Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

He was blind, and could neither work in the country nor enjoy the pleasures of it; his helpless poverty was likeliest to be sustained in the richest places; he was to delight the Grecians with fine tales of the wars and adventures of their ancestors; his subject removed him from all commerce with us, and yet, methinks, he made a shift to shew his good-will a little. For, though he could do us no honour in the person of his hero Ulysses (much less of Achilles), because his whole time was consumed in wars and voyages; yet he makes his father Laertes a gardener all that while, and seeking his consolation for the absence of his son in the pleasure of planting, and even dunging his own grounds. Ye see, he did not contemn us peasants; nay, so far was he from that insolence, that he always stiles Eumaeus, who kept the hogs, with wonderful respect, dio vapßóv, the divine swine herd; he could ha' done no more for Menelaus or Agamemnon. And Theocritus (a very antient poet, but he was one of our own tribe, for he wrote nothing but pastorals) gave the same epithete to an husbandman,-ημείβετο δῖος ἀγρώστες. The divine husbandman replyed to Hercules, who was but dios himself. These were civil Greeks, and who understood the dignity of our calling!

Among the Romans we have, in the first place, our truly divine Virgil, who, though, by the favour of Maecenas and Augustus, he might have been one of the chief men of Rome, yet chose rather to employ much of his time in the exercise, and much of his immortal wit in the praise and instructions, of a rustique life; who, though he had written, before, whole books of pastorals and georgics, could not abstain, in his great and imperial poem, from describing Evander, one of his best princes, as living just after the homely manner of an ordinary countryman. He seats him in a throne of maple, and lays him but upon a bear's skin; the kine and oxen are lowing in his court-yard; the birds under the eves of his window call him up in the morning, and when he goes abroad, only two dogs go along with him for his guard: at last, when he brings Æneas into his royal cottage, he makes him say this memorable complement, greater than even yet was spoken at the Escurial, the Louvre, or our Whitehal:

Hæc (inquit) limina victor

Alcides subiit, hæc illum regia cepit:

Aude, hospes, contemnere opes: et te quoque dignum
Finge Deo, rebusque veni non asper egenis.

This humble roof, this rustick court, (said he)

Receiv'd Alcides, crown'd with victorie:

Scorn not, great guest, the steps where he has trod;
But contemn wealth, and imitate a God.

The next man, whom we are much obliged to, both for his doctrine and example, is the next best poet in the world to Virgil, his dear friend Horace; who, when Augustus had desired Mæcenas to perswade him to come and live domestically and at the same table with him, and to be secretary of state of the whole world under him, or rather jointly with him, for he says, "ut nos in epistolis scribendis adjuvet," could not be tempted to forsake his Sabin, or Tiburtin mannor, for so rich and so glorious a trouble. There was never, I think, such an example as this in the world, that he should have so much moderation and courage as to refuse an offer of such greatness, and the emperor so much generosity and good-nature as not to be at all offended with his refusal, but to retain still the same kindness, and express it often to him in most friendly and familiar letters, part of which are still extant. If I should produce all the passages of this excellent author upon the several subjects which I treat of in this book, I must be obliged to translate half his works; of which I may say more truly than, in my opinion, he did of Homer.

Qui, quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,
Planius et melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit.10

I shall content myself upon this particular theme with three only, one out of his Odes, the other out of his Satires, the third out of his Epistles; and shall forbear to collect the suffrages of all other poets, which may be found scattered up and down through all their writings, and especially in Martial's. But I must not omit to make some excuse for the

"That he may assist us in writing letters." 10"Who says, more plainly and better than Chrysippus and Crantor, what is beautiful, what base, what useful, what the opposite of these.' Horace, "Epist." I. 2. 4. Chrysippus and Crantor were noted philosophers.

bold-undertaking of my own unskilful pencil upon the beauties of a face that has been drawn before by so many great masters; especially, that I should dare to do it in Latine verses, (though of another kind), and have the confidence to translate them. I can only say that I love the matter, and that ought to cover many faults; and that I run not to contend with those before me, but follow to applaud them.

THE VISION OF MIRZA

AND

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

BY

JOSEPH ADDISON

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719) divided his energies between literature and politics. He was educated at the Charterhouse and at Oxford with a view to holy orders, but the Earl of Halifax saw in him valuable political material, obtained for him a pension, and sent him abroad to prepare for a diplomatic career. His travels in France and Italy confirmed his classical tastes, and his critical writings show abundant traces of French influence.

On his return to England he published his “Campaign,” which laid the foundation of his career. He entered Parliament, and finally rose to be Secretary of State. In spite of the bitterness of political feeling in his time, Addison kept the esteem of men of all parties, and enjoyed a universal popularity such as has been bestowed on few men of letters and fewer politicians.

Addison's fame to-day rests mainly on his writings in the "Tatler" and the "Spectator." In the essays and articles published in these two periodicals, he not only produced a succession of pieces unsurpassed in their kind, but exerted an influence as wholesome as it was powerful upon the manners and morals of society in the London of Queen Anne. His style remains the great classic example of that combination of ease and elegance which is the characteristic merit of the prose of the period; and the imaginative moralizing which is exemplified in "The Vision of Mirza" and "Westminster Abbey" reveals something of the gentle persuasiveness with which he sought to lead his generation to higher levels of living and thinking.

A more detailed account of the life and work of Addison will be found in the "Life" by Dr. Johnson in the present volume.

« VorigeDoorgaan »