Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

him;

the sake of Augustus, whom he singles out immediately after having mentioned Romulus, as the most illustrious person who was to rise in that empire which the other had founded. He was impatient to describe his posterity raised to the utmost pitch of glory, and therefore passes over all the rest to come at this great man, whom by this means he implicitly represents as making the most conspicuous figure among them. By this artifice, the poet did not only give his emperor the greatest praise he could bestow

upon

but hindered his reader from drawing a parallel, which would have been disadvantageous to him, had he been celebrated in his proper place, that is, after Pompey and Cæsar, who each of them eclipsed the other in military glory.

Though there have been finer things spoken of Augustus than of any other man, all the wits of his age having tried to out-rival? one another on that subject, he never received

1 a compliment, which, in my opinion, can be compared, for sublimity of thought, to that which the poet here makes him. The English reader may see a faint shadow of it in Mr. Dryden's translation, for the original is inimitable.

Hic vir, hic est, &c.
But next behold the youth of form divine,
Cæsar himself, exalted in his line;
Augustus, promised oft, and long foretold,
Sent to the realm that Saturn ruled of old ;
Born to restore a better age of gold.
Afric, and India, shall his power obey,
He shall extend his propagated sway
Beyond the solar year, without the starry way;
Where Atlas turns the rolling heavens around,
And his broad shoulders with their light are crowned.
At his foreseen approach, already quake
The Caspian kingdoms, and Mæotian lake.
Their seers behold the tempest from afar ;
And threatening oracles denounce the war.
Nile hears him knocking at his sevenfold gates;
And seeks his hidden spring, and fears his nephew's fates.
Nor Hercules more lands or labours knew,
Not though the brazen-footed hind he slew;
Freed Erymanthus from the foaming boar,
And dipped his arrows in Lemnæan gore.
Nor Bacchus, turning from his Indian war,

By tigers drawn triumphant in his car.

Tried to out-rival.] Ill expressed, and means no more than-tried to out-try. It should be tried to out-go, or exceed, one another.

a

From Nisus' top descending on the plains;
With curling vines around his purple reins.
And doubt we yet through dangers to pursue

The paths of honour ?I could show out of other poets the same kind of vision as this in Virgil, wherein the chief persons of the poem have been entertained with the sight of those who were to descend from them; but instead of that, I shall conclude with a rabbinical story which has in it the Oriental way of thinking, and is therefore very amusing.

“Adam, (say the Rabbins,) a little after his creation, was presented with a view of all those souls who were to be united to human bodies, and take their turn after him upon the earth. Among others, the vision set before him the soul of David. Our great ancestor was transported at the sight of so beautiful an apparition ; but to his unspeakable grief was informed, that it was not to be conversant among men the space

of

one year.
Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultrà

Esse sinent. Adam, to procure a longer life for so fine a piece of human nature, begged that threescore and ten years (which he heard would be the age of man in David's time) might be taken out of his own life, and added to that of David. Accordingly (say the Rabbins) Adam falls short of a thousand years, which was to have been the complete term of his life, by just so many years as make up the life of David. Adam having lived 930 years, and David 70."

This story was invented to show the high opinion which the Rabbins entertained of this man after God's own heart, whom the prophet, who was his own contemporary, could not mention without rapture, where he records the last poetical composition of David, of David the son of Jesse, of the man who was raised up on high, of the anointed of the God of Jacob, of the sweet psalmist of Israel.

No. 139. THURSDAY, AUGUST 20.

-prisca fides facto, sed fama perennis. Virg. “Most VENERABLE NESTOR,

I find that everybody is very much delighted with the voice of your lion. His roarings against the tucker have been most melodious and emphatical. It is to be hoped, that the ladies will take warning by them, and not provoke him to greater outrages; for I observe, that your lion, as you yourself have told us, is made up of mouth and paws. For my own part, I have long considered with myself how I might express my gratitude to this noble animal, that has so much the good of our country at his heart. After many thoughts on this subject, I have at length resolved to do honour to him, by compiling a history of his species, and extracting out of all authors whatever may redound to his reputation. In the prosecution of this design, I shall have no manner of regard to what Æsop has said upon the subject, whom I look upon to have been a republican, by the unworthy treatment which he often gives to this king of beasts, and whom, if I had time, I could convict of falsehood and forgery in almost every matter of fact which he has related of this generous animal. Your romance writers are likewise a set of men whose authority I shall build upon very little in this case. They all of them are born with a particular antipathy to lions, and give them no more quarter than they do giants, wherever they chance to meet them. There is not one of the seven champions, but when he has nothing else to do, encounters with a lion, and you may be sure always gets the better of him. In short, a knight-errant lives in a perpetual state of enmity with this noble creature, and hates him more than all things upon the earth, except a dragon. Had the stories recorded of them by these writers been true, the whole species would have been destroyed before now. After having thus renounced all fabulous authorities, I shall begin my memoirs of the lion with a story related of him by Aulus Gellius, and extracted by him out of Dion Cassius, an historian of undoubted veracity. It is the famous story of Androcles the Roman slave, which I premise for

