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And flame-faced fire is now enjoyed by mortals
Enjoyed, and of all acts the destined mother.
And is this all the roll of thy offendings
That he should rage so fierce? Hath he not set
None, but his own pleasure.
And when shall he please? Vain the hope; thou see'st
"Tis a light thing for him whose foot's unwarped
The Christening of Martinus Scriblerus.*
JOHN ARBUTHNOT was born near Montrose, in 1865, embraced the medical profession, and became the intimate friend of Pope and Swift, forming with them a triumvirate, whose united wit was devoted to satirizing the frequent abuse of human learning, and the absurdities consequent thereon. He died in 1735, after leading a life as renowned for its integrity and benevolence, as for its intellectual superiority.
The day of the christening being come, and the house filled with gossips, the levity of whose conversation suited but ill with the gravity of Dr. Cornelius Scriblerus, he cast about how to pass this day more agreeable to his character; that is to say, not without
* This story, like the whole work from whence it is taken, is intended to ridicule the pedantry and passion for useless knowledge, which resulted from too great a study of the ancients, and of the abstruse sciences, rather than of such matters as are conversant with common life.
some profitable conference, nor wholly without observance of some ancient custom.
He remembered to have read in Theocritus, that the cradle of Hercules was a shield: and being possessed of an antique buckler, which he held as a most inestimable relic, he determined to have the infant laid therein, and in that manner brought into the study, to be shown to certain learned men of his acquaintance.
The regard he had for this shield had caused him formerly to compile a dissertation concerning it, proving from the several properties, and particularly the colour of the rust, the exact chronology thereof.
With this treatise, and a moderate supper, he proposed to entertain his guests, though he had also another design, to have their assistance in the calculation of his son's nativity.
He therefore took the buckler out of a case (in which he always kept it, lest it might contract any modern rust), and entrusted it to his housemaid, with orders that, when the company was come, she should lay the child carefully in it, covered with a mantle of blue satin.
The guests were no sooner seated but they entered into a warm debate about the Triclinium,* and the manner of Decubitus, of the ancients, which Cornelius broke off in this manner:
"This day, my friends, I purpose to exhibit my son before a child not wholly unworthy of inspection, as he is descended from a race of virtuosi. Let the physiognomist examine his features; let the chirographists behold his palm; but, above all, let us consult for the calculation of his nativity. To this end, as the child is not vulgar, I will not present him unto you in a vulgar manner. He shall be cradled in my ancient shield, so famous through the universities of Europe. You all know how I purchased that invaluable piece of antiquity, at the great (though indeed inadequate) expense of all the plate of our family, how happily I carried it off, and how triumphantly I transported it hither, to the inexpressible grief of all Germany. Happy in every circumstance, but that it broke the heart of the great Melchior Insipidus!"
Here he stopped his speech, upon sight of the maid, who entered the room with the child: he took it in his arms and proceeded:"Behold then my child, but first behold the shield, behold this rust, or rather let me call it this precious ærugo; behold this beautiful varnish of time, this venerable verdure of so many ages!" In speaking these words he slowly lifted up the mantle which covered it, inch by inch; but at every inch he uncovered his cheeks grew paler, his hand trembled, his nerves failed, till, on sight of the whole, the tremor became universal, the shield and the infant both dropped to the ground, and he had only strength enough to cry out, "O God! my shield, my shield!"
The triclinium here means the arrangement of three couches round the dining tables of the ancients; the decubitus refers to their habit of reclining, instead of sitting, while at their meals.
The truth was, the maid (extremely concerned for the reputation of her own cleanliness, and her young master's honour) had scoured it as her hand-irons.
Cornelius sunk back on a chair, the guests stood astonished, the infant squalled, the maid ran in, snatched it up again in her arms, flew into her mistress's room, and told what had happened. Down stairs in an instant hurried all the gossips, where they found the doctor in a trance; Hungary-water, hartshorn, and the confused noise of shrill voices, at length awakened him, when, opening his eyes, he saw the shield in the hands of the housemaid. "O woman! woman!" he cried (and snatched it violently from her), was it to thy ignorance, that this relic owes its ruin? Where, where is the beautiful crust that covered thee so long? where those traces of time, and fingers as it were of antiquity? Where all those beautiful obscurities, the cause of much delightful disputation, where doubt and uncertainty went hand in hand, and eternally exercised the speculations of the learned? And this the rude touch of an ignorant woman hath done away! The curious prominence of the belly of that figure, which some, taking for the cuspis of a sword, denominated a Roman soldier; behold she hath cleaned it in like shameful sort, and shown to be the head of a nail. O my shield! my shield! well may I say with Horace, Non bene relicta parmula.'
The gossips, not at all inquiring into the cause of his sorrow, only asked if the child had no hurt; and cried, "Come, come, all is well; _what has the woman done but her duty, a tight cleanly wench, I warrant her; what a stir a man makes about a bason,t that an hour ago, before her labour was bestowed upon it, a country barber would not have hung at his shop-door!" "A bason! (cried another) no such matter; 'tis nothing but a paltry old sconce, with the nozzle broken off." The learned gentlemen, who till now had stood speechless, hereupon, looking on the shield, declared their assent to this latter opinion; and desired Cornelius to be comforted, assuring him it was a sconce, and no other. But this, instead of comforting threw the doctor into such a violent fit of passion, that he was carried off groaning and speechless to bed, where, being quite spent, he fell into a kind of slumber.
