« PreviousContinue »
her own camel, while his other slaves performed the whole journey on foot. His leathern sacks were filled with all the choice provisions which the Shendy market could afford, particularly with sugar and dates, and his dinners were the best in the caravan. To hear him talk of morals and religion, one might have supposed that he knew vice only by name; yet Hadji Aly, who had spent half his life in devotion, sold last year, in the slavemarket of Medinah, his own cousin, whom he had recently married at Mekka. She had gone thither on a pilgrimage from Bornou by the way of Cairo, when Aly unexpectedly meeting with her, claimed her as his cousin, and married her : at Medinah, being in want of money, he sold her to some Egyptian merchants ; and as the poor woman was unable to prove her free origin, she was obliged to submit to her fate. The circumstance was well known in the caravan, but the Hadji nevertheless still continued to enjoy all his wonted reputation.”
“ ASSUREDLY the most unpromising of all topics for a poet,” said the Bachelor, laying down Wilson's pathetic City of the Plague, “ is this same subject.”
“ And yet,” replied Egeria, “ perhaps there are few which admit of so much affecting description ; though, with the exception of Wilson, I do think that scarcely any of the Plague Poets have touched the right key."
“ Plague Poets! what a nickname !" exclaimed
Benedict. “ I was not aware that the subject had ever been set in poetry before; for I do not consider that medical-man-like manner in which Lucretius has done the symptoms into verse deserves to be considered as poetry. As for Virgil's description of a plague among cattle, in the Georgics, and what Ovid, Statius, Silius Italicus, and Manilius, have said,-in so far as they go, there is nothing very interesting, however correct the painting may be.”
“ Indeed,” said Egeria, “ the ancients, generally speaking, were not very expert at the pathetic. They were a grave race, and appear to have but seldom either laughed or wept. Thomson and Akenside have shown, in noticing the plague, more true feeling than all the ancients you have named, with Thucydides to boot, even in the verse of Bishop Sprat, and exalted by his Lordship's additional touches; of which, as a specimen, take the Bishop's account of the disease first shewing itself in the head and eyes.”
Upon the head first the disease,
“ But, although Bishop Sprat's verse is in this extravagant style, there is yet one little passage that might obtain the honour of a second reading among better poetry. I allude to his description of the sleeplessness of the sufferers.”
“ No sleep, no peace, no rest,
Upon their souls and eyes
Dark pictures and resemblances
O'er their distemper'd fancies go :
“ But Wither is the true English laureate of pestilence. The following description of the consternation, packing up, and flight of the Cockneys, during the great plague of London, is equally matchless and original."
eggs are bred:
“ Those who, in all their life-time, never went
to Pancras from the city gate:
Yea, some have gone so far, that they do know,
Oh, how they trudged and bustled up and down,
And had you heard how loud the coaches rumbled ; Beheld how cars and carts together jumbled ; Seen how the ways with people thronged were ; The bands of foot, the troops of horsemen there;
What multitudes away by land were sent ;
thousands forth by water went ;
Oh, foolish people, though I justly might Authorise thus my muse to mock your flight, And still to flout your follies : yet, compassion Shall end it in a kind expostulation."
GRANDEUR OF THE ANCIENTS.
ONE morning as the Bachelor and his Egeria were looking over a set of Henning's beautiful casts of the Athenian marbles in the British Museum, Benedict observed, with his characteristic simplicity, “ that surely the ancients must have excelled the moderns prodigiously in grandeur of every kind.”
“ If that were the case," said the nymph, “ it is curious that so little of their domestic splendour has come down to us. I shall not go so far as the Irish gentleman, who said of the magnificence of Cæsar, that he had not a shirt to his back; but I very much suspect that the domestic comforts of the ancients were far inferior to our own. At the same time, I confess that the ornaments which have been ob