« PrécédentContinuer »
On OMEN S.
[Spec. No 7.]
OING yesterday to dine with an old acquaintance, I had the misfortune to find his whole family very much dejected. Upon asking him the occafion, he told me that his wife had dreamed a ftrange dream the night before, which they were afraid portended fome misfortune to themselves or to their children. At her coming into the room, I obferved a fettled melancholy in her countenance, which I fhould have been troubled for, had I not heard from whence it proceeded. We were no fooner fat down, but after having looked upon me a little while, My dear, fays the, turning to her husband, you may now fee the stranger that was in the candle last night. Soon after this, as they began to talk of family affairs, a little boy at the lower end of the table told her, that he was to go into join-hand on Thursday. Thursday? fays fhe, No, child, if it pleafe God, you shall not begin upon Childermas-day; tell your writing mafter that Friday will be foon enough. I was reflecting with myfelf on the oddnefs of her fancy, and wondering that any body would establish it as a rule to lose a day in every week. In the midst of these my mufings, the defired me to reach her a little falt upon the point of my knife, which I did in fuch a trepidation and hurry of obedience, that I let it drop by the way; at which the immediately ftartled, and faid it fell towards her. Upon this I looked very blank; and obferving the concern of the whole table, began to confider my felf, with fome confufion, as a perfon that had brought a difafter upon the family. The lady, however, recovering herself after a little space, faid to her husband, with a figh, My dear, misfortunes never come fingle. My friend, I found, acted but an underpart at his table, and being a man of more good-nature than understanding, thinks himself obliged to fall in with all the paffions and humours of his yoke fellow : Do not you remember, child, says he, that the pigeonboufe fell the very afternoon that our careless wench Spilt the jalt upon the table? Yes, fays he, my dear, and the
next poft brought us an account of the battle of Almanza. The reader may guefs at the figure I made, after having done all this mifchief. I dispatched my dinner, as foon as I could, with my ufual taciturnity; when, to my utter confufion, the lady feeing me quitting my knife and fork, and laying them across one another upon my plate, defired me that I would humour her fo far as to take them out of that figure, and place them side by side. What the abfurdity was which I had committed I did not know, but I fuppofe there was fome traditionary fuperftition in it; and therefore, in obedience to the lady of the houfe, I difpofed of .my knife and fork in two parallel lines, which is the figure I shall always lay them in for the future, though I do not know any reafon for it..
It is not difficult for a man to fee that a perfon has conceived an averfion to him. For my own part, I quickly found, by the lady's looks, that the regarded me as a very odd kind of fellow, with an unfortunate aspect. For which reafon I took my leave immediately after dinner, and withdrew to my own lodgings. Upon my return home, I fell into a profound contemplation on the evils that attend these fuperftitious follies of mankind; how they fubject us to imaginary afflictions, and additional forrows, that do not properly come within our lot. As if the natural calamities of life were not fufficient for it, we turn the moft indifferent circumftances into misfortunes, and fuffer as much from trifling accidents, as from real evils. I have known the fhooting of a ftar fpoil a night's reft; and have seen a man in love grow pale and lofe his appetite, upon the plucking of a merry-thought. A fcreech-owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of rob. bers; nay, the voice of a cricket hath ftruck more terror than the roaring of a lion. There is nothing fo inconfiderable, which may not appear dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognoftics. A rufty nail, or a crooked pin, fhoot up into prodigies.
I remember I was once in a mixed affembly, that was full of noife and mirth, when on a fudden an old woman unluckily obferved there were thirteen of us i
company. This remark ftruck a panic terror into feveral who were prefent, infomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was big with child, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, inftead of portending one of the company fhould die, it plainly foretold one of them fhould be born. Had not my friend found out this expedient to break the omen, I queftion not but half the women in the company would have fallen fick that very night.
