Author Archives: Carrie Shanafelt

About Carrie Shanafelt

Carrie Shanafelt is an assistant professor of English at Grinnell College.

Item of the Day: Plinie’s Naturall Historie (1601)

Full Title:

The Historie of the World. Commonly called, the Naturall Historie of C. PLINIUS SECUNDUS. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke. Printed in London by Adam Islip, 1601.

Excerpt from the Eighth Booke, Chap. XVI. “Of Lions.”

The Lions are then in their kind most strong and courageous, when the haire of their main or coller is so long, that it covereth both necke and shoulders. and this commeth to them at a certaine age, namely, to those that are engendered by Lions indeed. For such as have Pards to their sires, never have this ornament, no more than the Lionesse. These Lionesses are very letcherous, and this is the very cause that the Lions are so fell and cruell. This, Affricke knoweth best, and seeth most: and especially in time of a great drought, when for want of water, a number of wild beasts resort by troups to those few rivers that be there, and meet together. And hereupon it is, that so many strange shaped beasts, of a mixt and mungrell kind are there bred, whiles the males either perforce, or for pleasure, leape and cover the females of all sorts. From hence it is also, that the Greekes have this common proverbe, That Affricke evermore bringeth forth some new and strange thing or other. The Lion knoweth by sent and smell of the Pard, when the Lionesse his mate hath plaied false, and suffered her selfe to be covered by him: and presently with all his might and maine runneth upon her for to chastise and punish her. And therefore when the Lionesse hath done a fault that way, shee either goeth to a river, and washeth away the strong and ranke savour of the Pard, or els keepeth aloofe, and followeth the Lion farre off, that hee may not catch the said smell. I see it is a common received opinion, that the Lionesse bringeth forth young but once in her lie, for that her whelpes in her kinling; teare her belly with their nailes, and make themselves roume that way. Aristotle writeth otherwise, a man whom I cannot name, but with great honour and reverence, and whome in the historie and report of these matters I meane for the most part to follow. And in very truth king Alexander the great, of an ardent desire that he had to know the natures of all living creatures, gave this charge to Aristotle, a man singular and accomplished in all kind of science and learning, to search into this matter, and to set the same downe in writing: and to this effect commanded certaine thousands of men, one or other, throughout all the tract, as well of Asia as Greece, to give their attendance, & obey him: to wit, all Hunters, Faulconers, Fowlers, and Fishers, that lived by those professions. Item, all Forresters, Park-keepers, and Wariners: all such as had the keeping of heards and flockes of cattell: of bee-hives, fish-pooles, stewes, and ponds: as also those that kept up foule, tame or wild, in mew, those that fed poultrie in barton or coupe: to the end that he should be ignorant of nothing in this behalfe, but be advertised by them, according to his commission, of all things in the world. By his conference with them, he collected so much, as thereof he compiled those excellent bookes de Annimalibus, i. of Living creatures, to the number of almost fiftie. Which being couched by me in a narrow roume, and breefe Summarie, which the addition also of some things els which he never knew, I beseech the readers to take in good worth: and for the discoverie and knowledge of all Natures workes, which that most noble & famous king that ever was desired so earnestly to know, to make a short start abroad with mee, and in a breefe discourse by mine owne paines and diligence digested, to see all. To return now unto our former matter. That great Philosopher Aristotle therfore reporteth, that the Lionesse at her first litter bringeth forth five whelpes, and every yeare after, fewer by one: and when she commeth to bring but one alone, she giveth over, and becommeth barren. Her whelpes at the first are without shape, like small gobbets of flesh, no bigger than weasels. When they are sixe months old, they can hardly go; and for the two first, they stirre not a whit. Lions there be also in Europe (onely betweene the rivers Achelous and Nestus) and these verily be farre stronger than those of Affricke or Syria. Moreover, of Lions there be two kinds: the one short, well trussed and compact, with more crisp and curled maines, but these are timerous and but cowards to them that have long and plaine haire; for thsoe passe not for any wounds whatsoever. The Lions lift up a legge when they pisse, as dogges doe: and over and besides that, they have a strong and stinking breath, their very bodie also smelleth ranke. Seldome they drinke, and eat but each other day: and if at any time they feed till they be full, they will abstaine from meat three daies after. In their feeding, whatsoever they can swallow without chawing, down it goes whole: and if they find their gorge and stomack too full, and not able indeed to receive according to their greedie appetite, they thrust their pawes downe their throats and with their crooked clees fetch out some of it againe, to the end they should not be heavie and slow upon their fulnesse, if haply they be put to find their feet and flie. Mine author Aristotle saith moreover, that they live verie long: and he prooveth it by this argument, That many of them are found toothles for very age. Polybius who accompanied [Scipio] Æmylianus in his voyage of Affrick, reporteth of them, That when they be grown aged, they will prey upon a man: the reason is, because their strength will not hold out to pursue in chase other wild beasts. Then, they come about the cities and good towns of Affrick, lying in await for their prey, if any folk come abroad: & for that cause, he saith, that whiles he was with Scipio he saw some of them crucified & hanged up, to the end that upon the sight of them, other Lions should take example by them, and be skared from doing the like mischiefe. The Lion alone of all wild beasts is gentle to those that humble themselves unto him, and will not touch any such upon their submission, but spareth what creature soever lieth prostrate before him. As fell and furious as hee is otherwhiles, yet he dischargeth his rage upon men, before that he setteth upon women, and never preyeth upon babes unlesse it be for extreame hunger. They are verily persuaded in Libya, that they have a certaine understanding, when any man doth pray or entreat them for any thing. I have hard it reported for a truth, by a captive woman of Getulia (which being fled was brought home againe to her master) That shee had pacified the violent furie of many Lions within the woods and forrests, by faire language and gentle speech; and namely, that for to escape their rage, she hath been so hardie as to say, shee was a sillie woman, a banished fugitive, a sickely, feeble, and weake creature, an humble suiter and lowly supplicant unto him the noblest of all other living creatures, the soveraigne and commaunder of all the rest, and that shee was too base and not worthie that his glorious majestie should prey upon her. Many and divers opinions are currant, according to the sundrie occurrences that have hapned, or the inventions that mens wits have devised. As touching this matter, namely, that savage beasts are dulced and appeased by good words and faire speech: as also that fell serpents may bee trained and fetched out of their holes by charmes, yea and by certaine conjurations and menaces restrained and dept under for a punishment: but whether it be true or no, I see it is not yet by any man set downe and determined. To come againe to our Lions: the signe of their intent and disposition, is their taile; like as in horses, their ears: for these two marks and tokens, certainly hath Nature given to the most couragious beasts of all others, to know their affections by: for when the Lion stirreth not his taile, hee is in a good mood, gentle, mild, pleasantly disposed, and as if hee were willing to be plaied withall; but in that fit he is seldome seene: for lightly hee is alwaies angrie. At the first, when hee entreth into his choller, hee beateth the ground with his taile: when hee groweth into greater heats, he flappeth and jerketh his sides and flanks withall, as it were to quicken himselfe, and stirre up his angry humor. His maine strength lieth in his breast: hee maketh not a wound (whether it be by lash of taile, scratch of claw, or print of tooth) but the bloud that followeth, is black.

