none but men of fine parts deserve to be hanged. The reflections of such men are so delicate upan all occurrences which they are concerned in, that they should be exposed to more than ordinary infamy and punishment for offending against fuch quick admonitions as their own fouls give them, and blunting the fine edge of their ininds in such a manner, that they are no more shocked at vice and folly than men of flower capacities. There is no greater monster in being than a very ill man of great parts; he lives like a man in a palsy, with one side of him dead: While perhaps he enjoys the satisfaction of luxury, of wealth, of ambition, he has lost the taste of good-will, of friendship, of innocence. Scarecrow, the beggar in Lincoln's Inn-fields, who disabled himself in his right ley, and asks alms all day to get himself a warm supper and a trull at night, is not half so despicable a wretch as such a man of fenfe. The beggar has no relish above fenfa:ions; he finds rest more agreeable than motion; and while he has a warm
fire and his doxy, never reflects that he deserves to be whipped. Every man who terminates his fatisfactions and enjoyments within the supply of his own necessities and passions, is, says Sir Roger, in my eye, as poor a rogue as Scarecrow. But, continued he, for the loss of public and private virtue, we are beholden to your men of parts forsooth; it is with them no matter what is done, so it be done with an air. But to me, who am fo whimsical in a corrupt age as to act according to nature and reason, a selfish man, in the most shining circumstance and equipage, appears in the same condition with the fellow above-mentioned, but more contemptible in proportion to what more he robs the public of, and enjoys above him. I lay it down therefore for a rule, that the whole man is to move together; that every action of any importance is to have a prospect of public good; and that the general tendency of our indifferent actions ought to be agreeable to the dictates of reason, of religion, of good breeding: without this, a man, as I before have hinted, is hopping instead of walking; he is not in his intire and proper motion.
While the honest knight was thus bewildering himself in good starts, I looked attentively upon him, which made him, I thought, collect his mind a little. What I aim at, says he, is to represent that I am of opinion, to polish our understandings and neglect our manners, is of all things the most inexcusable. Reason should govern passion, but instead of that, you fee, it is often subservient to it; and as unaccountable as one would think it, a wise man is not always a good man. This dege. neracy is not only the gift of particular persons, but at some times of a whole people: and perhaps it may appear upon examination, that the most polite ages are the Icast virtuous. This may be attributed to the folly of admitting wit and learning as merit in themselves, without considering the application of them. By this means it becomes a rule, not so much to regard what we do, as how we do it. But this false beauty will not pass upon men of honest minds and true taste. 'Sir Richard Blackmore fays, with as much good sense as virtue, “ It is a
“ mighty dishonour and fhame to employ excellent fa“ culties and abundance of wit to humour, and please
men in their vices and follies. The great enemy of “ mankind, notwithstanding his wit and angelic facul“ ties, is the most odious being in the whole creation." He goes on foon after to say very generously, that he undertook the writing of his poem “ to rescue the Muses
out of the hands of ravishers, to restore them to their " sweet and chaite manfions, and to engage them in an “ employment suitable to their dignity." This certainly ought to be the purpose of every man who appears in public; and whoever does not proceed upon that foundation, injures his country as fast as he succeeds in his ftudies. When modesty ceases to be the chief ornament of one sex, and integrity of the other, society is upon a wrong basis, and we shall be ever after without rules to guide our judgment in what is really becoming and ornamental. Nature and reason direct one thing, pallion and humour another: to follow the dictates of the two latter, is going into a road that is both endless and intricate; when we pursue the other our passage is delightful, and what we aim at easily attainable.
I do not doubt but England is at present as polite a nation as any in the world; but any man who thinks, can easily see that the affectation of being gay and in fashion, has very near eaten up our good sense and our religion. Is there any thing so just, as that mode and gallantry should be built upon exerting ourselves in what is proper and agreeable to the institutions of justice and piety among us! And yet is there any thing more common than that we run in perfect contradiction to them! All which is fupported by no other pretension, than that it is done with what we call a good grace.
Nothing ought to be held laudable or becoming but what nature itself should prompt us to think so. Respect to all kind of superiors founded, methinks, upon inftinct; and yet what is so ridiculous as age! I make this abrupt transition to the mention of this vice more than any other, in order to introduce a little ktory; which