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It would be as difficult a task to reckon up these different kinds of Idols, as Milton's was to number those that were known in Canaan and the lands adjoining. Most of them are worshipped, like Moloch, in fires and flames. Some of them, like Baal, love to see their votaries cut and slashed, and shedding their blood for them. Some of them, like the Idol in the Apocrypha, must have treats and collations prepared for them every night. It has, indeed, been known, that some of them have been used by their incensed worshippers like the Chinese Idols, who are whipped and scourged when they refuse to comply with the prayers that are offered to them.
I must here observe, that those Idolaters who devote themselves to the Idols I am here speaking of, differ very much from all other kinds of Idolaters. For as others fall out because they worship different Idols, these Idolaters quarrel because they worship the same.
The intention, therefore, of the Idol, is quite contrary to the wishes of the Idolater; as the one desires to confine the Idol to himself, the whole business and ambition of the other is to multiply adorers. This humour of an Idol is prettily described in a tale of Chaucer: he represents one of them sitting at a table with three of her votaries about her, who are all of them courting her favour, and paying their adorations: she smiled upon one, drank to another, and trod upon the other's foot which was under the table. Now which of these three, says the old bard, do you think was the favourite? "In troth, (says he,) not one of all the three.'
The behaviour of this old Idol in Chaucer, puts me in mind of the beautiful Clarinda, one of the greatest Idols among the moderns. She is worshipped once a week by candle-light in the midst of a large congregation, generally called an assembly. Some of the gayest youths in the nation endeavour to plant themselves in her eye, while she sits in form with multitudes of tapers burning about her. To encourage the zeal of her idolaters, she bestows a mark of her favour upon every one of them before they go out of her presence. She asks a question of one, tells a story to another, glances an ogle upon a third, takes a pinch of snuff from the fourth, lets her fan drop by accident to give the fifth an occasion of taking it up. In short, every one goes away satisfied with his success, and encouraged to renew his devotions at the same canonical hour that day seven-night.
An Idol may be undeified by many accidental causes. Marriage, in particular, is a kind of counter-apotheosis, or a deification inverted. When a man becomes familiar with his goddess, she quickly sinks into a woman.
Old age is likewise a great decayer of your Idol: the truth of it is, there is not a more unhappy being than a superannuated Idol, especially when she has contracted such airs and behaviour as are only graceful when her worshippers are about her.
Considering, therefore, that in these and many other cases the woman generally outlives the Idol, I must return to the moral of this paper, and desire my fair readers to give a proper direction to their passion for being admired: in order to which, they must endeavour to make themselves the objects of a reasonable and lasting admiration. This is not to be hoped for from beauty, or dress, or fashion, but from those inward ornaments which are not to be defaced by time or sickness, and which appear most amiable to those who are most acquainted with them.
No. 74. FRIDAY, MAY 25.
-Pendent onera interrupta.- VIRG.
IN my last Monday's paper I gaye some general instances of those beautiful strokes which please the reader in the old song of Chevy-Chase; I shall here, according to my promise, be more particular, and show that the sentiments in that ballad are extremely natural and poetical, and full of the majestic simplicity which we admire in the greatest of the ancient poets: for which reason I shall quote several passages of it, in which the thought is altogether the same with what we meet in several passages of the Æneid; not that I would infer from thence, that the poet (whoever he was) proposed to himself any imitation of those passages, but that he was directed to them in general by the same kind of poetical genius, and by the same copyings after nature.
Had this old song been filled with epigrammatical turns and points of wit, it might perhaps have pleased the wrong taste of some readers; but it would never have become the delight of the common people, nor have warmed the heart of Sir Philip Sidney like the sound of a trumpet; it is only na
ture that can have this effect, and please those tastes which are the most unprejudiced, or the most refined. I must, however, beg leave to dissent from so great an authority as that of Sir Philip Sidney, in the judgment which he has passed as to the rude style and evil apparel of this antiquated song; for there are several parts in it, where not only the thought, but the language, is majestic, and the numbers sonorous; at least the apparel is much more gorgeous than many of the poets made use of in Queen Elizabeth's time, as the reader will see in several of the following quotations.
What can be greater than either the thought or the expression in that stanza ?
To drive the deer with hound and horn
Earl Piercy took his way:
The child may rue that is unborn
This way of considering the misfortunes which this battle would bring upon posterity, not only on those who were born immediately after the battle, and lost their fathers in it, but on those also who perished in future battles which took their rise from this quarrel of the two earls, is wonderfully beautiful, and conformable to the way of thinking among the ancient poets.
Audiet pugnas vitio parentum
What can be more sounding and poetical, or resemble more the majestic simplicity of the ancients, than the following stanzas ?
The stout Earl of Northumberland
A vow to God did make,
His pleasure in the Scottish woods
Who knew full well, in time of need,
The hounds ran swiftly through the woods
And with their cries the hills and dales
-Vocat ingenti clamore Cithæron
Taygetique canes, domitrixque Epidaurus equorum:
His men in armour bright;
Full twenty hundred Scottish spears,
All men of pleasant Tividale,
Fast by the river Tweed, &c.
The country of the Scotch warriors, described in these two last verses, has a fine romantic situation, and affords a couple of smooth words for verse. If the reader compares the foregoing six lines of the song with the following Latin verses, he will see how much they are written in the spirit of Virgil. Adversi campo apparent, hastasque reductis Protendunt longè dextris; et spicula vibrant : Quique altum Præneste viri, quique arva Gabinæ Junonis, gelidumque Anienem, et roscida rivis Hernica saxa colunt:- -qui rosea rura Velini, Qui Tetricæ horrentes rupes, montemque Severum, Casperiamque colunt, Forulosque et flumen Himelle: Qui Tiberim Fabarimque bibunt.
Earl Douglas, on a milk-white steed,
Most like a baron bold,
Rode foremost of the company,
Whose armour shone like gold.
Turnus ut antevolans tardum præcesserat agmen, &c,
Our English archers bent their bows,
At the first flight of arrows sent,
With that there came an arrow keen
Out of an English bow,
Which struck Earl Douglas to the heart
A deep and deadly blow.
Eneas was wounded after the same manner by an unknown hand in the midst of a parley.
Has inter voces, media inter talia verba,
Ecce viro stridens alis allapsa sagitta est,
But of all the descriptive parts of this song, there are none more beautiful than the four following stanzas, which have a great force and spirit in them, and are filled with very natural circumstances.
The thought in the third stanza was
never touched by any other poet, and is such an one as would have shined in Homer or in Virgil.
So thus did both these nobles die,
An arrow of a cloth-yard long
Against Sir Hugh Montgomery
The gray-goose wing, that was thereon,
This fight did last from break of day
For when they rung the evening bell,
One may observe likewise, that in the catalogue of the slain, the author has followed the example of the greatest ancient poets, not only in giving a long list of the dead, but by diversifying it with little characters of particular persons.
And with Earl Douglas there was slain
Sir Hugh Montgomery;
Sir Charles Carrell, that from the field
Sir Charles Murrel of Ratcliff too,
Sir David Lamb, so well esteemed,
The familiar sound in these names destroys the majesty of the description: for this reason I do not mention this part of the poem but to show the natural cast of thought which appears in it, as the two last verses look almost like a translation of Virgil.
-Cadit et Ripheus justissimus unus
In the catalogue of the English who fell, Witherington's behaviour is in the same manner particularized very artfully, as the reader is prepared for it by that account which is given of him in the beginning of the battle; though I am satisfied your little buffoon readers (who have seen that passage ridiculed in Hudibras) will not be able to take the beauty of it for which reason I dare not so much as quote it.