Page images
PDF
EPUB

and divided itself into two parts, the one half throw. ing themselves behind the banners of Truth, and the thers behind those of Falsehood.

The goddess of Falsehood was of a gigantic stature, and advanced some paces before the front of her army; but as the dazzling light which flowed from Truth began to shine upon her, she faded insensibly; insomuch that in a little space she looked rather like an huge phantom, than a real substauce. At length, as the goddess of Truth approached still nearer to her, she fell away entirely, and vanished amidst the bright. ness of her presence; so that there did not remain the least trace or impression of her figure in the place where she had been seen.

As at the rising of the sun the constellations grow thin, and the stars go ont one after another, till the whole hemisphere is extinguished; such was the va: nishing of the goddess : and not only of the goddess herself, but of the whole army that attended her, which sympathized with their leader, and shrunk into nothing, in proportion as the goddess disappeared. At the same time the whole temple sunk, the fish betook themselves to the streams, and the wild beasts to the woods, the fountains recovered their murmurs, the birds their voices, the trees their leaves, the flowers their scents, and the whole face of nature its true and genuine appearance. Though I still continued asleep, I fancied myself as it were awakened ont of a dream, when I saw this region of prodigies restored to woodi and rivers, fields and meadows.

Upon the removal of that wild scene of wonders, which had very much disturbed my imagination, I took a full survey of the persons of Wit and Truth: for indeed it was impossible to look upon the first, withont seeing the other at the same time. There was behind them a strong compact body of figures. The genius of Heroic Poetry appeared with a sword in her band, and a laurel on her head. Tragedy was crowned with cypress, and covered with robes dipped in blood. Satire had smiles in her look, and a dagger under her garment. Rhetoric was known by her thunderbolt; and Comedy by her mask. After several other figures, Epigram marched up in the rear, who had been posted there at the beginning of the expedition, that he might not revolt to the enemy, whom he was suspected to favour in his heart. I was very much awed and delighted with the appearance of the god of Wit; there was something so amiable, and yet so piercing in his looks, as inspired me at once with love and terror. As I was gazing on him, to my unspeakable joy he took a quiver of arrows from his shoulder, in order to make me a present of it; but as I was reaching out niy hand to receive it of him, I knocked it against a chair, and by that means awaked.

C.

(We shall add to these remarks of Addison the fol.

lowing opinion on Anagrams, Acrostics, &c. from another part of the Spectator.]

Several kinds of false wit, that vanished in the refined ages of the world, discovered themselves again in the times of monkish ignorance.

As the monks were the masters of all that little learning which was then extant, and had their whole lives entirely disengaged from business, it is no won. der that several of them, who wanted genius for higher performances, employed many hours in the composi. tion of such tricks in writing, as reqnired much time and little capacity. I have seen half the Æneid turned into Latin rhymes by one of the beaux esprits of that dark age; who says in his preface to it, that the Æneid wanted nothing but the sweets of rhyme to make it the most perfect work in its kind. I have likewise seen an hymn in hexameters to the Virgin Mary, which filled a whole book, though it consisted but of the eight following words.

E2

Tot, tibi, sunt, Virgo, dotes, quot, sidera, cælo. “ Thou hast as many virtues, O Virgin, as there are

stars in heaven.”

The poet rung the changes upon these eight several words, and by that means made his verses almost as numerous as the virtues and the stars which they cele brated. It is no wonder that men who had so much time upon their hands did not only restore all the antiquated pieces of false wit, but enriched the world with inventions of their own. It was to this age that we owe the production of anagrams, which is nothing else but a transmutation of one word into another, or the turning of the same set of letters into different words'; which may change night into day, or black into white, if Chance, who is the goddess that presides over these sorts of composition, shall so direct. I repiember a witty author, in allusion to this kind of writing, calls his rival, who it seems) was distorted, and bad bis limbs set in places that did not properly belong to them, the anagram of a man.

When the anagrammatist take a name to work upon, he considers it at first as a mine not broken up, wbich will not show the treasure it contains, till he shall have spent many hours in the search of it; for it is his business to find out one word that conceals itself in an other, and to examine the letters in all the variety of stations in which they can possibly be ranged. I have beard of a gentleman who, wheu this kind of wit was in fashion, endeavoured to gain his mistress's heart by it. She was one of the finest women of her age, and known by the name of the Lady Mary Boon. The lover not being able to make any thing of Mary, by certain liberties indulged to this kind of writing, converted it into Moll; and after baying shot bimself ap for balf a year, with indefatigable industry prodaced an anagran. Upon the presenting it to his mistress, who was a little vexed in her heart to see herself de graded into Moll Boon, she told him, to his infinite surprise, that he had mistaken her sirname, for that it was not Boon, but Bohun.

Ibi omnis
Effusus labor

The lover was thunderstruck with his misfortune, insomuch that in a little time after he lost his senses, which indeed had been very much impaired by that continual applicatiou he had given to his anagram.

The acrostic was probably invented about the same time with the anagram, though it is impossible to de. cide whether the inventor of the one or the other were the greater blockhead. The simple acrostic is no. thing but the name or title of a person, or thing, made out of the initial letters of several verses, and by that means written, after the manner of the Chinese, in a perpendicular line. But besides these, there are compound acrostics, when the principal letters stand two or three deep. I have seen some of them where the verses have not only been edged by a name at each extremity, bat have had the same running down like a seam through the middle of the poem.

There is another near relation of the anagrams and acrosties, which is commonly called a chronogram. This kind of wit appears very often on many modern medals, especially those of Germany, when they repre. sent in the inscription the year in which they were coiued. Thus we see on a medal of Gustavus Adolphus the following words: ChristVs DuX ergo trIVMphVs. If you take the pains to pick the figures out of the several words, and range them in their proper order, you will find they amount to MDCXXVII, or 1627, the year in which the medal was stamped: for as sume of the letters distinguish themselves from the rest, and overtop their fellows, they are to be considered in a double capacity, both as letters and as figures. Your laborious German wits will turn over a whole dictionary for one of these ingenious devices.

[ocr errors]

A man would think they were searching after an apt classical term, but instead of that they are looking out a word that has an L, an M, or a D in it. When therefore we meet with any of these inscriptions, we are not so much to look in them for the thought, as for the year of the Lord.

The bouts rimez were the favourites of the French nation for a whole age together, and that at a time when it abounded in wit and learning. They were a list of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list: the more uncommon the rhymes were, the more extraordinary was the genius of the poet that could accommodate bis verses to them. I do not know any greater instance of the decay of wit and learning among the French (which generally fol. lows the declension of empire) than the endeavouring to restore this foolish kind of wit.

CHRISTIANITY

THE PARENT OF SUBLIME ELOQUENCE. Omnia profecto, cum se a cælestibus rebus referet

ad humanas, excelsius magnificentiusque et dicet et sentiet.

CICERO. “ The contemplation of celestial things will make a

man both speak and think more sublimely and mag

nificently, when he descends to human affairs." IT was a very common inquiry among the ancients,

why the number of excellent orators, under all the encouragements the most flourishing states could give them, fell so far short of the number of those who er. celled in all other sciences. A friend of mine used

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »