« ElőzőTovább »
Some of the names had a meaning in their absurdity, such as the Adviser, or Helps for Composing ;-the Cheap Reflector, or Every Man His Own Looking-Glass ;--the Retailer, or Every Man His Own Other Man's Wit;-Nonsense, To be Continued. Others were laughable by the mere force of contrast, as the Crocodile, or Pleasing Companion ;-Chaos, or the Agreeable Miscellany ;-the Fugitive Guide ;--the Foot Soldier, or Flowers of Wit ;-Bigotry, or the Cheerful Instructor ; the Polite Repository of Abuse ;-Blood, being a Collection of Light Essays. Others were sheer ludicrousness and extravagance, as the Pleasing Ancestor; the Silent Remarker; the Tart; the Leg of Beef hy a Layman; the Ingenious Hat band; the Boots of Bliss; the Occasional Diner; the Tooth-ache ; Recollections of a Very Unpleasant Nature; Thoughts on Taking up a Pair of Snuffers ; Thoughts on a Barouche-Box; Thoughts on a Hill of Considerable Eminence; Meditations on a Pleasing Idea ; Materials for Drinking; the Knocker, No. 1 ;-the Hippopotamus entered at Stationers' Hall; the Piano-forte of Paulus Æmilius ; the Seven Sleepers at Cards; the Arabian Nights on Horseback :-with an infinite number of other mortal murders of common sense, which lose to“ push us from our stools," and which none but the wise or goodnatured would ever think of laughing at.
A MISTAKE OF MR. THOMAS PAINE'S UPON LEARNING; AND A
WORD OR TWO ON TRANSLATION. We speak of Mr. Paine as a deceased author, whom it is a vulgar error to under-rate. His great natural powers have forced thenselves into eminence through every species of obstacle. Well aware of them himself, seeing in what manner they were often denied, and what a convention there was among worldly and common-place mien, possessed of a little scholarship, to cry down every thing but theniselves, he ran to an extreme natural enough to such a mind, and proclaimed at once that all which is commonly understood by the word Learning was useless. He saw that others mistook the letter for the spirit; and yet in objecting to this mistake, he fell into one of the very same nature, and asserted that learning was no longer wanted, because all the “ useful books” in the ancient languages had been translated. By useful books, he means such works as Euclid's Elements : and here again he fell into an error, from which the true spirit of learning might have saved him : he confounded utility with mere science. He forgot that for one instance in which mere science is necessary to our happiness, there are a hundred in which we have more to do with our passions and tempers, with our affections, our perceptions, with our ability or inability to extract pleasure from the innumerable things in the intellectual and external world. Utility is only utility in as much as it conduces somehow or other to advantage and pleasure. Every thing that is truly pleasurable or beautiful is as useful as the most scientific thing upon earth. Jane, when she
smiles at us, or takes a country walk with us, or reads an author with us, is at least as good as a Spinning Jennyt. If we have twenty pleasures from the sight of a cherry, such as thetadmiration of it's bloom, it's figure, it's scent, it's suitableness to the leaves, it's connexion with the orchards and the country, and it's association with all that we have read of it in the poets, it is surely better than if we only knew the taste of it, and could reckon how much a dozen of them would come to at a farthing a-piece. If we see nothing in the moon but a light for old gentlewomen to go home by, or a satellite to the earth, or even a vague beauty and serenity, we do not receive so much utility from it as when we recollect that it is the very same moon which Homer has so often looked at and so beautifully described,which said beauty of description is not to be found in the translation of Pope. Now there is scarcely any of all the great poets in other languages, of whom the English reader has had a proper account from translators. An individual may have so much in him, from nature, of what the writers on the side of beauty and imagination have done for humanity, that he may want little improvement from books. And we all could go on without learning. We all could go on with half, or a quarter, or half a quarter of the science that is now in the world. But if we are to see our way to happiness through knowledge and we cannot well return to it now-a-days through the paths of ignorance, beset as they have been with every species of tyranny) then the more we know of what great minds have felt and said, the more we increase the general stock of humanity in it's largest sense. That all the “ useful books" therefore have been translated, must be denied. Intelligent men of no scholarship, on reading Horace, for instance, and Ariosto, through the medium of translation, harc often wondered how those writers obtained their glory. And they well might. The translations are no more like the original than a walking-stick is like a flowering bough. It is the same with the versions of Euripides, of Æschylus, of Sophocles, of Theocritus, of Petrarch, &c. &c. and in many respects of Homer. Perhaps we could not give the reader a more brief yet complete specimen of the way in which had translations are made, than by selecting a well-known passage from Shakspeare, and turning it into the coinnon-place kind of poetry that flourished so widely among us till of late years. Take the passage for instance, where the lovers in the Merchant of Venice seat themselves on a bank by moonlight:
