« ZurückWeiter »
against him, so remarkable for their excellence and their cruelty, repeating this couplet:
'Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
The ingenuous critic insisted on his taking them again: for,' said he, my associates at the altar, particularly Horace, would never permit a line of so excellent a satirist to be consumed. The many compliments paid me in other parts of your works, amply compensate for this slight indignity. And be assured, that no little pique or misunderstanding shall ever make me a foe to genius.' Pope bowed in some confusion, and promised to substitute a fictitious name at least, which was all that was left in his power. He then retired, after having made a sacrifice of a little packet of Antitheses, and some parts of his Translation of Homer.
During the course of these oblations, I was charmed with the candour, decency, and judgment, with which all the priests discharged their different functions. They behaved with such dignity, that it reminded me of those ages when the offices of king and priest centered in the same person. Whenever
any of the assistants were at a loss in any particular circumstances, they applied to Aristotle, who settled the whole business in an instant.
But the reflections which this pleasing scene pro'duced, were soon interrupted by a tumultuous noise at the gate of the temple: when suddenly a rude illiterate multitude rushed in, led by Tindal, Morgan, Chubb and Bolingbroke. The chiefs, whose countenances were impressed with rage which art could not conceal, forced their way to the altar, and amidst the joyful acclamations of their followers threw a large volume into the fire. But the triumph was short, and joy and acclamation gave way to silence
and astonishment: the volume lay unhurt in the midst of the fire, and as the flames played innocently about it, I could discover written in letters of gold, these words, THE BIBLE. At that instant my ears were ravished with the sound of more than mortal music accompanying a hymn sung by invisible beings, of which I well remember the following verses:
The words of the LORD are pure words: even as the silver, which in the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.
More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb.'
The united melody of instruments and voices, which formed a concert so exquisite, that, as Milton says, 'it might create a soul under the ribs of death,' threw me into such ecstasies, that I was awakened by their violence.
I am, Sir,
Your humble Servant,
N° 91. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1753.
Facto pius et sceleratus eodem.
Thus was the father pious to a crime.
Ir is contended by those who reject Christianity, that if revelation had been necessary as a rule of life to mankind, it would have been universal; and they are, upon this principle, compelled to affirm that only to be a rule of life, which is universally known.
But no rule of life is universally known, except the dictates of conscience. With respect to particular actions, opinion determines whether they are good or ill; and conscience approves or disapproves, in consequence of this determination, whether it be in favour of truth or falsehood. Nor can the errors of conscience be always imputed to a criminal neglect of inquiry: those by whom a system of moral truths was discovered through the gloom of paganism, have been considered as prodigies, and regarded by successive ages with astonishment and admiration; and that which immortalized one among many millions can scarce be thought possible to all. Men do not usually shut their eyes against their immediate interest, however they may be thought to wink against their duty; and so little does either appear to be discoverable by the light of nature, that where the Divine Prescription has either been withheld or corrupted, superstition has rendered piety cruel, and error has armed virtue against herself; misery has been cultivated by those who have not incurred guilt; and though all men had been innocent, they might still have been wretched.
In the reign of Yamodin the Magnificent, the kingdom of Golconda was depopulated by a pestilence; and after every other attempt to propitiate the gods had failed, it was believed, according to the superstition of the country, that they required the sacrifice of a virgin of royal blood.
It happened that at this time there was no virgin of the royal blood, but Tamira, the daughter of Yamodin, whom he had betrothed to one of the princes of his court, intending that he should succeed to the throne; for Yamodin had no son, and he was not willing that his empire should descend to a woman.
Yamodin considered himself not less the father of his people, than of Tamira; and, therefore, with
whatever reluctance, determined to redeem the life of the public with that of the individual. He prostrated himself in the temple, and invoked his principal idol as the fountain of life: from thee,' said he, * I have derived my being, and the life which I have propagated is thine: when I am about to restore it, let me remember with gratitude, that I possessed it by thy bounty; and let thy mercy accept it as a ransom for my people.'
Orders were given for the sacrifice on the next day, and Tamira was permitted to dispose of the interval as she pleased. She received the intimation of her father's pleasure without much surprise; because, as she knew the custom of her country, she scarce hoped that the demand of her life would have been delayed so long: she fortified herself against the terrors of death, by anticipating the honours that would be paid to her memory; and had just triumphed over the desire of life, when, upon perceiving her lover enter the apartment, she lost her fortitude in a moment, and burst into tears.
When they were alone, after his eyes had, like her's, overflowed with silent sorrow, he took her hand, and with a look of inexpressible anxiety and tenderness told her, that one expedient was yet left, by which her life might be preserved; that he had bribed a priest to his interest, by whom the ceremonies of marriage might be immediately performed: that on the morrow, as she would be no longer a virgin, the propitiation of the gods could not be effected by her death; and that her father, though for political purposes he might appear to be displeased, would yet secretly rejoice at an event, which, without his concurrence, had delivered him from the dreadful obligation of sacrificing an only child, through whom he hoped to transmit dominion to his posterity.
To this proposal Tamira, whose attachment to life was now strengthened by love, and in whose bosom the regret of precluded pleasure had succeeded to the hope of glory, at length consented; but she consented with all the timidity, reluctance, and confusion, which are produced by a consciousness of guilt; and the prince himself introduced the man, who was to accomplish the purpose both of his ambition and his love, with apparent tremor and hesitation.
On the morrow, when the priest stood ready at the altar to receive the victim, and the king commanded his daughter to be brought forth, the prince produced her as his wife. Yamodin stood some moments in suspense; and then dismissing the assembly, retired to his palace. After having remained about two hours in private, he sent for the prince. • The gods,' said he, though they continue the pestilence,
have yet in mercy rescued my people from the op
pression of a tyrant, who appears to consider the life of millions as nothing in competition with the indulgence of his lust, his avarice, or his ambition.' Yamodin then commanded him to be put to death, and the sentence was executed the same hour.
Tamira now repented in unutterable distress of a crime, by which the pleasures not only of possession but hope were precluded; her attachment to life was broken, by the very means which she had taken to preserve it; and as an atonement for the forfeit of her virginity, she determined to submit to that law of marriage, from which as a princess only she was exempted, and to throw herself on the pile by which the body of her husband was to be consumed. To this her father consented: their ashes were scattered to the winds, and their names were forbidden to be repeated.
If by these events it is evident that Yamodin discerned no law which would have justified the