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At least distemper'd, discontented thoughts, Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires, Blown up with high conceits, engend'ring pride. Him thus intent, Ithuriel with his spear Touch'd lightly; for no falsehood can endure Touch of celestial temper, but returns Of force to his own likeness. Up he starts Discover'd and surprised. As when a spark Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid Fit for the tun, some magazine to store Against a rumour'd war, the smutty grain, With sudden blaze diffus'd inflames the air; So started up in his own shape the fiend. I could not forbear thinking how happy a man would be in the possession of this spear; or what an advantage it would be to a minister of state, were he master of such a white staff. It would help him to discover his friends from his enemies, men of abilities from pretenders: it would hinder him from being imposed upon by appearances and professions; and might be made use of as a kind of state-test, which no artifice could elude.
These thoughts made very lively impressions on my imagination, which were improved, instead of being defaced, by sleep, and produced in me the following dream: I was no sooner fallen asleep, but methought the angel Ithuriel appeared to me, and, with a smile that still added to his celestial beauty, made me a present of the spear which he held in his hand, and disappeared. To make trials of it, I went into a place of public resort.
The first person that passed by me, was a lady that had a particular shyness in the cast of her eye, and a more than ordinary reservedness in all the parts of her behaviour. She seemed to look upon man as an obscene creature, with a certain scorn and fear of him. In the height of her airs I touched her gently with my wand, when, to my unspeakable surprise, she fell in such a manner as made me blush in my sleep. As I was hasting away from this undisguised prude, I saw a lady in earnest discourse with another, and overheard her say, with some vehemence, “ Never tell me of him, for I am resolved to die a virgin !” I had a curiosity to try her; but, as soon as I laid my wand upon her head, she immediately fell in labour. My eyes were diverted from her by a man and his wife, who walked near me, hand in hand, after a very loving manner. 1
gave each of them a gentle tap, and the next instant saw the woman in breeches, and the man with a fan in his hand. It would be tedious to describe the long series of metamorphoses that I entertained myself
with in my night's adventure, of Whigs disguised in Tories, and Tories in Whigs; men in red coats, that denounced terror in their countenance, trembling at the touch of my spear; others in black, with peace in their mouths, but swords in their hands. I could tell stories of noblemen changed into usurers, and magistrates into beadles; of freethinkers into penitents, and reformers into whoremasters. I must not, however, omit the mention of a grave citizen who passed by me with a huge clasped Bible under his arm, and a band of a most immoderate breadth; but, upon a touch on the shoulder, he let drop his book, and fell a-picking my pocket.
In the general I observed, that those who appeared good, often disappointed my expectations ; but that, on the contrary, those who appeared very bad, still grew worse upon the experiment: as the toad in Milton, which one would have thought the most deformed part of the creation, at Ithuriel's stroke became more deformed, and started up into a devil.
Among all the persons that I touched, there was but one who stood the test of my wand; and, after many repetitions of the stroke, stuck to his form, and remained steady and fixed to his first appear.
This was a young man, who boasted of foul
distempers, wild debauches, insults upon boly men, and affronts to religion.
My heart was extremely troubled at this vision. The contemplation of the whole species, so entirely sunk in corruption, filled my mind with a melancholy that is inexpressible, and my discoveries still added to my affliction.
In the midst of these sorrows which I had in my heart, methought there passed by me a couple of coaches with purple liveries. There sat in each of them a person with a very venerable aspect. At the appearance of them the people, who were gathered round me in great multitudes, divided into parties, as they were disposed to favour either of those reverend persons.
The enemies of one of them begged me to touch him with my wand, and assured me I should see his lawn converted into a cloak. The opposite party told me with as much assurance, that if I laid my wand upon the other, I should see his garments embroidered with flowerde-luces, and his head covered with a cardinal's hat. I made the experiment; and, to my great joy, saw them both without any change, distributing their blessings to the people, and praying for those who had reviled them. Is it possible, thought I, that good men, who are so few in number, should be divided among themselves, and give better quarter to the vicious that are in their party, than the most strictly virtuous that are out of it ? Are the ties of faction above those of religion ?-I was going on in my soliloquies, but some sudden accident awakened me, when I found my hand grasped, but my spear gone. The reflection on so very odd a dream made me figure to myself what a strange face the world would bear, should all mankind appear in their proper shapes and characters, without hopocrisy and disguise? I am afraid the earth we live upon would appear to other intellectual beings no better than a planet peopled with monsters. This should, methinks, inspire us with an honest ambition of recommending ourselves to those invisible spies, and of being what we would appear.
There was one circumstance in my foregoing dream, which I at first intended to conceal; but upon second thoughts, I cannot look upon myself as a candid and impartial historian, if I do not acquaint my reader, that upon taking Ithuriel's spear into my hand, though I was before an old decrepit fellow, I appeared a very handsome, jolly, black man. But I know my enemies will say this is praising my own beauty, for which reason I will speak no more of it.
N° 238. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1710.
Juv. Sat. xii. 23.
R. WYNNE. From my own Apartment, October 16. STORMS at sea are so frequently described by the ancient poets, and copied by the moderns, that whenever I find the winds begin to rise in a new heroic poem, I generally skip a leaf or two until I come into fair weather. Virgil's tempest is a masterpiece in this kind, and is indeed so naturally drawn, that one who has made a voyage, can scarce read it without being sea-sick. Land-showers are no less frequent among the poets than the former, but I remember none of them which have not fallen in the country; for which reason they are generally filled with the lowings of oxen and the bleatings of sheep, and very often embellished with a rainbow.
Virgil's land-shower is likewise the best in its kind. It is, indeed, a shower of consequence, and contributes to the main design of the poem, by cutting off a tedious ceremonial, and bringing matters to a speedy conclusion between two potentates of different sexes. My ingenious kinsman, Mr. Humphry Wagstaff, who treats of every subject after a manner that no other author has done, and better than any other can do, has sent me the description of a City-shower. I do not question but the reader remembers my cousin's description of the Morning as it breaks in town, which is printed in the ninth Tatler, and is another exquisite piece of this local poetry.
Careful observers may foretel the hour
Meanwhile the South, rising with dabbled wings,
Now, in contiguous drops the flood comes down,