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puzzled the whole town, as they cannot think of any name which begins with that letter, except Xenophon and Xerxes, who can neither of them be supposed to have had any hand in these speculations.
In answer to these inquisitive gentlemen, who have many of them made inquiries of me by letter, I must tell them the reply of an ancient philosopher, who carried something hidden under his cloak. A certain acquaintance desiring him to let him know what it was he covered so carefully, "I cover it (says he) on purpose that you should not know." I have made use of these obscure marks for the same purpose. They are, perhaps, little amulets or charms to preserve the paper against the fascination or malice of evil eyes; for which reason I would not have my reader surprised, if hereafter he sees any of my papers marked with a Q, a Z, a Y, an &c., or with the word Abracadabra.
I shall, however, so far explain myself to the reader, as to let him know that the letters C, L, and X, are cabalistical, and carry more in them than it is proper for the world to be acquainted with. Those who are versed in the philosophy of Pythagoras, and swear by the Tetracthtys, that is, the number four, will know very well that the number ten, which is signified by the letter X, (and which has so much perplexed the town,) has in it many particular powers; that it is called by Platonic writers the complete number; that one, two, three; and four, put together, make up the number ten; and that ten is all. But these are not mysteries for ordinary readers to be let into. A man must have spent many years in hard study before he can arrive at the knowledge of them.
We had a rabbinical divine in England, who was chaplain to the Earl of Essex in Queen Elizabeth's time, that had an admirable head for secrets of this nature. Upon his taking the doctor of divinity's degree, he preached before the university of Cambridge, upon the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of Chronicles, in which (says he) you will see the three following words,
Adam, Sheth, Enosh.
He divided this short text into many parts, and discovering several mysteries in each word, made a most learned and elaborate discourse. The name of this profound preacher was Doctor Alabaster, of whom the reader may find a more particular account in Doctor Fuller's book of English Wor
thies. This instance will, I hope, convince my readers, that there may be a great deal of fine writing in the capital letters which bring up the rear of my paper, and give them some satisfaction in that particular. But as for the full explication of these matters, I must refer them to time, which discovers all things.
No. 223. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15.
O suavis anima! qualem bonam
Antehac fuisse, tales cùm sint reliquiæ! PHÆD.
WHEN I reflect upon the various fate of those multitudes of ancient writers who flourished in Greece and Italy, I consider time as an immense ocean, in which many noble authors are entirely swallowed up, many very much shattered and damaged, some quite disjointed and broken into pieces, while some have wholly escaped the common wreck; but the number of the last is very small.
Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.
Among the mutilated poets of antiquity, there is none whose fragments are so beautiful as those of Sappho. They give us a taste of her way of writing, which is perfectly conformable with that extraordinary character we find of her, in the remarks of those great critics who were conversant with her works when they were entire. One may see by what is left of them, that she followed nature in all her thoughts, without descending to those little points, conceits, and turns of wit, with which many of our modern lyrics are so miserably infected. Her soul seems to have been made up of love and poetry: she felt the passion in all its warmth, and described it in all its symptoms. She is called by ancient authors the Tenth Muse; and by Plutarch is compared to Cacus, the son of Vulcan, who breathed out nothing but flame. I do not know by the character that is given of her works, whether it is not for the benefit of mankind that they are lost. They were filled with such bewitching tenderness and rapture, that it might have been dangerous to have given them a reading. An inconstant lover, called Phaon, occasioned great calamities to this poetical lady. She fell desperately in love with him, and took a voyage into Sicily, in pursuit of him, he hav
ing withdrawn himself thither on purpose to avoid her. It was in that island, and on this occasion, she is supposed to have made the Hymn to Venus, with a translation of which I shall present my reader. Her hymn was ineffectual for the procuring that happiness which she prayed for in it. Phaon was still obdurate, and Sappho so transported with the violence of her passion, that she was resolved to get rid of it at any price.
There was a promontory in Acarnania called Leucate, on the top of which was a little temple dedicated to Apollo. In this temple it was usual for despairing lovers to make their vows in secret, and afterwards to fling themselves from the top of the precipice into the sea, where they were sometimes taken up alive. This place was therefore called The Lover's Leap; and whether or no the fright they had been in, or the resolution that could push them to so dreadful a remedy, or the bruises which they often received in their fall, banished all the tender sentiments of love, and gave their spirits another turn; those who had taken this leap were observed never to relapse into that passion. Sappho tried the cure, but perished in the experiment.
After having given this short account of Sappho so far as it regards the following Ode, I shall subjoin the translation of it as it was sent me by a friend,' whose admirable pastorals and winter-piece have been already so well received. The reader will find in it that pathetic simplicity which is so peculiar to him, and so suitable to the Ode he has here translated. This Ode in the Greek (besides those beauties observed by Madame Dacier) has several harmonious turns in the words, which are not lost in the English. I must further add, that the translation has preserved every image and sentiment of Sappho, notwithstanding it has all the ease and spirit of an original. In a word, if the ladies have a mind to know the manner of writing practised by the so much
1 Mr. Ambrose Philips; who was a friend of our author, but being a great party-man, drew upon himself much envy, and, of course, the ridicule of the wits; such of them, I mean, as lived in connexions opposite to his. As a poet, however, he had real merit, which consisted in a certain natural turn of sentiment and expression, called by his friends, simplicity; and by his enemies, we may be sure, insipidity. The worst part of his character is that he was generally thought (and I believe on good grounds) to have done Mr. Pope ill offices with Mr. Addison; for which he is treated by that poet, on many occasions, with great severity.
celebrated Sappho, they may here see it in its genuine and natural beauty, without any foreign or affected ornaments.
AN HYMN TO VENUS.
O Venus, beauty of the skies,
O goddess! from my heart remove
If ever thou hast kindly heard
Thou once didst leave Almighty Jove,
As to my bower they winged their way;
The birds dismist (while you remain)
What phrensy in my bosom raged,
Though now he shuns thy longing arms,
Celestial visitant, once more
Madame Dacier observes there is something very pretty in that circumstance of this Ode, wherein Venus is described as sending away her chariot upon her arrival at Sappho's lodgings, to denote that it was not a short, transient visit which she intended to make her. This Ode was preserved by an eminent Greek critic, who inserted it entire in his works, as a pattern of perfection in the structure of it.
Longinus has quoted another Ode of this great poetess, which is likewise admirable in its kind, and has been translated by the same hand with the foregoing one. I shall oblige my reader with it in another paper. In the mean while, I cannot but wonder that these two finished pieces have never been attempted before by any of our countrymen. But the truth of it is, the compositions of the ancients, which have not in them any of those unnatural witticisms that are the delight of ordinary readers, are extremely difficult to render into another tongue, so as the beauties of the original may not appear weak and faded in translation.
No. 225. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17.
Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia
I HAVE often thought if the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between that of the wise man and that of the fool. There are infinite reveries, numberless extravagances, and a perpetual train of vanities, which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This sort of discretion, however, has no place in private conversation between intimate friends. On such occasions the