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Filed under 1600's, Explorations, Geography, Greek/Roman Translations, Hard Science, History, Natural Science, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Gordon’s Sallust (1744)

Full Title:

The Works of Sallust, Translated into English. With Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a Translation of Cicero’s Four Orations Against Catiline. [Trans. T. Gordon.] Printed in London for T. Woodward, and J. Peele, sold by J. Osborn at the Golden Bell in Pater-noster Row, 1744.

From the translator’s Introduction:

An able Writer not only gives, but enforces, his own Meaning: His Manner is as significant as his Words, and therefore becomes Part of his Sentiments. It is thus in Speaking as well as Writing: The liveliest Speech in the World, rehearsed by a heavy Man, will sound heavily. What moved, and fired, and charmed the Audience, out of one Mouth, would put them to Sleep out of another. An Oration of Demosthenes, repeated like a Lease by a Clerk; or one of Cicero‘s, pronounced by a Pedant; instead of Rage and Terror, would rouse Laughter and Impatience.

Who can discover the Ardour and Vivacity of Horace, in the Version of Monsieur D’Acier? Yet D’Acier knew, as well as any Man, the Meaning of every Word in Horace, with all his Figures, Allusions, and References.

Plutarch, the entertaining judicious Plutarch, is a dry Writer, as translated by the same D’Acier, though accurately translated: Plutarch, translated by Amyot, is an entertaining, a pleasing Author: Yet, in Amyot‘s Translation, there are numberless Mistakes: A French Critic, and a very learned Man, Monsieur Meziriac, reckons them at Two thousand, all very gross ones. D’Acier‘s is an exact Translation of Plutarch‘s Words: Amyot is a Copy of Plutarch himself; resembles his Author, and writes as well. Amyot is a Genius: D’Acier is a learned Man.

I am much concerned to see so learned and useful a Writer as Plutarch, make so ill a Figure in English: Most of his Lives are poorly Englished; nor is bad Language the worst Fault: They are full of egregious Blunders. Several of them are ill translated from Amyot, by such as understood not French. Many of the instructive Pieces, called his Morals, have fared as ill. A good Translation of all his Works would be a valuable Performance.

Who would not rather read a Discourse of Archbiship Tillotson‘s upon any ordinary Subject, though ever so full of Inaccuracies, than a learned Dissertation of the correct Mr. Thomas Hearn on the best Subject?

I doubt no Work of Genius can be well translated, but by an Author of Genius; and therefore, there can never be many tolerable Translations in the World. Cicero, in translating the noblest Greek Writers, has excelled them all: Cicero was a good Translator, because he was a great Genius.

Terence is only a Translator; but he had fine Taste, Politeness, and Parts, and a Genius for Comedy and genteel Conversation. This was his great Qualification: His Knowlege of the two Languages only helped him to shew it. He might have had great Skill in both, without success, or Fame, as a Comic Poet. Terence translated Comedy with Applause, becasue he had a fine Genius for Comedy. He himself is shamefully travestied by Sir Roger L’Estrange, and Dr. Echard, and much gross Ribaldry fathered upon so pure and polite a Writer.

Mr. Hobbes has translated the Historian Thucydides well; for Mr. Hobbes had equal Talents for History: But he has ill translated Homer, though he well understood Homer; for he had not equal Talents for Poetry. Mr. Dryden, with all his Faults, and many unwarrantable Freedoms, has mad a fine Translation of Virgil, because he was as great a Poet as Virgil; indeed, a great and various Poet: We have Poems of his, such as, I think, Virgil could not write; one Ode particularly, equal, if not superior, to any in Antiquity.

Many of the Speeches and brightest Passages in Lucan, are rendered by Mr. Row with an equal Force, in a Language so unequal, because he had a Genius as warm and poetical as Lucan; though Lucan, with infinite Sinkings, has infinite Elevation, and many glorious Lines.

I have often wished, that such a fine Genius as Dr. Burnet of the Charter-house, had translated Livy. He had grave and grand Conceptions, with harmonious flowing Periods, equal to those of the great Roman Historian. Sir Walter Raleigh would have still done it better, as he was a wonderful Master of such Subjects, and wonderfully qualified to represent them. Many Parts of his History of the World are hardly to be matched, never to be exceeded; particularly his Relation of the second Punic War; where he recounts the Conduct of the Roman and Carthaginian Commonwealths, and of their several Commanders, especially of Hannibal, with surprising Capacity, Clearness, and Force.

There occurs to me one Passage out of the English Livy, which will shew what Justice we have done that noble and elegant Writer. A great Officer says to a Roman General in the Field, (I think he calls him Sir, too) ‘Whilst you stand Shilly-shally here, as a Man may say, the Enemy will tread upon your Toes.’ Could a Groom of that General have used meaner Language to a Fellow Groom? I give the Passage upon Memory—-The Words are either Shilly-shally, or with your Hands in your Pockets, or both.

A Writer of Genius, translated by one who has none, or a mean one, will appear meanly. Even the Meaning of every Word may be conveyed, yet the Meaning of the Writer missed or mangled. It is in Translating, as in Painting: Where the Air, the Spirit, and Dignity of the Original are wanting, Resemblance is wanting. To be able to translate, a Man must be able to do something like what he translates.

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Filed under 1740's, Greek/Roman Translations, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Roman Empire

Item of the Day: Cobden’s Sermon on Chastity (1749)

Printed in:

Sylvanus Urban, Gent., Editor. The Gentleman’s Magazine for March 1749. Printed by Edward Cave. Volume 19, 1750.

EXTRACT from a famed Sermon, preached before the King at St James‘s, on Dec. 11 1748, by Edw. Cobden, D.D. Archdeacon of London, and Chaplain in ordinary to his Majesty.

The Dr entitles his Sermon, A PERSUASIVE TO CHASTITY, and advertises the reader, that, it having given occasion to some unjust censures, he thought proper to publish it, hoping that nothing in the sentiment or expression, will be found unworthy of the sacred function of a preacher of the gospel, or of the serious attention of a christian assembly.

GEN. xxxix. 9. How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against GOD?

THESE words express the utmost abhorrence of the sin to which Joseph was tempted by his perfidious mistress; and what I intend from them, and from the example of his faithful conduct, is, a dissuasive from the sins of immodesty; which are risen, perhaps, to a greater height, and spread to a wider extent than was ever known in former ages.

It would not become me to mention some of those monstrous and unnatural obscenities with which our land hath been stained: they would be offensive, indeed, to the ears of a modest heathen. I shall therefore only insist on two, which are plainly and frequently condemned in scripture; nor any where more expressly than in these words: Whoremongers and adulterers GOD will judge. Heb. xiii. 4.

The heinous guilt and destructive consequences of adultery, appear so shocking at first sight, even to reason, unassisted by revelation, that, however frequent the commission of it may be, yet few, I am persuaded, are so hardened and irrational as to become advocates for it. But single persons are too apt to imagine that all obligations of chastity are confined to the marriage vow. —-Thus Abimelech thought it no crime to take Sarah for his concubine, when he imagined she was espoused to no other person: but no sooner was he informed of her being Abraham‘s wife, than he rejected his first design with abhorrence and disdain. But whatever notions the heathen world might have of these matters, we, who have received the more pure and perfect law of the gospel, are sufficiently and clearly instructed to avoid impurity of every kind.

