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of spirits. He holds a solemn council, at which amongst others, Aristides assists. His final sentence, however, is wonderfully merciful: the punishment of their profane curiosity is deferred till after their death, and they are allowed to remain seven months upon the island, and share in all the pleasures of the heroes.
No sooner was this decision pronounced, than their chains of roses fell off spontaneously, and they were thus set at liberty, and conducted to the city, which is the scene of the Symposium of the Blessed. The city is all of gold, and surrounded with a wall of emerald: it has seven gates of cinnamon, each made of a single piece of the wood. The pavement is all of ivory. The temples of the gods are built of beryl; and their altars are of the largest size, and each of a single amethyst. All round the city flows a river of the finest and most fragrant of scented oils. Their baths are magnificent buildings of crystal, and heated with fires of cinnamon; and the bathing vessels, instead of water, are filled with warm dew. The description which Lucian gives of the spirits of the blessed accords with the vulgar notion of ghosts, in representing them as visible and as performing the functions of material beings, yet not sensible to the touch. Their dress is of materials which would best suit such airy creatures, for they are clothed in the finest spiders' webs dyed purple. With them there is neither night nor day; but their light is like the morning twilight before the rising of the sun. The imagination of Lucian has led him to the same thought which is so beautifully expressed in that most sweet and tender invocation to the spirit of a departed friend :
Too solemn for day, too sweet for night,
But come in some twilight interim,
Spring is the only season of the Happy Island, and Zephyr the only wind. The country is adorned with every sort of flower and plant; the vines bear fruit every month; the pomegranates and apples and other trees thirteen times in the year. The corn produces loaves instead of grain; and fountains of water, honey, milk and wine, and perfume, bubble up on every side.
The banquet is held without the city, in the Elysian plain. This is a most beautiful meadow, surrounded by a thick wood of every sort of tree, which overshadows the banqueters. They recline on couches of flowers, and are attended by the Winds, who perform every service but that of pouring out the wine. Around them grow immense trees of the very purest crystal, which in place of fruit bear cups and vases of every size and fashion. These they pluck, and of their own accord they become full of wine. They do not wear garlands, but nightingales and other
singing birds pluck flowers from the meadows, and let them fall, as they fly over, like a shower of snow, and accompany their fragrant offerings with the sweetest melody; and thick clouds draw up the perfume from the fountains and the river; and as they hang over the banquet, they are pressed gently by the winds, and distil it in drops like dew: music and song are not wanting at the feast; the verses of Homer are sung by chorusses of boys and virgins, to the music of Eunomus, and Arion, and Anacreon, and Stesichorus; and when these cease, they are followed by a second chorus of swans, and nightingales, and swallows; and when these have sung, the whole wood becomes melodious at the impulse of the Winds. It must not be forgotten that there are two fountains in the Elysian plains, of which all the guests drink before they place themselves at the banquet, the Fountains of Pleasure and of Laughter.
Among the inhabitants of the Island of the Blessed are the Heroes, the Wise Men, and the most celebrated Philosophers. Socrates indeed is so argumentative, and contentious, and ironical, that he is in danger of being turned out; and Plato was not there, but was reported to be dwelling in a Republic formed on his own model, and governed by his own laws. Lucian, in accordance with his own philosophy, allots the most distinguished stations to Aristippus and Epicurus: there were no Stoics there, for they were still climbing the steep hill of virtue; and Chrydippus especially was forbidden to set foot upon the island, till he had gone through four courses of hellebore. The Academicians were willing to come, but they were waiting and considering, for they had not yet clearly ascertained whether there were such an island or not.
Lucian had many conversations with Homer, and learned from him that he was in fact a Babylonian; but he does not seem to have gained much more information from him. The tranquillity of the Happy Island was for a short time disturbed by the apprehension of an invasion from some of the impious, who had escaped from their place of punishment, under the command of Phalaris and Busiris and other formidable leaders; they are defeated, however, by the Heroes. The prize of valour is adjudged to Socrates, and he is presented with a large and beautiful park, where he establishes a Necracademia, or Academy of the Dead; and Homer writes an epic poem on the war. But another event happens, which affects our travellers more nearly, and hastens their dismissal from the island. Cinyrus, the youth whom they had found in the fish, and who had escaped with them, falls in love with Helen. “Still in our ashes live our wonted fires:" Helen cannot resist, and runs away with him. The fugitives are pursued by fifty of the heroes in a bark of Asphodel, overtaken just as they are entering the sea of milk, and brought back, The new Paris and
his accomplices are scourged with mallow and sent off to the abodes of the impious, and Lucian and the rest of the crew compelled to quit the island.
In their voyage they pass by the countries set apart for the punishment of the wicked. On one of these they land, and witness the sufferings of their late companion Cinyrus: they see many other culprits," but those endured the severest punishments who had been guilty of falsehood in their lifetime, or who had written histories which were not true; among whom were Ctesias the Cnidian, and Herodotus, and many others: when therefore I saw these, I had good hope for the future; for I was not conscious to myself of ever having told a falsehood." They next came in sight of the Island of Dreams, which for some time seems to retreat before them; they land at last about twilight, and proceed to the city, and find it embosomed in a thick wood, in which the only trees are huge poppies and mandragoras, with multitudes of bats clinging to the branches. The city is surrounded by a wall resembling a rainbow, and has not only the celebrated gates of horn and ivory, but two others of iron and brick, which open upon the plain of Stupor, and from which all frightful and murderous dreams issue. At the right hand of the principal entrance is the temple of Night, and on the left the palace of Sleep. In the midst of the forum is the fountain of Drowsiness, and near it are the temples of Deception and Truth. Our voyagers are kindly received and splendidly entertained by the Dreams; and some were even transported by them to their own country, and permitted to see their friends and relations, but they are obliged to return on the same day.
