No. 514. Monday, October 20, [1] 1712. Steele.

Me Parnassi deserta per ardua, dulcis Raptat Amor; juvat ire jugis qua nulla priorum Castaliam molle divertitur Orbita Clivo.'


'I came home a little later than usual the other Night, and not finding my self inclined to sleep, I took up Virgil to divert me till I should be more disposed to Rest. He is the Author whom I always chuse on such Occasions, no one writing in so divine, so harmonious, nor so equal a Strain, which leaves the Mind composed, and softened into an agreeable Melancholy; the Temper in which, of all others, I chuse to close the Day. The Passages I turned to were those beautiful Raptures in his Georgicks, where he professes himself entirely given up to the Muses, and smit with the Love of Poetry, passionately wishing to be transported to the cool Shades and Retirements of the Mountain Hæmus. I clos'd the Book and went to Bed. What I had just before been reading made so strong an Impression on my Mind, that Fancy seemed almost to fulfil to me the Wish of Virgil, in presenting to me the following Vision.

'Methought I was on a sudden plac'd in the Plains of Boeotia, where at the end of the Horizon I saw the Mountain Parnassus rising before me. The Prospect was of so large an Extent, that I had long wander'd about to find a Path which should directly lead me to it, had I not seen at some distance a Grove of Trees, which in a Plain that had nothing else remarkable enough in it to fix my Sight, immediately determined me to go thither. When I arrived at it, I found it parted out into a great Number of Walks and Alleys, which often widened into beautiful Openings, as Circles or Ovals, set round with Yews and Cypresses, with Niches, Grotto's, and Caves placed on the Sides, encompassed with Ivy. There was no Sound to be heard in the whole Place, but only that of a gentle Breeze passing over the Leaves of the Forest, every thing beside was buried in a profound Silence. I was captivated with the Beauty and Retirement of the Place, and never so much, before that Hour, was pleased with the Enjoyment of my self. I indulged the Humour, and suffered my self to wander without Choice or Design. At length, at the end of a Range of Trees, I saw three Figures seated on a Bank of Moss, with a silent Brook creeping at their Feet. I ador'd them as the tutelar Divinities of the Place, and stood still to take a particular View of each of them. The Middlemost, whose Name was Solitude, sat with her Arms across each other, and seemed rather pensive and wholly taken up with her own Thoughts, than any ways grieved or displeased. The only Companions which she admitted into that Retirement, was the Goddess Silence, who sat on her right Hand with her Finger on her Mouth, and on her left Contemplation, with her Eyes fixed upon the Heavens. Before her lay a celestial Globe, with several Schemes of Mathematical Theorems. She prevented my Speech with the greatest Affability in the World: Fear not, said she, I know your Request before you speak it; you would be led to the Mountain of the Muses; the only way to it lies thro' this Place, and no one is so often employ'd in conducting Persons thither as my self. When she had thus spoken, she rose from her Seat, and I immediately placed my self under her Direction; but whilst I passed through the Grove, I could not help enquiring of her who were the Persons admitted into that sweet Retirement. Surely, said I, there can nothing enter here but Virtue and virtuous Thoughts: The whole Wood seems design'd for the Reception and Reward of such Persons as have spent their Lives according to the Dictates of their Conscience and the Commands of the Gods. You imagine right, said she; assure your self this Place was at first designed for no other: Such it continued to be in the Reign of Saturn, when none entered here but holy Priests, Deliverers of their Country from Oppression and Tyranny, who repos'd themselves here after their Labours, and those whom the Study and Love of Wisdom had fitted for divine Conversation. But now it is become no less dangerous than it was before desirable: Vice has learned so to mimick Virtue, that it often creeps in hither under its Disguise. See there! just before you, Revenge stalking by, habited in the Robe of Honour. Observe not far from him Ambition standing alone; if you ask him his Name, he will tell you it is Emulation or Glory. But the most frequent Intruder we have is Lust, who succeeds now the Deity to whom in better Days this Grove was entirely devoted. Virtuous Love, with Hymen, and the Graces attending him, once reign'd over this happy Place; a whole Train of Virtues waited on him, and no dishonourable Thought durst presume for Admittance: But now! how is the whole Prospect changed? and how seldom renewed by some few who dare despise sordid Wealth, and imagine themselves fit Companions for so charming a Divinity?

'The Goddess had no sooner said thus, but we were arriv'd at the utmost Boundaries of the Wood, which lay contiguous to a Plain that ended at the Foot of the Mountain. Here I kept close to my Guide, being sollicited by several Phantomes, who assured me they would shew me a nearer Way to the Mountain of the Muses. Among the rest Vanity was extremely importunate, having deluded infinite Numbers, whom I saw wandering at the Foot of the Hill. I turned away from this despicable Troop with Disdain, and addressing my self to my Guide, told her, that as I had some Hopes I should be able to reach up part of the Ascent, so I despaired of having Strength enough to attain the Plain on the Top. But being informed by her that it was impossible to stand upon the Sides, and that if I did not proceed onwards, I should irrecoverably fall down to the lowest Verge, I resolved to hazard any Labour and Hardship in the Attempt: So great a desire had I of enjoying the Satisfaction I hoped to meet with at the End of my Enterprize!

