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Corinna with such a fond approach, and Roxana with such a demand of respect in the great gravity of her entrance ; you find all the sex, who understand theme selves and act naturally, wait only for their absence, to tell you that all these ladies would impose themselves upon you ; and each of them carry in their behaviour a consciousness of so much more than they should pretend to, that they lose what would otherwise be given them.
I remember the last time I saw Macbeth, I was wonderfully taken with the skill of the poet, in making the murderer form fears to himself from the moderation of the prince whose life he was going to take away. He says of the king, “ he bore his faculties so meekly ;” and justly inferred from thence, that all divine and human power would join to avenge his death, who had made such an abstinent use of dominion. All that is in a man's power to do to advance his own pomp and glory, and forbears, is so much laid up against the day of distress; and pity will always be his portion in adversity, who acted with gentleness in prosperity.
The great officer who foregoes the advantages he might take to himself, and renounces all prudential regards to his own person in danger, has so far the merit of a volunteer; and all his honours and glories are unenvied for sharing the common fate with the same frankness as they do who have no such endearing circumstances to part with. But if there were no such considerations as the good effect which selfdenial has upon the sense of other men towards us, it is of all qualities the most desirable for the agreeable disposition in which it places our own minds. I cannot tell what better to say of it, than that it is the very contrary of ambition ; and that modesty allays all those passions and inquietudes to which that vice exposes us.
He that is moderate in his wishes from reason and choice, and not resigned from sourness, distaste, or disappointment, doubles all the pleasures of his life. The air, the season, a sun-shiny day, or a fair prospect, are instances of happiness, and that which he enjoys in common with all the world, (by his exemption from the enchantments by which all the world are bewitched) are to him uncommon benefits and new acquisitions. Health is not eaten up with care, nor pleasure interrupted by envy. It is not to him of any consequence what this man is famed for, or for what the other is preferred. He knows there is in such place an uninterrupted walk; he can meet in such a company an agreeable conversation ; he has no emulation, he is no man's rival, but every man's well wisher; can look at a prosperous man, with a pleasure in reflecting that he hopes he is as happy as himself; and has his mind and his fortune, as far as prudence will allow, open to the unhappy and to the stranger.
Luccius has learning, wit, humour, eloquence, but no ambitious prospects to pursue with these advantages; therefore to the ordinary world he is perhaps thought to want spirit, but known among his friends to have a mind of the most consummate greatness. He wants no man's admiration, is in no need of pomp. His clothes please him if they are fashionable and warm ; his companions are agreeable if they are civil and well-natured. There is with him no occasion for superfluity at meals, for jollity in company ; in a word, for any thing extraordinary to administer delight to him. Want of prejudice and command of appetite are the companions which make his journey of life so easy, that he in all places meets with more wit, more good cheer, and more good humour, than is necessary to make him enjoy himself with pleasure and satisfaction.
No. CCVII. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27.
Omnibus in terris, quæ sunt à Gadibus usque
Look round the habitable world, how few
IN my last Saturday's paper I laid down some thoughts upon devotion in general, and shall here shew what were the notions of the most refined hea. thens on this subject, as they are represented in Plato's dialogue upon prayer, entitled “Alcibiades the Second," which doubtless gave occasion to Juvenal's tenth satire, and to the second satire of Persius; as the last of these authors has almost transcribed the preceding dialogue, entitled “ Alcibiades the First," in his fourth satire.
The speakers in this dialogue upon prayer, are Socrates and Alcibiades, and the substance of it, when drawn together out of the intricacies and digressions, as follows.
Socrates meeting his pupil Alcibiades, as he was going to his devotions, and observing his eyes to be fixed upon the earth with great seriousness and attention, tells him that he had reason to be thoughtful on that occasion, since it was possible for a man to bring down evils upon himself by his own prayers, and that those things, which the gods send him in answer to his petitions, might turn to his destruction; this, says he, may not only happen when a man prays for what he knows is mischievous in its own nature, as Oedipus implored the gods to sow dissension between his sons: but when he prays for what he believes would be for his good, and against what he believes would be to his detriment. This the philosopher shews must necessarily happen among us, since most men are blinded with ignorance, prejudice or passion, which hinder them from seeing such things as are really beneficial to them. For an instance, he asks Alcibiades, whether he would not be thoroughly pleased and satisfied if that god, to whom he was going to address himself, should promise to make him the sovereign of the whole earth? Alcibiades answers, that he should doubtless look upon such a promise as the greatest favour that could be bestowed upon him. Socrates then asks him, if after receiving this great favour he would be contented to lose his life? or if he would receive it though he was sure he should make an ill use of it? to both which questions Alcibiades answers in the negative. Socrates then shews him from the example of others, how these might very probably be the effects of such a blessing. He then adds, that other reputed pieces of good-fortune, as that of having a son, or procuring
the highest post in a government, are subject to the like fatal consequences; which nevertheless, says hé, men ardently desire, and would not fail to pray for, if they thought their prayers might be effectual for the obtaining of them.
Having established this great point, that all the most apparent blessings in this life are obnoxious to such dreadful consequences, and that no man knows what in it's events would prove to him a blessing or a curse, he teaches Alcibiades after what manner he ought to pray.
In the first place, he recommends to him, as the model of his devotions, a short prayer which a Greek poet composed for the use of his friends, in the following words : “ O Jupiter, give us those things 6 which are good for us, whether they are such w things as we pray for, or such things as we do not
pray for: and remove from us those things which are hurtful though they are such things as we pray
for." In the second place, that his disciple may ask such things as are expedient for him, he shews him, that it is absolutely necessary to apply himself to the study of true wisdom, and to the knowledge of that which is his chief good, and the most suitable to the excellency of his nature.
In the third and last place, he informs him, that the best methods he could make use of to draw down blessings upon himself, and to render his prayers ac. ceptable, would be to live in a constant practice of his duty towards the gods, and towards men. Under this head, he very much recommends a form of prayer the Lacedæmonians make use of, in which they petition the gods, “ to give them all good things so long as they were virtuous.” Under this head like. wise he gives a very remarkable account of an oracle to the following purpose.
When the Athenians in the war with the Lace. dæmonians received many defeats both by sea and land, they sent a message to the oracle .of Jupiter Ammon, to ask the reason why they who erected so many temples to the gods, and adorned them with such costly offerings ; why they who had instituted so many festivals, and accompanied them with such pomps and ceremonies ; in short, why they who had slain so many hecatombs at their altars, should be less successful than the Lacedæmonians, who fell so short of them in all these particulars ? To this, says he, the oracle made the following reply : “ I am better “ pleased with the prayers of the Lacedæmonians, 6 than with all the oblations of the Greeks.” As this prayer implied and encouraged virtue in those who made it, the philosopher proceeds to shew how the most vicious man might be devout, so far as victims could make him, but that his offerings were re