They visit next the island of Calypso, and present to her a letter from Ulysses, which he had written without the knowledge of Penelope, and in which he expresses his anxiety to escape from the happy island and to return to his beloved goddess. As they proceed on their voyage they are attacked by pirates sailing in vessels made of gourds hollowed out; but the enemy is called off by an attack from another maritime people, who sail in walnut shells. They next meet with men, who are all, like Arion, riding upon dolphins; and at night they run foul of the floating nest of a Halcyon, sixty stadia in circumference: to this bird even the roc of the Arabian Nights would appear diminutive. The Halcyon flies away with a lamentable cry, and nearly sinks the ship with the rush of her wings; and in the morning they land on the nest, and find it built of trees, with five hundred eggs in it. They soon after fall in with a floating forest, so thick that they are obliged to drag the ship over the tops of the trees*. It is is easy to guess the
*We cannot now tell how marvellous might be the relations of the historians and travellers whom Lucian parodies. We have, however, a convincing proof
original of the next portent that they meet with, a chasm in the sea, with the water standing like a precipice on each side. At last, however, they discover a bridge of water, and cross the gulf in safety: they land finally upon an island inhabited by women, who receive them with great cordiality, and each conducts one as a guest to her own house. The suspicions of Lucian, however, are roused by seeing some human bones and skulls lying about; and on a closer examination he discovers that his hostess has the hoofs of an ass; he attacks her, therefore, and binds her, and she confesses that they live upon human flesh, and when they have feasted their guests and lulled them to sleep, devour them in the night. Lucian alarms his companions; but his prisoner melts away into water, which becomes blood when he plunges his sword into it. Soon after they have left this island, they are wrecked upon a land, which they conjecture to be the continent on the farther side of the ocean, or (as the translators have rendered it) the land of the Antipodes: and here the history suddenly breaks off.
The French translator, D'Ablancourt, has given a continuation of it, but he has not caught the spirit of his original. He has disregarded Lucian's design of parodying the wonderful narrations of more serious writers; and by attempting, as he imagined, to put more meaning into his prodigies, he has converted most of them into frigid and clumsy allegories. There There is some fancy in his description of the kingdom of the Animals, and of the solemn levee which is held by their sovereign the Phoenix. It has not the elegant humour of that very pretty fancy-piece, The Peacock at Home, but in its general character it bears a striking resemblance to it. There is some imagination also displayed in the concluding adventures in the Island of Magic; but the appearance of the Evil One under the form of a he-goat, the rites of his worshippers, the signing of a contract with blood, and other details, are not at all classical. D'Ablancourt, however, has imitated Lucian happily in one instance, and that is his account of the Pygmies, which he has borrowed with some ludicrous exaggeration from the Indian history of Ctesias.
that even this prodigy might possibly be a very allowable caricature. One of the commentators on Lucian has quoted a passage from Jos. Acosta's history of the Indies. "One of our brothers, a man worthy of credit, related to us, that having lost his way in the mountains, without knowing in which direction he ought to go, he found himself in the midst of bushes, so thick, that he was obliged to walk upon them, without setting his feet to the ground, for the space of a fortnight."-B. iv. c. 30.
VISIT TO COWPER'S FAVOURITE VILLAGE.
I HAVE long been an enthusiastic admirer of Cowper; and for years past I have promised myself the pleasure of visiting the scenes which are so vividly painted in the Task. That was the first Poem I read with real pleasure; there was a charm in it which I felt, and beauties which I appreciated, long before I could give an orthodoxical "reason for the delight which was in me:" but poetry is not the only subject on which we are lovers, before we are critics. Early in the present summer I induced a friend (a worshipper at the same shrine) to accompany me in my pilgrimage to Weston. A morning's ride from the Metropolis brought us to Olney, a long lonely country-town, which certainly owes to Cowper whatever interest it possesses. The house which he occupied for nearly twenty years stands in a corner of the marketplace; it is an old-fashioned brick building, and both in structure and situation is as unpoetical as any matter-of-fact person could desire. At present it is inhabited by a bookseller: the hall in which Puss and Tiney (those fortunate hares that "had a friend") were accustomed to gambol, is now used as the shop; on the left hand is the little parlour in which the Task was written; behind the house is the garden opening into the " Guinea Field," which separates the poet's premises from the vicarage, and admits Olney's tall spire into the view; the summer-house," not bigger than a sedan chair," his favourite retreat during the milder season, and “in which he wrote to his friends and the public," is still standing, interesting, though in ruins. It appears, that during the latter part of Cowper's residence at Olney, and particularly while he was composing the Task, his usual walk was to the adjoining village of Weston, through the pleasure grounds of Sir George Throckmorton, to which he was allowed constant access. This walk he has described in the "Sofa," and any body who will take the trouble of making a few local inquiries, with the book in his hand, may easily trace the poet's steps. The distance from Olney to Weston is little more than a mile; for some way the path is on a gentle ascent, overlooking "the windings of the silver Ouse," till you gain the summit:
"How oft upon yon eminence our pace
"The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew !"
The beautiful lines which follow contain a faithful representation of the view from this spot. To the right, at a considerable distance from the lane, stood the Peasant's Nest, "oft have I wish'd the peaceful covert mine." Alas! the cottage "perch'd upon the