+ ~ -
 
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
 
Report an Error
Go!
 
Go!
 
TOC
 

infants in all parts of this country, has been
caused by Mr. Rowland Hill. I hope I
needn't add that we Ravens are all good
scholars, but that we keep our secret (as the
Indians believe the Monkeys do, according to
a Parrot of my acquaintance) lest our abilities
should be imposed upon. As nothing worse
than my present degradation as a member of
the Happy Family can happen to me, however,
I desert the General Freemasons' Lodge of
Ravens, and express my disgust in writing.

A DIALOGUE OF SHADOWS.

[Scene, Purgatory (1778). The Shades of an Englishman
and a Frenchman are pacing by the side of a gloomy
river.]

Englishman. What bustle is here? Can we not groan in peace?

Frenchman. There are some new arrivals. One, who comes
Straight from the finest kingdom of the earth,
Has caused a vast sensation. Here he is!

                                            [The Shade of Voltaire enters.
Engl. I never saw a ghost so thin as this.

Volt. Good day, Messieurs,— if we may call this day!
Faith, there's a pleasant warmth about the place.
After our rapid journey thro' the dark,
With cold winds driving us, and jarring atoms
Whistling about our ears, 'tis not so bad
To reach this hot and twilight land at last.
Sir, if 't be not a liberty, may I ask
For a pinch of charcoal.

French.                           With much pleasure, sir,
                            [Presents his box.
Any news from France?

Volt. France, sir, is growing young;
Thro' me, and d'Alembert, and Diderot,
And that mad envious watchmaker, who did
Good in his own despite. Before the earth
Shall have swung a dozen times about the sun,
Our dragon's seed will rise and show some fruit.

French. We are glad to see you here, sir.

Volt.                                      Wthout doubt, sir.
A strange place this. Our French geographers
Had doubts if such a region were. Nay, some
Proved to the satisfaction of their friends,
That 'twas impossible.

Eng.                                      So most things seem,
Until they are discovered.

Volt.                                        That's well said;
Sir, I salute you.

French. You 'll find some excellent company, Monsieur.

Volt. You have some famous men here,—doubtless, sir.
A priest or two?

French.                  A few.

Volt.                                            I thought so, sir.
A king perhaps?

French.                               Oh, plenty. Let me see
One, two, three.

Volt.                                     Sir, spare your arithmetic.
I am not curious. Yet, of these last,
There's surely one, who dwells in Prussia now,
Whose over-arching arrogance should cast
A shadow prematurely o'er the gulf,
And send his image here?—such things may be
One Frederick?

French.               Called the Great

Volt.                                                     By little men.

Eng. A shadow slim, in cockt hat and rigid boots ?

Volt. The same: Is he always in the saddle now?

French. We have no horses here.

Volt.                                               Where are your ladies?
Any of them from France?

Eng.                                      Shoalslocust-clouds
We 've larger, lighter batches from this land,
Than all the rest of the globe.

Volt.                                           I shall be glad
To renew friendship with some few of them.
Madame du Ch√Ętelet—

French.                          She was a friend of yours?

Volt. I had some strong delusion of that sort.
'Twas when she flattered me. But, tell me, sir,
What time do you dine in this agreeable land?
I feel no appetite.

Eng.                      We do not dine.

Volt. Not dine. When do you eat?

Eng.                                              We do not eat.

Volt. Humph! that is odd. When do you sleep?

Eng. We do not sleep.

Volt.                             I' faith, this jest begins
To grow a little serious. I thought I knew
Somewhat of most things; but this puzzles me.
Lest I should err again, pray what do you here,
In this most quiet kingdomall day long?
Nay, day and night? What pastime ?—

Eng.                                                      We repose!
Sometimes we dream; of times and people gone,—
Sometimes of our own country; we retrace
Our course in earthly life; our deeds

Volt.                                                      I have done
Some deeds myself. Perhaps, Monsieur, you have seen
A dictionary of mine, which made some noise?
A fable or two, which told some bitter truths ?
A famous poem ?—mark me.—

Eng.                                          Your great work,
I have read, and much admired.

Volt.                                            The Henriade?
Sir, you have taste.

Eng.                         Not so:—a work less large
In bulk; yet greater. 'Twas indeed no more
Than a small memorial; touch'd wi' the light of Truth,
The strength of Right. Fine Sense and Pity joined,
Begat it. It came forth, midst tears, and scorn,
And burning anger. These inspired your pen
To the argument, when murdered Galas died.

Volt. You bring me light, sir,—comfort,—almost faith.
The dark thoughts that at times have haunted me,—
The small ambition to be thought a wit,—
The wish to sting my many enemies,—
Scorn disappearing. Sir, my thanks! I feel
A warmth about my bosom, and begin
To think that joys dwell not alone on earth,
But some survive even in Purgatory.