« AnteriorContinuar »
made president of a college of brachmans, an office which I discharged with great integrity till the day of my death.
"I was then shuffled into another human body, and acted my part so very well in it, that I became first minister to a prince who reigned upon the banks of the Ganges. I here lived in great honour for several years, but by degrees lost all the innocence of the brachman, being obliged to rifle and oppress the people to enrich my sovereign ; till at length I became so odious, that my master, to recover his credit with his subjects, shot me through the heart with an arrow, as I was one day addressing myself to him at the head of his army.
“Upon my next remove I found myself in the woods under the shape of a jackall, and soon listed myself in the service of a lion. I used to yelp near his den about midnight, which was his time of rousing and seeking after his prey. He always followed me in the rear, and when I had run down a fat buck, a wild goat, or an hare, after he had feasted very plentifully upon it himself, would now and then throw me a bone that was but half picked for my encouragement; but upon my being unsuccessful in two or three chases, he gave me such a confounded gripe in his anger, that I died of it.
“In my next transmigration I was again set upon two legs, and became an Indian tax-gatherer; but having been guilty of great extravagancies, and being married to an expensive jade of a wife, I ran so cursedly in debt, that I durst not shew my head. I could no sooner step out of my house, but I was arrested by some body or other that lay in wait for me. As I entured abroad one night in the dusk of the evening, I was taken up and hurried into a dungeon, where I died a few months after.
“My soul then entered into a flying-fish, and in that state led a most melancholy life for the space of six years.
Several fishes of prey pursued me when I was in the water, and if I be
took myself to my wings, it was ten to one but I had a flock of birds aiming at me. As I was one day flying amidst a fleet of English ships, I observed a huge sea-gull whetting his bill and hovering just over my head : upon my dipping into the water to avoid him, I fell into the mouth of a monstrous shark that swallowed me down in an instant.
“I was some years afterwards, to my great surprise, an eminent banker in Lombard-street; and remembering how I had formerly suffered for want of money, became so very sordid and avaricious, that the whole town cried shame of me. I was a mise. rable little old fellow to look upon, for I had in a manner starved myself, and was nothing but skin and bone when I died.
“ I was afterwards very much troubled and amazed to find inyself dwindled into an emmet. I was heartily concerned to make so insignificant a figure, and did not know but some time or other I might be reduced to a mite if I did not mend my manners. I therefore applied myself with great diligence to the offices that were allotted me, and was generally looked upon as the notablest ant in the whole molehill. I was at last picked up, as I was groaning under a burden, by an unlucky cock-sparrow that lived in the neighbourhood, and had before made great depredations upon our commonwealth.
“I then bettered my condition a little, and lived a whole summer in the shape of a bee; but being tired with the painful and penurious life I had undergone in my two last transmigrations, I fell into the other extreme, and turned drone. As I one day headed a party to plunder an hive, we were received so warmly by the swarm which defended it, that we were most of us left dead upon the spot.
"I might tell you of many other transmigrations which I went through; how I was a town-rake, and afterwards did penance in a bay gelding for ten years; as also how I was a tailor,
a shrimp, and a tom-tit. In the last of these my shapes I was shot in the Christmas holidays by a young jack-a-napes, who would needs try his new gun upon me.
“But I shall pass over these and several other stages of life, to remind
beau who made love to you about six You may remember, madam, how he masked, and danced, and sung, and played a thousand tricks to gain you; and how he was at last carried off by a cold that he had got under your window one night in a serenade. I was that unfortunate young fellow, whom you were then so cruel to. Not long after my shifting that unlucky body, I found myself upon a hill in Æthiopia, where I lived in my present grotesque shape, till I was caught by a servant of the English factory, and sent over into Great Britain : I need not inform you how I came into your hand. You see madam, this is not the first time that you have had me in a chain: I am, however, very happy in this my captivity, as you often bestow on me those kisses and caresses which I would have given the world for, when I was a man. I hope this discovery of my person will not tend to my disadvantage, but that you will still continue your accustomed favours to
1. Your most devoted
P.S. “I would advise your little shock-dog to keep out of my way; for as I look upon him to be the most formidable of my rivals, I may chance one' time or other to give him such a snap as he won't like."
No. 349. THURSDAY, APRIL 10.
-Quos ille timorum
Lucan, L. 454.
I am very much pleased with a consolatory letter of Phalaris, to one who had lost a son that was a young man of great merit. The thought with which he comforts the afflicted father, is, to the best of my memory, as follows: that he should consider death had set a kind of seal upon his son's character, and placed him out of the reach of vice and infamy: that while he lived he was still within the possibility of falling away from virtue, and losing the fame of which he was possessed. Death only closes a man's reputation, and determines it as good or bad.
This, among other motives, may be one reason why we are naturally averse to the launching out into a man's praise till his head is laid in the dust. Whilst he is capable of changing, we may be forced to retract our opinions. He may forfeit the esteem we have conceived of him, and some time or other appear to us under a different light from what he does at present. In short, as the life of any man cannot be called happy or unhappy, 80 neither can it be pronounced vicious or virtuous, before the conclusion of it.
1 The epistles of Phalaris were still believed in by inany when Addison wrote: though Bentley's unanswerable dissertation had been published nearly twelve years. —G.
It was upon this consideration that Epaminondas, being asked whether Chabrias, Iphicrates, or he himself deserved most to be esteemed ? 'You must first see us die, (said he,) before that question can be answered.'
As there is not a more melancholy consideration to a good man than his being obnoxious to such a change, so there is nothing more glorious than to keep up an uniformity in his actions, and preserve the beauty of his character to the last.
The end of a man's life is often compared to the winding up of a well-written play, where the principal persons still act in character, whatever the fate is which they undergo. There is scarce a great person in the Grecian or Roman history, whose death has not been remarked upon by some writer or other, and censured or applauded according to the genius or principles of the person who has descanted on it. Monsieur de St. Evremont is very particular in setting forth the constancy and courage of Petronius Arbiter during his last moments, and thinks he discovers in them a greater firmness of mind and resolution than in the death of Seneca, Cato, or Socrates. There is no question but this polite author's affectation of appearing singular in his remarks, and making discoveries which had escaped the observation of others, threw him into this course of reflection. It was Petronius's merit, that he died in the same gaiety of temper in which he lived; but as his life was altogether loose and dissolute, the indifference which he shewed at the close of it is to be looked upon as a piece of natural carelessness and levity, rather than fortitude. The resolution of Socrates proceeded from very different motives, the consciousness of a well spent life, and the prospect of a happy eternity. If the ingenious author above. mentioned was so pleased with gaiety of humour in a dying man, he might have found a much nobler instance of it in our countryman, Sir Thomas More.