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Socrates's Allegory of the Origin of Love.
[Tatler, No. 90.]
HE paffion of love happened to be the subject
of discourse between two or three of us at the table of the poets this evening; and among other obfervations, it was remarked, that the same sentiment on this occasion had run through all languages and nations. Memmius, who has a very good taste, fell into a little fort of differtation on this occasion. It is (said he) remarkable, that no passion has been treated by all who have touched upon it with the same bent of design but this. The poets, the moralists, the painters, in all their descriptions, allegories, and pictures, have represented it as a soft torment, a bitter sweet, a pleasing pain, or an agreeable distress, and have only expressed the same thought in a different manner.
The joining of pleasure and pain together in such devices, seems to me the only pointed thought I ever read which is natural; and it must have proceeded from its being the universal fenfe and experience of mankind, that they have all spoken of it in the fame manner.
I have in my own reading "remarked an hundred and three epigrams, fifty odes, and ninety-one fentences, tending to this sole purpose.
It is certain, there is no other pafion which does produce fuch contrary effects in fo great a degree: but this may be said for love, that if you strike it out of the foul, life would be infipid, and our being but half ani, mated. Human nature would sink into deadness and lethargy, if not quickened with some active principle ; and as for all others, whether ambition, envy, or avarice, which are apt to possess the mind in the absence of this paffion, it must be allowed that they have greater pains, without the compensation of such exquisite pleasures as those we find in love. The great kill is to heighten the fatisfactions, and deaden the forrows of it, which has been the end of many of my labours, and Hall continue to be fo for the service of the world in general, and in particular of the fair sex, who are al
ways the best or the worst part of it. It is pity that a passion, which has in it a capacity of making life happy, should not be cultivated to the utmost advantage. Reason, prudence, and good nature, rightly applied, can thoroughly accomplin this great end, provided they have always a real and constant love to work upon. But this subject I shall treat more at large in the history of my married fifter, and in the mean time mall conclude my reflection on the pains and pleasures which attend this passion, with one of the finest allegories which I think I have ever read. It is invented by the divine Plato, and to thew the opinion he himself had of it, ascribed by him to his admired Socrates, whom he represents as discoursing with his friends, and giving the history of love in the following manner.
At the birth of Beauty, (says he) there was a great feast made, and many guests invited : among the rest, was the god Plenty, who was the fon of the goddess Prudence, and inherited many of his mother's virtues. After a full entertainment, he retired into the garden of Jupiter, which was hung with a great variety of ambrosial fruits, and seems to have been a very proper retreat for such a guest. In the mean time an unhappy female called Poverty, having heard of this great feast, repaired to it in hopes of finding relief. The first place The lights upon was Jupiter's garden, which generally ftands open to people of all conditions. Poverty enters, and by chance finds the god plenty asleep in it. She was immediately fired with his charms, laid herself down by his side, and managed matters so well, that the conceived a child by him. The world was very much in suspence upon the occasion, and could not imagine to themselves what would be the nature of an infant that was to have its original from two such pa
At the last, the child appears ; and who should it be but Love. This infant grew up, and proved in all his behaviour, what he really was, a compound of - opposite beings. As he is the son of Plenty, (who was the offspring of Prudence) he is subtle, intriguing, full : of stratagems and devices; as the son of Poverty, he is fawning, begging, serenading, delighting to lie at a : threshold, or beneath a window. By the father, he is audacious, full of hopes, conscious of merit, and thereføre quick of resentment: by the mother, he is doubtful, ii morous, mean-spirited, fearful of offending, and abject in submissions. In the same hour you may see him transported with raptures, talking of immortal pleasures, and appearing satisfied as a god; and immediately after, as the mortal mother prevails in his composition, you behold him pining, langaishing, despairing, dying.
I have been always wonderfully delighted with fables, allegories, and the like inventions, which the politelt and the best instructors of mankind have always made use of: they take off from the severity of instruction, and inforce it at the same time that they conceal it. The supposing Love to be conceived immediately after the birth of Beauty, the parentage of Plenty, and the inconsistency of this pafion with its self so naturally derived to it, are great master-strokes in this fable; and if they fell into good hands, might furnish out a more pleasing canto than any in Spencer.