If we consider fornication with the unprejudiced eye of reason, before the passions have corrupted the judgment, I am persuaded there are few sins which people condemn more in their own breasts; which they commit at first with more reluctance and recoilings of conscience; and which, upon cool reflection, fills them with more horror and keener censures of their own conduct. And, would a man give himself leave to reflect upon the irreparable injury done to the unhappy female partner in the iniquity, it would open such a scene of misery to his view, as would be sufficient to check the most inflamed appetite of the most abandoned libertine.—Alas! that virgin innocence, which was once her comfort and her glory, which was her brightest ornament, and most valuable dowry, is lost, irrecoverably lost; and *shame, guilt and sorrow are to be her continual attendants. The person who has been the occasion of her ruin, will hardly (tho’ obliged to it in duty) deal with her upon terms of honour. And who else will venture to take her for a companion for life, and believe she can be faithful to him, after having been thus flase to herself? ‘Tis well is she does not endeavour to screen herself from censure, by the commission of a more dreaful sin in the murder of a spurious infant; and discard the bowels of a mother, to avoid the scandal of being known to be one. The best and wisest course indeed she can take, is, to endeavour to wash away the stain she has contracted, with the tears of unfeigned repentance, and to take off her reproach in the eyes of the world, by giving the regularity of her future conduct, as an evidence fo the sincerity of her contrition. Would to God this method were, after so unhappy a step, more frequently taken! but alas! it is too often far otherwise. It is to be feared the first breach of chastity will be followed with a train of others, and that she will proceed on in iniquity, till she becomes totally abandoned: a situation almost as miserable in this present life, as that which these unhappy criminals must expect in the next. There is no reflecting on so wretched an object, without the deepest compassion for her miser, as well as the utmost detestation of her guilt. For however light these afflictions may be made of in the seat of the scorner, and however the lascivious debauchee may flatter himself that there was no injury done, because there was no violence used, as she was consenting, perhaps, to her own ruin: Alas! that very consent is the sting of her afflictions: and if his brutal appetites had not effaced every sentiment of humanity in his breast, he could not think of these things without a bleeding heart. Exceeding barbarous therefore and wicked must they be, who, for the sake of gratifying a low and vile inclination, shall tempt and persuade a thoughtless young creature, in an unguarded hour, to an act which is attended with such a train of miseries, and which so evidently leads to her absolute destruction. It is to be considered likewise, that young persons are the property of their parents; and let any man who has the least remains of reason and humanity, tho’ he should be void of all principles of religion, lay his hand upon his heart, and make the case of such a parent his own. Let him consider what indignation, what anguish he himself should feel under the weight of so afflicting, so irreparable an injury. Few parents, I am persuaded, but would rather, much rather, follow their children to the grave, than see them thus forfeit their own peace an happiness, and bring such an indelible stain of infamy upon their family.

But if the sensual libertine is regardless of the afflictions of others, yet, as honour is his boast, and pleasure his pursuit, he cannot, surely, be unaffected with what concerns the dignity of his nature, and the happiness of his life. Let him consider, then, that unrestrained and criminal indugencies of this kind peculiarly enervate the body, and debase the mind, and bring him upon a level brute beasts, that have no understanding: Reason, which was intended by the gracious creator to direct and govern in the human frame, is, by these practices, enslaved to the tyranny of the most contemptible of the passions. When men are given over to vile affections, their understandings become darkened; and it is seldom that they ever again recover the proper government of themselves. The insatiable appetite still rages through all the infirmities of a distemper’d body, and is not extinguished even by old age: If indeed (which is very uncommon) they should happen to arrive at that period.

The Preacher proceeds to display the sacred obligations of matrimony, and the cruel injustice of endeavouring to break them; and shows the turpitude of uncleanness and adultery, with such elegance, that we must copy the whole, or injure his arguments.

* Of this wretched state, a most lively and striking picture is exhibited in Roderick Random, which we have here copied as a warning to one sex, and a remonstrance against t’other.

Miss Williams, who had been betray’d into a course of vice, by the fraud and cruelty of a man of pleasure, is introduced relating the story of her own misfortunes:

“I have often seen (said she) while I strolled about the streets at midnight, a number of naked wretches reduced to rags and filth, huddled together like swine, in the corner of a dark alley; some of whom, but eighteen months before, I had known the favourites of the town, rolling in affluence, and glittering in all the pomp of equipage and dress.”

—And indeed the gradation is easily conceived; the most fashionable woman of the town is as liable to contagion, as one in a much humbler sphere; she infects her admirers, her situation is publick, she is avoided, neglected, unable to support her usual appearance, which however she strives to maintain as long as possible; her credit fails, she is obliged to retrench and become a night-walker, her malady gains ground, her complexion fades, she grows nauseous to every body, finds herself reduced to a starving condition, is tempted to pick pockets, is detected, committed to Newgate, where she remains in a miserable condition, ’till she is discharged because the plaintiff will not appear to prosecute her. No body will afford her lodging, the symptoms of her distempter are grown outrageous, she sues to be admitted into an hospital, where she is cured at the expence of her nose; she is turned out naked into the streets, depends on the addresses of the canaille, is fain to allay the rage of hunger and cold with gin, degenerates into a state of brutal insensibility, rots and dies upon a dunghill.—

“Miserable wretch that I am! perhaps the same horrors are decreed for me!—”

Some strokes of this kind appear also in Tom Jones, and in Mrs Philips‘s Apology.—Indeed as this subject is capable of very high colouring, almost every writer has exercised upon it his skill in painting. However, the loose images in these pieces perhaps incite to vice more strongly than the contrast figures alarm us into virtue.

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Filed under 1740's, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Religion

Item of the Day: Harris’s Hermes (1751)

Full Title:

Hermes: Or, a Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Language and Universal Grammar, by James Harris. Printed in London by H. Woodfall, for J. Nourse oppostie to Catherine-street, and P. Vaillant facing Southampton-street, in the Strand. 1751.

From the Preface:

THE chief End, proposed by the Author of this Treatise in making it public, has been to excite his Readers to curiosity and inquiry; not to teach them himself by prolix and formal Lectures, (from the efficacy of which he has little expectation,) but to induce them, if possible, to become Teachers to themselves, by an impartial use of their own understandings. He thinks nothing more absurd than the common notion of Instruction, as if Science were to be poured into the Mind, like water into a cistern, that passively waits to receive all that comes. The growth of Knowlege he rather thinks to resemble the growth of Fruit; however external causes may in some degree co-operate, ’tis the internal vigour, and virtue of the tree, that must ripen the juices to their just maturity.

This then, namely, the exciting men to inquire for themselves into subjects worth of their contemplation, this the Author declares to have been his first and principal motive for appearing in print. Next to that, as he has always been a lover of Letters, he would willingly approve his studies to the liberal and ingenuous. He has particularly named these, in distinction to others; because, as his studies were never prosecuted with the least regard to lucre, so they are no way calculated for any lucrative End. The liberal therefore and ingenuous, (whom he has mentioned already,) are those, to whose perusal he offers what he has written. Should they judge favourably of his attempt, he may not perhaps hesitate to confess,

Hoc juvat et melli est.——-

For tho’ he hopes, he cannot be charged with the foolish love of vain Praise, he has no desire to be thought indifferent, or insensible to honest Fame.

From the influence of these sentiments, he has endeavoured to treat his subject with as much order, correctness, and perspicuity as in his power; and if he has failed, he can safely say, (according to the vulgar phrase,) that the failure has been his misfortune, and not his fault. He scorns those trite and contemptible methods of anticipating a pardon for a bad performance, that “it was the hasty fruits of a few idle hours; written merely for private amusement; never revised; published against consent, at the importunity of friends, copies (God knows how) having by stealth gotten abroad;” with other stale jargon of equal falshood and inanity. May we not ask such Prefacers, If what they allege be true, what has the world to do with them and their crudities?

