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Stanza the third, verse the first. A long and lasting anguish.] The German manuscript reads a lasting passion, but the rhyme will not admit it.
Verse the second. For Belvidera I endure.] Did not all the manuscripts reclaim, I should change Belvidera into Pelvidera; Pelvis being used by several of the ancient comic writers for a lookingglass, by which means the etymology of the word is very visible, and Pelvidera will signify a lady who often looks in her glass; as indeed she had very good reason, if she had all those beauties which our poet here ascribes to her.
Verse the third. Hourly I sigh, and hourly languish.] Some for the word hourly read daily, and others nightly; the last has great authorities of its side.
Verse the fourth. The wonted cure.] The elder Stevens reads wanted cure.
Stanza the fourth, verse the second. After a thousand beauties.] In several copies we meet with a hundred beauties, by the usual error of the transcribers, who probably omitted a cipher, and had not taste enough to know that the word thousand was ten times a greater compliment to the poet's mistress than a hundred.
Verse the fourth. And finds variety in one.] Most of the ancient manuscripts have it in two. Indeed so many of them concur in this last reading, that I am very much in doubt whether it ought not to take place. There are but two reasons, which incline me to the reading as I have published it: first, because the rhyme, and, secondly, because the sense, is preserved by it. It might likewise proceed from the oscitancy of transcribers, who to despatch their work the sooner, used to write all numbers in cipher, and seeing the figure 1 followed by a little dash of the pen, as is customary in old manuscripts, they perhaps mistook the dash for a second figure, and, by casting up both together, composed out of them the figure 2. But this I shall leave to the learned, without determining any thing in a matter of so great uncertainty.
No. 471. SATURDAY, AUGUST 30, 1712.
'Εν ελπίσιν κρη τους σοφούς έχειν βίον.
The wise with hope support the pains of life. The time present seldom affords sufficient employment to the mind of man. Objects of pain or pleasure, love or admiration, do not lie thick enough together in life to keep the soul in constant action, and supply an immediate exercise to its faculties. In order, therefore, to remedy this defect, that the mind may not want business, but always have materials for thinking, she is endowed with certain powers, that can recall what is passed, and anticipate what is to come.
That wonderful faculty, which we call the memory, is perpetually looking back, when we have nothing present to entertain us. It is like those repositories in several animals that are filled with stores of their former food, on which they may ruminate when their present pasture fails.
As the memory relieves the mind in her vacant moments, and prevents any chasms of thought by ideas of what is passed, we have other faculties that agitate and employ her for what is to come. These are the passions of hope and fear.
By these two passions we reach forward into futurity, and bring up to our present thoughts objects that lie hid in the remotest depths of time. We suffer misery and enjoy happiness, before they are in being; we can set the sun and stars forward, or lose sight of them by wandering into those retired parts of eternity, when the heavens and earth shall be no more.
By the way, who can imagine that the existence of a creature is to be circumscribed by time, whose thoughts are not ? But I shall, in this paper, confine myself to that particular passion which goes by the name of hope.
Our actual enjoyments are so few and transient, that man would be a very miserable being, were he not endowed with this passion, which gives him a taste of those good things that may possibly come into his possession. We should hope for every thing that is good,' says the old poet Linus, because there is nothing which may not be hoped for, and nothing but what the gods are able to give us." Hope quickens all the still parts of life, and keeps the mind awake in her most remiss and indolent hours. It gives habitual serenity and good humour. It is a kind of vital heat in the soul, that cheers and gladdens her, when she does not attend to it. It makes pain easy, labour pleasant.
Beside these several advantages which rise from hope, there is another which is none of the least, and that is, its great efficacy in preserving us from setting too high a value on present enjoyments. The saying of Cæsar is very well known. When he had given away all his estate in gratuities among his friends, one of them asked what he had left for himself; to which that great man replied, Hope.' His natural magnanimity hindered him from prizing what he was certainly possessed of, and turned all his thoughts upon something more valuable that he had in view. I question not but every reader will draw a moral from this story, and apply it to himself without my direction.
The old story of Pandora's box, which many of the learned believe was formed among the heathens upon the tradition of the fall of man, shows us how deplorable a state they thought the present life, without hope. To set forth the utmost condition of misery, they tell us, that our forefather, according to the pagan theology, had a great vessel presented him by Pandora. Upon his lifting up the lid of it says the fable, there few out all the calamities and distempers incident to men, from which, till that time, they had been altogether exempt. Hope, who had been enclosed in the cup with so much bad company, instead of flying off with the rest, stuck so close to the lid of it, that it was shut down
I shall make but two reflections
what I have hitherto said. First, that no kind of life is so happy as that which is full of hope, especially when the hope is well grounded, and when the object of it is of an exalted kind, and in its nature proper to make the person happy who enjoys it. This proposition must be very evident to those who consider how few are the present enjoyments of the most happy man, and now insufficient to give him an entire satisfaction and acquiescence in them.
My next observation is this, that a religious life is that which most abounds in a well-grounded hope, and such an one as is fixed on objects that are capable of making us entirely happy. This hope in a religious man is much more sure and certain than the hope of any temporal blessing, as it is strengthened not only by reason, but by faith. It has, at the same time, its eye perpetually fixed on that state, which implies in the very notion of it the most full and the most complete happiness.
I have before shown how the influence of hope in general sweetens life, and makes our present condition supportable, if not pleasing ; but a religious hope has still greater advantages. It does not only bear up the mind under her sufferings, but makes her rejoice in them, as they may be the instruments of procuring her the great and ultimate end of all her hope.
Religious hope has likewise this advantage above any other kind of hope, that it is able to revive the dying man, and to fill his mind not only with secret comfort and refreshment, but sometimes with rapture and transport.
He triumphs in his agonies, whilst the soul springs forward with delight to the great object, which she has always had in view, and leaves the body with an expectation of being reunited to her in a glorious and joyful resurrection.
I shall conclude this essay, with those emphatical expressions of a lively hope, which the Psalmist made use of in the midst of those dangers and adversities which surrounded him ; for the following passage had its present and personal, as well as its future and prophetic sense.
" I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth. My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life. In thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”