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APPEARANCE OF VIRGIL IN THE UPPER
Somnia, terrores magicos.
Being one of the very few individuals who, in this degenerate age, adhere to the practice, and maintain the certainty, of dreaming, and having seen in your second Number an account of an interview which
had with the sheep-stealing vagabond, Mercury (it was fortunate for him that there were no assizes in his days), I take this opportunity of informing you of an encounter which I had with Virgil some nights ago, in which the proceedings were far from pacific, and, indeed, we had almost come to logger-heads. He shook his hand at me in a menacing attitude; but by passing my little finger through it, I convinced him that his rage was impotent, and reduced him to a tolerable state of tranquillity.
I first heard him muttering, in a very sepulchral tone, but with an amazing nicety of accent, something which I supposed to be Latin, but it certainly was very different in sound and quantities from that which we work at here. The substance of his invectives, as far as I could understand them was, that he had been grievously mutilated in the Upper World, and having taken an opportunity when Cerberus was employed in eating his meat, he had played truant for the purpose of stating his calamities, in hopes of having them remedied.
“What, my dear Sir, are they?" I exclaimed. “Depend upon my willingness to assist the author of the Georgics in any legitimate enterprise.
“In the first place, I have to complain of the Delphin Editor, and his interpretation, and of the circulation which my execrable tormentor enjoys in this country.” [Of course I translate for the benefit of ladies and country gentlemen]
“True enough,” I replied; "but what expedient can you propose ?"
“ Only to burn the publisher's house, and so cut up the evil by the roots.”
“You would have the Bow-street officers after you immediately, and, shade as you are, I defy you to slip through their fingers.”
Well, even if they did catch me, and if the worst came to the worst, they could but send me back to Tari tarus, where my habitation has now been fixed for my flattering Augustus, and stealing so much from Homer. Alas, alas ! it is but too true :
“ Then I suppose Rhadamanthus, if your account of him be true, charged the jury with some severity.”
«Infandum jubes renovare dolorem. We have no Court of Chancery there ; for judgment is pronounced without hesitation, and executed without delay.”
“And who pleaded your cause ?” ::"I wanted to get Cicero : but he remembered the cutting off his head by my friend Augustus, and would have nothing to say to me. I am now sorry that I did not mention him in my works. I was forced to put up
with a common hack. But, to return-another thing which I wish to complain of is, the miserable manner in which you murder me by your vile pronunciation. I mean to indict you all for it when you come down, I assure you." “You impertinent fellow! why what shall we have next,
Audent cun, talia fures ?” Here it was that his rage boiled over. However, in a short time, he told me that we pronounced short syllables long, and long syllables short; that we confounded accent and quantity ; that amor and clamor, nomine and domine, pedes and sedes, desero and resero, were all the same to us : by which, and many other reprehensible practices, his verses were deteriorated, and his reputation injured.
I in vain endeavoured to confute him, by appealing, as I thought triumphantly, to the testimony of my Gradus . He laughed loud and long at the idea, and said that the ear was the standard by which the correctness of sounds ought to be judged, and that it was preposterous to make little marks govern what they were only intended to facilitate.
I confess I was rather puzzled by what he said, on this head, of which I have only given you a very small part: but the authority of a Gradus cannot; in my humble opinion, be shaken :
“ Ille, velut pelagi rupes immota, resistit.” “And what is become of the anime dimidium tuce,' Horace ?” said I, feeling myself on rather ticklish ground
on the subject of pronunciation, and wishing to change the subject.
“Horace,” said Virgil, “was doomed by Pluto to become a scullion in his family for his Atheism ; but Mercury made interest for him, on the score of the Ode beginning with “ Mercuri, facunde nepos Atlantis,” his having given such a genteel name to his robberies, &c., and succeeded in getting him appointed to the office of butler, which my friend likes amazingly, as he never gives Pluto a bottle of wine without performing the office of taster previously. When old Bentley arrived in the shades, he began to propose new readings in the names of our heroes : he thought the name of Charon very inappropriate, as it might be derived from zaigw, to rejoice : he thought Chaon, from Xdos, would be decidedly preferable, as it contained an allusion to the confused nature of the old man's discourse, as displayed in Lucian. He innocently proposed this to the old man, as he was ferrying him over ; at which he was so incensed, that he immediately struck him on the head with his scull, and tossed the ghost of his wig into the Styx. He was one day going to Pluto's mansion with a humble petition to be permitted to see Phalaris, on the subject of his Epistles; but he unhappily had the door opened to him by Horace, who said, he recollected his mutilations, hated a commentator as much as a dun, and a Doctor as much as a Stoic, at the same time kicking poor Bentley down stairs, the unhappy victim in the mean time producing passages without number in support of his emendations.--My compliments to Mr. Bouverie, and I think he might quote me a little now and then, as well as Horace: I know the Eton boys hate me, because I am difficult to learn. But hark! the cock crows-I am gone."
“ Dixit: et in tenuem ex oculis evanuit auram." I am sure it is now time for me likewise to withdraw; and I beg to subscribe myself your obedient Servant,
Ah ! fare ye well, my boyish years,
For ever flown away!
Have vanish'd into air,
To wrestle with Despair.