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many instances have we of chastity, fidelity, devotion! How many ladies distinguish themselves by the education of their children, care of their families, and love of their husbands, which are the great qualities and achievements of womankind! as the making of war, the carrying on of traffic, the administration of justice, are those by which men grow famous, and get themselves a name.
But as this passion for admiration, when it works according to reason, improves the beautiful part of our species in every thing that is laudable ; so nothing is more destructive to them when it is governed by vanity and folly. What I have therefore here to say, only regards the vain part of the sex, whom for certain reasons, which the reader will hereafter see at large, I shall distinguish by the name of idols. An idol is wholly taken up in the adorning of her person. You see in every posture of her body, air of her face, and motion of her head, that it is her business and employment to gain adorers. For this reason your idols appear in all public places and assemblies, in order to seduce men to their worship. The playhouse is very frequently filled with idols; several of them are carried in procession every evening about the ring, and several of them set up their worship even in churches. They are to be accosted in the language proper to the deity. Life and death are in their power: joys of heaven, and pains of hell, are at their disposal: paradise is in their arms, and eternity in every moment that you are present with them. Raptures, transports, and ecstasies, are the rewards which they confer: sighs and tears, prayers and broken hearts, are the offerings which are paid to them. Their smiles make men liappy; their frowns drive them to despair. I shall only add under this head, that Ovid's book of the Art of Love is a kind of heathen ritual, which contains all the forms of worship which are made use of to an idol. It would be as difficult a task to reckon
these different kinds of idols, as Milton's was to number those that were known in Canaan, and the lands ad. joining. Most of them are worshipped like Moloch, in fires and flames. Some of them like Baal, love to see their votaries cut and slashed, and shedding their blood for them. Some of them, like the idol in the Apocrypha, must have treats and collations prepared for them every night. It has indeed been known, that some of them have been used by their incensed worshippers like the Chinese idols, who are whipped and scourged when they refuse to comply with the prayers that are offered to them.
I must here observe, that those idolaters who devote themselves to the idols I am here speaking of, differ very much from all other kinds of idolaters. For as others fall out because they worship different idols, these idolaters quarrel because they worship the same.
The intention therefore of the idol is quite contrary to the wishes of the idolaters; as the one desires to confine the idol to himself, the whole business and ambition of the other is to multiply adorers. This humour of an idol is prettily described in a tale of Cliaucer. He represents one of them sitting at a table with three of her votaries about her, who are all of them courting her favour, and paying their adorations. She smiled upon one, drank to another, and trod upon the other's foot which was under the table. Now which of these three, says the old bard, do you think was the favourite? In troth, says he, not one of all the three.
The behaviour of this old idol in Chaucer, puts me in mind of the beautiful Clarinda, one of the greatest idols among the moderns. She is worshipped once a week by candle-light, in the midst of a large congregation, generally called an assembly. Some of the gayest youths in the nation endeavour to plant themselves in her eye, while she sits in form with multitudes of tapers burning about her. To encourage the zeal of her idolaters, she bestows a mark of her favour upon every one of them, before they go out of her presence. She asks a question of one, tells a story to another, glances an ogle upon a third, takes a pinch of snuff from the fourth, lets her fan drop by accident to give the fifth an occasion of taking it up. In short, every one goes away satisfied with his success, and encouraged to renew his devotions on the same canonical hour that day sevennight.
An idol may be undeified by many accidental causes. Marriage in particular is a kind of counterapotheosis, or a deification inverted.-When a man becomes familiar with his goddess, she quickly sinks into a woman.
Old age is likewise a great decayer of your idol. . The truth of it is, there is not a more unhappy being than a superannuated idol, especially when she has contracted such airs and behaviour as are only graceful when her worshippers are about her.
Considering therefore that in these and many other cases the woman generally outlives the idol, I must return to the moral of this
fair readers to give a proper direction to their passion for being admired; in order to which, they must endeavour to make themselves the objects of a reasonable and lasting admiration. This is not to be hoped for from beauty, or dress, or fashion, but from those inward ornaments which are not to be defaced by time or sickness, and which appear most amiable to those who are most acquainted with them.
N° 74. FRIDAY, MAY 25, 1711.
Pendent opera interruptu
VIRG. Æn. iv. 88.
In my last Monday's paper I gave some general instances of those beautiful strokes which please the reader in the old song of Chevy-Chase; I shall here, according to my promise, be more particular, and shew that the sentiments in that ballad are extremely natural and poetical, and full of the majestic simplicity which we admire in the greatest of the ancient poets: for which reason I shall quote several passages of it, in which the thought is altogether the same with what we meet in several passages of the Æneid; not that I would infer from thence, that the poet (whoever he was) proposed to himself any imitation of those passages, but that he was directed to them in general by the same kind of poetical genius, and by the same copyings after nature.
Had this old song been filled with epigrammatical turns and points of wit, it might perhaps have pleased the wrong taste of some readers; but it would never have become the delight of the common people, nor have warnied the heart of Sir Philip Sidney like the sound of a trumpet; it is only nature that can have this effect, and please those tastes which are the most unprejudiced, or the most refined. I must however beg leave to dissent from so great an authority as that of Şir Philip Sidney, in the judgment which he has passed as to the rude style and evil apparel of this antiquated song; for there are several parts in it where not only the thought but the language is majestic, and the numbers sonorous; at least, the apparel is much more gorgeous than many of the poets made use of in Queen Elizabeth's time, as the reader will see in several of the following quotations.
What can be greater than either the thought or the expression in that stanza,
To drive the deer with hound and horn
Earl Percy took his way!
The hunting of that day! This way of considering the misfortunes which this battle would bring upon posterity, not only on those who were born immediately after the battle, and lost their fathers in it, but on those also who perished in future battles which took their rise from this quarrel of the two earls, is wonderfully beautiful, and conformable to the way of thinking among the ancient poets.
Audiet pugnis vitio parentum
HOR. I Od. ii. 23.
What can be more sounding and poetical, or resemble more the majestic simplicity of the ancients, than the following stanzas?
The stout Earl of Northumberland
A vow to God did make,
Three summer's days to take.
All chosen men of might,
To aim their shafts aright.