« PreviousContinue »
called MERUM SAL, was written in less than a fortnight, in two cantos only: but it was so universally applauded, that, in the next year, our poet enriched it with the machinery of the sylphs, and extended it to five cantos; when it was printed with a letter to Mrs. Fermour, far superior to any of Voiture. The insertion of the machinery of the fylphs in proper places, without the least appearance of it's being aukwardly stitched in, is one of the happiest efforts of judgment and art. He took the idea of these invisible beings, so proper to be employed in a poem of this nature, from a little french book entitled, Le Comte de Gabalis, of which I have lately met with an account, in an entertaining writer. “ The Abbe Villars, who came from Thoulouse to Paris, to make his fortune by preaching, is the author of this diverting work. The five dialogues of which it consists, are the result of those gay conversations, in which the Abbe was engaged, with a small circle of men, of fine wit and humour, like himself. When this book first appeared, it was universally Ee
read, as innocent and amusing. But at length, it's consequences were perceived, and reckoned dangerous, at a time when this sort of curiosities began to gain credit. Our devout preacher was denied the chair, and his book forbidden to be read. It was not clear whether the author intended to be ironical, or spoke åll seriously. The second volume which he promised, would have decided the question : but the unfortunate Abbe was soon afterwards assassinated by ruffians, on the road to Lyons. The laughers gave out, that the gnomes and fylphs, disguised like ruffians, had shot him, as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the Cabala ; a crime not to be pardoned by these jealous spirits, as Villars himself has declared in his book *.”
It may not be improper to give a specimen of this author's manner, who has lately been well imitated in the way of mixing jest with earneft, in an elegant piece called Her
* Melanges d'Histoire et de Literature. By Dom. Noel Dargonne, disguised under the name of Vigneul Marville. Tom. prem. pag. 275. edit. Roterdam, 1700.
MIPPUS REDIVIVUS. The Comte de Gabalis being about to initiate his pupil into the most profound mysteries of the Rosicrusian philosophy, advises him to consider seriously, whether or no he had courage and resolution sufficient to RENOUNCE all those obstacles, which might prevent his arising to that height, which the figure of his nativity promised. “ Le mot de RENONCER, says the scholar, m'effraya, et je ne doutay point qu'il n'allast me proposer de renoncer au baptesme ou au paradis. Ainsi ne sçachant comme me tirer de ce mauvais pas; Renoncer, luy dis-je, Monsieur, quoi faut il renoncer a quelque chose? Vrayement, reprit il, il le faut bien; et il le faut fi necessairement, qu'il faut commencer par là. Je ne sçay si vous pourrez vous resoudre: mais je sçay bien que là sagesse l'habite point dans un corps sujet au pechè, comme elle n'entre point dans une ame prevenüe d'erreur ou de malice. Les sages ne vous admittront jamais a leur compagnie, si vous ne renoncez dés a present á un chose qui ne peut compatir avec la sagesse. Il faut, ajoûta-t-il tout bas en Ee 2
fe baissant a mon oreille, il faut renoncer á toute commerce charnel avec les femmes *.” On a diligent perufal of this book, I cannot find that Pope has borrowed any particular circumstances relating to these fpirits, but merely the general idea of their existence.
These machines are vastly superior to the allegorical personages of Boileau and Garth; not only on account of their novelty, but for the exquisite poetry, and oblique satire, which they have given the poet an opportunity to display. The business and petty concerns of a fine lady, receive an air of importance from the notion of their being perpetually overlooked and conducted, by the interposition of celestial agents.
It is judicious to open the poem, by introducing the Guardian Sylph, warning Belinda against some secret impending danger, The account which Ariel + gives of the na
* LE COMTE D'E GABALIS, ou Entretiens fur les Sciences Secretes. Second ENTRETIEN, pag. 30. a Amsterdam, 1671. + Cant. i. ver. 27, to ver. 119.
ture, office, and employment of these inhabitants of air, is finely fancied: into which several strokes of satire are thrown with great delicacy and address.
Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
The transformation of women of different tempers into different kinds of spirits, cannot be too much applauded,
* The sprites of fiery Termagants, in flame
Mount up, and take a salamander's name.
* These images have been lately expressed in Latin, with much purity and elegance; and deserve to be here inserted. Mortua lascivum resoluta liquescit in igne m,
Aut abit in molles singula nympha notos : · Atherios que trahens hauftus, tenuiffima turba,
Versat ad aestivum lucida membra jubar.
Versari, et veneres suppeditare novas.
Purior ut sensim prodeat ore rubor :
Nec faedet pulcras puftula faeva genas:
Excidat aut niveo pendula gemma sinu.