As to the Book itself, it can say this in its behalf, that it does not merely confine itself to what its title promises, but expatiates freely into whatever is collateral; aiming on every occasion to rise in its inquiries, and to pass, as far as possible, from small matters to the greatest. Nor is it formed merely upon sentiments that are now in fashion, or supported only by such authorities as are modern. Many Authors are quoted, that now a-days are but little studied; and some perhaps, whose very names are hardly known.

The Fate indeed of antient Authors (as we have happened to mention them) is not unworthy of our notice. A few of them survive in the Libraries of the learned, where some venerable Folio, that still goes by their name, just suffices to give them a kind of nominal existence. The rest have long fallen into a deeper obscurity, their very names, when mentioned, affecting us as little, as the names, when we read them, of those subordinate Heroes,

Alcandrumque, Haliumque, Noemonaque, Prytanimque.

Now if an Author, not content with the more eminent of antient Writers, should venture to bring his reader into such company as these last, among people (in the fashionable phrase) that no body knows; what usage, what quarter can he have reason to expect?—Should the Author of these speculations have done this, (and ’tis to be feared he has) what method had he best take in a circumstance so critical?—Let us suppose him to apologize in the best manner he can, and in consequence of this, to suggest as follows—

He hopes there will be found a pleasure in the contemplation of antient sentiments, as the view of antient Architecture, tho’ in ruins, has something venerable. Add to this, what from its antiquity is but little known, has from that very curcumstance the recommendation of novelty; so that here, as in other instances, Extremes may be said to meet. Farther still, as the Authors, whom he has quoted, lived in various ages, and in distant countries; some in the full maturity of Grecian and Roman Literature; some in its declension; and others in periods still more barbarous, and depraved; it may afford perhaps no unpleasing speculation, to see how the SAME REASON has at all times prevailed; how there is ONE TRUTH, like one Sun, taht has enlightened human Intelligence through every age, and saved it from the darkness both of Sophistry and Error.

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Filed under 1750's, Language, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Thomson’s Seasons (1774)

Full Title:

The Seasons. By James Thomson. To which is prefixed, The Life of the Author, by Patrick Murdoch, D.D. Printed in London for W. Strahan, J. & F. Rivington, W. Owen, W. Johnston, T Longman, T. Caslon, G. Kearsly, T. Davies, T. Becket, T. Cadell, T. Lowndes, Richardson & Richardson, and H. Baldwin, 1774.

Excerpt from “Summer”:

FROM brightening fields of ether fair disclos’d,
Child of the Sun, refulgent SUMMER comes,
In pride of youth, and felt thro’ Nature’s depth:
He comes attended by the sultry hours,
And ever-fanning breezes, on his way;
While, from his ardent look, the turning SPRING
Averts her blushful face; and earth, and skies,
All-smiling, to his hot dominion leaves.

HENCE, let me haste into the mid-wood shade,
Where scarce a sun-beam wanders thro’ the gloom;
Of haunted stream, that by the roots of oak
Rools o’er the rocky channel, lie at large,
And sing the glories of the circling year.

COME, Inspiration! from thy hermit-seat,
By mortal seldom found: may Fancy dare,
From thy fix’d serious eye, and raptur’d glance
Shot on surrounding Heaven, to steal one look
Creative of the Poet, every power
Exalting to an ecstasy of soul.

AND thou, my youthful Muse’s early friend,
In whom the human graces all unite:
Pure light of mind, and tenderness of heart:
Genius, and wisdom; the gay social sense,
By decency chastis’d; goodness and wit,
In seldom-meeting harmony combin’d;
Unblemish’d honour, and an active zeal
For BRITAIN’s glory, Liberty, and Man:
O DODINGTON! attend my rural song;
Stoop to my theme, inspirit every line,
And teach me to deserve thy just applause.

WITH what an awful world-revolving power
Were first the unwieldy planets launch’d along
Th’ illimitable void! Thus to remain,
Amid the flux of many thousand years,
That oft has swept the toiling race of Men,
And all their labour’d monuments away,
Firm, unremitting, matchless, in their course;
To the kind-temper’d change of night and day,
And of the seasons ever stealing round,
Minutely faithful: Such TH’ ALL PERFECT HAND!

WHEN now no more th’ alternate Twins are fir’d,
And Cancer reddens with the solar blaze,
Short is the doubtful empire of the night;
And soon, observant of approaching day,
The meek-ey’d Morn appears, mother of dews,
At first faint-gleaming in the dappled east:
Till far o’er ether spreads the widening glow;
And, from before the lustre of her face,
White break the clouds away. With quickened step,
Brown Night retires: Young Day pours in apace,
And opens all the lawny prospect wide.
The dripping rock, the mountain’s misty top
Swell on the sight, and brighten with the dawn.
Blue, thro’ the dusk, the smoaking currents shine;
And from the bladed field the fearful hare
Limps, awkward: while along the forest-glade
The wild deer trip, and often turning gaze
At early passenger. Music awakes
The native voice of undissembled joy;
And thick around the woodland hymns arise.
Rous’d by the cock, the soon-clad shepherd leaves
His mossy cottage, where with Peace he dwells;
And from the crowded fold, in order, drives
His flock, to taste the verdure of the morn.

FALSELY luxurious, will not Man awake;
And, springing from the bed of sloth, enjoy
The cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,
To meditation due and sacred song?
For is there aught in sleep can charm the wise?
To lie in dead oblivion, losing half
The fleeting moment of too short a life;
Total extinction of th’ enlightened soul!
Or else to feverish vanity alive,
Wildered, and tossing thro’ distempered dreams?
Who would in such a gloomy state remain
Longer than Nature craves; when every Muse
And every blooming pleasure wait without,
To bless the wildly devious morning walk?

BUT yonder comes the powerful King of Day,
Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud,
The kindling azure, and the mountain’s brow
Illum’d with fluid gold, his near approach
Betoken glad. Lo; now, apparent all,
Aslant the dew-bright earth, and coloured air,
He looks in boundless majesty abroad;
And sheds the shining day, that burnish’d plays
On rocks, and hills, and towers, and wandering dreams,
High-gleaming from afar. Prime chearer Light!
Of all material beings first, and best!
Efflux devine,! Nature’s resplendent robe!
Without whose vesting beauty all were wrapt
In unessential gloom; and thou, O Sun!
Soul of surrounding worlds! in whom best seen
Shines out thy Maker! may I sing of thee?

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Filed under 1770's, Poetry, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Twain’s Tramp Abroad (1880)

Full Title:

A Tramp Abroad; Illustrated by W. Fr. Brown, True Williams, B. Day and other artists–with also three or four pictures made by the author of this book, without outside help; in all Three hundred and twenty-eight illustrations. By Mark Twain, (Samuel Clemens.) (Sold by subscription only.) Printed in Hartford, Conn. by the American Publishing Company, 1880.

Chapter I

One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Europe on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878.

I looked about me for the right sort of person to accompany me in the capacity of agent, and finally hired a Mr. Harris for this service.

It was also my purpose to study art while in Europe. Mr. Harris was in sympathy with me in this. He was as much of an enthusiast in art as I was, and not less anxious to learn to paint. I desired to learn the German language; so did Harris.