An old maid, that is troubled with the vapours, produces infinite difturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt, of a great family, who is one of thefe antiquated Sibyls, that forebodes and prophefies from one end of the year to the other. She is always feeing apparitions and hearing death-watches; and was the other day almoft frighted out of her wits by the great houfe-dog, that howled in the table at a time when he lay ill of the tooth-ach. Such an extravagant caft of mind engages multitudes of people, not only in impertinent terrors, but in fupernumerary duties of life; and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the foul of man. The horror with which we entertain the thoughts of death, or indeed of any future evil, and the uncertainty of its approach, fill a melancholly mind with innumerable apprehenfions and fufpicions, and confequently dispose it to the obfervation of fuch groundless prodigies and predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wife men to retrench the evils of life by the reafonings of philofophy; it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the fentiments of fuperftition.
For my own part, I fhould be very much troubled were I endowed with this divining quality, though it fhould inform me truly of every thing that can befal me. I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any mifery, before it actually arrives.
Í know but one way of fortifying my foul against thefe gloomy prefages and terrors of mind, and that is,
by fecuring to myself the friendship and protection of that Being who difpofes of events, and governs futurity. He fees, at one view, the whole thread of my existence, not only that part of it which I have already paffed through, but that which runs forward into all the depths of eternity. When I lay me down to fleep, I recommend myfelf to his care; when I awake, give myfelf up to his direction. Amidst all the evils that threaten me, I will look up to him for help, and queftion not but he will either avert them, or turn them to my advantage. Though I know neither the time nor the manner of the death I am to die, I am not at all folicitous about it; because I am fure that he knows them both, and that he will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
The Vifion of MIRZA.
[Spect. No. 159.]
N the fifth day of the moon, which, according to the custom of my forefathers, I always keep holy, after having washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I afcended the high hills of Bagdat, in order to pass the reft of the day in meditation and prayer. As I was here airing myself on the tops of the mountains, I fell into a profound contemplation on the vanity of human life; and paffing from one thought to another, Surely, faid I, man is but a fhadow, and life a dream. Whilft I was thus mufing, I caft my eyes towards the fummit of a rock that was not far from me, where I difcovered one in the habit of a shepherd, with a little mufical inftrument in his hand. As I looked upon him he applied it to his lips, and began to play upon it. The found of it was exceeding sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpreffibly melodious, and altogether different from any thing I had ever heard: they put me in mind of thofe heavenly airs that are played to the departed fouls of good men upon their firft arrival in Paradife, to wear out the impreffions of the last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that
that happy place. My heart melted away in fecret raptures.
I had been often told that the rock before me was the haunt of a genius; and that feveral had been entertained with that mufic, who had paffed by it, but never heard that the mufician had before made himself vifible. When he had raised my thoughts by thofe tranfporting airs which he played, to taste the pleafures of his conversation, as I looked upon him like one aftonished, he beckoned to me, and by the waving of his hand directed me to approach the place where he fat. I drew near with that reverence which is due to a fuperior nature; and as my heart was entirely fubdued by the captivating trains I had heard, I fell down at his feet and wept. The genius fmiled upon me with a look of compaffion and affability that familiarized him to my imagination, and at once difpelled all the fears and apprehenfions with which I approached him. He lifted me from the ground, and taking me by the hand, Mirza, faid he, I have heard thee in thy foliloquies : follow me.
He then led me to the highest pinnacle of the rock, and placing me on the top of it, Caft thy eyes eastward, faid he, and tell me what thou feeft. I fee, faid I, a huge valley, and a prodigious tide of water rolling through it. The valley that thou feeft, faid he, is the vale of mifery, and the tide of water that thou feeft is part of the great tide of eternity. What is the reason, faid I, that the tide I fee rifes out of a thick mift at one end, and again lofes itself in a thick mift at the other? What thou feeft, faid he, is that portion of eternity which is called time, measured out by the fun, and reaching from the beginning of the world to its confummation. Examine now, faid he, this fea that is bounded with darkness at both ends, and tell me what thou discovereft in it. I fee a bridge, said I, ftanding in the midst of the tide. The bridge thou seeft, faid he, is human life; confider it attentively. Upon a more leifurely furvey of it, I found that it confifted of threefcore and ten entire arches, with several broken arches, which, added to those that were entire,