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False eloquence, like the prismatick glass,
Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
But most by numbers judge a poet's song;
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness join.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence;
Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Dialogue:-GIL BLAS* and the OLD ARCHBISHOP.-From LE SAGE. Archbishop. WELL, young man, what is your business with me? Gil Blas. I am the young man whom your nephew, Don Fernando, was pleased to mention to you.
Arch. O! you are the person then, of whom he spoke so handsomely. I engage you in my service, and consider you a valuable acquisition. From the specimens he showed me of your powers, you must be pretty well acquainted with the Greek and Latin authors. It is very evident your education has not been neglected. I am satisfied with your hand writing, and still more with your understanding. I thank my nephew, Don Fernando, for having given me such an able young man, whom I consider a rich acquisition. You transcribe so well you must certainly understand grammar. Tell me, ingenuously, my friend, did you find nothing that shocked you in writing over the homily I sent you on trial? some neglect, perhaps, in style, or some improper term?
Gil B. O! Sir, I am not learned enough to make critical observations, and if I was, I am persuaded the works of your grace would escape my censure.
* In this name, the G has the sound of ≈ in a-sure; the a is sounded Bin bar, and the s is silent.
Arch. Young man, you are disposed to flatter; but tell me, which parts of it did you think most strikingly beautiful.
Gil B. If, where all was excellent, any parts were particularly so, I should say they were the personification of hope, and the description of a good man's death.
Arch. I see you have a delicate knowledge of the truly beautiful. This is what I call having taste and sentiment. Gil Blas, henceforth give thyself no uneasiness about thy fortune, I will take care of that. I love thee, and as a proof of my affection, I will make thee my confidant: yes, my child, thou shalt be the repository of my most secret thoughts. Listen with attention to what I am going to say. My chief pleasure consists in preaching, and the Lord gives a blessing to my homilies; but I confess my weakness. The honour of being thought a perfect orator has charmed my imagination, my performances are thought equally nervous and delicate; but I would of all things avoid the fault of good authors, who write too long. Wherefore, my dear Gil Blas, one thing that I exact of thy zeal, is, whenever thou shalt perceive my pen smack of old age, and my genius flag, don't fail to advertise me of it, for I don't trust to my own judgment, which may be seduced by self-love. That observation must proceed from a disinterested understanding, and I make choice of thine, which I know is good, and am resolved to stand by thy decision.
Gil B. Thank heaven, Sir, that time is far off. Besides, a genius like that of your grace, will preserve its vigour much better than any other, or to speak more justly, will be always the same. I look upon you as another Cardinal Ximines, whose superiour genius, instead of being weakened, seemed to acquire new strength by age.
Arch. No flattery, friend, I know I am liable to sink all at once. People at my age begin to feel infirmities, and the infirmities of the body often affect the understanding. I repeat it to thee again, Gil Blas, as soon as thou shalt judge mine in the least impaired, be sure to give me notice. And be not afraid of speaking freely and sincerely, for I shall receive thy advice as a mark of thy affection.
Gil B. Your grace may always depend upon my fidelity. Arch. I know thy sincerity, Gil Blas; and now tell me plainly, hast thou not heard the people make some remarks upon my late homilies?
Gil B. Your homilies have always been admired, but it
seems to me that the last did not appear to have had so powerful an effect upon the audience as former ones.
Arch. How, Sir, has it met with any Aristarchus ?*
Gil B. No, Sir, by no means, such works as yours are not to be criticised; every body is charmed with them. Nevertheless, since you have laid your injunctions upon me to be free and sincere, I will take the liberty to tell you that your last discourse, in my judgment, has not altogether the energy of your other performances. Did you not think so, Sir, yourself? Arch. So, then, Mr. Gil Blas, this piece is not to your taste? Gil B. I don't say so, Sir, I think it excellent, although a little inferiour to your other works.
Arch. I understand you; you think I flag, don't you? Come, be plain; you believe it is time for me to think of retiring.
Gil B. I should not have been so bold as to speak so freely, if your grace had not commanded me; I do no more, therefore, than obey you; and I most humbly beg that you will not be offended at my freedom.
Arch. God forbid! God forbid that I should find fault with it. I don't at all take it ill that you should speak your sentiments, it is your sentiment itself, only, that I find bad. I have been most egregiously deceived in your narrow unders standing..
Gil B. Your grace will pardon me for obeying
Arch. Say no more, my child, you are yet too raw to make proper distinctions. Be it known to you, I never com posed a better homily, than that which you disapprove; for my genius, thank heaven, hath, as yet, lost nothing of its vigour henceforth I will make a better choice of a confidant. Go! go, Mr. Gil Blas, and tell my treasurer to give you a hundred ducats, and may heaven conduct you with that sum, Adieu, Mr. Gil Blas! I wish you all manner of prosperity, with a little more taste.
Dialogue :-ALEXANDER the Great, and a ROBBER.-Dr. Aikin.
Alexander. WHAT, art thou the Thracian robber, of whose exploits I have heard so much?
*Aristarchus was a celebrated grammarian of Samos. He was famous for his critical powers; and he revised the poems of Homer with such severity, that, ever after, all severe criticks were called Aristarchi.
Robber. I am a Thracian, and a soldier.
Alex. A soldier!—a thief, a plunderer, an assassin! the pest of the country! I could honour thy courage, but I must detest and punish thy crimes
Robber. What have I done, of which you can complain? Alex. Hast thou not set at defiance my authority; violated the publick peace, and passed thy life in injuring the persons and properties of thy fellow-subjects?
Robber. Alexander! I am your captive-I must hear what you please to say, and endure what you please to inflict. But my soul is unconquered; and if I reply at all to your reproaches, I will reply like a free man.
Alex. Speak freely. Far be it from me to take the advantage of my power, to silence those with whom I deign to converse.
Robber. I must then answer your question by another. How have you passed your life?
Alex. Like a hero. Ask Fame, and she will tell you. Among the brave, I have been the bravest: among sovereigns, the noblest: among conquerors, the mightiest.
Robber. And does not Fame speak of me too? Was there ever a bolder captain of a more valiant band? Was there ever-but I scorn to boast. You yourself know that I have
not been easily subdued.
Alex. Still, what are you but a robber-a base, dishonest robber?
Robber. And what is a conqueror? Have not you, too, gone about the earth like an evil genius, blasting the fair fruits of peace and industry; plundering, ravaging, killing, without law, without justice, merely to gratify an insatiable lust for dominion? All that I have done to a single district with a hundred followers, you have done to whole nations with a hundred thousand. If I have stripped individuals, you have ruined kings and princes. If I have burned a few hamlets, you have desolated the most flourishing kingdoms and cities of the earth. What is, then, the difference, but that as you were born a king, and I a private man, you have been able to become a mightier robber than I?
Alex. But if I have taken like a king, I have given like a king. If I have subverted empires, I have founded greater. I have cherished arts, commerce, and philosophy.
Robber. I, too, have freely given to the poor what I took from the rich. I have established order and discipline among the most ferocious of mankind, and have stretched out my