Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

In

genius is furely now no more. every region I find enemies in arms to opprefs him. Avarice in Europe, jealousy in Perfia, ceremony in Perfia, poverty among the Tartars, and luft in Circaffia, are all prepared to oppofe his power. The genius is certainly banished from earth, though once adored under fuch a variety of forms. He is no where to be found; and all that the ladies of each country can produce, are but a few trifling relics as inftances of his former refidence and favour.

The genius of love, says an eastern apologue, had long refided in the happy plains of Abra, where every breeze was health, and every found produced tranquillity. His temple at first was crouded, but every age leffened the number of his votaries, or cooled their devotion. Perceiving, therefore, his altars at length quite deferted, he was refolved to remove to some more propitious region; and he apprized the fair fex of every country, where he could hope for a proper reception, to affert their right to his presence among them. In return to this proclamation, embaffies were fent from the ladies of every part of the world to invite him, and to display the superiority of their claims.

And firft the beauties of China appeared. No country could compare with them for modefty, either of look, drefs, or behaviour; their eyes were never lifted from the ground; their robes of the most beautiful filk, hid their hands, bosom, and neck, while their faces only were left uncovered. They indulged no airs that might express loofe defire, and they feemed to fludy only the graces of inanimate beauty. Their black teeth and plucked eyebrows were, however, alledged by the genius against them,

but he fet them entirely afide, when he came to examine their little feet.

The beauties of Circaffia next made their appearance, They advanced hand in hand, finging the most immodeft air, and leading up a dance in the moft luxurious attitudes. Their drefs was but half a covering; the neck, the left breaft, and all the limbs were expofed to view, which after fome time feemed rather to fatiate than inflame defire. The lily and the rose contended in forming their complexions; and a foft fleepinefs of eye added irresistible poignancy to their charms; but their beauties were obtruded, not offered to their admirers; they feemed to give rather than receive courtship; and the genius of love difmiffed them as unworthy of his regard, fince they exchanged the duties of love, and themselves not the pursued, but the pursuing sex.

The kingdom of Kashmire next produced its charming deputies. This happy region feemed peculiarly sequeftered by nature for his abode. Shady mountains fenced it on one fide from the scorching fun; the seaborn breezes, on the other, gave peculiar luxuriance to the air. Their complexions were of a bright yellow, that appeared almost transparent, while the crimson tulip feemed to bloffom on their cheeks. Their features and limbs were delicate beyond the ftatuary's power to express; and their teeth whiter than their own ivory. He was almoft perfuaded to refide among them, when unfortunately one of the ladies talked of appointing his feraglio.

In this proceffion the naked inhabitants of Southern America would not be left behind; their charms were found to surpass whatever the warmest imagination could

conceive; and ferved to fhew that beauty could be perfect, even with the feeming disadvantage of a brown complexion. But their favage education rendered them utterly unqualified to make the proper use of their power and they were rejected as being incapable of uniting mental with fenfual fatisfaction. In this manner the deputies of other kingdoms had their fuits rejected: the black beauties of Benin, and the tawny daughters of Borneo, the women of Widn, with well fcarred faces, and the hideous virgins of Cafraria, the squab ladies of Lapland, three feet high, and the giant fair ones of Patagonia.

The beauties of Europe at last appeared: grace was in their steps, and fenfibility fat smiling in every eye. It was the univerfal opinion, while they were approaching, that they would prevail; and the genius feemed to lend them his most favourable attention. They opened their pretenfions with the utmoft modefty; but unfortunately, as their orator proceeded, fhe happened to let fall the words, house in town, fettlement and pin-money. These feemingly harmless terms had inftantly a furprising effect: the genius with ungovernable rage burft from amidst the circle; and waving his youthful pinions, left this earth, and flew back to thofe etherial mansions from whence he defcended.

The whole affembly was ftruck with amazement: they now justly apprehended that female power would be no more fince love had forfaken them. They continued fome time thus in a ftate of torpid defpair, when it was proposed by one of the number, that fince the real genius had left them, in order to continue their power, they fhould fet up an idol in his stead; and that the ladies of every country fhould furnish him with what each liked

[ocr errors]

beft. This proposal was instantly relished and agreed to. An idol was formed by uniting the capricious gifts of all the affembly, though no way resembling the departed genius. The ladies of China furnished the monster with wings; thofe of Kashmire supplied him with horns; the dames of Europe clapped a purse in his hand; and the virgins of Congo furnished him with a tail. Since that time, all the vows addreffed to love are in reality paid to the idol; but, as in other falfe religions, the adoration feems moft fervent where the heart is leaft fincere. Adieu.

LETTER CXV.

TO THE SAME.

MANKIND

ANKIND have ever been prone to expatiate in the praise of human nature. The dignity of man is a subje& that has always been the favourite theme of humanity; they have declaimed with that oftentation which usually accompanies fuch as are fure of having a partial audience; they have obtained victories, because there were none to oppose. Yet from all I have ever read or seen, men appear more apt to err by having too high, than by having too despicable an opinion of their nature; and by attempting to exalt their original place in the creation depress their real value in fociety.

The moft ignorant nations have always been found to think most highly of themfelves. The Deity has ever been thought peculiarly concerned in their glory and preservation; to have fought their battles, and inspired

their teachers: their wizzards are faid to be familiar with Heaven; and every hero has a guard of angels as well as men to attend him. When the Portuguese first came among the wretched inhabitants of the coast of Africa, these savage nations readily allowed the ftrangers more skill in navigation and war; yet still confidered them, at beft, but as useful servants brought to their coasts by their guardian ferpent, to fupply them with luxuries they could have lived without. Though they could grant the Portuguese more riches, they could never allow them to have such a king as their Tottimondelem, who wore a bracelet of shells round his neck, and whose legs were covered with ivory.

In this manner examine a favage in the hiftory of his country and predeceffors, you ever find his warriors able to conquer armies, and his fages acquainted with more than poffible knowledge: human nature is to him an unknown country; he thinks it capable of great things, because he is ignorant of its boundaries; whatever can be conceived to be done, he allows to be poffible, and whatever is poffible, he conjectures must have been done. He never measures the actions and powers of others by what himself is able to perform, nor makes a proper estimate of the greatness of his fellows by bringing it to the standard of his own incapacity. He is safatisfied to be one of a country where mighty things have been; and imagines the fancied power of others reflects a luftre on himself. Thus, by degrees, he lofes the idea of his own infignificance, in a confused notion of the extraordinary powers of humanity, and is willing to grant extraordinary gifts to every pretender, because unacquainted with their claims.

« VorigeDoorgaan »