« AnteriorContinuar »
which I found that an English octavo was very often heavier than a French folio; and by another, that an old Greek or Latin author weighed down a whole library of moderns. Seeing one of my Spectators lying by me, I laid it into one of the scales, and flung a two-penny piece into the other. The reader will not inquire into the event, if he remembers the first trial which I have recorded in this paper. I afterwards threw both the sexes into the balance; but as it is not for my interest to disoblige either of them, I shall desire to be excused from telling the result of this experiment. Having an opportunity of this nature in my hands, I could not forbear throwing into one scale the principles of a tory, and into the other those of a whig ; but as I have all along declared this to be a meutral paper, I shall likewise desire to be silent under this head also, though, upon examining one of the weights, I saw the word “TEKEL" engraven on it in capital letters. I made many other experiments; and though I have not room for them all in this day's speculation, I may perhaps reserve them for another. I shall only add, that upon my awaking, I was sorry to find my golden scales vanished, but resolved for the future to learn this lesson from them, not to despise or value any things for their appearances, but to regulate my esteem and passions towards them according to their real and intrinsic value. ADDISON.
ALLEGORY ON RICHES AND POWERTY. (No. 464).
I shALL fill part of my paper with a very pretty allegory, which is wrought into a play by Aristophanes, the Greek comedian. It seems originally designed as a satire upon the rich, though, in some parts of it, it is, like the foregoing discourse, a kind of comparison between wealth and poverty.
Chremylus, who was an old and a good man, and withal exceeding poor, being desirous to leave some riches to his son, consults the oracle of Apollo upon the subject. The oracle bids him follow the first man he should see upon his going out of the temple. The person he chanced to see was to appearance an old sordid blind man; but upon his following him from place to place, he at last found, by his own confession, that he was Plutus, the god of riches, and that he was just come out of the house of a miser. Plutus further told him, that when he was a boy he used to declare that as soon as he came to age he would distribute wealth to none but virtuous and just men; upon which Jupiter, considering the pernicious consequences of such a resolution, took his sight away from him, and left him to stroll about the world in the blind condition wherein Chremylus beheld him. With much ado Chremylus prevailed upon him to go to his house, where he met an old woman in a tattered raiment, who had been his guest for many years, and whose name was Poverty. The old woman refusing to turn out so easily as he would have her, he threatened to banish her not only from his own house, but out of all Greece, if she made any more words upon the matter. Poverty on this occasion pleads her cause very notably, and represents to her old landlord, that, should she be driven out of the country, all their trades, arts, and sciences, would be driven out with her; and that, if every one was rich, they would never be supplied with those pomps, ornaments, and conveniences of life which made riches desirable. She likewise represented to him the several advantages which she bestowed upon her votaries in regard to their shape, their health, and their activity, by preserving them from gouts, dropsies, unwieldiness and intemperance. But, whatever she had to say for herself, she was at last forced to troop off. Chremylus immediately considered how he might restore Plutus to his sight; and, in order to it, conveyed him to the temple of AEsculapius, who was famous for cures and miracles of this nature. By this means the deity recovered his eyes, and began to make a right use of them, by enriching every one that was distinguished by piety towards the gods, and justice towards men; and at the same time by taking away his gifts from the impious and undeserving, This produces several merry incidents, till in the last act Mercury descends with great complaints from the gods, that since the good men were grown rich they had received no sacrifices; which is confirmed by a priest of Jupiter, who enters with a remonstrance, that since the late innovation he was reduced to a starving condition, and could not live upon his office. Chremylus, who in the beginning of the play was religious in his poverty, concludes it with a proposal, which was relished by all the good men, who were now grown rich as well as himself, that they should carry Plutus in a solemn procession to the temple, and install him in the place of Jupiter. This allegory instructed the Athenians in two points: first, as it windicated the conduct of Providence in its ordinary distribution of wealth; and, in the next place, as it showed the great tendency of riches to corrupt the morals of those who possessed them. ADDISON.
