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was conducted to my chamber by the gentleman, his lady, and the whole train of children. They importuned me to drink something before I went to bed; and, upon my refusing-, at last left a bottle of stingo, as they call it, for fear I should wake and be thirsty in the night.
I was forced in the moming to rise and dress myself in the dark, because they would not suffer my kinsman's servant to disturb me at the hour I desired to be called. I was now resolved to break through all measures to get away; and, after sitting down to a monstrous breakfast of cold beef, mutton, neat's tongues, venison pasty, and stale beer, took leave of the family. But the gentleman would needs see me part of the way, and carry me a short cut through his own ground, which he told me would save half a mile's riding. This last piece of civility had like to have cost me dear, being once or twice in danger of my neck by leaping over his ditches, and at last forced to alight in the dirt, when my horse, having slipped his bridle, ran away, and took us up more than an hour to recover him again.
TUB SPIDER AND THE BEE.1
Upon the highest corner of a large window there dwelt a certain spider, swollen up to the first magnitude by the destruction of infinite numbers of flies, whose spoils lay scattered before the gates of his palace, like human bones before the cave of some giant. The avenues to his castle were guarded with turnpikes and palisadoes, all after the modern way of fortification. After you had passed several courts you came to the centre, wherein you might behold the constable himself in his own lodgings, which had windows fronting to each avenue, and ports to sally out upon all occasions of prey or defence. In this mansion he had for some time dwelt in peace and plenty, without danger to his person by swallows from above, or to his palace by brooms from below: when it was the pleasure of fortune to conduct thither a wandering bee, to whose curiosity a broken pane in the glass had discovered itself, and in he went; where, expatiating a while, he at last happened to alight upon one of the outward walls of the spider's citadel; which, yielding to the unequal weight, sunk down to the very foundation. Thrice he endeavored to force his passage, and thrice the centre shook. The spider within, feeling the terrible convulsion, supposed at first that nature was approaching to her final dissolution; or else, that Beelzebub, with all his legions, was come to revenge the death of many thousands of his subjects4 whom his enemy had slain and devoured. However,
1 Thl* U taken from "The Bnttle of the Books," and had reference to the great content then going on between the advocates of ancient and modern learning. The Bee represent* the ancients; the Solder the moderns.
a Beelzebub, In the Hebrew, signifies lord of flics.
he at length valiantly resolved to issue forth and meet his fate. Meanwhile the bee had acquitted himself of his toils, and, posted securely at some distance, was employed in cleansing his wings, and disengaging them from the rugged remnants of the cobweb. By this time the spider was adventured out, when, beholding the chasms, the ruins, and dilapidations of his fortress, he was very near at his wits' end; he stormed and swore like a madman, and swelled till he was ready to burst. At length, casting his eye upon the bee, and wisely gathering causes from events, (for they knew each other by sight,) "A plague split you," said he, "for a giddy puppy; is it you, with a vengeance, that have made this litter here? could you not look before you? do you think I have nothing else to do but to mend and repair after you ?"—" Good words, friend," said the bee, (having now pruned himself, and being disposed to be droll:) "I'll give you my hand and word to come near your kennel no more; I was never in such a confounded pickle since I was born."—" Sirrah," replied the spider, "if it were not for breaking an old custom in our family, never to stir abroad against an enemy, I should come and teach you better manners."—" I pray have patience," said the bee, "or you'll spend your substance, and, for aught I see, you may stand in need of it all, toward the repair of your house."—" Rogue, rogue," replied the spider, " yet methinks you should have more respect to a person whom all the world allows to be so much your betters." —" By my troth," said the bee, " the comparison will amount to a very good jest; and you will do me a favor to let me know the reasons that all the world is pleased to use in so hopeful a dispute." At this, the spider, having swelled himself into the size and posture of a disputant, began his argument in the true spirit of controversy, with resolution to be heartily scurrilous and angry; to urge on his own reasons without the least regard to the answers or objections of his opposite ; and fully predetermined in his mind against all conviction.
"Not to disparage myself," said he, "by the comparison with such a rascal, what art thou but a vagabond without house or home, without stock or inheritance? born to no possession of your own, but a pair of wings and a drone-pipe. Your livelihood is a universal plunder upon nature; a freebooter over fields and gardens; and, for the sake of stealing, will rob a nettle as easily as a violet. Whereas I am a domestic animal, furnished with a native stock within myself. This large castle (to show my improvements in the mathematics) is all built with my own hands, and the materials extracted altogether out of my own person."
"I am glad," answered the bee, "to hear you grant at least that I am come honestly by my wings and my voice; for then, it seems, I am obliged to Heaven alone for my flights and my music; and Providence would never have bestoweu on me two such gifts, without designing them for the noblest ends. I visit, indeed, all the flowers and blossoms of the field and garden; but whatever I collect thence, enriches myself, without the least injury to their beauty, their smell, or their taste. Now, for you and 3'our skill in architecture and other mathematics, I have little to say: in that building of yours there might, for aught I know, have been labor and method enough; but, by woful experience for us both, it is too plain the materials are naught; and I hope you will henceforth take warning, and consider duration and matter, as well as method and art. You boast, indeed, of being obliged to no other creature, but of drawing and spinning out all from yourself; that is to say, if we may judge of the liquor in the vessel by what issues out, you possess a good plentiful store of dirt and poison in your breast; and, though I would by no means lessen or disparage your genuine stock of either, yet I doubt you are somewhat obliged, for an increase of both, to a little foreign assistance. Your inherent portion of dirt does not fail of acquisitions, by sweepings exhaled from below; and one insect furnishes you with a share of poison to destroy another. So that, in short, the question comes all to this: whether is the nobler being of the two, that which, by a lazy contemplation of four inches round, by an overweening pride, feeding and engendering on itself, turns all into excrement and venom, producing nothing at all but flybane and a cobweb; or that which, by a universal Tange, with long search, much study, true judgment, and distinction of things, brings home honey and wax V
One of the most amusing of the papers of Swift is entitled "Predictions for the year 1708; wherein the month, and day of the month are set down, the persons named, and the great actions and events of next year particularly related, as they will come to pass. Written to prevent the people of England from being further imposed on by vulgar almanac-makers. By Isaac BicksnsTAFF, Esq." The chief object of this was to hold up to deserved ridicule ono John Partridge, a very celebrated almanac-maker of those times, who pretended to predict the events of each ensuing year; and it is astonishing what confidence the public placed in his prognostications. The prediction«f u Isaac Bickerstaff," relative to die great astrologer, is as follows:—
Partridge's Death Foretold.
