Page images


things, while it leaves me at liberty to contemplate the beauty and stability of virtue and of truth. How many things are there befides, which I would not willingly fee how many which I must fee against my will; and how few which I feel any anxiety to fee! There is, as the apostle has remarked, a way to ftrength through weaknefs. Let me then be the moft feeble creature alive, as long as that feeblenefs ferves to invigorate the energies of my rational and immortal fpirit; as long as in that obfcurity, in which I am enveloped, the light of the divine prefence more clearly fhines; then, in proportion as I am weak, I fhall be invincibly ftrong; and in proportion as I am blind, I fhall more clearly fee. O that I may thus be perfected by feebleness, and irradiated by obfcurity! And indeed, in my blindness, I enjoy in no inconfiderable degree the favour of the Deity; who regards me with more tenderness and compaffion in proportion as I am able to behold nothing but himself. Alas! for him who infults me, who maligns and merits public execration! For the divine law not only fhields me from injury, but almost renders me too facred to attack; not indeed fo much from the privation of my fight, as from the overfhadowing of thofe heavenly wings, which feem to have occafioned this obfcurity; and which, when occafioned, he is wont to illuminate with an interior light, more precious and more pure. To this I afcribe the more tender affiduities of my friends, their foothing attentions, their kind vifits, their reverential obfervances; among whom there are fome with whom I may interchange the Pyladean and Thefean dialogue of infeparable friends.

Oreft. Proceed, and be rudder of my feet, by fhewing me the most endearing love.

Eurip. in Oreft.

And in another place,

Lend your hand to your devoted friend,

Throw your arm round my neck, and I will con, duct you on the way.

This extraordinary kindness which I experience, car not


C c



any fortuitous combination; and friends, such as mine do not fuppofe that all the virtues of a man are contained in his eyes. Nor do the perfons of principal distinction in the commonwealth fuffer me to be bereaved of comfort, when they fee me bereaved of fight, amid the exertions which I made; the zeal which I fhowed, and the dangers which I run for the liberty which I love. But, foberly reflecting on the cafualties of human life, they fhew me favour and indulgence as to a foldier who has ferved his time; and kindly concede to me an exemption from care and toil. They do not ftrip me of the badges of honour which I have once worn; they do not deprive me of the places of public truft to which I have been appointed; they do not abridge my salary or emoluments; which, though I may not do fo much to deferve as I did formerly, they are too confiderate and too kind to take away; and in fhort they honour me as much, as the Athenians did thofe, whom they determined to fupport at the public expence in the Prytaneum. Thus, while both God and man unite in folacing me under the weight of my affliction, let no one lament my lofs of fight in fo honourable a caufe. And let me not indulge in unavailing grief; or want the courage either to despise the revilers of my blindness, or the forbearance easily to pardon the offence. I return to you, Sir, whoever you may be, who, with a remarkable inconfiftency, feem to confider me at one time as a giant; and at another as a dwarf. You end with expreffing your wifh, that the United Provinces may with as much ease, and as much fuccefs, put an end to this war as Salmafius will put an end to Milton. To which wifh, if I were cheerfully to affent, I think that I fhould not omen ill, nor ill implore for our fuccefs, or for the English interest.

But lo! again a diffonant and hiffing cry! It feems as if a flock of geefe were paffing through the air. I now perceive what it is; the cry has no tragic tones; the chorus makes its appearance; when lo! two poetasters, if two there be, as diverse in colour as in form. Shall I call it a Sphinx, or that poetical monster of Horace, with a woman's head and an afs's neck, covered with motley plumes, and made up of limbs taken from every species

of animals? Yes, that is the very thing! It is furely fome rhapfodist or other, dreffed out in fcraps of verfes with poetic rags; though it is uncertain whether there be one or two; for there is not the mention of a name. True poets are the objects of my reverence and my love; and the conftant fources of my delight. I know that most of them, from the earliest times, to thofe of Buchanan, have been the strenuous enemies of defpotifm; but these pedlars and milliners of verfe, who can bear? They applaud and they revile as it may happen, as gain, or paffion, or the bottle may incite, without choice, difcrimination, judgment or moderation, princes and ple beians, the literate, and illiterate, honeft men and knaves. They heap together fuch a motly, indigefted and putrid mass of adulation, that it would be better to be profecuted with contempt, than loaded with such praise. And he, whom they revile, fhould think it no fmall honour, that he has incurred the displeasure of fuch abfurd and foolish mifcreants. I doubt whether the first, if there be two, be a poet or a mason; for he fo bedaubs the face of Salmafius, that he hardly leaves the space of a hair without a coating of plafter. He reprefents the giant-warring hero, riding in his triumphal car, brandishing the fpear, the ceftus and all the foppery of war, attended by all the learned who walk on foot, but at an awful distance behind his chariot; fince he is feigned to "have been commiffioned by the Deity, to heal the dif tractions of the world, and with an impenetrable fhield, to protect kings in the poffeffion of their rights, and in the splendor of their fovereignty." Salmafius must surely have been doating in a state of second infancy, when he could be fo much taken by this encomium, as to caufe it immediately to be published to the world. The poet must have been a miferable drudge, and without any feeling of propriety, to lavish fuch a prodigality of praife on a grammarian; a race of men who have been always thought to act as a fort of fubordinate and menial part to the bard. The other does not make verses, but is stark mad; himself more raving than all the enthufiafts, who are the objects of his furious invective. As if he were the hangman in the employ of Salmafius, like the Cc 2