CRITIQUE OF A SONG. (No. 470).
I HAVE been very often disappointed, of late years, when, upon examining the new edition of a classic author, I have found above half the volume taken up with various readings. When I have expected to meet with a learned note upon a doubtful passage in a Latin poet, I have only been informed, that such or such ancient manuscripts for an et write an ac, or some other notable discovery of the like importance. Indeed, when a different reading gives us a different sense or a new elegance in an author, the editor does very well in taking notice of it; but when he only entertains us with the several ways of spelling the same word, and gathers together the various blunders and mistakes of twenty or thirty different transcribers, they only take up the time of the learned readers, and puzzle the minds of the ignorant. I have often fancied with myself, how enraged an old Latin author would be, should he see the several absurdities in sense and grammar which are imputed to him by some or other of these various readings. In one he speaks nonsense; in another makes use of a word that was never heard of; and, indeed, there is scarce a solecism in writing which the best author is not guilty of, if we may be at liberty to read
him in the words of some manuscript, which the laborious editor has thought fit to examine in the prosecution of his work.
I question not but the ladies and pretty fellows will be very curious to understand what it is that I have been hitherto talking of. I shall, therefore, give them a notion of this practice, by endeavouring to write after the manner of several persons who make an eminent figure in the republic of letters. To this end we will suppose that the following song is an old ode, which I present to the public in a new edition, with the several various readings which I find of it in former editions, and in ancient manuscripts. Those who cannot relish the various readings will perhaps find their account in the song, which never before appeared in print.
“My love was fickle once and changing,
From beauty still to beauty ranging,
“’Twas first a charming shape enslav'd me,
“But now a long and lasting anguish
“For here the false unconstant lover,
Stanza the first, verse the first. And changing.] The and in some manuscripts is written thus, &, but that in the Cotton library writes it in three distinct letters. Verse the second. Nor e'er would..] Aldus reads it ever would ; but as this would hurt the metre, we have restored it to the genuine reading, by observing that synaresis which had been neglected by ignorant transcribers. Ibid. In my heart.] Scaliger and others, on my heart. Verse the fourth. I found a dart.] The Vatican manuscript for I reads it; but this must have been the hallucination of the transcriber, who probably mistook the dash of the I for a T. Stanza the second, verse the second. The fatal stroke.] Scioppius, Salmasius, and many others, for the read a ; but I have stuck to the usual reading. Verse the third. Till by her wit..] Some manuscripts have it his wit, others your, others their wit. But as I find Corinna to be the name of a woman in other authors, I cannot doubt that it should be her. Stanza the third, verse the first. A long and lasting anguish.] The German manuscript reads a lasting passion, but the rhyme will not admit it. Verse the second. For Belvidera I endure.] Did not all the manuscripts reclaim, I should change Belvidera into Pelvidera; pelvis being used by several of the ancient comic writers for a looking-glass, by which means the etymology of the word is very visible, and Pelvidera will signify a lady who often looks in her glass; as indeed she had very good reason, if she had all those beauties which our poet here ascribes to her. Verse the third. Hourly I sigh, and hourly languish.] Some for the word hourly read daily, and others nightly; the last has great authorities of its side. Verse the fourth. The wonted cure.] The elder Stevens reads wanted cure. Stanza the fourth, verse the second. After a thousand beauties.] In several copies we meet with a hundred beauties, by the usual error of the transcribers, who probably omitted a cypher, and had not taste enough to know, that the word thousand was ten times a greater compliment to the poet's mistress than a hundred. Verse the fourth. And finds variety in one..] Most of the ancient manuscripts have it in two. Indeed, so many of them concur in this last reading, that I am very much in doubt whether it ought not to take place. There are but two reasons which incline me to the reading as I have published it: First, because the rhyme, and secondly, because the sense, is preserved by it. It might likewise