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• My dog I was ever well pleased to see
' How slowly time creeps, till my Phæbe return! While amidst the soft zephyr's cool breezes I burn! Methinks if I knew where about he would tread, I could breathe on his wings, and 'twould melt dowp the lead, Fly swifter, ye minutes, bring hither my dear, And rese so much longer for 't when she is here. Ah, Colin! old Time is full of delay, Nor will budge one foot faster for all thou canst say.
No 604. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 1714.
T:l ne quæsieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi,
HOR. I od. xi, 1, 1
Ah, do not strive too much to know,
My dear Leuconoe,
With me and thee,
The desire of knowing future events is one of the strongest inclinations in the mind of man. Indeed an ability of foreseeing probable accidents is what, in the language of men, is called wisdom and prudence; but, not satisfied with the light that reason holds out, mankind hath endeavoured to penetrate more compendiously into futurity. Magic, oracles, omens, lucky hours, and the various arts of superstition, owe their rise to this powerful cause. As this principle is founded in self-love, every man is sure to be solicitous in the first place about his own fortune, the course of his life, and the time and manner of his death.
If we consider that we are free agents, we shall discover the absurdity of such inquiries. One of our actions, which we might have performed or neg: lected, is the cause of another that succeeds it, and so the whole chain of life is linked together. Pain, poverty, or infamy, are the natural product of vicious and imprudent acts, as the contrary blessings are of good ones; so that we cannot suppose our lot to be determined without impiety. A great enhancement of pleasure arises from its being unex
pected; and pain is doubled by being foreseen. Upon all these, and several other accounts, we ought to rest satisfied in this portion bestowed on us: to adore the hand that hath fitted every thing to our nature, and hath not more displayed his goodness in our knowledge than in our ignorance.
It is not unworthy observation, that superstiti. ous inquiries into future events prevail more or less, in proportion to the improvement of liberal arts and useful knowledge in the several parts of the world. Accordingly, we find that magical incantations remain in Lapland; in the more remote parts of Scotland they have their second sight; and several of our own countrymen have seen abundance of fairies. In Asia this credulity is strong: and the greatest part of refined learning there con. sists in the knowledge of amulets, talismans, occult numbers, and the like.
When I was at Grand Cairo I fell into the acquaintance of a good-natured mussulman, who promised me many good offices which he designed to do me when he became prime minister, which was a fortune bestowed on his imagination by a doctor very deep in the curious sciences. At his repeated solicitations I went to learn my destiny of this wonderful sage. For a small sum I had his promise, but was desired to wait in a dark apartment until he had run through the preparatory ceremonies. Having a strong propensity, even then, to dreaming, I took a nap upon the sofa where I was placed, and had the following vision, the particulars whereof I picked up the other day among my papers.
I found myself in an unbounded plain, where methought the whole world, in several habits and with different tongues, was assembled. The multitude glided swiftly along, and I found in myself a
strong inclination to mingle in the train. My eyes quickly singled out some of the most splendid figures. Several in rich caftans and glittering turbans bustled through the throng, and trampled over the bodies of those they threw down; until, to my great surprise, I found that the great pace they went only hastened them to a scaffold or a bowstring. Many beautiful damsels on the other side moved forward with great gaiety; some danced until they fell all along; and others painted their faces until they lost their noses. A tribe of creatures with busy looks falling into a fit of laughter at the misfortunes of the unhappy ladies, I turned my eyes upon them. They were each of them filling his pockets with gold and jewels; and when there was no room left for more, these wretches, looking round with fear and horror, pined away
face with famine and discontent.
This prospect of human misery struck me dumb for some miles. Then it was that, to disburden my mind, I took pen and ink, and did every thing that has since happened under my office of Spectator. While I was employing myself for the good of mankind, I was surprised to meet with very unsuitable returns from my fellow-creatures. Never was poor author so beset with pamphleteers, who sometimes marched directly against me, but oftener shot at me from strong bulwarks, or rose up suddenly in am. bush. They were all of characters and capacities; some with ensigns of dignity, and others in liveries*: but what most surprised me was to see two or three in black gowns among my enemies. It was no small
The hirelings and black gowns employed by the administration in the last year of the queen's reign, Dr. Swift, Prior, Atterbury, Dr. Friend, Dr. King, Mr. Oldsworth, Mrs. D. Manley, and the writers of The Examiner, &c.