صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

first, every passion grows fresh, strong, and vigorous by opposition and prohibition, as it were by a kind of contrast

or antiperistasis, like the ivy in the winter. And for the 1 ,

second, the predominant passion of the mind throws itself, like the ivy, round all human actions, entwines all our resolutions, and perpetually adheres to, and mixes itself among, or even overtops them.

And no wonder that superstitious rites and ceremonies are attributed to Bacchus, when almost every ungovernable passion grows wanton and luxuriant in corrupt religions ; nor again, that fury and frenzy should be sent and dealt out by him, because every passion is a short frenzy, and if it be vehement, lasting, and take deep root, it terminates in mad

And hence the allegory of Pentheus and Orpheus being torn to pieces is evident; for every headstrong passion is extremely bitter, severe, inveterate, and revengeful upon all curious inquiry, wholesome admonition, free counsel and persuasion.

Lastly, the confusion between the persons of Jupiter and Bacchus will justly admit of an allegory, because noble and meritorious actions may sometimes proceed from virtue, sound reason, and magnanimity, and sometimes again from a concealed passion and secret desire of ill, however they may be extolled and praised, insomuch that it is not easy to distinguish betwixt the acts of Bacchus and the acts of Jupiter.




ATALANTA, who was exceeding fleet, contended with Hippomenes in the course, on condition that if Hippomenes won, he should espouse her, or forfeit his life if he lost. The match was very unequal, for Atalanta had conquered numbers, to their destruction. Hippomenes, therefore, had recourse to stratagem. He procured three golden apples, and purposely carried them with him: they started ; Atalanta outstripped him soon ; then Hippomenes bowled one of his apples before ber, across the course, in order not only to make her stoor, but to draw her out of the path. She, prompted by female

This appears

curiosity, and the beauty of the golden fruit, starts from the course to take up the apple. Hippomenes, in the mean time, holds on his way, and steps before her ; but she, by her natural swiftness, soon fetches up her lost ground, and leaves him again behind. Hippomenes, however, by rightly timing his second and third throw, at length won the race, not by his swiftness, but his cunning.

EXPLANATION.—This fable seems to contain a noble allegory of the contest betwixt art and nature. For art, here denoted by Atalanta, is much swifter, or more expeditious in its operations than nature, when all obstacles and impediments are removed, and sooner arrives at its end. almost in


instance. Thus fruit comes slowly from the kernel, but soon by inoculation or incision; clay, left to itself, is a long time in acquiring a stony hardness, but is presently burnt by fire into brick. So again in human life, nature is a long while in alleviating and abolishing the remembrance of pain, and assuaging the troubles of the mind; but moral

; philosophy, which is the art of living, performs it presently. Yet this prerogative and singular efficacy of art is stopped and retarded to the infinite detriment of human life, by certain golden apples ; for there is no one science or art that con stantly holds on its true and proper course to the end, but they are all continually stopping short, forsaking the track, and turning aside to profit and convenience, exactly like Atalanta. a Whence it is no wonder that art gets not the victory over nature, nor, according to the condition of the contest, bringe her under subjection; but, on the contrary, remains subject to her, as a wife to a husband.b

* “Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit."

b The author, in all his physical works, proceeds upon this foundation, that it is possible, and practicable, for art to obtain the victory over nature ; that is, for human industry and power to procure, by the means of proper knowledge, such things as are necessary to render life as happy and commodious as its mortal state will allow. For instance, that it is possible to lengthen the present period of human life ; brilg the winds under command ; and every way extend and enlarge the dominion or empire of man over the worlos oí nature.



The ancients relate that man was the work of Prometheus, and formed of clay ; only the artificer mixed in with the mass, particles taken from different animals. And being desirous to improve his workmanship, and endow, as well as create, the human race, he stole up to heaven with a bundle of birch-rods, and kindling them at the chariot of the Sun, thence brought down fire to the earth for the service of


They add, that for this meritorious act Prometheus was repayed with ingratitude by mankind, so that, forming a conspiracy, they arraigned both him and his invention before Jupiter. But the matter was otherwise received than they imagined; for the accusation proved extremely grateful to Jupiter and the gods, insomuch that, delighted with the action, they not only indulged mankind the use of fire, but moreover conferred upon them a most acceptable and desirable present, viz. perpetual youth.

