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Thus let us speak, and thus let us act. Resignation to the will of God is true magnanimity. But the sure mark of a pusillanimous and base spirit, is to struggle against, to censure the order of Providence, and, instead of mending our own conduct, to set up recting that of our Maker,
8.-The Planetary and Terrestrial Worlds. To us, who dwell on its surface, the earth is by far the most extensive orb that our eyes can any where behold: it is also clothed with verdure, distinguished by trees, and adorned with variety of beautiful decorations; whereas to a spectator placed on one of the planets, it wears an uniform aspect, looks all luminous, and no larger than a spot. To beings who still dwell at greater distances, it entirely disappears. That which we call alternately the morning and the evening star, as in one part of the orbit she rides foremost in the procession of night, in the other ushers in and anticipates the dawn, is a planetary world, which, with the four others, that so wonderfully vary their mystic dance, are in themselves dark bodies, and shine only by reflection ; have fields, and seas, and skies of their own, are furnished with all accommodations for animal subsistence, and are supposed to be the abodes of intellectual life; all which, together with our earthly habitation, are dependent on that grand dispenser of divine munificence, the sun; receive their light from the distribution of his rays, and derive their comfort from his benign agency:
The sun, which seems to perform its daily stages through the sky, is in this respect fixed and immoveable; 'tis the great axle of heaven, about which the globe we inhabit, and other more spacious orbs, wheel their stated courses. The sun, though seemingly smaller than the dial it illuminates, is abundantly larger than this whole earth, on which so many lofty mountains rise, and such vast oceans roll, A line extending from side to side through the centre of that resplendent
orb, would measure more than eight hundred thousand miles; a girdle formed to go round its circumference, would re
quire a length of millions. Were its solid contents to be estimated, the account would overwhelm our understanding, and be almost beyond the power of language to express.
Are we startled at these reports of philosophy? Are we ready to cry out in a transport of sur
prise, “ How mighty is the Being who kindled such a i prodigious fire, and keeps alive from age to age such
an enormous mass of flame !" let us attend our philosophic guides, and we shall be brought acquainted with speculations more enlarged and more inflaming.
This sun, with all its attendant planets, is but a very little part of the grand machine of the universe ; every star, though in appearance no bigger than the diamond that glitters upon a lady's ring, is really a vast globe, like the sun in size and in glory; no less spacious, no less luminous, than the radiant source of the day : so that every
star is not barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent system ; has a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round its attractive influence, all which are lost to our sight in unmeasurable wilds of ether. That the stars appear
di minutive and scarce distinguishable points, is owing to their immense and inconceivable distance. Immense and inconceivable indeed it is, since a ball, shot from the loaded cannon, and flying with unabated rapidity, must travel at this impetuous rate almost seven hundred thousand years, before it could reach the nearest of these twinkling luminaries.
While, beholding this vast expanse, I learn my own extreme meanness, I would also discover the abject littleness of all terrestrial things. What is the earth, with all her ostentatious scenes, compared with this astonishing grand furniture of the skies ? What, but a dim speck, hardly perceivable in the map of the universe ? It is observed by a very judicious writer, that if the sun himself, which enlightens this part of the creation, was extinguished, and all the host of planetary worlds, which move about him, were annihilated, they would not be missed by an eye that can take in the whole compass of nature, any more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The bulk of which they con
like so many
sist, and the space which they occupy, is so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that their loss would leave scarce a blank in the immensity of God's works. If then, not our globe only, but this whole system, be so very diminutive, what is a kingdom or a country? What are a few lordships, or the so much admired patrimonies of those who are styled wealthy ? When I measure them with my own little pittance, they swell into proud and bloated dimensions : but when I take the universe for my standard, how scanty is their size, how contemptible their figure! they shrink into pompous nothings.
