« PreviousContinue »
or Vice with an alluring face, but ending in snakes and monsters : here she appears in all the charms of beauty, though they are all false and borrowed: and by that means, composes a vision entirely natural and pleasing.
I have translated this allegory for the benefit of the youth of Great Britain ; and particularly of those who are still in the deplorable state of non-existence, and whom I most earnestly entreat to come into the world. Let embrios show the least inclination to any single virtue, and I shall allow it to be a struggling towards birth. I do not expect of them, that, like the hero in the foregoing story, they should go about as soon as they are born, with a club in their hands, and a lion's skin on their shoulders, to root out monsters, and destroy tyrants; but, as the finest author of all antiquity has said upon this very occasion, Though a man has not the abilities to distinguish himself in the most shining parts of a great character, he has certainly the capacity of being just, faithful, modest, and temperate."
No. 100. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1709.
Jam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna.
Sheer-Lane, November 28. I was last week taking a solitary walk in the garden of Lin. coln's-Inn, (a favour that is indulged me by several of the benchers who are my intimate friends, and grown old with me in this neighbourhood) when, according to the nature of men in years, who have made but little progress in the advancement of their fortune or their fame, I was repining at the sudden rise of many persons
• This whole paper, on a subject which the author had much at heart, is well and accurately written.
who are my juniors, and indeed at the unequal distribution of wealth, honour, and all other blessings of life. I was lost in this thought, when the night came upon me, and drew my mind into a far more agreeable contemplation. The heaven above me appeared in all its glories, and presented me with such an hemisphere of stars, as made the most agreeable prospect imaginable to one who delights in the study of nature. It happened to be a freezing night which had purified the whole body of air into such a bright transparent æther, as made every constellation visible; and at the same time gave such a particular glowing to the stars, that I thought it the richest sky I had ever seen. I could not behold a scene so wonderfully adorned and lighted up, (if I may be allowed that expression) without suitable meditations on the author of such illustrious and amazing objects. For on these occasions, philosophy suggests motives to religion, and religion adds pleasures to philosophy.
As soon as I had recovered my usual temper and serenity of soul, I retired to my lodgings with the satisfaction of having passed away a few hours in the proper employments of a reasonable creature, and promising myself that my slumbers would be sweet. I no sooner fell into them, but I dreamed a dream, or saw a vision, (for I know not which to call it) that seemed to rise out of my evening meditation, and had something in it so solemn and serious, that I cannot forbear communicating it ; though I must confess, the wildness of imagination (which in a dream is always loose and irregular) discovers itself too much in several parts of it.
Methought I saw the azure sky diversified with the same glorious luminaries which had entertained me a little before I fell asleep. I was looking very attentively on that sign in the heavens which is called by the name of the Balance, when on a sudden there appeared in it an extraordinary light, as if the sun should rise at midnight. By its increasing in breadth and lustre, I soon found that it approached towards the earth ; and at length could discern something like a Shadow hovering in the midst of a great Glory, which in a little time after I distinctly perceived to be the figure of a woman. I fancied at first it might have been the Angel or Intelligence that guided the constellation from which it descended; but upon a nearer view, I saw about her all the emblems with which the Goddess of Justice is usually described. Her countenance was unspeakably awful and majestic, but exquisitely beautiful to those whose eyes were strong enough to behold it; her smiles transported with rapture, her frowns terrificd to despair. She held in her hand a mirror endowed with the same qualities as that which the painters put into the hand of Truth.
There streamed from it a light, which distinguished itself from all the splendors that surrounded her, more than a flash of lightning shines in the midst of day-light. As she moved it in her hand, it brightened the heavens, the air, or the earth. Whez she had descended so low as to be seen and heard by mortals, to make the pomp of her appearance more supportable, she threw darkness and clouds about her, that tempered the light into a thousand beautiful shades and colours, and multiplied that lustre, which was before too strong and dazzling, into a variety of milder glories.
In the mean time the world was in an alarm, and all the inhabitants of it gathered together upon a spacious plain; so that I seemed to have all the species before my eyes.
A voice was heard from the clouds, declaring the intention of this visit, which was to restore and appropriate to every one living what was his due. The fear and hope, joy and sorrow, which appeared in that great assembly after this solemn declaration, are not to be expressed. The first edict was then pronounced, That all titles and claims to riches and estates, or to any part of them, should be immediately vested in the rightful owner.' Upon this, the inhabitants of the earth held up the instruments of their tenure, whether in parchment, paper, wax, or any other form of conveyance; and as the goddess moved the mirror of truth which she held in her hand, so that the light which flowed from it fell upon the multitude, they examined the several instruments, by the beams of it. The rays of this mirror had a particular quality of setting fire to all forgery and falsehood. The blaze of papers, the melting of seals, and crackling of parchments, made a very odd scene.
The fire very often ran through two or three lines only, and then stopped; though I could not but observe, that the flame chiefly broke out among the interlineations and codicils. The light of the mirror, as it was turned up and down, pierced into all the dark corners and recesses of the universe, and by that means detected many writings and records which had been hid. den or buried by time, chance, or design. This occasioned a wonderful revolution among the people. At the same time, the spoils of extortion, fraud, and robbery, with all the fruits of bribery and corruption, were thrown together into a prodigious pile, that almost reached to the clouds, and was called the Mount of Restitution ; to which all injured persons were invited, to receive what belonged to them.
One might see crowds of people in tattered garments come up, ana change clothes with others that were dressed with lace and embroidery. Several who were plumbs,' or very near it, became men of moderate fortunes; and many others, who were overgrown in wealth and possessions, had no more left than what they usually spent. What moved my concern most, was, to see a certain street of the greatest credit in Europe from one end to the other become bankrupt.
ii. e. worth a hundred thousand pounds.—G.
The next command was, for the whole body of mankind to separate themselves into their proper families : which was no sooner done, but an edict was issued out, requiring all children to repair to their true and natural fathers.' This put a great part of the assembly in motion; for as the mirror was moved over them, it inspired every one with such a natural instinct, as directed them to their real parents. It was a very melancholy spectacle to see the fathers of very large families become childless, and bachelors undone by a charge of sons and daughters. You might see a presumptive heir of a great estate ask blessing of his coachman, and a celebrated toast paying her duty to a valet de chambre. Many under vows of celibacy appeared surrounded with a numerous issue. This change of parentage would have caused great lamentation, but that the calamity was pretty common; and that generally those who lost their children, had the satisfaction of seeing them put into the hands of their dearest friends. Men were no sooner settled in their right to their pos. sessions and their progeny, but there was a third order proclaimed, * That all the posts of dignity and honour in the universe should be conferred on persons of the greatest merit, abilities, and perfection. The handsome, the strong, and the wealthy, immediately pressed forward; but not being able to bear the splendor of the mirror which played upon their faces, they immediately fell back among the crowd: but as the goddess tried the multitude by her glass, as the eagle does its young ones by the lustre of the sun, it was remarkable, that every one turned away his face from it, who had not distinguished himself either by virtue. knowledge, or capacity in business, either military or civil. This select assembly was drawn up in the centre of a prodigious mul. titude, which was diffused on all sides, and stood observing them, as idle people used to gather about a regiment that are exercis.. ing their arms. They were drawn up in three bodies: in the