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We were well enough pleased with this start of thought, but fancied there was something in it too serious, and perhaps too horrid, to be put in execution.
Upon this, a friend of mine gave us an account of a fire-work, described, if I am not mistaken, by Strada. A prince of Italy, it seems, entertained his mistress with it upon a great lake. In the midst of this lake was a huge floating mountain made by art. The mountain represented Ætna, being bored through the top with a monstrous orifice. Upon a signal given the eruption began. Fire and smoke, mixed with several unusual prodigies and figures, made their appearance for some time. On a sudden there was heard a most dreadful rumbling noise within the entrails of the machine. After which the mountain burst, and discovered a vast cavity in that side which faced the prince and his court. Within this hollow was Vulcan's -shop full of fire and clock-work. A column of blue flames issued out incessantly from the forge. Vulcan was employed in hammering out thunderbolts, that every now and then flew up from the anvil with dreadful cracks and flashes. Venus stood by him in a figure of the brightest fire, with numberless Cupids on all sides of her, that shot out vollies of burning arrows. Before her was an altar with hearts of fire flaming on it. I have forgot* several other particulars no less curious, and have only mentioned these to show that there may be a sort of fable or design in a fire-work, which may give an additional beauty to those surprising objects.
I seldom see any thing that raises wonder in me, which does not give my thoughts a turn that makes my heart the better for it. As I was lying in my bed, and ruminating on what I had seen, I could not forbear reflecting on the insignificancy of human
a The verb forgot has two participles passive-forgot, and forgotten, (as many other verbs have). The ear directs very much in the choice of that we employ; but, in general, we say forgot in the familiar style, and forgotten in the more solemn.
art, when set in comparison with the designs of Providence. In the pursuit of this thought, I considered a comet, or in the language of the vulgar, a blazing-star, as a sky-rocket discharged by an hand that is Almighty. Many of my readers saw that in the year 1680, and if they are not mathematicians, will be amazed to hear that it travelled in a much greater degree of swiftness than a cannon ball, and drew after it a tail of fire that was fourscore millions of miles in length. What an amazing thought
is it to consider this stupendous body traversing the immensity of the creation with such a rapidity, and, at the same time, wheeling about in that line which the Almighty has. prescribed for it? that it should move in such an inconceivable fury and combusion, and, at the same time, with such an exact regularity ? How spacious must the universe be, that gives such bodies as these their full play, without suffering the least disorder or confusion by it? What a glorious show are those beings entertained with, that can look into this great theatre of nature, and see myriads of such tremendous objects wandering through those immeasurable depths of ether, and running their appointed courses ? Our eyes may, hereafter, be strong enough to command this magnificent prospect, and our understandings able to find out the several uses of these great parts of the universe. In the mean time, they are very proper objects for our imaginations to contemplate, that we may form more exalted notions of infinite wisdom and power, and learn to think humbly of ourselves, and of all the little works of human invention.
No. 104. FRIDAY, JULY 10.
Quæ è longinquo magis placent.-Tacit.'
On Tuesday last I published two letters written by a gentleman in his travels. As they were applauded by my best readers, I shall this day publish two more from the same hand.' The first of them contains a matter of fact which is very curious, and may deserve the attention of those who are versed in our British antiquities.
“ BECAUSE I am at present out of the road of news, I shall send you a story that was lately given me by a gentleman of this country, who is descended from one of the persons concerned in the relation, and very inquisitive to know if there be any of the family now in England.
“I shall only premise to it, that this story is preserved with great care among the writings of this gentleman's family, and that it has been given to two or three of our English nobility, when they were in these parts, who could not return any satisfactory answer to the gentleman, whether there be
of that family now remaining in Great Britain.
"In the reign of King John, there lived a nobleman called John de Sigonia, lord of that place in Tourraine. His brothers were Philip and Briant. Briant, when very young, was made one of the French king's pages, and served him in that quality when he was taken prisoner by the English. The king of England chanced to see the youth, and being much pleased with his person and behaviour, begged him of the king his prisoner. It happened, some years after this, that John, the other brother,
I V. Introductory remarks to 'letters.'-G,
who, in the course of the war, had raised himself to a considerable post in the French army, was taken prisoner by Briant, who, at that time, was an officer in the king of England's guards. Briant knew nothing of his brother, and being naturally of an haughty temper, treated bim very insolently, and more like a criminal than a prisoner of war.
This John resented so highly, that he challenged him to a single combat. The challenge was accepted, and time and place assigned them by the king's appointment. Both appeared on the day prefixed, and entered the lists completely armed, amidst a great multitude of spectators. Their first encounters were very furious, and the success equal on both sides; till, after some toil and bloodshed, they were parted by the seconds, to fetch breath, and prepare themselves afresh for the combat. Briant, in the mean time, had cast his eye upon his brother's escutcheon, which he saw agree in all points with his own. I need not tell you, after this, with what joy and surprise the story ends. King Edward, who knew all the particulars of it, as a mark of his esteem, gave to each of them, by the king of France's consent, the following coat of arms, which I will send you in the original language, not being herald to blazon it in English.
Le Roi d'Angleterre, par permission du Roi de France, pour perpétuelle mémoire de leurs grands faits d'armes et fidelité envers leurs rois, leur donna par ampliation à leurs armes en une croix d'argent cantonée de quatre coquilles d'or en champ de sable, qu'ils avoient auparavant, une endenteleuse faite en façons de croix de guëulle inserée au dedans de la ditte croix d'argent et par le milieu d'icelle qui est participation des deux croix que portent les dits rois en la guerre.
“I am afraid, by this time, you begin to wonder that I should
you, for news, a tale of three or four hundred years old ; and I dare say never thought, when you desired me to write to you, that I should trouble you with a story of King John, especially at a time when there is a monarch on the French throne that furnishes discourse for Europe. But I confess I am the more fond of the relation, because it brings to mind the noble exploits of our own countrymen : though, at the same time, I must own it is not so much the vanity of an Englishman which puts me upon writing it, as that I have of taking any occasion to subscribe myself,
"Sir, yours," &c.
"I an extremely obliged to you for your last kind letter, which was the only English that had been spoken to me in some months together, for I am at present forced to think the absence of my countrymen my good fortune:
Votum in amante novum! vellem quod amatur abesset.
This is an advantage that I could not have hoped for, had I stayed near the French court, though I must confess I would not have but seen it, because I believe it showed me some of the finest places and of the greatest persons in the world. One cannot hear a name mentioned in it that does not bring to mind a piece of a gazette, nor see a man that has not signalized himself in a battle. One would fancy one's self to be in the enchanted palaces of a romance; one meets with so many heroes, and finds something so like scenes of magic in the gardens, statues, and water-works. I am ashamed that I am not able to make a quicker progress through the French tongue, because I believe it is impossible for a learner of a language to find in any nation such advantages as in this, where every body is so very courteous and so