9.-The Italian Opera. It is my design in this paper to deliver down to posterity a faithful account of the Italian opera, and of the gradual progress which it has made upon the English stage; for there is no question but our great grandchildren will be very curious to know the reason why their forefathers used to sit together like an audience of foreigners in their own country, and to hear whole plays acted before them in a tongue which they did not understand.
Arsinoe was the first opera that gave us a taste of Italian music. The great success this opera met with, produced some attempts of forming pieces upon Italian plans, which should give a more natural and reasonable, entertainment than what can be met with in the elaborate trifles of that nation. This alarmed the poetasters and fiddlers of the town, who were used to deal in a more ordinary kind of ware; and therefore laid down an established rule, which is received as such to this day, That nothing is capable of being well set to music, that is not nonsense.
This maxim was no sooner received, but we imme, diately fell to translating the Italian operas; and as there was no great danger of hurting the sense of those extraordinary pieces, our authors would often make words of their own, which were entirely foreign to the meaning of the passages they pretended to translate;
their chief care being to make the numbers of the English verse answer to those of the Italian, that both of them might go to the same tune.
It was pleasant enough to see the most refined persons of the British nation dying away, and languishing to notes that were filled with a spirit of rage and indignation. It happened also very frequently, where the sense was rightly translated, the necessary transposition of words, which were drawn out of the phrase of one tongue into that of another, made the music appear very absurd in our tongue, that was very natural in the other. It often happened likewise, that the finest notes in the air fell upon the most insignificant words in the sentence. I have known the word and pursued through the whole gamut, have been entertained with many
a melodious the, and have heard the most beautiful graces, quavers, and divisions bestowed upon then, for, and from; to the eternal honour of our English particles.
The next step to our refinement, was, the introducing Italian actors into our opera ;
parts in their own language, at the same time that our coun. trymen performed theirs in our native tongue. The king or hero of the play generally spoke in Italian, and his slaves answered him in English ; the lover frequently made his court, and gained the heart of his princess, in a language which she did not understand. One would have thought it very difficult to have carried on dialogues after this manner, without an interpreter between thie
persons that conversed together, but this was the state of the English stage for about three years.
At length the audience grew tired of understanding half the opera ; and therefore, to ease themselves entirely of the fatigue of thinking, have so ordered it at present, that the whole opera is performed in an unknown tongue. We no longer understand the language of our own stage; insomuch that I have often been afraid, when I have seen our Italian performers chattering in the vehemence of action, that they have been calling us names, and abusing us among themselves; but I hope, since we do put such an entire confidence
in them, they will not talk against us before our faces, though they may do it with the same safety as if it were behind our backs. In the mean time, I cannot forbear thinking how naturally a historian who writes tivo or three hundred years hence, and does not know the taste of his wise forefathers, will make the following reflection, 56 In the beginning of the eighteenth century the Italian tongue was so well understood in England, that operas were acted on the public stage in that language.
One scarce knows how to be serious in the confutation of an absurdity that shows itself at first sight. It does not want 'any great measure of sense to see the ridicule of this monstrous practice; but what makes it the more astonishing, it is not the taste of the rabble, but of persons of the greatest politeness, which has established it.
If the Italians have a genius for music above the English, the English have a genius for other performances of a much higher nature, and capable of giving the mind a much nobler entertainment.
Would one think it was possible (at a time when an author lived that was able to write the Phædra and Hippolitus) for a people to be so studiously fond of the Italian opera, as scarce to give a third day's hearing to that admirable tragedy ? Music is certainly a very agreeable entertainment, but if it would take the entire possession of our ears, if it would make us incapable of hearing sense, if it would exclude arts that have a much greater tendency to the refinement of human nature, I must confess I would allow it no better quarter than Plato has done, who banishes it out of his commonwealth.
At present our notions of music are so very uncertain, that we do not know what it is we like; only, in general, we are transported with any thing that is not English: so it be of a foreign growth, let it be Italian, French, or High Dutch, it is the same thing. In short, our English music is quite rooted out, and nothing yet planted in its stead.