Page images

would give the ideal the authority of actual perception, and its concomitant images would be cherished with romantic fondness,

I did not take my leave of him, but had

Moft pretty things to say: ere I could tell him,
How I would think of him at certain hours,

Such thoughts, and such;—

-or have charg'd him,

At the fixth hour of morn, at noon, at midnight,
To encounter me with orifons, for then

I am in heaven for him.

But why, fays the critic, consume time and attention on actions fo frivolous and unimportant? Can they difclofe to us any of the arcana of nature? Can they reveal any of her hidden mysteries? Can they explain the wonderful mechanism of the understanding? Or discover the labyrinths of the heart?

To attend to familiar and common objects is not unworthy even of a philofopher. By obferving the accidental fall of an apple, Newton explained the motions of the celeftial bodies: And a principle il


luftrated by the eafy experiment of bringing two drops of water within their sphere of attraction, accounts for the progress of vegetation. The affociation, we have now endeavoured to explain, accounts for many ftrange appearances in the hiftory and manners of mankind. It explains that amazing attachment to reliques, which forms an effential part of many modern religions, which fills the convents of Europe with more fragments of the cross than would cover mount Lebanon, and with more tears of the bleffed virgin than would water the Holy Land. These objects confirm particular facts to the zealous votaries, and realize a train of ideas favourable to the ardour of their enthusiasm. It is not merely the handkerchief ftained with the blood of Jefus, that moves, shakes, and convulfes the pale and penfive nun, who at her midnight orifons, bathes it with her tears: Her emotions are occafioned by the idea of particular fufferings enforced

M 3

enforced on her imagination, by the view of that melancholy object. From the same affociation we may deduce the paffion for pilgrimage, the rage of crufades, and all the confequences of that fatal distemper. Moved by a propenfity depending on the fame principles, men of ingenuity, enamoured of the Mufes, traverse the regions they frequented, explore every hill, and feek their footsteps in every valley. The groves of Mantua, and the cafcades of Anio, are not lovelier than other groves and cascades; yet we view them with peculiar rapture. We tread as on confecrated ground, we regard those objects with veneration which yielded ideas to the minds of Virgil and Horace; and we seem to enjoy a certain ineffable intercourse with those elegant and enlightened spirits.

Trivial, therefore, as the fentiments and expreffions of Imogen may appear, by attending to the principles upon which they depend, they open the mind to the con


templation of extenfive objects. Confidering them in regard to character, they exhibit to us uncommon affection, fenfibility, and mildness of difpofition. They are not embittered with invective: She complains of the severity of Cymbeline; but does not accufe: She expreffes forrow; but not refentment: And the reflects on the unjustice of the Queen as the cause of her fufferings, rather than the object of her anger. Exceedingly injured, and exceedingly afflicted, fhe neglects the injury, and dwells on the distress.

Ere I could

Give him that parting kiss, which I had fet
Betwixt two charming words; comes in my father;
And, like the tyrannous breathing of the North,
Shakes all our buds from growing.

A father cruel, and a step-dame falfe ;

A foolish fuitor to a wedded lady,

That hath her husband banish'd ;-O that husband!
My fupreme crown of grief! and thofe repeated
Vexations of it.

Moft miferable

Is the defire that's glorious,

M 4

II. We

II. We proceed, in the fecond place, to confider the state of Imogen's mind labouring with doubts, and pained with the apprehenfion of a change in the affections of Pofthumus.

Nothing, in the ftructure of the human mind, appears more inexplicable than the feeming inconfiftency of paffion. Averse from believing the perfon we love or esteem capable of ingratitude, we are often prone to fufpicion, and are alarmed with the slightest symptoms of difaffection. Whoever warns you of the treachery of a profeffing friend, or of the inconftancy of a smiling miftrefs, is treated with fcorn or refentment: Yet with a fcrupulous and critical accuracy, you investigate the meanings of an accidental expreffion; you employ more fagacity and difcernment than might govern a nation, to weigh the importance of a nod; and a trivial overfight or inattention will caft you into defpair. The heart of Imo


« PreviousContinue »