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usually poured on the priest's head, which run down to his beard, and even to the skirts of his clothing. The sun rising and breaking in upon the shades of night, is compared to a bridegroom ifluing out of his chamber; in allusion to the Jewish custom, of ushering the bridegroom from his chamber at midnight with great solemnity and splendor, preceded by the light of innumerable lamps and torches. How amiably is the tenderness and folicitude of God for his favourites expreffed ! “ As the eagle stirreth up her neft, fluttereth over her
young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, “ beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did “ lead them!” On the other hand, how dreadfully is his indignation described ;“ I will be unto them as a “ lion, as a leopard by the way will I observe them. I
will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her " whelps, and I will rent the caul of their heart.” A little afterwards the scene fuddenly changes, and di. vine favour is painted by the following fimilitudes “ I will be as the dew unto Judæa; he shall grow as " the lily; his branches shall spread, and his beauty " shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell like Mount · Libanus.” Menander himself, that just characterizer of human life, has not given us a more apt and lively comparison than the following: As the climbing a fan
is to the feet of the aged, so is a wife full of “ words to a quiet man.
Nor has one of our Gre. cian poets spoken fo feelingly, fo eloquently, or so ele. gantly of beauty, as the Emperor Solomon of his mis. tress, or bride, in images perfe&ly original and new:
Thy hair,” says he,“ is as a flock of goats that ap
pear from Mount Gilead ; thy teeth are like a flock " of sheep that are even forn, which come up from
“ the washing :" by which fimilitude their exact equality, evenness, and whiteness, are juftly represented. “ Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an
armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers,
all shields of mighty men :" that is, straight and tall, adorned with golden chains and the richest jewels of the East,
Thy two breasts are like two young roes " that are twins, which feed among the lilies :" the exquisite elegance and propriety of which fimilitudes need not be pointed out, and cannot be excelled.
I have purposely reserved one comparison for a conclufion, not only for the sake of its beauty and justness, but because it describes a friendlhip fo different from the constancy which I hope will ever be the character of yours
and mine. “ My brethren," says the writer, “ have dealt. deceitfully with me. They are like tor“ rents which when swoln and increased with winter • showers and the meltings of ice, promise great and “ unfailing plenty of waters; but in the times of vio. " lent heats, suddenly are parched up and disappear. 6 The traveller in the deserts of Arabia seeks for them “ in vain ; the troops of Sheba looked, the caravans of “ Tema waited for them : they came to the accustom" ed springs for relief; they were confounded, they “ perished with thirst.”
In giving you these short specimens of Jewish poesy, I think I may compare myself to those spies which the above-mentioned Moses dispatched, to discover the country he intended to conquer; and who brought from thence, as evidences of its fruitfulness, the most delicious figs and pomegranates, and a
anch with one cluster of grapes, “ so large and weighty,” says the hilG3
torian," that they bare it between two upon a staff.” Farewell.
No. LVIII. Saturday, May 25, 1753.
Damnant quod non intelligunt.
Cic. They condemn what they do not understand.
EURIPIDES, having presented Socrates with the writings of Heraciltus, a philofopher famed for involution and obfcurity, inquired afterwards his opinion of their merit. " What I understand," faid Socrates, “ I find " to be excellent; and, therefore, believe that to be of
equal value which I cannot understand.”
The reflection of every man who reads this passage will suggest to him the difference between the practice of Socrates, and that of modern critics : Socrates, who had, by long observation upon himself and others, discovered the weakness of the strongest, and the dimness of the most enlightened intellect, was afraid to decide hastily in his own favour, or to conclude that an author had written without meaning, because he could not immediately catch his ideas; he knew that the faults of books are often more jusly imputable to the reader, who fometimes wants attention, and sometimes penetration; whose understanding is often obstructed by preju
dice, and often diffipated by remiffness; who comes fometimes to a new study, unfurnished with knowledge previously necessary; and finds difficulties infuperable, for want of ardour sufficient to encounter them.
Obscurity and clearness are relative terms: to some readers scarce any book is easy, to others not many are difficult : and surely they, whom neither any exuberant praise bestowed by others, nor any eminent conquests over stubborn problems, have entitled to exalt themselves above the common orders of mankind, might condescend to imitate the candour of Socrates; and where they find inconteftible proofs of fuperior genius, be content to think that there is justness in the connection which they cannot trace, and cogency in the reasoning which they cannot comprehend.
This diffidence is never more reasonable, than in the perusal of the authors of antiquity; of those whose works have been the delight of ages, and transmitted as the great inheritance of mankind from one generation to another : surely, no man can, without the utmost arrogance, imagine, that he brings any fuperiority of understanding to the perusal of these books which have been preserved in the devastation ofcities, and snatched up from the wreck of nations; which those who fled before barbarians have been careful to carry off in the hurry of migration, and of which barbarians have repented the destruction. If in books thus made venerable by the uniform attestation of successive ages, any paflages shall appear unworthy of that praise which they have formerly received ; let us not immediately determine, that they owed their reputation to dulness or bigotry; but fufpe&t at least that our ancestors had fome
reasons for their opinions, and that our ignorance of those reasons makes us differ from them.
It often happens, that an author's reputation is endangered in succeeding times, by that whieh raised the loudest applause among his cotemporaries : nothing is read with greater pleasure than allusions to recent facts, reigning opinions, or present controversies ;- but when facts are forgotten, and controversies extinguished, these: favourite touches lose all their graces; and the author in his descent to pofterity must be left to the mercy of chance, without any power of ascertaining the memory of those things, to which he owed his luckieft thoughts and his kindeft reception.
On such occafions, every reader should remember the diffidence of Socrates, and repair by his candour the injuries of time; he should impute the seeming defects of his author to fome chasm-of intelligence, and suppose, that the sense which is now weak was once freble, and the expression which is now dubious, formerly determi.. nate.
How much the mutilation of ancient hiftory has ta.. ken away from the beauty of poetical performances, may be conjectured from the light which a lucky come mentator sometimes effuses, by the recovery dent that had been long forgotten. Thus, in the third book of Horace, Juno's denunciations against those that should presume to raise again the walls of Troy, could, for many ages please only by splendid images and swelling language, of which no man discovered the use or propriety, till Le Fevre, by Thewing on what occafion the Ode was written, changed wonder to rational delight. Many passages yet undoubtedly remain ini the same author, which an exacter knowledge of the in