The bare mention of music threw Cornelius into a passion. "How can you dignify (quoth he) this modern fiddling with the name of music? Will any of your best hautboys encounter a wolf nowadays with no other arms but their instruments, as did that ancient piper, Pithocaris ? Have ever wild boars, elephants, deer, dolphins, whales, or turbots, showed the least emotion at the most elaborate strains of your modern scrapers; all which have
* "Shield left not well!" This is said by Horace, in reference to when he took flight from the decisive battle which established his patron Augustus as emperor of Rome.
†The reader will perhaps call to mind Don Quixote's "Mambrino's helmet," which was nothing but a barber's brazen bason.
been, as it were, tamed and humanized by ancient musicians ?* Whence proceeds the degeneracy of our morals? Is it not from the loss of an ancient music, by which (says Aristotle) they taught all the virtues? else might we turn Newgate into a college of Doriant musicians, who should teach moral virtue to those people. Whence comes it that our present diseases are so stubborn? whence is it that I daily deplore my sciatical pains? Alas! because we have lost their true cure by the melody of the pipe. All this was well known to the ancients, as Theophrastus assures us (whence Cœlius calls it loca dolentia decantare), only indeed some small remains of this skill are preserved in the cure of the tarantula. Did not Pythagoras stop a company of drunken bullies from storming a civil house, by changing the strain of the pipe to the sober spondæus ?§ and yet your modern musicians want art to defend their windows from common nickers. It is well known that when the Lacedæmonian mob were up, they commonly sent for a Lesbian musician to appease them, and they immediately grew calm as soon as they heard Terpander sing: yet I don't believe that the pope's whole band of music, though the best of this age, could keep his holiness's image from being burnt on the fifth of November."-" Nor would Terpander himself (replied Albertus) at Billingsgate, nor Timotheus at Hockley in the Hole, have any manner of effect; nor both of them together bring Horneck to common civility." "That's a gross mistake (said Cornelius very warmly); and, to prove it so, I have here a small lyra of my own, framed, strung, and tuned after the ancient manner. I can play some fragments of Lesbian tunes, and I wish I were to try upon the most passionate creatures alive."-" You never had a better opportunity (says Albertus), for yonder are two apple-women scolding, and just ready to uncoif one another." With that Cornelius, undressed as he was, jumps out into his balcony, his lyra in hand, in his slippers, with his breeches hanging down to his ancles, a stocking upon his head, and waistcoat of murrey-coloured satin upon his body. He touched his lyra with a very unusual sort of harpegiatura, nor were his hopes frustrated. The odd equipage, the uncouth instrument, the strangeness of the man, and of the music, drew the ears and eyes of the whole mob that were got about the two female champions, and at last of the combatants themselves. They all approached the balcony, in as close attention as Orpheus's first audience of cattle, or that of an Italian opera, when some favourite air is just awakened. This sudden effect of his music encouraged him mightily; and it was observed he never touched his lyre in such a truly chromatic and enharmonic manner as upon that occasion. The mob laughed, *So we are told of Orpheus.
The Dorian melody was said to be of a severe, staid character.
To charm a sore place by singing.
§ The spondee is a slow foot of two long syllables.
All these were low resorts for bear-baiting, and such like amusements. ¶ A quick, brilliant sort of prelude.
sung, jumped, danced, and used many odd gestures; all which he judged to be caused by the various strains and modulations. "Mark (quoth he) in this the power of the Ionian, in that you can see the effect of the Eolian." But in a little time they began to grow riotous, and threw stones; Cornelius then withdrew, but with the greatest air of triumph in the world. "Brother," said he, "do you observe I have mixed unawares too much of the Phrygian; I might change it to the Lydian, and soften their riotous tempers. But it is enough; learn from this sample to speak with veneration of ancient music. If this lyre in my unskilful hands can perfrom such wonders, what must it not have done in those of a Timotheus or Terpander?" Having said this, he retired with the utmost exultation in himself, and contempt of his brother; and it is said behaved that night with such unusual haughtiness to his family, that they all had reason to wish for some ancient tibicen to calm his temper.
Hamlet and Ghost.
To write a memoir of the greatest of English poets (born at Stratford-on-Avon, 1564), is utterly beyond our limits. Equally hopeless were the task of praising the efforts of the poet who was " for all time." As regards the extract now presented, it is a noble and striking example of the terrible and pathetic in poetry, and is so time-honoured in the recollection of our own childhood, that we feel persuaded no book of the present character would be thought complete without it.
Ham. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell,
Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,
That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet,
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
* A cloth in which the body was wrapped, so called from being steeped in wax (cera).
+ Olaus Magnus mentions the fact that the ancient Danish warriors used to be buried in the armour they had worn during life.