a

[ocr errors]

a

the sake of my learned reader, who needs go no further in it if he has read it already.

" Androcles was the slave of a noble Roman who was proconsul of Afric. He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put him to death, had not he found an opportunity to escape out of his hands, and fled 1 into the deserts of Numidia. As he was wandering among the barren sands, and almost dead with heat and hunger, he saw a cave in the side of a rock. He went into it, and finding at the further end of it a place to sit down upon, rested there for some time.

At length, to his great surprise, a huge overgrown

lion entered at the mouth of the cave, and seeing a man at the upper end of it, immediately made towards him. Androcles gave himself for gone; but the lion, instead of treating him as he expected, laid his paw upon his lap, and with a complaining kind of voice fell a licking his hand. Androcles, after having recovered himself a little from the fright he was in, observed the lion's paw to be exceedingly swelled by a large thorn that stuck in it. He immediately pulled it out, and by squeezing the paw very gently, made a great deal of corrupt matter run out of it, which probably freed the lion from the great anguish he had felt some time before. The lion left him upon receiving this good office from him, and soon after returned with a fawn which he had just killed. This he laid down at the feet of his benefactor, and went off again in pursuit of his prey. Androcles, after having sodden the flesh of it by the sun, subsisted upon it until the lion had supplied him with another. He lived many days in this frightful solitude, the lion catering for him with great assiduity. Being tired at length of this savage society, he was resolved to deliver himself up into his master's hands, and suffer the worst effects of his displeasure, rather than be thus driven out from mankind. His master, as was customary for the proconsuls of Afric, was at that time getting together a present of all the largest lions that could be found in the country, in order to send them to Rome, that they

1 And fled.] Better, and fly-it is more natural to connect fly with escape, than fled with found ; not only from the greater distance of these last verbs, but because the verb found is transitive, and the other two, escape and fly, neutrals, which, therefore, have a more immediate relation to each other.

a

might furnish out a show to the Roman people. Upon his poor slave's surrendering himself into his hands, he ordered him to be carried away to Rome as soon as the lions were in readiness to be sent, and that, for his crime, he should be exposed to fight with one of the lions in the amphitheatre, as usual, for the diversion of the people. This was all performed accordingly. Androcles, after such a strange run of fortune, was now in the area of the theatre amidst thousands of spectators, expecting every moment when his antagonist would come out upon him. At length, a huge, monstrous lion leaped out from the place where he had been kept hungry for the show. He advanced with great rage towards the man, but on a sudden, after having regarded him a little wistfully, fell to the ground, and crept towards his feet with all the signs of blandishment and caress. Androcles, after a short pause, discovered that it was his old Numidian friend, and immediately renewed his acquaintance with him. Their mutual congratulations were very surprising to the beholders, who, upon hearing an account of the whole matter from Androcles, ordered him to be pardoned, and the lion to be given up into his possession. Androcles returned, at Rome, the civilities which he had received from him in the deserts of Afric. Dion Cassius says, that he himself saw the man leading the lion about the streets of Rome, the people everywhere gathering about them, and repeating to one another, Hic est leo hospes hominis, hic est homo medicus leonis. “This is the lion who was the man's host; this is the man who was the lion's physician.”'

No. 140. FRIDAY, AUGUST 21.

-Quibus incendi jam frigidus ævo

Laomedontiades, vel Nestoris hernia possit. Juv. I HAVE lately received a letter from an astrologer in Moorfields, which I have read with great satisfaction. He observes to me, that my

lion at Button's coffee-house was very luckily erected in the very month when the sun was in Leo. He further adds, that upon conversing with the above-mentioned Mr. Button, (whose other name he observes is Daniel, a good omen still with regard to the lion his co

« ПредишнаНапред »