Tibe Advantages of representing Human Nature in its proper Dignity.
[Tatler, No 108.]
T is not to be imagined, how great an effect wellaflemblies, have upon some tempers. I am sure I feel it in fo extraordinary a manner, that I cannot in a day or two get out of my imagination any very beautiful or disagreeable impression which I receive on fuch occasions. For this reason I frequently look in at the playhouse, in order to enlarge my thoughts, and warm my mind with some new ideas, that may be serviceable to me in my lucubrations.
In this disposition I entered the theatre the other day, and placed myself in a corner of it, very convenient for seeing, without being myself observed. I found the audience hushed in a very deep attention, and did not
question question but fome noble tragedy was just then in its crisis, or that an incident was to be unravelled which would determine the fate of an hero. While I was in this suspence, expecting every moment to see my old friend Mr. Betterton appear in all the majesty of distress, to my unspeakable amazement, there came up a monfter with a face between his feet; and as I was locking on, he raised himself on one leg in such a perpendicular posture, that the other grew in a direct line above his head. It afterwards twisted itself into the motions and wreathings of several different animals, and after great variety of shapes and transformations went off the stage in the figure of an human creature. The admiration, the applause, the satisfaction of the audience, during this strange entertainment, is not to be expressed. I was very much out of countenance for my dear countrymen, and looked about with some apprehention, for fear any foreigner hould be present. Is it possible (thought I) that human nature can rejoice in its disgrace, and take pleasure in seeing its own figure turned to ridicule, and distorted into forms that raise horror and averfion? There is something disingenuous and immoral in the being able to bear such a fight. Men of elegant and noble minds, are shocked at the seeing characters of persons who deserve esteem for their virtue, knowledge, or services to their country, placed in wrong lights, and by misrepresentations made the subject of buffoonery. Such a nice abhorrence is not indeed to be found among the vulgar; but methinks it is wonderful, that those, who have nothing but the outward figure to diftinguish them as men, thould delight in feeing it abused, vilified, and disgraced.
I must confess, there is nothing that more pleases me, in all that I read in books, or see among mankind, than such passages as represent human nature in its proper dignity. As man is a creature made up of different extremes, he has something in him very great and very mean : a skilful artist may draw an excellent picture of him in either of these views. The finest authors of antiquity have taken him on the more advantageous fide. They cultivate the natural grandeur of the foul, raise
in her a generous ambition, feed her with hopes of immortality and perfection, and do all they can to widen the partition between the virtuous and the vicious, by making the difference betwixt them as great as between gods and brutes. In short, it is impossible to read a page in Plato, Tully, and a thousand other antient moralilts, without being a greater and a better man for it. On the contrary, I could never read any of our modish French authors, or those of our own country, who are the imitators and admirers of that trifling nation, without being for some time out of humour with myself, and at every thing about me. Their bufiness is, to depreciate human nature, and consider it under its worst appearances. They give mean interpretations and base motives to the worthiest actions ; they resolve virtue and vice into constitution. In short, they endeavour to make no diftinction between man and man, or between the species of men and that of brutes. As an instance of this kind of authors, among many others; let any one examine the celebrated Rochefaucault, who is the great philosopher for administering of confolation to the idle, the envious, and worthless part of mankind.
I remember a young gentleman of moderate underftanding but great vivacity, who by dipping into many authors of this nature, had got a little smattering of knowledge, just enough to make an atheist or a freethinker, but not a philosopher or a man of sense. With these accomplishments, he went to visit his father in the country, who was a plain, rough, honest inan, and wise, though not learned. The son, who took all opportunities to thew his learning, began to establish a new religion in the family, and to enlarge the narrowness of their country notions; in which he succeeded so well, that he had seduced the butler by his table-talk, and staggered his eldest fifter. The old gentleman began to be alarmed at the schisms that arose among his children, but did not yet believe his son's doctrine to be so pernicious as it really was, till one day talking of his setting.dog, the son said, he did not question but Trey was as immortal as any one of the family ; and in the