« PreviousContinue »
Having heard the following epigram very much commended, I wonder that it has not yet had a place in any of your papers; I think the suffrage of our poet-laureat should not be overlooked, which shows the opinion he entertains of your paper, whether the notion he proceeds upon be true or false. I make bold to convey it to you, not knowing if it has yet come to your
ON THE SPECTATOR, BY MR. TATE.
-Aliusque et idem
When first the Tatler to a mute was turned,
No. 489. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20.
Βαθυρρείταο μέγα σθένος Ωκεανοϊο. ΗοΜ.
Upon reading your essay concerning the pleasures of the imagination, I find among the three sources of those pleasures which you have discovered, that “ greatness" is
This has suggested to me the reason why, of all objects that I have ever seen, there is none which affects my imagination so much as the sea or ocean.
I cannot see the heavings of this prodigious bulk of waters, even in a calm, without a very pleasing astonishment; but when it is worked up in a tempest, so that the horizon on every side is nothing but foaming billows and floating mountains, it is impossible to describe the agreeable horror that rises from such a pros
1 The reader of taste feels the force of this well-chosen word. Mr. Pope had it in view, when he said, “Who heaves old ocean.”
pect. A troubled ocean, to a man who sails upon it, is, I Think, the biggest object that he can see in motion, and consequently gives his imagination one of the highest kinds of pleasure that can arise from greatness. I must confess, it is impossible for me to survey this world of fluid matter, without thinking on the hand that first poured it out, and made a proper channel for its reception. Such an object naturally raises in my thoughts the idea of an Almighty Being, and convinces me of his existence as much as a metaphysical demonstration. The imagination prompts the understanding, and by the greatness of the sensible object, produces in it the idea of a Being who is neither circumscribed by time nor space.
“As I have made several voyages upon the sea, I have often been tossed in storms, and on that occasion have frequently reflected on the descriptions of them in ancient poets. I remember Longinus highly recommends one in Homer, because the poet has not amused himself with little fancies upon the occasion, as authors of an inferior genius, whom he mentions, had done, but because he has gathered together those circumstances which are the most apt to terrify the imagination, and which really bappen in the raging of a tempest. It is for the same reason, that I prefer the following description of a ship in a storm, which the psalmist has made, before
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these men see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waters thereof. They mount up to heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm à calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet, so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.'
By the way, how much more comfortable, as well as rational, is this system of the psalmist, than the pagan
scheme in Virgil, and other poets, where one deity is represented as raising a storm, and another as laying it! Were we only to consider the sublime in this piece of poetry, what can be nobler than the idea it gives us of the Supreme Being thus
raising a tumult among the elements, and recovering them out of their confusion, thus troubling and becalming nature ?
“Great painters do not only give us landscapes of gardens, groves, and meadows, but very often employ their pencils upon sea-pieces: I could wish you would follow their example. If this small sketch may deserve a place among your works, I shall accompany it with a divine ode, made by a gentleman' upon the conclusion of his travels.
How sure is their defence !
Supported by thy care,
Made every region please ;
And smoothed the Tyrrhene seas
*Think, O my soul, devoutly think,
How with affrighted eyes
And fear in every heart;
Thy mercy set me free,
High on the broken wave,
Nor impotent to save.
1 i.e. by himself. So early had a spirit of piety taken possession of this excellent man's mind !
Obedient to thy will;
Thy goodness I'll adore,
Thy sacrifice shall be;
Shall join my soul to thee.'"
No. 494. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26.
Ægritudinem laudare, unam rem maximè detestabilem, quorum est
tandem Philosophorum ?' Cic. ABOUT an age ago it was the fashion in England, for every one that would be thought religious, to throw as much sanctity as possible into his face, and, in particular, to abstain from all appearances of mirth and pleasantry, which were looked upon as the marks of a carnal mind. The saint was of a sorrowful countenance, and generally eaten up with spleen and melancholy. A gentleman, who was lately a great ornament to the learned world, has diverted me more than once with an account of the reception which he met with from a very famous Independent minister, who was head of a college in those times. This gentleman was then a young adventurer in the republic of letters, and just fitted out for the university with a good cargo of Latin and Greek. His friends were resolved that he should try his fortune at an election which was drawing near in the college, of which the Independent minister, whom I have before mentioned, was governor. The youth, according to custom, waited on him in order to be examined. He was received at the door by a servant, who was one of that gloomy generation that were then in fashion. He conducted
him, with great silence and seriousness, to a long gallery which was darkened at noon-day, and had only a single candle burning in it. After a short stay in this melancholy apartment, he was led into a chamber hung with black, where he entertained himself for some time by the glimmering of a taper, till at length the head of the college came out to him, from an inner room, with half a dozen night-caps upon his head, and religious horror in his countenance. The young man trembled; but his fears increased, when, instead of being asked what progress he had made in learning, he was examined how he abounded in grace. His Latin and Greek stood him in little stead'; he was to give an account only of the state of his soul, whether he was of the number of the elect; what was the occasion of his conversion; upon what day of the month and hour of the day it happened; how it was carried on, and when completed.
The whole examination was summed up with one short question, namely, “ Whether he was prepared for death?”. The boy, who had been bred up by honest parents, was frighted out of his wits at the solemnity of the proceeding, and especially by the last dreadful interrogatory; so that upon making his escape out of this house of mourning, he could never be brought a second time to the examination, as not being able to go through the terrors of it.
Notwithstanding this general form and outside of religion is pretty well worn out among us, there are many persons, who, by a natural uncheerfulness of heart, mistaken notions of piety, or weakness of understanding, love to indulge this uncomfortable way of life, and give up themselves a prey to grief and melancholy. Superstitious fears and groundless scruples cut them off from the pleasures of conversation, and all those social entertainments, which are not only innocent, but laudable; as if mirth was made for reprobates, and cheerfulness of heart denied those who are the only persons that have a proper title to it.
Sombrius is one of these sons of sorrow. He thinks himself obliged in duty to be sad and disconsolate. He looks on a sudden fit of laughter as a breach of his baptismal vow. An innocent jest startles him like blasphemy. Tell him of one who is advanced to a title of honour, he lifts
his hands and eyes ; describe a public ceremony, he shakes his head; show him a gay equipage, he blesses himself. All the little ornaments of life are pomps and vanities. Mirth is wanton, and wit profane. He is scandalized at youth for being lively,