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invented by the persons who relate and divulge them, whether Homer, Hesiod, or others; for if I were assured they first flowed from those later times and authors that transmit them to us, I should never expect any thing singularly great or noble from such an origin. But whoever attentively considers the thing, will find that these fables are delivered down and related by those writers, not as matters then first invented and proposed, but as things received and embraced in earlier ages. Besides, as they are differently related by writers nearly of the same ages, it is easily perceived that the relators drew from the common stock of ancient tradition, and varied but in point of embellishment, which is their own. And this principally raises my esteem of these fables, which I receive, not as the product of the age, or invention of the poets, but as sacred relics, gentle whispers, and the breath of better times, that from the traditions of more ancient nations came, at length, into the flutes and trumpets of the Greeks. But if any one shall, not withstanding this, contend that allegories are always adventitious, or imposed upon the ancient fables, and no way native or genuinely contained in them, we might here leave him undisturbed in that gravity of judgment he affects, (though we cannot help accounting it somewhat dull and phlegmatic,) and, if it were worth the trouble, proceed to another kind of argument.
Men have proposed to answer two different and contrary ends by the use of parable ; for parables serve as well to instruct or illustrate as to wrap up and envelop; so that though, for the present, we drop the concealed use, and suppose the ancient. fables to be vague, undeterminate things, formed for amusement, still, the other use must remain, and can never be given up. And every man, of any learning, must readily allow that this method of instructing is grave, sober, or exceedingly useful, and sometimes necessary in the sciences, as it opens an easy and familiar passage to the human understanding, in all new discoveries that are abstruse and out of the road of vulgar opinions. Hence, in the first ages, when such inventions and conclusions of the human reason as are now trite and common were new and little known, all
things abounded with fables, parables, similes, comparisons, and allusions, which were not intended to conceal, but to inform and teach, whilst the minds of men continued rude and unpractised in matters of subtilty and speculation, or even impatient, and in a manner incapable of receiving such things as did not fall directly under and strike the senses. For as hieroglyphics were in use before writing, so were parables in use before arguments. And even to this day, if any man would let new light in upon the human understanding, and conquer prejudice, without raising contests, animosities, opposition, or disturbance, he must still go in the same path, and have recourse to the like method of allegory, metaphor, and allusion.
To conclude, the knowledge of the early ages was either great or happy ; great, if they by design made this use of trope and figure; happy, if, whilst they had other views, they afforded matter and occasion to such noble contemplations. Let either be the case, our pains, perhaps, will not be misemployed, whether we illustrate antiquity or things themselves.
The like, indeed, has been attempted by others; but, to speak ingenuously, their great and voluminous labors have almost destroyed the energy, the efficacy, and grace of the thing; whilst, being unskilled in nature, and their learning no more than that of commonplace, they have applied the sense of the parables to certain general and vulgar matters, without reaching to their real purport, genuine interpretation, and full depth. For myself, therefore, I expect to appear new in these common things, because, leaving untouched such as are sufficiently plain and open, I shall drive only at those that are either deep or rich.
I.-CASSANDRA, OR DIVINATION.
EXPLAINED OF TOO FREE AND UNSEASONABLE ADVICE.
The Poets relate, that Apollo, falling in love with Cassandra, was still deluded and put off by her, yet fed with hopes, till she had got from him the gift of prophecy; and, having now obtained her end, she flatly rejected his suit. Apollo, unable to recall his rash gift, yet enraged to be outwitted by a girl, annexed this penalty to it, that though she should always prophesy true, she should never be believed; whence her divinations were always slighted, even when she again and again predicted the ruin of her country.
EXPLANATION. — This fable seems invented to express the insignificance of unseasonable advice. For they who are conceited, stubborn, or intractable, and listen not to the instructions of Apollo, the god of harmony, so as to learn and observe the modulations and measures of affairs, the sharps and flats of discourse, the difference between judicious and vulgar ears, and the proper times of speech and silence, let them be ever so intelligent, and ever so frank of their advice, or their counsels ever so good and just, yet all their endeavors, either of persuasion or force, are of little significance, and rather hasten the ruin of those they advise. But, at last, when the calamitous event has made the sufferers feel the effect of their neglect, they too late reverence their advisers, as deep, foreseeing, and faithful prophets.
Of this, we have a remarkable instance in Cato of Utica, who discovered afar off, and long foretold, the approaching ruin of his country, both in the first conspiracy, and as it was prosecuted in the civil war between Cæsar and Pompey, yet did no good the while, but rather hurt the commonwealth, and hurried on its destruction, which Cicero wisely observed in these words : “ Cato, indeed, judges excellently, but prejudices the state ; for he speaks as in the commonwealth of Plato, and not as in the dregs of Romulus.'
II.-TYPHON, OR A REBEL.
EXPLAINED OF REBELLION. The fable runs, that Juno, enraged at Jupiter's bringing forth Pallas without her assistance, incessantly solicited all the gods and goddesses, that she might produce without Jupiter ; and having by violence and importunity obtained the grant, she struck the earth, and thence immediately sprung up Typhon, a huge and dreadful monster, whom she committed to the nursing of a serpent. As soon as he was grown up, this monster waged war on Jupiter, and taking him prisoner in the battle, carried him away on his shoulders, into a remote and obscure quarter; and there cutting out the sinews of his hands and feet, he bore them off, leaving Jupiter behind miserably maimed and mangled.
But Mercury afterwards stole these sinews from Typhon, and restored them to Jupiter. Hence, recovering his strength, Jupiter again pursues the monster; first wounds him with a stroke of his thunder, when serpents arose from the blood of the wound; and now the monster being dismayed, and taking to flight, Jupiter next darted Mount Ætna upon him, and crushed him with the weight. EXPLANATION. — This fable seems designed to express the various fates of kings, and the turns that rebellions sometimes take, in kingdoms. For princes may be justly esteemed married to their states, as Jupiter to Juno; but it sometimes happens, that, being depraved by long wielding of the sceptre, and growing tyrannical, they would engross all to themselves, and, slighting the counsel of their senators and nobles, conceive by themselves ; that is, govern according to their own arbitrary will and pleasure. This inflames the people, and makes them endeavor to create and set up some head of their own. Such designs are generally set on foot by the secret motion and instigation of the peers and nobles, under whose connivance the common sort are prepared for rising; whence proceeds a swell in the state, which is appositely denoted by the nursing of Typhon. This growing posture of affairs is fed by the natural depravity and malignant dispositions of the vulgar, which to kings is an envenomed serpent. And now the disaffected, uniting their force, at length break out into open rebellion, which, producing infinite mischiefs, both to prince and people, is represented by the horrid and multiplied deformity of Typhon, with his hundred heads, denoting the divided powers; his flaming mouths, denoting fire and devastation; his girdles of snakes, denoting sieges and destruction ; his iron hands, slaughter and cruelty; his eagle's talons, rapine and plunder; his plumed body, perpetual rumors, contradictory accounts, &c. And sometimes these rebellions grow so high, that kings are obliged, as if carried on the backs of the rebels, to quit the throne, and retire to some remote and obscure part of their dominions, with the loss of their sinews, both of money and majesty.