Toward the middle of April we sailed in the Holsatia, Capt. Brandt, and had a very pleasant trip indeed.

After a brief rest at Hamburg, we made preparations for a long pedestrian trip southward in the soft spring weather, but at the last moment we changed the program, for private reasons, and took the express train.

We made a short halt at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, and found it an interesting city. I would have like to visit the birthplace of Guttenberg, but it could not be done, as no memorandum of the site of the house has been kept. So we spent an hour at the Goethe mansion instead. The city permits this house to belong to private parties, instead of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor of possessing and protecting it.

Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have the distinction of being the place where the following incident occurred. Charlemagne, while chasing the Saxons, (as he said,) or being chased by them, (as they said,) arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog. The enemy were either before him or behind him; but in any case he wanted to get across, very badly. He would have given anything for a guide, but none was to be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young, approach the water. He watched her, judging that she would seek a ford, and he was right. She waded over, and the army followed. So a great Frankish victory or defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate that episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there, which he named Frankfort,–the ford of the Franks. None of the other cities where this event happened were named from it. This is good evidence that Frankfort was the first place it occurred at.

Frankfort has another distinction,–it is the birthplace of the German alphabet: or at least of the German word for alphabet,–Buchstaben. They say that the first movable types were made on birch sticks,–Buchstabe,–hence the name.

I was taught a lesson in political economy in Frankfort. I had brought from home a box containing a thousand very cheap cigars. By way of experiment, I stepped into a little shop in a queer old back street, took four gaily decorated boxes of wax matches and three cigars, and laid down a silver piece worth 48 cents. The man gave me 43 cents change.

In Frankfort everybody wears clean clothes, and I think we noticed that this strange thing was the case in Hamburg too, and in the villages along the road. Even in the narrowest and poorest and most ancient quarters of Frankfort neat and clean clothes were the rule. The little children of both sexes were nearly always nice enough to take into a body’s lap. And as for the uniforms of the soldiers, they were newness and brightness carried to perfection. One could never detect a smirch or a grain of dust upon them. The street car conductors and drivers wore pretty uniforms which seemed to be just out of the bandbox, and their manners were as fine as their clothes.

In one of the shops I had the luck to stumble upon a book which has charmed me nearly to death. It is entitled “The Legends of the Rhine from Basle to Rotterdam, by F.J. Kiefer; Translated by L.W. Garnham, B.A.”

All tourists mention the Rhine legends,–in that sort of way with quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar with them all his life, and that the reader cannot possibly be ignorant of them,–but not tourist ever tells them. So this little book fed me in a very hungry place; and I, in my turn, intend to feed my reader, with one or two little lunches from the same larder. I shall not mar Garnham’s translation by meddling with its English; for the most toothsome thing about it is its quaint fashion of building Engilsh sentences on the German plan,–and punctuating them according to no plan at all.

In the chapter devoted to “Legends of Frankfort,” I find the following:

“THE KNAVE OF BERGEN.”

“In Frankfort at the Tomer was a great mask-ball, at the coronation festival, and in the illuminated saloon, the clanging music invited to dance, and splendidly appeared the rich toilets and charms of the ladies, and the festively costumed Princes and Knights. All seemed pleasure, joy, and roguish gayety, only one of the numerous guests had a gloomy exterior; but exactly the black armor in which he walked about excited general attention, and his tall figure, as well as the noble propriety of his movements, attracted especially the regards of the ladies. Who the Knight was? Nobody could guess, for his Vizier was well closed, and nothing made him recognizable. Proud and yet modest he advanced to the Empress; bowed on one knee before her seat, and begged for the favor of a waltz with the Queen of the festival. And she allowed his request. With light and graceful steps he danced through the long saloon, with the sovereign who thought never to have found a more dexterous and excellent dancer. But also by the grace of his manner, and fine conversation he knew to win the Queen, and she graciously accorded him a second dance for which he begged, a third, and a fourth, as well as others were not refused him. How all regarded the happy dancer, how many envied him the high favor; how increased curiosity, who the masked knight could be.

Also the Emperor become more and more excited with curiosity, and with great suspense one awaited the hour, when according to mask-law, each masked guest must make himself known. This moment came, but although all others had unmasked, the secret knight still refused to allow his features to be seen, till at last the Queen driven by curiosity, and vexed at the obstinate refusal; commanded him to open his Vizier. He opened it, and none of the high ladies and knights knew him. But from the crowded spectators, 2 officials advanced, who recognized the black dancer, and horror and terror spread in the saloon, as they said who the supposed knight was. It was the executioner of Bergen. But glowing with rage, the King commanded to sieze the criminal and lead him to death, who had ventured to dance, with the queen; so disgraced the Empress, and insulted the crown. The culpable threw himself at the feet of the Emperor, and said,–

“‘Indeed I have heavily sinned against all noble guests assembled here, but most heavily against you my sovereign and my queen. the Queen is insulted by my haughtiness equal to treason, but no punishment even blood, will not be able to wash out the disgrace, which you have suffered by me. Therefore oh King! allow me to propose a remedy, to efface the shame, and to render it as if not done. Draw your sword and knight me, then I will throw down my gauntlet, to every one who dares to speak disrespectfully of my king.

“The Emperor was surprised at this bold proposal, however it appeared wisest to him; “You are a knave he replied after a moment’s consideration, however your advice is good, and displays prudence, as your offense shows adventurous courage. Well then, and gave him the knight-stroke, so I raise you to nobility, who begged for grace for your offence now kneels before me, rise as knight; knavish you have acted, and Knave of Bergen shall you be called henceforth, and gladly the Black knight rose; three cheers were given in honor of the Emperor, and loud cries of joy testified the approbation with which the Queen danced still once with the Knave of Bergen.

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Filed under 1880's, Culture, Germany, Language, Modern Language Translations, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Castiglione’s The Courtier (1727)

Full Title:

Il Cortegiano, or The Courtier: Written by Conte Baldassar Castiglione. And a New Version of the same into English. Together with Several of his Celebrated Pieces, as well Latin as Italian, both in Prose and Verse. To which is prefix’d, The Life of the Author. By A.P. Castiglione, of the same Family. Printed in London by W. Bowyer, 1727.

[The text appears in Italian and English in facing columns.]

From Book II.

I have often, not without Wonder, reflected, whence an Error could arise; which one would be apt to think natural to old Men, since found in so many; viz. that they almost universally applaud the Times past, and blame the present; censuring those Modes and Practices with which their younger Years were not acquainted; lamenting the Decline of Virtue, the Degeneracy of Age, the Change of all Things from bad to worse. Now it seems a most unreasonable thing, and what we cannot but be surprized at, that an advanced Age, such as from its great Experience is wont in other Matters to pass the truest, the most exact Judgment, should in this so err, as not to perceive, that if the World daily grew worse, if the Parents were generally better than their Children, we should long e’er this have arrived at the highest Pitch of Vice, at a State, a worse than which would be impossible. Yet this Error we find, not only in our own, but also in ancient Times, prevailing over Persons of the Age we speak of: As is evident from many of the ancient Writers, and particularly the Comick, who give us a better idea of humane Life than any other.

