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fell into such extreme griefe, that hee presently hanged himselfe with the halter that he found in their place."
We have extracted the following story from the third book: it is prettily told, and the beginning is fine.
"Tritemius the abbot, an excellent learned man, and worthy of fame (if by adding necromancy to the rest of his learning, he had not made himselfe infamous) by his own confession, burned with an excessive desire of vainglorie. For (saith he) as I went up and downe musing and devising with my selfe how I might finde some thing, that never any man knew before, and that all men might wonder at, and layd my selfe downe to sleepe in an evening, with the same cogitations, there came one to me in the night that I knew not, and excited me to persever in my intended purpose, promising me his helpe, which he performed. What kind of learning hee taught him (he sayd) was not meete for the common sort, but to be knowne onely of princes: whereof hee sheweth some examples, denying the same to be done by the divell's helpe, but by naturall meanes, to which hee will hardly perswade any man of judgment. And though he would cover some of his strange feates, under the pretext of nature, yet his familiaritie with the divell, in many things was apparent. The Emperour Maximilian the first, married with Marie the daughter of Charles Duke of Burgundy, whose death (loving her dearly) he took greviously. This abbot perceiving his great love towards her, told him, that he would shew him his wife againe. The Emperour desirous to see her, went with the abbot, and one more into a chamber. The abbot forbad them for their lives to speake one word whilest the spirit was there. Mary the Emperour's wife commeth in, and walketh up and downe by them very soberly, so much resembling her when shee was alive in all points, that there was no difference to be found. The Emperour marvelling to see so lively a resemblance, called to mind that his wife had a little blacke spot (a mole as some call it) behind in her necke, which he determined to observe the next time shee passed by him, and beholding her very earnestly, hee found the mole in the very same place of her necke. Maximilian, being much troubled in minde with this strange sight, winked upon the abbot, that hee should avoyd the spirit. Which being done, hee commanded him to shew him no more of these pastimes, protesting that hee was hardly able to forbeare speaking: which if hee had done, the spirit had killed them all. The divell was so ready at the abbot's commandment, that as he travelled on a time in the company of a man of account, who reported this story, they came into a house, where was neither good meate nor drink, the abbot knocked at the window, and sayd, adfer, fetch. Not long after, there was brought in at the window, a sodden pickerell in a dish, and a bottle of wine. The abbott fell to his meate, but his companion's stomacke would not serve him to eate of such a caterer's provisions."
Our author gives us a fabulous story from iElian, well narrated, and with great simplicity.
".Mian writeth of a singular love of a dolphin towards a boy; this boy being very faire, used with his companions to play by the sea side, and to wash themselves in the water, and practise to swim. A dolphin fell into great liking with this boy above the rest, and used very familiarly to swim by him side by side: the boy, though at the first he feared the dolphin, grew by custome so familiar with him that they would contend together in swimming each by other: and sometimes the boy would get upon his backe, and ride upon the fish as though hee had beene a horse: insomuch that the dolphin would carry him a great way into the sea, and bring him to land againe in the sight of all the people of the citie adjoyning, wherein they took great pleasure: it chanced at last that the boy lying with his belly close to the dolphin's backe, the sharpe pricke (which those fishes have) rising out of the middest of his back ran into the boye's belly, and killed him: The dolphin perceiving by the weight of the boy, and by the bloud which stained the water, that he was dead, swam speedily with all his force to land, and there laid down the dead boy, and for sorrow died presently by him. These examples may make many men seem more brute than beasts, that performe things appertaining to vertue more effectually by the instinct of nature onely, than they do by nature and reason joyned together."
Barckley, in speaking of the rare modesty of old limes, has the following passage, which is a very favourable specimen of his style, and is, we think, happily expressed.
