صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

Having for several days amused myself with reading over that celebrated humourist of antiquity, Lucian; I fell one evening into a sort of reverie, which had all the extravagance, though void of the wit and poignancy, of that celebrated author. 'Twas not one of the frolics of fancy in sleep, but the pure result of the imagination, heated with what I had read, and busying itself with erecting a thousand new edifices, on the same ideal foundation.

Methought (for a man may dream with his eyes open), the Jupiter of the ancients was again the deity in fashion, and again disposed to familiarise himself to men, by admitting prayers, conferences, or even expostulations:

1

methought, I saw him descend in that awful, but yet conversible figure, in which Homer has described him, and it may be supposed that Phidias represented him; his brow unclouded, his eye benign, and every muscle sweetened with smiles of condescension and complacency, like the god of nature, and parent of the universe: his terrors all laid by, his thunder sleeping; not the judge, but the friend of man.

Methought likewise, that by a sign from him, the earth lost its rotund figure, and, as Milton aptly expresses it, immediately stretched itself into longitude, becoming an immeasurable plain, hardly to be comprehended by human eyes, though viewed from the remotest of the stars, and to be distinctly surveyed by none but Jove alone. On this were assembled all the nations of the world, of all complexions, manners, and religions; through the midst of whom two different, nay opposite beings, continually hurried to and fro, present at births, and following to the grave, traversing all the stages of life, the bud of infancy, the bloom of youth, the fullblown flower of manhood, and the decay of age; mixing with society, visiting solitudes, equally intimate with the great and the vulgar, and, alike serving and governing the whole human system. These were sisters and twins,

produced from the same parent, and brought forth at the same moment; but totally unlike, and seeming at perpetual variance with each other. The eldest had the face of a Gorgon, held a whip of scorpions in her right hand, and a vessel of gall in her left; with each of which she inflicted plagues and miseries wherever she came: she was felt before she was seen; cries of horror attended her approach ; groans and agonies declared her presence, and tears remained even after her departure. The younger, on the contrary, had a face like Hebe, the smiles of Venus, the voice of a Syren, and all the allurements of all the Graces. Ease, joy, and ecstasy were ever in her train ; the prayers, vows, and wishes of the universe were offered solely to her ; courting her presence with blandishments, hailing her arrival, and soliciting her residence. A glance of her eye revived the poor, comforted the mourner, and let in a dawn of hope on the broken-hearted. In a word, power, pomp, riches, and luxury of all sorts, were coveted only for her sake : she gave them their value, and when she refused her blessing, they instantly changed their very natures, and became corrosives, that, like the vulture of Prometheus, preyed on the very heart of the possessor. The names of these two potent

1

principles, were Pleasure and Pain ; through every climate, under all dispensations, in all ages, alike the terror and desire of mortals !

These therefore, it may be easily imagined, , were the most interesting figures in the various scene before me; nor, in spite of the presence of the thunderer, could I help acknowledging their importance, or being sensible of their power. At length Mercury, by command, gave out a proclamation, that Jupiter, being continually importuned with a great variety of impertinent prayers, was come down to grant his creatures a general boon, willing them to put up their petition, and to render it as comprehen. sible as possible ; since the god was in good humour, and would give his fiat to whatever they should agree to ask, without putting them to any expense in sacrifices, or fees to his priests.

A universal burst of applause succeeded to this gracious declaration, and immediately the assembly divided itself into parties and cabals, to consider how to make the wisest use of the golden opportunity. Soon after which, as if one soul had governed that huge body, all eyes were turned on Pain, now, as usual, busy in mischiefs, and teaching them what to ask, by what they suffered. « Pain'! Pain is the uni.

versal evil!” exclaimed the voice of the whole earth ; “rid us of that; we ask no more! 'Tis she has defeated the benign purposes of heaven, blended herself with the whole product of nature, corrupted the very elements we are formed of, and made life itself a curse. Whereas, once removed, the heavens will be all sunshine, and star-light; the ocean will smooth itself into calms, and earth convert itself into a new elysium. Rid us of Pain then, almighty Jupiter ! In that one complicated curse, is contained all we would deprecate! all we would avoid !

As soon as their petition was preferred, the god was seen to smile; and giving his assent, by the majestic nod of acceptance and favour, Pain instantly disappeared, and the whole assembly, which was the moment before agitated like the tumultuous billows of the ocean, remained fixed and motionless as statues : not a limb, not a tongue, not an eye was moved. Actions begun, sentences half uttered, thoughts in embrio, all remained suspended: a dead calm seemed to benumb and stupify the whole creation. Pleasure appeared now to be connected by secret, and till then invisible ties to her sister Pain ; and when one was removed, the other was compelled to follow. These, then, were manifestly the weights to the machine;

« السابقةمتابعة »