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Become the touches of sweet harmony. Now a foreign translator, of the ordinary kind, would dilute and take all taste and freshness out of this draught of poetry, in a style amounting to the following:
With what a charm, the moon, serene and bright,
Sit we, I pray; and let us sweetly hear
To harmony Impart divinest power. It will be our business, where a quotation from the foreign poets occurs to us, to do at any rate a little better than this : and the English reader will have a better idea of the love-stories and other pieces of fiction which they have rendered so celebrated, in abridgments like ours of the utmost brevity and simplicity, than in whole voluines of this kind of misrepresentation. The simple elements of them will be laid before him ; and the eye of his own unobstructed heart will see more of what the poets saw in them, at once.
ABARIS, A mysterious personage in the time of Pythagoras. He is said to have received an arrow from Apollo, with which he rode through the air, and which he afterwards gave to Pythagoras in return for the instruction of that philosopher. His first appearance at Athens was in consequence of a pestilence which then afficted the world, and for the cessation of which an oracle had enjoined the Athenians to pray in behalf of all the other nations. Abaris came as the representative of the Hyperboreans. The probability is, that he was a Pythagorean from some northern country, who astonished the Athenians by the rapidity of his journies, and was not sorry perhaps to have it thought supernatural. A metaphor has often been enough to make a miracle. He rode like an arrow. Drop the word like, and the miracle is ready. Swift says of the famous Lord Peterborough,
So wuuderful his expedition,
He's with you like an apparition. If this had been said of a man in some ages of the world, the next step would have been to use his apparition at once, and allow him a travelling ghost.
URIEL ACOSTA, A Portuguese at the beginning of the 17th century, presented the world with a strange instance of vacillation in religious faith. He first turned Jew, converting at the same time his mother and brothers, and fled with them to Amsterdam, where they were received into a synagogue. Becoming dissatisfied with some of the Jewish rites, and giving vent to his objections, he was excommunicated by the Jews. He then wrote a treatise against the immortality of the soul, for which he was seized and fined. After a lapse of fifteen years, he made his submission, and was again received; but not entirely conforming to the Mosaic law, and having dissuaded two Christians from adopt
ing Judaism, he was again expelled. Under this second sentence he remained seven years, abandoned by his friends, and reduced to an extremity of wretchedness. At last, he again prostrated himself before the Jewish priests, and was again received after an extraordinary penance, during which the most melancholy and appalling ceremonies were gone through, candles lighted up and put out, and blood dropped into basons. We speak from the recollection of what we have read; but the proceeding was of this description. At the conclusion of these infernal ceremonies, he lay down upon the ground at the threshold of the synagogue, and every member of it walked over his body. He shot himself.-Acosta has been idly accused of impiety, and even of worldly selfishness. A man is not full of religious scruples out of impiety; much less keeps out of the pale of his worldly interest over and over again, and for so many years together. Perhaps his history is only an extraordinary instance of the perplexity arising from having had progenitors of different faiths. Acosta's father was a Roman Catholic, but descended from a Jewish stock. The Catholics would naturally wish to keep him Catholic, and the Jews would naturally help his yearnings after Judaism. Perplexed between references to both, his mind wavered ; and being an enquiring one, took to thinking for itself; but this was what neither Jew nor Catholic would tolerate. Perplexed by early prejudices; called upon, as it were, by the voices of his ancestors to become a Jew; making bold efforts to disengage bimself from this cruel alternative; then plunged in misery; and above all, abandoned by men calling themselves his friends, and whom he had taken for such, a distracted state of mind, weakened perhaps into hopelessness by an atrabilarious temperament, drove him back, like a frightened animal, into the toils of his first fear, the oldest superstition in the family. He stared about him awhile, amidst the candles, the curses, and the dropping blood; and then went melancholy, and killed himself.—Thus an honest man is driven into suicide, because his ancestors differed in point of faith! The religionist will say that this shews the value of having one regular hereditary faith : but would he cease then to convert the heretic to his own? And what good did this do to the poor unwilling martyr Acosta? The philosopher will say that it shews the wretched tyranny of custom.