fon of Dama, he invokes the Horatii and Cadmus; then, intoxicated with hellebore, he difgorges a whole ciftern of abuse, which an index to Plautus, fhews him where to pilfer from the mouths of mountebanks and flaves. You

would fuppofe, that his language was rather Ofcan than Latin; or that he was croaking like the frog of a flimy pool. Then, to fhew you how much he is a master of iambics, he makes two falfe quantities in a fingle word; making one fyllable long, where it ought to be fhort, and another fhort, where it ought to be long.

Hi trucidato rege per horrendum nefas.

Take away, O afs! thofe panniers of airy nothingness; and speak, if you can, three words that have an affinity to common fenfe; if it be poffible for the turnid pumpkin of your skull, to discover for a moment any thing like the reality of intellect. In the meantime, I abandon the pedagogue to the rods of his fcholars. Do you go on to revile me as worse than Cromwell, fince you cannot pay me a higher compliment. But fhall I call you a friend, a fool, or an infidious foe? Friend you cannot be, for your language is that of an enemy. How then could you be fuch an egregious fool, as, in the orgasms of your virulence, to affign me the post of pre-eminence above so great a perfonage? For do you not perceive, or do you think me too dull to difcern, that the violence of your hoftility only ferves to augment the fplendor of my patriotism; and that the topics of my panegyric must be as numerous as your fubjects of reproach. If I am most the object of your averfion, it is because you have most felt the force of my blows; because I have been the greatest obstacle in the way of your fuccefs. This proves that I have deserved well of my country; for the testimony of an enemy, however fufpicious on other occafions, may be fafely trufted with refpect to his own fenfations of refentment. Do you not remember that the poet, in the contest which enfued between Ajax and Ulyffes, for the arms of Achilles, leaves the matter according to the opinion of Neftor, to the decision, not of their Grecian friends, but of their Trojan foes.


To the cool Trojans let us leave the cause.
And a little after,

What fober justice dictates they'll decree,
From love and ev'ry partial bias free;
For all the Greeks alike incur their hate,
Alike the authors of their ruin'd state.

Thus fays Q. Calaber. You must therefore be infidiously ftudious to oppress me with the public indignation; and thus you corrupt and pervert the open and manly vigour of an enemy, by the treacherous and inveterate indignity of your difpofition; and you fhew yourself, not only the worst of men, but the basest of enemies. But, good Sir, I will by no means fruftrate your endeavours: for, though I may wish to rival Ulyffes in the merits of his patriotifm, I am yet no competitor for the arms of Achilles. I am not folicitous for an Elyfium painted on a fhield, which others may fee me brandifh in the contest; but I defire to bear upon my shoulders a real not a painted weight, of which I may feel the preffure, but which may be imperceptible to others. For fince I cherish no private rancour, nor hoftility against any man, nor any man that I know of against me, I am well contented, for the fake of the public intereft, to be fo much aspersed and fo much reviled. Nor, while I fuftain the greatest weight of the disgrace, do I complain because I have the smallest share of the profit or the praife; for I am content to do what is virtuous, for the fake of the action itself without any finifter expectations. Let others look to that; but do you, Sir, know, that my hands were never foiled with the guilt of peculation; and that I never was even a fhilling the richer by thofe exertions, which you most vehemently traduce. Here More again begins, and in his fecond epistle affigns the reasons for his writing; to whom? Why truly More, the perpetrator of adultery and rape, addreffes "the lover of Chriftianity." You promise, Sir, a moft pious epiftle; but now for the reafons why you wrote. "That the anxious and attentive nations of Europe, and particularly the members of the reformed religion in France, might be made acquainted with the parricide


« PreviousContinue »