But men, foolishly overjoyed hereat, laid this present of the gods upon an ass, who, in returning back with it, being extremely thirsty, strayed to a fountain. The serpent, who was guardian thereof, would not suffer him to drink, but upon condition of receiving the burden he carried, whatever it should

The silly ass complied, and thus the perpetual renewal of youth was, for a drop of water, transferred from men to the race of serpents.

Prometheus, not desisting from his unwarrantable practices, though now reconciled to mankind, after they were thus tricked of their present, but still continuing inveterate against Jupiter, had the boldness to attempt deceit, even in a sacrifice, and is said to have once offered up two bulls to Jupiter, but so as in the hide of one of them to wrap all the flesh and fat of both, and stuffing out the other hide only with the bones ; then in a religious and devout manner, gave Jupiter his choice of the two. Jupiter, detesting this sly fraud and hypocrisy, but having thus an opportunity of punishing the offender, purposely chose the mock bull.

And now giving way to revenge, but finding he could not chastise the insolence of Prometheus without afflicting the human race in the production whereof Prometheus had strangely and insufferably prided himself), he commanded Vulcan to form a beautiful and graceful woman, to whom every god presented a certain gift, whence she was called Pandora a They put into her hands an elegant box, containing all sorts of miseries and misfortunes; but Hope was placed at the bottom of it. With this box she first goes to Prometheus, to try if she could prevail upon him to receive and open it; but he, being upon his guard, warily refused the offer. Upon this refusal, she comes to his brother Epimetheus, a man of a very different temper, who rashly and inconsiderately opens the box. When finding all kinds of miseries and misfortunes issued out of it, he grew wise too late, and with great burry and struggle endeavoured to clap the cover on again; but with all his endeavour could scarce keep in Hope, which lay at the bottom.

Lastly, Jupiter arraigned Prometheus of many heinous crimes : as that he formerly stole fire from heaven; that he contemptuously and deceitfully mocked him by a sacrifice of bones; that he despised his present, adding withal a new crime, that he attempted to ravish Pallas : for all which, he was sentenced to be bound in chains, and doomed to perpetual torments. Accordingiy, by Jupiter's command, he was brought to Mount Caucasus, and there fastened to a pillar, so firmly that he could no way stir. A vulture or eagle stood by him, which in the daytime gnawed and consumed his liver ; but in the night the wasted parts were supplied again; whence matter for his pain was never wanting.

They relate, however, that his punishment had an end ; for Hercules sailing the ocean, in a cup, or pitcher, presented him by the Sun, came at length to Caucasus, shot the eaglo with his arrows, and set Prometheus free. In certain nations, also, there were instituted particular games of the torch, to the honour of Prometheus, in which they who ran for the prize carried lighted torches; and as any one of these forches happened to go out, the bearer withdrew himself, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

gave way to the next; and that person was allowed to win the prize who first brought in his lighted torch to the goal.

EXPLANATION.—This fable contains and enforces many just and serious considerations; some whereof have been long since well observed, but some again remain perfectly untouched. Prometheus clearly and expressly signifies Providence ; for of all the things in nature, the formation and endowment of man was singled out by the ancients, and esteemed the reculiar work of Providence. The reason hereof seems, 1. That the nature of man includes a mind and understanding, which is the seat of Providence. 2. That it is harsh and incredible to suppose reason and mind should be raised, and drawn out of senseless and irrational principles ; whence it becomes almost inevitable, that providence is implanted in the human mind in conformity with, and by the direction and the design of the greater over-ruling Providence. But, 3. The principal cause is this : that man seems to be the thing in which the whole world centres, with respect to final causes ; so that if he were away, all other things would stray and fluctuate, without end or intention, or become perfectly disjointed, and out of frame ; for all things are made subservient to man, and he receives use and benefit from them all. Thus the revolutions, places, and periods, of the celestial bodies, serve him for distinguishing times and seasons, and for dividing the world into different regions; the meteors afford him prognostications of the weather; the winds sail our ships, drive our mills, and move our machines ; and the vegetables and animals of all kinds either afford us matter for houses and habitations, clothing, food, physic, or tend to ease, or delight, to support, or refresh us : so that everything in nature seems not made for itself, but for man.

And it is not without reason added, that the mass of matter whereof man was formed, should be mixed up

with particles taken from different animals, and wrought in with the clay, because it is certain, that of all things in the universe, man is the most compounded and recompounded body; so that the ancients not improperly styled him a Microcosm, or little world within himself. For although the chemists have absurdly, and too literally wrested and per


« السابقةمتابعة »