The Reason of this wrong Judgment I take to be, that our Years, as they pass, carry away with ’em many of the Comforts of Life, and particularly occasion such a Decrease of the Animal Spirits, as effects a Change in our Constitution, and renders all those Organs weak through which the Soul exerts its Operations. Whence the sweet Flowers of Delight fall at that time of Life from our Hearts, as Leaves fall from the Trees in Autumn, and instead of gay and chearful Thoughts, a Train of dark and melancholy Apprehensions possess us, our Minds discovering a Weakness great as what we find in our Bodies: All that remains of our past Pleasures, is the Remembrance of the dear Time when they were enjoy’d, which seems such to us, as if Heaven, Earth, and universal Nature, had then put on their best Array, and afforded us the Entertainment of a delightful Garden, adorn’d with all the Beauties of the Spring. Hence perhaps it were to be wish’d, that in that cold Season, when the Sun of our Life is in his Decline, we might lose at once the Sense of Pleasure and its Remembrance, and that we knew Themistocles’s Art of Forgetfulness; because the Senses of our Bodies are so easily deceived, as to mislead the Determinations of the Mind.

I cannot therefore but regard old Men as in the same Condition with them, who fixing, as they sail out of a Haven, their Eyes of the Shore, think it to move, and the Vessel they are in, to stand still: When on the contrary, the Shore, like the Time, keeps its settled State, and we in the Bark of Mortality, are each after the other carried with a brisk Gale through that stormy Sea which devours all things, nor find it ever in our Power to regain the Haven; but always toss’d by the Fury of the Winds, have our Vessel dash’d at length against a Rock and split.

That the Minds then of the aged know not a Relish of many Pleasures, is, becasue they are not proper Subjects for them. As it is with one in a Fever, to whose vitiated Palate the most delicate Wines appear insipid and disagreeable: The very same it is with those in the Decline of Life; they feel an Inclination for Pleasure, yet whatever they pursue they find tastless, flat, and quite different from what they had formerly enjoy’d, though the Nature of the Pleasure continue still the same. Disappointed thus, they grieve and lay the Fault on the Times, as if they were grown worse; never perceiving the Change to be in themselves, not the Times. On the other hand too, reflecting on the Pleasures pass’d, they reflect likewise on the Time when they enjoy’d them, and commend it as seeming to carry with it a Taste of what they felt in it when present. The Truth is, we ever entertain an Aversion to all those things which have accompanied our Uneasynesses, as we do an Affection to whatever has attended our Joys.

Hence it is that a Lover often views with Pleasure a Casement when shut, and this, because he has at some time seen his Mistress there; so likewise a Ring, a Letter, a Garden, any Place or Thing that has been a Witness to his Happiness. On the contrary, an Apartment deck’d with all that can make it gay and delightful, shall be the Abhorrence of him who has suffer’d Imprisonment, or any other Uneasiness in it. I my self have known some that could never drink out of any thing which bore a Resemblance to what they had formerly taken Physick in. For as the Casement, Ring, or Letter, recall’d to the one the dear Remembrance of what had so much delighted him, seeming a part of what had given him Pleasure: So the very Place or Vessel are regarded by the other, as bringing with them the Imprisonment or Disease. On a Foundation like this, I believe it is, that the advanced in Age applaud the past Time, and inveigh against the present.

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Filed under 1720's, Culture, Education, Modern Language Translations, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Mrs. Carter’s Epictetus (1768)

Full Title:

All the Works of Epictetus, Which are now Extant; Consisting of His Discourses, preserved by Arrian, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments. Translated from the Original Greek, By Elizabeth Carter. With An Introduction, and Notes, by the Translator. In Two Volumes. The Third Edition. Printed in London for J. and F. Rivington, 1768.

From the Introduction:

1. The Stoic Sect was founded by Zeno, about three hundred Years before the Christian Æra: and flourished in great Reputation, till the Declension of the Roman Empire. A complete History of this Philosophy would be the Work of a large Volume: and nothing further is intended here, than such a summary View of it, as may be of Use to give a clearer Notion of those Passages in Epictetus, a strict Professor of it, which allude to some of its peculiar Doctrines.

2. That the End of Man is to live conformably to Nature, was universally agreed on amongst all the Philosophers: but, in what that Conformity to Nature consists, was the Point in Dispute. The Epicureans maintained, that it consisted in Pleasure; of which they constituted Sense the Judge (a). The Stoics, on the contrary, placed it in an absolute Perfection of the Soul. Neither of them seem to have understood Man in his mixed Capacity; but while the first debased him to a mere Animal, the last exalted him to a pure Intelligence; and both considered him as independent, uncorrupted and sufficient, either by Height of Virtue, or by well-regulated Indulgence, to his own Happiness. The Stoical Excess was more useful to the Public, as it often produces great and noble Efforts towards that Perfection, to which it was supposed possible for human Nature to arrive. Yet, at the same time, by flattering Man with false and presumptuous Ideas of his own Power and Excellence, it tempted even the Best to Pride: a Vice not only dreadfully mischievous in human Society, but, perhaps of all others, the most insuperable Bar to real inward Improvement.

3. Epictetus often mentions Three Topics, or Classes, under which the whole of Moral Philosophy is comprehended. These are, the Desires and Aversions, the Pursuits and Avoidances, or the Exercise of the active Powers, and the Assents of the Understanding.

4. The Desires and Aversions were considered as simple affections of the Mind, arising from the Apprehension, that any thing was conducive to Happiness, or the contrary. The first Care of a Proficient in Philosophy was, to regulate these in such a manner, as never to be disappointed of the one, or incur the other: a Point no otherwise attainable, than by regarding all Externals as absolutely indifferent. Good must always be the Object of Desire, and Evil of Aversion. The Person then, who considers Life, Health, Ease, Friends, Reputation, &c. as Good; and their Contraries as Evil, must necessarily desire the one, and be averse to the other: and, consequently, must often find his Desire disappointed, and his Aversion incurred. The Stoics, therefore, restrained Good and Evil to Virtue and Vice alone: and excluded all Extrenals from any Share in human Happiness, which they made entirely dependent on a right Choice. From this Regulation of the Desires and Aversions follows that Freedom from Perturbation, Grief, Anger, Pity, &c. and in short, that universal Apathy, which they every-where strongly inculcate.

5. The next Step to Stoical Perfection was, the Class of Pursuits and Avoidances (b). As the Desires and Aversions are simple Affections, the Pursuits and Avoidances are Exertions of the active Powers towards the procuring or declining any thing. Under this Head was comprehended the whole System of moral Duties, according to their incomplete Ideas of them: and a due Regard to it was supposed to ensure a proper Behaviour in all the social Relations. The constant Performance of what these point out, natureall followed from a Regulation of the Desires and Aversions in the first Topic: for where the Inclinations are exerted and restrained as they ought, there will be nothing to mislead us in Action.

6. The last Topic, and the Completion of the Stoic Character, was that of the Assents (c). As the second was to produce a Security from Failure in Practice, this was to secure an Infallibility in Judgment, and to guard the Mind from ever either admitting a Falshood, or dissenting from Truth. A wise Man, in the Stoic Scheme, was never to be mistaken, or to form any Opinion. Where Evidence could not be obtained, he was to continue in Suspense. His Understanding was never to be misled, even in Sleep, or under the Influence of Wine, or in a Delirium. In this last Particular, however, there is not a perfect Agreement: and some Authors are so very reasonable, as to admit it possible for a Philosopher to be mistaken in his Judgment, after he hath lost his Senses (d).

