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the earth. Menippus, amidst the confusion of voices, which was so great that nothing less than the ear of Jove could distinguish them, beard the words' riches, honour, and long life,' repeated to several different tones and languages. When the first hubbub of sounds was over, the trap-door being left open, the voices came up more separate and distinct. The first prayer was a very odd one; it came from Athens, and desired Jupiter to increase the wisdom and the beard of his humble supplicant. Menippus knew it by the voice to be the prayer of his friend Licander the philosopher. This was succeeded by the petition of one who had just laden a ship, and promised Jupiter, if he took care of it, and returned it home again full of riches, he would make him an offering of a silver cup. Jupiter thanked him for uothing; and bending down his ear more attentively than ordinary, heard a voice complaining to him of the cruelty of an Ephesian widow, and begging him to breed compassion in her heart: this, says Jupiter, is a very honest fellow:I have received a great deal of incense from him; I will not be so cruel to him as not to hear his
He was then interrupted with a whole volley of vows, which were made for the health of a tyrannical prince by his subjects who prayed for him in his presence. Menippus was surprised, after having listened to prayers offered up with so much ardour and devotion, to hear low whispers from the same assembly, expostulating with Jove for suffering such a tyrant to live, and asking him how his thunder could lie idle? Jupi. ter was so offended at these prevaricating rascals, that he took down the first vows, and puffed away the last. The philosopher seeing a great cloud mounting up. wards, and making its way directly to the trap-door, inquired of Jupiter what it meant. This, says Jupiter, is the smoke of a whole hecatomb that is offered me by the general of an army, who is very importunate with me to let bim cut off an hundred thousand men that are drawn up in array against him: what does the
impudent wretch think I see in him, to helieve that I will make a sacrifice of so many mortals as good as himself, and all this to his glory, forsooth! But hark, says Jupiter, there is a voice I never heard but in time of danger; it is a rogue that is shipwrecked in the lo
I saved him on a plank but three days ago, upon his promise to mend his manners; the scoundrel is not worth a groat, and yet has the impudence to offer me a temple, if I will keep him from sinking. But yonder, says he, is a special youth for you, he desires me to take his father, who keeps a great estate from him, out of the miseries of human life. The old fellow shall live till he makes his heart ache, I can tell him that for his pains. This was followed by the soft voice of a pious lady, desiring Jupiter that she might appear amiable and charming in the sight of her emperor. As the philosopher was reflecting on this extraordinary petition, there blew a gentle wind through the trap-door, which he at first mistook for a gale of zephyrs, but afterwards found it to be a breeze of sighs: they smelt strong of flowers and incense, and were succeeded by most passionate complaints of wounds and torments, fires and arrows, cruelty, despair, and death. Menippus faucied that such lament. able cries arose from some general execution, or from wretches lying under the torture; but Jupiter told him that they came up to him from the isle of Paphos, and that he every day received complaints of the same nature from that whimsical tribe of mortals who are called lovers. I am so trifled with, says be, by this generation of both sexes, and find it so impossible to please them, whether I grant or refuse their petitions, that I shall order a western wind for the future to intercept them in their passage, and blow them at ran. dom upon the earth. The last petition I heard was from a very aged man of near an hundred years old, begging but for one year inore of life, and then promising to die contented. This is the rarest old fellow, says Jupiter. He has made this prayer to me for
above twenty years together. When he was but fifty years old, he desired only that he might live to see bis son settled in the world ; I granted it. He then begged the same favour for his daughter, and after. wards that he might see the education of a grandson: when all this was brought about, he puts up a petition that he might live to finish a house he was building. In short, he is an unreasonable old cnr, and never wants an excuse; I will hear no more of him. Upon which he flung down the trap door in a passion, and was resolved to give no more audiences that day."
Notwithstanding the levity of this fable, the moral of it very well deserves our attention, and is the same with that which has been inculcated by Socrates and Plato, not to mention Juvenal and Persius, who have each of them made the finest satire in their whole works upon this subject. The vanity of men's wishes, which are the natural prayers of the mind, as well as many of those secret devotions which they offer to the Supreme Being, are sufficiently exposed by it. Among other reasons for set forms of prayer, I have often thought it a very good one, that by this means the folly and extravagance of men's desires may be kept within due bounds, and not break out in absurd and ridiculous petitions, on so great and solemn an occa. sion.
Studium sine divite vena.
Art without a vein.
I LOOK upon the play-house as a world within itself
. They have lately furnished the middle region of it with a new set of metoors, in order to give the sublime to many modern tragedies. I was there last winter at the first rehearsal of the new thunder, which is much more deep and sonorous than any hitherto made use of. They have a Salmoneus bebind the scenes who plays it off with great success. Their lightnings are made to flash more briskly than heretofore; their clouds are also better furbelowed, and more volumi. nous; not to mention a violent storm locked up in a great chest, that is designed for the Tempest. They are also provided with above a dozen showers of snow, which, as I am informed, are the plays of many unsuccessful poets artificially cut and shredded for that use.
I do not indeed wonder that the actors should be such professed enemies to those among our nation who are commonly known by the name of critics, since it is a rule among these gentlemen to fall upon a play, not because it is written, but because it takes. Several of them lay it down as a maxim, that whatever dramatic performance has a long run, must of necessity be good for nothing: as though the first precept in poetry were “ not to please.” Whether this rule holds good or not, I shall leave to the determina. tion of those who are better judges than myself; if it does, I am sure it tends very much to the honour of those gentlemen who have established it; few of their pieces having been disgra ced by a run of three days, and most of them being so exquisitely written, that the town would never give them more than one night's bearing.
I have a great esteem for a true critic, euch as Aristotle and Longinus among the Greeks, Horace and Quintillian among the Romans, Boileau and Dacier among the French.
But it is our misfortune, that some who set up for professed critics among us are so stupid, that they do not kpow how to put ten words together with elegance or common propriety, and withal so illiterate, that they have no taste of the learn. ed languages, and therefore criticise upon old authors only at second hand. They judge of them by what others have written, and not by any notions they have of the authors themselves. The words unity, action, sentiment, and diction, pronounced with an air of authority, give them a figure among unlearned readers, who are apt to believe they are very deep, because they are unintelligible. The ancient critics are full of the praises of their contemporaries ; they discover beauties which escaped the observation of the vulgar, and very often find out reasons for palliating and ex. casing such little slips and oversights as were commit. ted in the writings of eminent authors. On the contrary, most of the smatterers in criticism who appear among ng, make it their business to vilify and depreciate every new production that gains applause, to descry imaginary blemishes, and to prove by far fetched arguments, that what pass for beauties in any cele brated piece, are faults and errors. In short, the writings of these critics, compared with those of the ancients, are like the works of the sophists compared with those of the old philosophers.
, Envy and cavil are the natural fruits of laziness and ignorance; which was probably the reason, that in the heathen mythology Momus is said to be the son of Nox and Somnus, of darkness and sleep. Idle men, who have not been at the pains to accomplish or distinguish themselves, are very apt to detract from others; as ignorant men are very subject to decry those beauties in a celebrated work wbich they have not eyes to discover. Many of our sons of Momus, who dignify themselves by the name of critics, are the genuine descendants of these two illustrious ancestors. They are often led into those numerous absurdities, in which they daily instruct the people, by not consider. ing that, First, There is sometimes a greater judgment shown in deviating from the rules of art, than in ad. hering to them; and, Secondly, That there is more beauty in the works of a great genius, who is ignorant