"Let the brave men and jolly fellowes of these dayes, that glister in gold and silver, and thinke themselves graced by their tragicall habitts and gestures, as the onely paragons of the world, and them that are wondered at and accounted happy by their great traines and troopes of followers, and them that set their felicitie in dainty and delicate meates, and spend whole dayes and nights in banquetting and quaffing; let these men (I say) leave to flatter themselves, and with an upright judgment indifferently examine themselves by these men, and compare Cato's vertues and the rest with their vanities; these men's frugalitie and modestie with their excess and luxuriousnesse; these men's temperance with their licentiousnesse: the simplicitie of habits, and singlenesse of their life that governed kingdomes, and triumphed over nations, with the pompe and pride of this age, and with their lascivious manners and effeminate attyres, that passe their time in courting and carowsing. These things duly considered, our gallants must needes let fall their peacocks' tayles, and wish that some of Argus eyes were restored into their heads, whereby they might bee more provident, and better able to discerne betweene the others vertues and their vanities, that diverteth them from felicitie; who then would exclaim upon the iniquity of this time, that will yeeld them no examples to follow. And those men that be so carefull to beautifie their bodies with brave attires, leaving their minds soyled with foule vices: and they that aspire to honourable places without vertue, seeme to mee to bee like them that wash their face with faire water, and wipe it with a dishclout."
We must now bid farewell to our story-telling knight. He, who wishes to take a brief view of human existence, may, in Sir Richard Barckley, behold it under every variety of shape and accident, in its pride and glory, its weakness and credulity, its misery and decay. We have only to add, that the conclusion the author comes to is, that" to worship and glorifie God in this life, that we may be joined to him in the world to come, is our beatitude or summum bonum."
Aet. VIII. Satyrical Characters and handsome Descriptions in Letters, written to several Persons of Quality, by Monsieur De Cyrano Bergerac. Translated from the French, by a Person of Honor. London, 1658.
The extraordinary productions of the intellectual as well as of the material world, engage our attention by their very eccentricity—it is as much the business of the philosopher to observe the course of the comet, or the wandering star, as of the planet—each, in its degree, contributes to the extension of science. The speculations of the philosopher may be more grave and weighty, but the singular fabrications of the imaginative faculty are of equal use in ascertaining the essential nature of mind. Cyrano Bergerac is a marvellously strange writer— his character, too, was out of the common way. His chief passion appears to have been duelling; and, from the numerous affairs of honor in which he was concerned in the course of a very short life, and the bravery which he displayed on those occasions, he acquired the cognomen of The Intrepid. His friend and editor Le Bret, says he was engaged in no less than one hundred duels for his friends, and not one on his own account. Others however say, that, happening to have a nose somewhat awry, whoever was so unfortunate or so rash as to laugh at it, was sure to be called upon to answer its intrepid owner in the field. But however this may be, it is indisputable that Cyrano was a distinguished monomachist and a most eccentric writer. His productions abound with antithetical thoughts and corruscations of wit, pointed, angular, and sparkling, as the fragments of a broken pillar of ice when the sun shines upon them. Considering plagiarism as bad as high-way robbery, and infinitely worse than manslaughter, it is probable he made it a matter of conscience not to appropriate even his share of the ideas and sentiments common to all men, but formed a resolution of writing like nobody who had preceded him. The present collection was the offspring of his youthful years—the outpourings of his virgin fancies—the May of his intellect,
VOL. I. PART II. U
-which from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose:
it is indeed pregnant with all the rank luxuriance of a rich and unturned soil. It displays prodigious vivacity of mind, which, like a burning glass, collects a thousand scattered rays to one point. Let but a thought present itself, and he straight chases it through all its possible turnings and doublings, till he fairly loses himself in the meanderings of his own fancy—his whole soul is animated with the wild spirit of joy—he actually reels with delight. He possessed a singular cast of wit, which surprises us with the most unheard of resemblances—the most novel discordances, but he mingles them, however, with the most exquisite observation of nature, and the most beautiful imaginations—The false, the affected, and the true, alternately and in such rapid succession, as scarcely to be severed, "take the prison'd senses and lap 'em in elysium." Such is the vigor, and such the vagaries, of Cyrano. What we shall extract may be considered as mere sports of fancy—strange things told in a strange way; and we are willing that they should be so considered.
Hear part of his description of Winter.