My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it, to show how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns: it relates to Partridge the almanac-maker; I have consulted the star of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore I advise him to consider of it. and settle his affairs in time.
This was followed up by "An Answer to Bickerstafl",'' and another pam phlet called "The Accomplishment of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff's Predictions, being an Account of the Death of Mr. Partridge, the Almanac-maker, upon the 29th instant, in a Letter to a Person of Honor," both written by Swift, with his usual exquisite humor. The following is the latter piece:—
Partridge's Death Realized.
My Lord,—In obedience to your lordship's commands, as well as to satisfy my own curiosity, I have for some days past inquired constantly after Partridge the almanac-maker, of whom it was foretold in Mr. Bickerstaff's predictions, published about a month ago, that he should die the 29th instant about eleven at night, of a raging fever. I had some sort of knowledge of him, when I was employed in the revenue, because he used every year to present me with his almanac, as he did other gentlemen, upon the score of some little gratuity we gave him. I saw him accidentally once or twice about ten days before he died, and observed he began very much to droop and languish, though I hear his friends did not seem to apprehend him in any danger. About two or three days ago he grew ill, was confined first to his chamber, and in a fewhours after to his bed, where Dr. Case and Mrs. Kirleus* were sent for to visit, and to prescribe to him. Upon this intelligence, I sent thrice every day one servant or other to inquire after his health; and yesterday, about four in the e.fternoon, word was brought me, that he was past hopes: upon which I prevailed with myself to go and see him, partly out of commiseration, and, I confess, partly out of curiosity. He knew me very well, seemed surprised at my condescension, and made me compliments upon it, as well as he could in the condition he was. The people about him said, he had been for some time delirious; but when I saw him, he had his understanding as well as ever I knew, and spoke strong and hearty, without any seeming uneasiness or constraint. After I had told him how sorry I was to see him in those melancholy circumstances, and said some other civilities, suitable to the occasion, I desired him to tell me freely and ingenuously, whether the predictions Mr. Bickerstaff had published relating to his death, had not too much affected and worked on his imagination. He confessed, he had often had it in his head, but never with much apprehension, till about a fortnight before; since which time it had the perpetual possession of his mind and thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural cause of his present distemper: for. said he, I am thoroughly persuaded, and I think I have verygood reasons that Mr. Bickerstaff spoke altogether by guess, and knew no more what will happen this year, than I did myself. I told him his discourse surprised me; and I would be glad he were in a state of health to be able to tell me, what reason he had to be
convinced of Mr. BickerstafTs ignorance. He replied, I am a poor ignorant fellow, bred to a mean trade, yet I have sense enough to know, that all pretences of foretelling by astrology are deceits, for this manifest reason, because the wise and the learned, who can only judge whether there be any truth in this science, do all unanimously agree to laugh at and despise it; and none but the poor ignorant vulgar give it any credit, and that only upon the word of such silly wretches as I and my fellows, who can hardly write or read. I then asked him why he had not calculated his own nativity, to see whether it agreed with BickerstafTs prediction? At which he shook his head, and said, Oh! sir, this is no time for jesting, but for repenting those fooleries, as I do now from the very bottom of my heart. By what I can gather from you, said I, the observations and predictions you printed with your almanacs, were mere impositions on the people. He replied, If it were otherwise, I should have the less to answer for. We have a common form for all those things; as to foretelling the weather, we never meddle with that, but leave it to the printer, who takes it out of any old almanac, as he thinks fit; the rest was my own invention to make my almanac sell, having a wife to maintain, and no other way to get my bread; for mending old shoes is a poor livelihood; and (added he, sighing) I wish I may not have done more mischief by my physic than my astrology; though 1 had some good receipts from my grandmother, and my own compositions were such, as I thought, could at least do no hurt.
I had some other discourse with him, which now I cannot call to mind; and I fear I have already tired your lordship. I shall only add one circumstance, that on his death-bed he declared himself a nonconformist, and had a fanatic preacher to be his spiritual guide. After half an hour's conversation I took my leave, being almost stifled by the closeness of the room. I imagined he could not hold out long, and therefore withdrew to a little coffee-house hard by, leaving a servant at the house with orders to come immediately, and tell me, as near as he could, the minute when Partridge should expire, which was not above two hours after; when, looking upon my watch, I found it to be above five minutes after seven: by which it is clear that Mr. Bickerstaff was mistaken almost four hours in his calculation. In the other circumstances he was exact enough. But whether he hath not been the cause of this poor man's death, as well as the predictor, may be very reasonably disputed. However, it must be confessed, the matter is odd enough, whether we should endeavor to account for it by chance, or the effect of imagination: for my own part, though I believe no man hath less faith in these matters, yet I shall wait with some impatience, and not without some expectation, the fulfilling of Mr. BickerstafTs second prediction, that the Cardinal de