7. The Subject of these several Classes of philosophic Exercise are, the Appearances of Things (e). By these Appearances the Stoics understood the Impressions (f) made on the Soul, by any Objects, presented either to the Senses, or to the Understanding. Thus a House, an Estate, Life, Death, Pain, Reputation, &c. (considered in the View, under which they are presented to the preceptive Faculties) in the Stoical Sense are, Appearances. The Use of Appearances is common to Brutes, and Men: and intelligent Use of them belongs only to the latter: a Distinction, which is carefully to be observed in reading these Discourses.

8. That Judgment, which is formed by the Mind concerning the Appearances, the Stoics termed Principles: and these Principles give a Determination to the Choice.

9. The Choice, among the Stoics, signified, either the Faculty of Willing; or a deliberate Election of some Action, or Course of Life.

10. As the Appearances respect particular Objects, the Pre-conceptions are general innate Notions, such as they supposed to take original Possession of the Mind, before it forms any of its own (g). To adapt these Pre-conceptions to particular Cases, is the Office of Reason: and is often insisted on by Epictetus, as a Point of the highest Importance.

11. By the Word, which throughout this Translation is rendered Prosperity, the Stoics understood the internal State of the Mind, when the Affections and active Powers were so regulated, that it considered all Events as happy: and, consequently, must enjoy an uninterrupted Flow of Success: since nothing could fall out contrary to its Wishes (h).

These, which have been mentioned, are the technical Terms of the greatest Consequence in the Stoic Philosophy: and which, for that Reason, are, except in a very few Places, always rendered by the same English Word, There are other Words used in a peculiar Sense by this Sect: but, as they are not of equal Importance, they are neither so strictly translated, nor need any particular Definition.

12. The Stoics held Logic in the highest Esteem: and often carried it to such a trifling Degree of Subtility, as rendered their Arguments very tedious and perplexed. The frequent References to logical Questions, and the Use of syllogistical Terms, are the least agreeable Part of the Discourses of Epictetus: since, however well they might be understood by some of his Hearers, they are now unintelligible to the greatest Part of his Readers. Indeed, with all his Strength and Clearness of Understanding, he seems to have been hurt by this favourite Science of his Sect. One is sometimes surprised to find his Reasoning incoherent and perplexed: and his Scholars rather silenced by Interrogatories, which they are unable to comprehend, than convinced by the Force of Truth; and then given up by him, as if they were hopeless and unteachable. Yet many a well-meaning Understanding may be lost in the Wood by the Confusion of dialectical Quibbles, which might ahve been led, without Difficulty to the Point in view, if it had been suffered to follow the Track of common Sense.

(a) Sensibus ipsis judicari voluptates. Cic. de Fin. L. II. By Pleasure the Epicureans sometimes explained themselves to mean, only Freedom from Uneasiness: but the Philosophers of other Sects in general, as well as Cicero, insist, producing their own Expressions for it, that they meant sensual Delights. This, indeed, was more explicitly the Doctrine of Aristippus, the Father of the Cyrenaics: a Sect, however, which sunk into the Epicureans; whose Notions plainly led to the Dissoluteness so remarkable in the Lives of most of them.

(b) The Stoics define these Terms: the one, a Motion, by which we are carried toward some Object; the other, a Motion, by which we strive to shun it. The original Words, by a Happiness in the Greek Language, are properly opposed to each other; which the English will not admit. I have chosen the best I could find, and wish they were better.

(c) It seems strange, taht the Stoics generally put the Assents last: since both the Affections and Will should be governed by the Understanding; which, therefore, should be rectified, in order to do its Office well. Epictetus seems to be of this Opinion in B. I. c. 17. But, perhaps, they thought common Sense, or natural Logic, which they meant, but did not express clearly, by the Word Assents, necessary as a Guard only against Sophistry. Yet their mentioning it, as a Guard also against being misled, when they were in Drink, and even in their Dreams, leaves but little Room for this Conjecture.

(d) [Quote in Greek] DIOG. LAERT. in ZENO.
Nam si argumentaberis, sapientem multo vino inebriari, & retinere rectum tenorem, etiamsi temulentus sit: licet colligas, nec veneno poto moriturum, &c. SEN. Epist. 83.

(e) The original Word is of peculiar Signification among the Stoics: and I wish it could have been rendered into English, in a manner less ambiguous, and more expressive of its Meaning. But the Stoic Language perished with the Stoic Sect: and scarcely any of its technical Terms can now be rendered intelligible, except by a Paraphrase, or a Definition.

(f) [Quote in Greek] DIOG. LAERT. L. VII. 45.

(g) [Quote in Greek] DIOG. LAERT. L. VII. 54.

(h) I am sensible, that Prosperity, in common Use, relates wholly to external Circumstances: but I could find no better Word to express the internal good Condition of the Mind, which the Stoics meant by [Greek]. There is an Instance of the like Use, 3 John ver. 2.

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Filed under 1760's, Greek/Roman Translations, Language, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Women

Item of the Day: Rodgers’s Divine Goodness Displayed (1784)

Full Title:

The Divine Goodness displayed, in the American Revolution: A Sermon, Preached in New-York, December 11th, 1783. Appointed by Congress, as a Day of Public Thanksgiving, Throughout the United States; by John Rodgers, D.D. Printed in New-York by Samuel Loudon, 1784.

Excerpt:

Ps. CXXVI, 3.
The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.

The subject of this divine poem, from whence I have taken my text, not obscurely points us to the occasion on which it was penned. It was the return of the Jews, from their captivity in Babylon. This is what is meant by “the captivity of Zion,” in the first verse.

It is generally supposed, and with great probability, that the prophet Ezra was its inspired penman. The first verse expresses the effect this signal deliverance, of his people, had upon them. “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like men that dream.” It was so great and unexpected an event, that they could not, at first, believe it was real. But they soon found it was real, however great: And in consequence thereof, were filled with the most sincere joy and gratitude to God. “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”

Such was the nature of this deliverance, that the Heathen nations around them took notice of it. “Then said they among the Heathen; the Lord hath done great things for them.” It is no uncommon thing for our God, so to effect the salvation of his people, as to attract the attention, and force the acknowledgments of their enemies themselves. But however they may treat it, those who are the subjects of God’s delivering goodness, at any time, or in any way, ought to notice it with care, and acknowledge his hand in it, with gratitude of heart. Thus did the people of God of old; and thus are we taught to do in the words of our text. “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

You will readily perceive, my brethren, with what ease and propriety, the words of our text apply to the design, and the duties of this day. They contain the very language the God of providence has put into our mouths; and teach up that notice, we are to take of the dealings of his gracious hand towards us.

If you will please to attend, I will,

I. Point you to some of the great things our God has done for us; and for which we have cause to be glad this day.

II. Shew you how we ought to manifest this gladness.

I. Let us consider some of those great things our God has done for us; and which it becomes us to notice, and acknowledge this day.

These are different, according to the different points of view, in which we consider ourselves; either as the creatures of his hand——as sinners, under a dispensation of grace——or, as the members of society. But to enter into a particular consideration of each of these, would be as vain, as to attempt to count the stars in the firmament, or number the sands on the sea shore. You will expect, therefore, but a very few of the numerous instances, of the great things, our God has done for us.