POLYPHEMUS, ACIS, AND GALATEA, One of the most celebrated love-stories in ancient fable. Acis was a mortal, because his mother was so, though his father was the woodgod Faunus. Galatea, who loved him deeply, and whose passion was returned, was an immortal sea-nymph, the daughter of two deities of the ocean. They enjoyed the happiness of their affection in the delightful vales of Sicily; but unfortunately it had one drawback, which was the jealous importunity of Neptune's gigantic and one-eyed son, the terrible Polyphemus. In vain the enamoured monster implored Galatea to listen to him. In vain had love softened the natural fero
city of his manners, so that he would sit whole days on the sea-coast, watching to catch a glimpse of her out of the water, while the tears ran down his dreadful face, and he was as gentle and humble as a child. The fair nymph Aled but the more for refuge into the arms of the handsome shepherd. The wretched Polyphemus, looking down one day into a valley, saw the happy lovers giving way to their transport; and this sight made the load of his despair intolerable. He rent off a fragment of the rock on which he was sitting; and hurling it down as Jupiter might do his thunder, smote his rival so as to crush him to death. Galatea, inconsolable, and unable to restore her lover to life, or render him a deity like herself, turned him into a fountain. It was after this event that we may suppose Polyphemus to have become the inhospitable and cruel wretch which he is described to be in Homer's Odyssey : and this point of view helps to throw an additional interest over his story, which always appeared to us one of the most pathetic and deeply-meaning in poetry. He was separated by his monstrous appearance from human-kind, and yet in his heart and inclinations he sympathised with them. The want of this syınpathy from others made him ireful, revengeful, impious. What moral can go to the heart of things more deeply than this ?
This story has been a great favourite with all men of genius. It has been touched upon with great pathos and simplicity by Theocritus, who was followed not so well by Virgil, and with much less nature by Ovid. The Italian writers are so fund of it, that they have sonnets called Polyphemic sonnets. Raphael painted a beautiful picture of Galatea triumphing on the waters, of which there are many engravings. And Handel finished the homage of the arts to it by that divine oratorio of Acis and Galatea, for which Gay contributed words not unworthy. If the rcador wishee to know how the great poets have written on the subject, he should hear how Handel composed.
COUNTRY HOUSES NEAR TOWN.
We have often wondered, in the midst of the trees and fields, how people can be aware of the existence of such beautiful things, and not long to enjoy them :—we mean, of course, in the manner as well as the degree, in which some others enjoy them : for though Nature will be felt and acknowledged some how or other under all her aspects, and though the inhabitants of the metropolis have plenty of little country houses scattered about the skirts of it, yet their pleasure in them is rather of a negative than positive kind; rather a fidgeting respite from smoke and noise, than a sense of the beauties of scenery or of the solitude. When the citizen gets out of the town, he contrives to be almost as much confined as when he is in it. At the best, he generally pokes about his garden a little, and sees that the apple trees are productive, and the brick walls secure. - If he goes out, it is chiefly when his neighbours are abroad to meet him, and along the