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No. DXIV. MONDAY, OCTOBER 20.
.......... Me Parnassi deserta per ardua dulcis
But the commanding muse my chariot guides,
"I CAME home a little later than usual the other night, and not finding myself inclined to sleep, I took up Virgil to divert me until I should be more disposed to rest. He is the author whom I always choose on such occasions, no one writing in so divine, so harmonious, nor so equal a strain, which leaves the mind composed and softened into an agreeable melancholy; the temper, in which, of all others, I choose to close the day. The passages I turned to were those beautiful raptures in his Georgics, where he professes himself entirely given up to the muses, and smit with the love of poetry, passionately wishing to be transported to the cool shades and retirements of the mountain Hæmus. I closed the book and went to bed. What I had just before been reading made so strong an impression on my mind, that fancy seemed almost to fuifil to me the wish of Virgil, in presenting to me the following vision.
Methought I was on a sudden placed in the plains of Bæotia, where at the end of the horizon I saw the mountain Parnassus rising before me. The prospect was of so large an extent, that I had long wandered about to find a path which should directly lead me to it, had I not seen at some distance a grove of trees, which in a plain that had nothing else remark
able enough in it to fix my sight, immediately determined me to go thither. When I arrived at it, I found it parted out into a great number of walks and alleys, which often widened into beautiful openings, as circles or ovals, set round with yews and cypresses, with niches, grottos, and caves placed on the sides, encompassed with ivy. There was no sound to be heard in the whole place, but only that of a gentle breeze passing over the leaves of the forest, every thing beside was buried in a profound silence. I was captivated with the beauty and retirement of the place, and never so much, before that hour, was pleased with the enjoyment of myself. I indulged the humour, and suffered myself to wander without choice or design. At length, at the end of a range of trees, I saw three figures seated on a bank of moss, with a silent brook creeping at their feet. I adored them as the tutelar divinities of the place, and stood still to take a particular view of each of them. The middlemost, whose name was Solitude, sat with her arms across each other, and seemed rather pensive and wholly taken up with her own thoughts, than any ways grieved or displeased. The only companions which she admitted into that retirement were the goddess Silence, who sat on her right hand with her finger on her mouth, and on her left Contemplation, with her eyes fixed upon the heavens. Before her lay a celestial globe, with several schemes of mathematical theorems. She prevented my speech with the greatest affability in the world : Fear not, said she, I know your request before you speak it ; you would be led to the mountain of the muses ; the only way to it lies through this place, and no one is so often employed in conducting persons thither as myself. When she had thus spoken, she rose from her seat, and I immediately placed myself under her direction ; but whilst I passed through the grove, I could not help enquiring of her who were the persons admitted into that sweet retirement. Surely, said I, there can nothing enter here but virtue and virtuous thoughts ; the whole wood seems designed for the reception and reward of such persons as have spent their lives, according to the dictates of their conscience and the commands of the Gods. You imagine right, said she ; assure yourself this place was at first designed for no other : such it continued to be in the reign of Saturn, when none entered here but holy priests, deliverers of their country from op. pression and tyranny, who reposed themselves here after their labours, and those whom the study and love of wisdom had fitted for divine conversation. But now it is become no less dangerous than it was before desirable : vice has learned so to mimic virtue, that it often creeps in hither under its disguise. See there! just before you, Revenge stalking by, habited in the robe of Honour. Observe not far from him Ambition standing alone ; if you ask him his name, he will tell you it is Emulation or Glory. But the inost frequent intruder we have is Lust, who succeeds now the Deity to whom in better days this grove was entirely devoted. Virtuous Love, with Hymen, and the Graces attending him, once reigned over this happy place; a whole train of virtues waited on him, and no dishonourable thought durst presume for adınittance : but now ! how is the whole prospect changed? and how seldom renewed by some few who dare despise sordid wealth, and imagine themselves fit companions for so charming a divinity.
• The goddess had no sooner said thus, but we were arrived at the utmost boundaries of the wood, which lay contiguous to a plain that ended at the foot of the mountain. Here I kept close to my guide, being solicited by several phantoms, who assured me they would shew me a nearer way to the mountain of the Muses. Among the rest Vanity was extremely importunate, having deluded infinite numbers, whom I saw wandering at the foot of the hill. I turned away from this despicable troop with disdain, and addressing myself to my guide, told her, that as I had some hopes, I should be able to reach up part of the ascent, so I despaired of having strength enough to attain the plain on the top. But being informed by her that it was impossible to stand upon the sides, and that if I did not proceed onwards, I should irrevocably fall down to the lowest verge, I resolved to hazard any labour and hardship in the attempt : so great a desire had I of enjoying the satisfaction I hoped to meet with at the end of my enterprise !
• There were two paths, which led up by different ways to the summit of the mountain ; the one was guarded by the genius which presides over the moment of our births. He had it in charge to examine the several pretensions of those who desired to pass that way, but to admit none excepting those only on whom Melpomene had looked with a propitious eye at the hour of their nativity. The other way was guarded by Diligence, to whom many of those persons applied who had met with a denial the other way ; but he was so tedious in granting their request, and indeed after admittance the way was so very intricate and laborious, that many, after they had made some progress, chose rather to return back than proceed, and very few persisted so long as to arrive at the end they proposed. Besides these two paths, which at length severally led to the top of the moun. tain, there was a third made up of these two, which a little after the entrance joined in one. This car. ried those happy few, whose good fortune it was to find it, directly to the throne of Apollo. I do not know whether I should even now have had the resolution to have demanded entrance at either of these doors, had I not seen a peasant-like man (followed by a numerous and lovely train of youths of both sexes) insist upon entrance for all whom he led up.
He put me in mind of the country clown who is painted in the map for leading Prince Eugene over the Alps. He had a bundle of papers in his hand, and producing several which, he said, were given to him by hands which he knew Apollo would allow as passes ; among which, methought I saw some of my own writing; the whole assembly was admitted, and gave, by their presence, a new beauty and pleasure to these happy mansions, I found the man did not pretend to enter himself, but served as a kind of forester in the lawns to direct passengers, who, by their own merit or instructions he procured for them, had virtue enough to travel that way. I looked very attentively upon this kind, homely benefactor, and forgive me, Mr. Spectator, if I own to you I took him for yourself. We were no sooner entered, but we were sprinkled three times with the water of the fountain of Agenippe, which had power to deliver us from all harms, but only envy, which reacheth even to the end of our journey. We had not proceeded far in the middle path when we arrived at the summit of the hill, where there immediately appeared to us two figures, which extremely engaged my attention; the one was a young nymph in the prime of her youth and beauty ; she had wings on her shoulders and feet, and was able to transport herself, to the most distant regions in the smallest space of time. She was continually varying her dress, sometimes into the most natural and becoming habits in the world, and at others into the most wild and freak. ish garb that can be imagined. There stood by her a man full aged and of great gravity, who corrected her inconsistencies by shewing them in this mirror, and still Aung her affected and unbecoming ornaments down the mountain, which fell in the plain below, and were gathered up and wore with great satisfaction by those that inhabited it. The name of this nymph was Fancy, the daughter of Liberty, the