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as we could, being able to understand but here and there a “word of what they said, and afterwards making up the mean“ing of it among our selves. The men of the country are very “cunning and ingenious in handicraft works; but withal so “ very idle, that we often saw young lusty raw-boned fellows 5 “ carried up and down the streets in little covered rooms by a
couple of Porters, who are hired for that service. Their dress “is likewise very barbarous, for they almost strangle themselves “about the neck, and bind their bodies with many ligatures, “that we are apt to think are the occasion of several distempers
among them, which our country is entirely free from. Instead “ of those beautiful feathers with which we adorn our heads,
they often buy up a monstrous bush of hair, which covers their “heads, and falls down in a large fleece below the middle of “their backs; with which they walk up and down the streets, 15 “and are as proud of it as if it was of their own growth.
“We were invited to one of their publick diversions, where we hoped to have seen the great men of their country running “down a Stag or pitching a Bar, that we might have discovered “who were the persons of the greatest abilities among them ; “but instead of that, they conveyed us into an huge room “ lighted up with abundance of candles, where this lazy people “sate still above three hours to see several feats of ingenuity “performed by others, who it seems were paid for it.
“ As for the women of the country, not being able to talk 25 “with them, we could only make our remarks upon them at a “distance. They let the hair of their heads grow to a great
length; but as the men make a great show with heads of “ hair that are none of their own, the women, who they say “have very fine heads of hair, tie it up in a knot, and cover it 30 “ from being seen. The women look like Angels, and would “ be more beautiful than the Sun, were it not for little black “spots that are apt to break out in their faces, and sometimes “rise in very odd figures. I have observed that those little
“blemishes wear off very soon; but when they disappear in
one part of the face, they are very apt to break out in “another, insomuch that I have seen a spot upon the fore
“head in the afternoon, which was upon the chin in the 5 “morning.
The Author then proceeds to shew the absurdity of breeches and petticoats, with many other curious observations, which I shall reserve for another occasion. I cannot however conclude this paper without taking notice, that amidst these wild remarks, there now and then appears something very reasonable. I cannot likewise forbear observing, that we are all guilty in some measure of the same narrow way of thinking, which we meet with in this abstract of the Indian Journal;
when we fancy the customs, dresses, and manners of other coun15 tries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble
those of our own.
N° 70. Monday, May 21. [1711.]
Interdum vulgus rectum videt. Hor.
When I travelled, I took a particular delight in hearing the Songs and Fables that are come from Father to Son, and are most in vogue among the common people of the countries through which I passed; for it is impossible that any thing should be universally tasted and approved by a multitude, though they are only the rabble of a nation, which hath not in it some peculiar aptness to please and gratifie the mind of
Human nature is the same in all reasonable creatures; 25 and whatever falls in with it, will meet with admirers amongst
Readers of all qualities and conditions. Moliere, as we are told by Monsieur Boileau, used to read all his Comedies to an old woman who was his House-keeper, as she sate with him at
her work by the chimney-corner; and could foretel the success of his Play in the Theatre, from the reception it met at his fire-side : for he tells us the Audience always followed the old woman, and never failed to laugh in the same place.
I know nothing which more shews the essential and inherent 5 perfection of simplicity of thought, above that which I call the Gothick manner in writing, than this; the first pleases all kinds of palates, and the latter only such as have formed to themselves a wrong artificial taste upon little fanciful Authors and writers of Epigram. Homer, Virgil, or Milton, so far as the Language of their Poems is understood, will please a Reader of plain common sense, who would neither relish nor comprehend an Epigram of Martial, or a Poem of Cowley: So, on the contrary, an ordinary Song or Ballad that is the delight of the common people, cannot fail to please all such Readers as 15 are not unqualified for the entertainment by their affectation of Ignorance; and the reason is plain, because the same paintings of Nature which recommend it to the most ordinary Reader, will appear beautiful to the most refined.
The old Song of Chevy-Chase is the favourite Ballad of the common people of England, and Ben. Johnson used to say he had rather have been the Author of it than of all his works. Sir Philip Sidney in his discourse of Poetry speaks of it in the following words; I never heard the old Song of Piercy and Douglas, that I found not my heart more moved than with a 25 Trumpet; and yet it is sung by some blind Crowder with no rougher voice than rude stile; which being so evil apparelled in the dust and cobweb of that uncivil age, what would it work trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindar? For my own part I am so professed an admirer of this antiquated Song 30 that I shall give my Reader a Critick upon it, without any further apology for so doing.
The greatest modern Criticks have laid it down as a rule, That an heroick Poem should be founded upon some important
precept of Morality, adapted to the constitution of the country in which the Poet writes. Homer and Virgil have formed their plans in this view. As Greece was a collection of many
Governments, who suffered very much among themselves, and 5 gave the Persian Emperor, who was their common enemy,
many advantages over them by their mutual jealousies and animosities, Homer, in order to establish among them an union, which was so necessary for their safety, grounds his Poem upon the discords of the several Grecian Princes who were engaged in a confederacy against an Asiatick Prince, and the several advantages which the enemy gained by such their discords. At the time the Poem we are now treating of was written, the dissensions of the Barons, who were then so
many petty Princes, ran very high, whether they quarrelled 15 among themselves, or with their neighbours, and produced
unspeakable calamities to the country: The Poet, to deter men from such unnatural contentions, describes a bloody battel and dreadful scene of death, occasioned by the mutual feuds which reigned in the families of an English and Scotch Nobleman : That he designed this for the instruction of his Poem, we may learn from his four last lines, in which, after the example of the modern Tragedians, he draws from it a precept for the benefit of his Readers.
God save the King, and bless the land
In plenty, joy, and peace;
'Twixt Noblemen may cease.
The next point observed by the greatest heroic Poets, hath been to celebrate persons and actions which do honour to their country : Thus Virgil's Hero was the Founder of Rome, Homer's a Prince of Greece; and for this reason Valerius Flaccus and Statius, who were both Romans, might be justly derided for having chosen the expedition of the Golden
Fleece and the wars of Thebes, for the subjects of their Epic writings.
The Poet before us, has not only found out an Hero in his own country, but raises the reputation of it by several beautiful incidents. The English are the first who take the field, and the last who quit it. The English bring only fifteen hundred to the battel, and the Scotch two thousand. The English keep the field with fifty three : the Scotch retire with fifty five: all the rest on each side being slain in battel. But the most remarkable circumstance of this kind, is the different manner in which the Scotch and English Kings receive the news of this fight, and of the great mens deaths who commanded in it.