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their heads, passing among the trees, lying down by the sides of the fountains, or resting on beds of flowers; and could hear a confused harmony of singing birds, falling waters, human voices, and musical instruments. Gladness grew in me upon the discovery of so delightful a scene. I wished for the wings of an eagle, that I might fly away to those happy seats; but the genius told me there was no passage to them, except through the gates of death that I saw opening every moment upon the bridge. The islands, said he, that lie so fresh and green before thee, and with which the whole face of the ocean appears spotted as far as thou canst see, are more in number than the sands on the sea-shore; there are myriads of islands behind those which thou here discoverest, reaching further than thine eye or even thine imagination can extend itself. These are the mansions of good men after death, who according to the degree and kinds of virtue in which they excelled, are distributed among these several islands which abound with pleasures of different kinds and degrees, suitable to the relishes and perfections of those who are settled in them : every island is a paradise, accommodated to its respective inhabit
Are not these, O Mirzah, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miserable, that gives thee opportunities of earning such a reward ? Is death to be feared, that will convey thee to so happy an existence? Think not man was made in vain, who has such an eternity reserved for him. I gazed with inexpressible pleasure on these happy islands. At length, said I, shew me now, I beseech thee, the secrets that lie hid under those dark clouds which cover the ocean on the other side of the rock of adamant. The genius making me no answer,a I turned about to address myself to him a second time, but I found that he had
I then turned again to the vis on which I had been so a This silence of the genius has something terribile in it, and lays open the secrets of the great deep more effectually, than the most lab jured description of them could have done.-H.
long contemplating, but, instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the long hullow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, sheep, and camels, grazing upon the sides of it."
THERE is no character more frequently given to a writer, than that of being a genius. I have heard many a little sonnetteer called a fine genius. There is not an heroic scribblerb in the nation, that has not his admirers, who think him a great genius; and as for your smatterers in tragedy, there is scarce a man among them who is not cried up by one or other for a prodigious genius.
My design in this paper is to consider what is properly a great genius, and to throw some thoughts together on so uncommon a subject.
Among great geniuses, those few draw the admiration of all the world upon them, and stand up as the prodigies of mankind, who by the meer strength of natural parts, and without any assistance of art or learning, have produced works that were the
a Mr. Addison is a much better poet, in prose, than in verse. This pic sion has all the merit of the finest canto in Spenser.-H.
• He means a scribbler in what is called heroic verse, not a scribbler of heroic, i. e. epic poems: otherwise, what follows would be an anti-cli max.-H.
delight of their own times, and the wonder of posterity. There appears something nobly wild and extravagant in these great na tural geniuses, that is infinitely more beautiful than all the turn and polishing of what the French call a Bel Esprit, by which they would express a genius refined by conversation, reflection, and the reading of the most polite authors. The greatest genius which runs through the arts and sciences, takes a kind of tincture from them, and falls unavoidably into imitation.
Many of these great natural geniuses that were never disciplined and broken by rules of art, are to be found among the ancients, and, in particular, among those of the more eastern parts of the world. Homer has innumerable flights that Virgil was not able to reach; and in the Old Testament we find several passages more elevated and sublime than any in Homer. At the same time that we allow a greater and more daring genius to the ancients, we must own that the greatest of them very much failed in, or, if you will, that they were much above, the nicety and correctness of the moderns. In their similitudes and allusions, pro vided there was a likeness, they did not much trouble themselves about the decency of the comparison : thus Solomon resembles a the nose of his beloved to the tower of Lebanon which looketli toward Damascus; as the coming of a thief in the night, is a si militude of the same kind in the New Testament. It would be endless to make collections of this nature: Homer illustrates one of his heroes encompassed with the enemy, by an ass in a field of corn, that has his sides belaboured by all the boys of the village without stirring a foot for it; and another of them tossing to and fro in his bed, and burning with resentment, to 'a piece of flesh broiled on the coals. This particular failure in the ancients, opens the discourse and conversation of the whole kingdom or commonwealth where they are employed. The wisest of kings, alluding to these invisible and unsuspected spies who are planted by kings and rulers over their fellow-citizens, as well as those voluntary informers that are buzzing about the ears of a great man, and making their court by such secret methods of intelligence, has given us a very prudent caution : Curse not the king, no not in thy thought, and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.'
'i. e., The impropriety--which makes Chalmer's note superfluous.—G
* Resembles, for "compares.” But resembles is a neutral verb, and is, there fore, used improperly.-H.
As it is absolutely necessary for rulers to make use of other people's eyes and ears, they should take particular care to do it in such a manner, that it may not bear too hard on the person whose life and conversation are inquired into. A man who is capable of so infamous a calling as that of a spy, is not very much to be relied upon. He can have no great ties of honour, or checks of conscience, to restrain him in those covert evidences, where the person accused has no opportunity of vindicating himself. He will be more industrious to carry that which is grateful, than that which is true. There will be no occasion for him, if he does not hear and see things worth discovery; so that he naturally inflames every word and circumstance, aggravates what is faulty, perverts what is good, and misrepresents what is indifferent. Nor is it to be doubted but that such ignominious wretches let their private passions into these their clandestine informations, and often wreck their particular spite and malice against the person whom they are set to watch. It is a pleasant scene enough, which an Italian author describes between a spy, and a cardinal who employed him. The cardinal is represented as minuting down every thing that is told him. The spy begins with a low voice, Such an one, the advocate, whispered to one of his friends, within my hearing, that you eminence was a very great poltron;
and after having given his patron time to take it down, adds, that another called him a mercenary rascal in a public conversation. The cardinal replies, very well, and bids him go on. The spy proceeds, and loads him with reports of the same nature, till the cardinal rises in great wrath, calls him an impudent scoundrel, and kicks him out of the room.
It is observed of great and heroic minds, that they have not only shewed a particular disregard to those unmerited reproaches which have been cast upon them, but have been altogether free from that impertinent curiosity of inquiring after them, or the poor revenge of resenting them. The histories of Alexander and Cæsar are full of this kind of instances. Vulgar souls are of a quite contrary character. Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, had a dungeon which was a very curious piece of architecture; and of which, as I am informed, there are still to be seen some remains in that island. It was called Dionysius's Ear, and built with several little windings and labyrinths in the form of a real ear. The structure of it made it a kind of whispering place, but such a one as gathered the voice of him who spoke into a funnel, which was placed at the very top of it. The tyrant used to lodge all his state criminals, or those whom he supposed to be engaged together in any evil designs upon him, in this dungeon. He had at the same time an apartment over it, where he used to apply himself to the funnel, and by that means over-hear every thing that was whispered in the dungeon. I believe one may venture to affirm, that a Cæsar or an Alexander would rather have died by the treason, than have used such disingenuous means for the detecting of it.
A man, who in ordinary life is very inquisitive after every thing which is spoken ill of him, passes his time but very indifferently. He is wounded by every arrow that is shot at him, and puts it in the power of every insignificant enemy to disquiet him.