"Winter is a six-months' death fallen upon one whole side of the globe, which we cannot escape; 'tis a short old-age of things animated; 'tis a being that hath no action, which never comes neer us (be we never so stout) but he makes us quake; our porous, delicate, and fine slender bodye, shrink up, become hard, and hasten to close its passages, to baricadoe a million of invisible dores, and to cover them with little mountaines: it is moved, contends, and blushing gives this for excuse, that its shiverings are sallies that it purposely makes to beat off" the enemy from its out-works. Finally, 'tis a miracle that we resist the destiny of all living creatures. This tyrant is not content to silence our birds, to strip our trees, to cut Ceres's locks, nay, and her eares to boot, and to have left our grand-mother stark naked and bare; but that we might not fly by water to a more temperate climate, he hath enclosed them with diamant walls; and least the rivers by their motion should have caused some heat to helpe us, he hath made them fast to their beds. But he exceeds all this; for to affright us by the very image of prodigies which he invents for our destruction, he makes us mistake the ice for a hardened light, a petrified day, a solid nothing, or some horrible monster whose body is nothing but an eye. The Seine at first, affrighted at the teares of heaven, was troubled, and fearing some more sad disaster would have befallen her inhabitants, stopt her course, and kept herselfe in a readinesse upon occasion to assist us. Mankind, being likewise terrified at the prodigies of this horrible season, gather from it presages proportionable to their feares; if it snow, they presently imagine the milky way is dissolving, that the heavens foame for madnesse at the losse of it, and that the earth, out of care to her children, for feare becomes gray. They fancy likewise,
the universe to be a great tart, that this monster (winter) strowes sugar upon, intending to devoure it; that the snow is the foame of the plants that dye mad; and conclude that the cold winds are the last sighs of languishing nature. I myselfe, that use to interpret all things for the best, and that in another season should have perswaded myselfe, that the snow was the vegetative milk, that the planets suckled the plants withall, or the crumbs that after grace fall from God Almighty's table, am now carried away with the torrent of examples. If it hail, I cry out, what punishments are reserved for us sinners, since the innocent heavens [are gravelled?] Would I describe those frozen winds, so great, that they overwhelm towers and castles, and yet so small, that they are invisible; I cannot imagine what to call them, unlesse the blustrings of some divells broke loose, which, having binne benum'd under ground, run about to catch themselves a heat. Every thing that is like winter puts me into a fright; I cannot endure a looking glasse because of its resemblance with ice, I shun physitians because they are called snowie or gray doctors, and I can convict the cold of many murders; for, in most of the howses in Paris where I have seen jelly,* there hath been a dying person."
* gelee,—frost or jelly. And of Spring:
"Weepe no more, faire weather is returned; the sunne is reconciled to mankind, and his heat hath made winter find his leggs, as benum'd as they were; he hath lent him onely strength enough to run away, and those long nights that seemed to goe but a step in an hour, (for being in the darke they durst not run) are as farre from us as the first that layed Adam to sleep. The aire, not long since so condens'd by the frost, that there was not room enough for the birds, seems now to be but a great imaginary space, where shrill musitians (hardly supported by our thoughts) appeare in the skye like little worlds, ballanced by their proper centre: there were no colds in the country .whence they came, for here they chatter sweetly. Lord! what a noise they make! doubtlesse they are at law for those lands, Winter, at his death, made them heires of. This jealous old tyrant, not content to have rung all creatures, had frozen the very rivers, that they might not produce so much as their images; and maliciously turned the quicksilver of those running looking glasses towards them, which had so continued if the Spring at his returne had not rectified them."
"Nature brings forth in all places, and her children as they are borne, play in their cradles. Consider the Zephyrus which dares hardly breathe in fear, how she playes and courts the corne. One would think the grasse the haire of the earth, and this wind a combe that is careiull to untangle it. I think the very sunne woes this season, for I have observed that wheresoever he retires, he still keeps close to her. Those insolent northern winds that braved us in the absence of this god of tranquillity, (surprized at his coming)unite themselves to his rayes, to obtaine his pardon by their caresses, and those that are greater offenders hide themselves in his atomes, and are quiet for feare of being discovered: all