1. He has given us his son Jesus Christ, to redeem us from the curse of his broken law; and open the way for our return into that favour of heaven, which we had lost by sin——And who that attends to the inestimable value, of this gift of God; the character of the persons for whom he was given; the nature of the work for which he gave him, and the rich and numerous benefits, that flow to our race, from God, through Him; but feels the force of the apostolic remark? “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us; and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Surely God has done great things for us, in this unspeakable gift of a Saviour.

2. He has opened a treaty of peace with us, through the mediation of this his incarnate son——He is “a God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” This treaty he is negociating, in and by the ministry of the gospel; which is therefore stiled, “The ministry of reconciliation.”

I am well aware, that the ministry of the gospel, however judiciously and faithfully discharged, is esteemed by many, as the Israelites esteemed their manna of old; but as a light thing. They do not consider, there is not a faithful Minister of Christ, whatever may be his particular denomination, or wherever he may be employed, but his gifts and graces cost the son of God his blood upon the cross; or a single gospel sermon they hear, or might hear and neglect, but what our Lord purchased with his expiring groans on mount Calvary. And this is the reason, why the ministry of the gospel, is ranked, by the apostle of the gentiles, among the richest of our Lord’s ascension gifts.

Thus it appears, God does great things for a country or a people, when he blesses them with a judicious and faithful administration of his word, and ordinances; however the more ignorant, or profane part of mankind, may esteem it.

3. He gives us his Holy Spirit, for the rendering this word and these ordinances effectual, for the great purposes, for which they are instituted——Thus they become “the power of God, and the salvation of God, to them that believe.” Such is the ignorance and depravity of human nature, that they will be all unavailing, unless rendered successful, by this divine agent.

Hence we hear the evangelical prophet complaining, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? And it is worthy of our notice, that our Lord himself, was far from being so successful in his ministry, as might have been expected, seeing, “he taught as man never taught.” Multitudes who heard him, not only continued unbelieving; but blasphemed him and his doctrine. This was, no doubt, wisely ordered, for the support of his faithful ministers, in every age; who for reasons, worthy of God, tho’ not known to us, labour so much in vain.

But this serves to illustrate, the necessity of the operations of the spirit of grace, for rendering the ordinances of the gospel successful; and at the same time highly illustrates, what great things God has done for us, by appointing him to this important office.

4. God does great things for his people when his Spirit applies the redemption of Christ to their precious souls——Then it is their sins are pardoned, and they receive a title to the inheritance of the saints in light. Then it is, they become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Then it is, they are renewed in the spirit of their minds; and that good work begun in them, that shall be perfected to the day of the Lord Jesus. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case; yea happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

But it is time I should proceed to observe,

God has done great things for us, if we consider ourselves, as members of society. This is one of the most interesting points of view, in which man can be considered. And a point of view, in which much is required of us, and much is done for us. This is the point of view, in which the Psalmist principally considers himself, and the church of Israel, when he exclaims exulting in the text, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” And this is the point of view, in which we are especially to consider ourselves this day. And were we to take a particular survey of what God has done for us, as members of society, we should be led to consider the many blessing spiritual, and temporal, we enjoy, either as the church of God; or as citizens of the State. But this would be a subject too copious for our time.

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Filed under 1780's, American Revolution, New York, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Religion

Item of the Day: Webster’s Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

Full Title:

A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political, and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Printed at Boston for the Author, by I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1790.

On the Education of Females

In a system of education, that should embrace every part of the community, the female sex claim no inconsiderable share of our attention.

The women in America (to their honor it is mentioned) are not generally above the care of educating their own children. Their own education should therefore enable them to implant in the tender mind, such sentiments of virtue, propriety and dignity, as are suited to the freedom of our governments. Children should be treated as children, but as children that are, in a future time, to be men and women. By treating them as if they were always to remain children, we very often see their childishness adhere to them, even in middle life. The silly language called baby talk, in which most persons are initiated in infancy, often breaks out in discourse, at the age of forty, and makes a man appear very ridiculous. In the same manner, vulgar, obscene and illiberal ideas, imbibed in a nursery or a kitchen, often give a tincture to the conduct through life. In order to prevent every evil bias, the ladies, whose province it is to direct the inclinations of children on their first appearance, and to choose their nurses, should be possessed, not only of amiable manners, but of just sentiments and enlarged understandings.

But the influence of women in forming the dispositions of youth, is not the sole reason why their education should be particularly guarded; their influence in controling the manners of a nation, is another powerful reason. Women, once abandoned, may be instrumental in corrupting society; but such is the delicacy of the sex, and such the restraints which custom imposes upon them, that they are generally the last to be corrupted. There are innumerable instances of men, who have been restrained from a vicious life, and even of very abandonded [sic] men, who have been reclaimed, by their attachment to ladies of virtue. A fondness for the company and conversation of ladies of character, may be considered as a young mans’ best security against the attractives of a dissipated life. A man who is attached to good company, seldom frequents that which is bad. For this reason, society requires taht females should be well educated, and extend their influence as far as possible over the other sex.

But a distinction is to be made between a good education, and a showy one; for an education, merely superficial, is a proof of corruption of taste, and has a mischievous influence on manners. The education of females, like that of males, should be adapted to the principles of the government, and correspond with the stage of society. Education in Paris differs from that in Petersburg, and the education of females in London or Paris should not be a model for the Americans to copy.

In all nations a good education, is that which renders the ladies correct in their manners, respectable in their families, and agreeable in society. That education is always wrong, which raises a woman above the duties of her station.

In America, female education should have for its object what is useful. Young ladies should be taught to speak and write their own language with purity and elegance; an article in which they are often deficient. The French langauge is not necessary for ladies. In some cases it is convenient, but, in general, it may be considered as an article of luxury. As an accomplishment, it may be studied by those whose attention is not employed about more important concerns.

Some knowlege [sic] of arithmetic is necessary for every lady. Geography should never be neglected. Belles Letters learning seems to correspond with the dispositions of most females. A taste for Poetry and fine writing should be cultivated; for we expect the most delicate sentiments from the pens of that sex, which is possessed of the finest feelings.

A course of reading can hardly be prescribed for all ladies. But it should be remarked, that this sex cannot be too well acquainted with the writers upon human life and manners. The Spectator should fill the first place in every lady’s library. Other volumes of periodical papers, tho inferior to the Spectator, should be read; and some of the best histories.

With respect to novels, so much admired by the young, and so generally condemned by the old, what shall I say? Perhaps it may be said with truth, that some of them are useful, many of them pernicious, and most of them trifling. A hundred volumes of modern novels may be read, without acquiring a new idea. Some of them contain entertaining stories, and where the descriptions are drawn from nature, and from characters and events in themselves innocent, the perusal of them may be harmless.

Were novels written with a view to exhibit only one side of human nature, to paint the social virtues, the world would condemn them as defective: But I should think them more perfect. Young people, especially females, should not see the vicious part of mankind. At best novels may be considered as the toys of young; the rattle boxes of sixteen. The mechanic gets his pence for his toys, and the novel writer, for his books; and it would be happy for society, if the latter were in all cases as innocent play things as the former.

In the large towns in America, music, drawing and dancing, constitute a part of female education. They, however, hold a subordinate rank; for my fair friends will pardon me, when I declare, that no man ever marries a woman for her performance on a harpsichord, or her figure in a minuet. However ambitious a woman may be to command admiration abroad, her real merit is known only at home. Admiration is useless, when it is not supported by domestic worth. But real honor and permanent esteem, are always secured by those who preside over their own families with dignity.

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Filed under 1790's, Education, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Women