'There were two Paths, which led up by different Ways to the Summit of the Mountain; the one was guarded by the Genius which presides over the Moment of our Births. He had it in charge to examine the several Pretensions of those who desired a Pass that Way, but to admit none excepting those only on whom Melpomene had look'd with a propitious Eye at the Hour of their Nativity. The other Way was guarded by Diligence, to whom many of those Persons apply'd who had met with a Denial the other Way; but he was so tedious in granting their Request, and indeed after Admittance the Way was so very intricate and laborious, that many after they had made some Progress, chose rather to return back than proceed, and very few persisted so long as to arrive at the End they proposed. Besides these two Paths, which at length severally led to the Top of the Mountain, there was a third made up of these two, which a little after the Entrance joined in one. This carried those happy Few, whose good Fortune it was to find it, directly to the Throne of Apollo. I don't know whether I should even now have had the Resolution to have demanded Entrance at either of these Doors, had I not seen a Peasant-like Man (followed by a numerous and lovely Train of Youths of both Sexes) insist upon Entrance for all whom he led up. He put me in mind of the Country Clown who is painted in the Map for leading Prince Eugene over the Alps. He had a Bundle of Papers in his Hand, and producing several, which he said, were given to him by Hands which he knew Apollo would allow as Passes; among which, methoughts, I saw some of my own Writing; the whole Assembly was admitted, and gave, by their Presence, a new Beauty and Pleasure to these happy Mansions. I found the Man did not pretend to enter himself, but served as a kind of Forester in the Lawns to direct Passengers, who by their own Merit, or Instructions he procured for them, had Virtue enough to travel that way. I looked very attentively upon this kind homely Benefactor, and forgive me, Mr. SPECTATOR, if I own to you I took him for your self. We were no sooner entered, but we were sprinkled three times with the Water of the Fountain Aganippe, which had Power to deliver us from all Harms, but only Envy, which reached even to the End of our Journey. We had not proceeded far in the middle Path when we arrived at the Summit of the Hill, where there immediately appeared to us two Figures, which extremely engaged my Attention: the one was a young Nymph in the Prime of her Youth and Beauty; she had Wings on her Shoulders and Feet, and was able to transport herself to the most distant Regions in the smallest Space of Time. She was continually varying her Dress, sometimes into the most natural and becoming Habits in the World, and at others into the most wild and freakish Garb that can be imagined. There stood by her a Man full-aged, and of great Gravity, who corrected her Inconsistences, by shewing them in his Mirror, and still flung her affected and unbecoming Ornaments down the Mountain, which fell in the Plain below, and were gathered up and wore with great Satisfaction by those that inhabited it. The Name of the Nymph was Fancy, the Daughter of Liberty, the most beautiful of all the Mountain-Nymphs. The other was Judgment, the Off-spring of Time, and the only Child he acknowledged to be his. A Youth, who sat upon a Throne just between them, was their genuine Offspring; his Name was Wit, and his Seat was composed of the Works of the most celebrated Authors. I could not but see with a secret Joy, that though the Greeks and Romans made the Majority, yet our own Countrymen were the next both in Number and Dignity. I was now at Liberty to take a full Prospect of that delightful Region. I was inspired with new Vigour and Life, and saw every thing in nobler and more pleasing Views than before; I breathed a purer Æther in a Sky which was a continued Azure, gilded with perpetual Sunshine. The two Summits of the Mountain rose on each Side, and formed in the midst a most delicious Vale, the Habitation of the Muses, and of such as had composed Works worthy of Immortality. Apollo was seated upon a Throne of Gold, and for a Canopy an aged Laurel spread its Boughs and its Shade over his Head. His Bow and Quiver lay at his Feet. He held his Harp in his Hand, whilst the Muses round about him celebrated with Hymns his Victory over the Serpent Python, and sometimes sung in softer Notes the Loves of Leucothoe and Daphnis. Homer, Virgil, and Milton were seated the next to them. Behind were a great Number of others, among whom I was surprized to see some in the Habit of Laplanders, who, notwithstanding the Uncouthness of their Dress, had lately obtained a Place upon the Mountain. I saw Pindar walking all alone, no one daring to accost him, till Cowley join'd himself to him; but growing weary of one who almost walked him out of breath, he left him for Horace and Anacreon, with whom he seemed infinitely delighted.

'A little further I saw another Groupe of Figures; I made up to them, and found it was Socrates dictating to Xenophon, and the Spirit of Plato; but most of all, Musoeus had the greatest Audience about him. I was at too great a Distance to hear what he said, or to discover the Faces of his Hearers; only I thought I now perceived Virgil, who had joined them, and stood in a Posture full of Admiration at the Harmony of his Words.

'Lastly, At the very Brink of the Hill I saw Boccalini sending Dispatches to the World below of what happened upon Parnassus; but I perceived he did it without leave of the Muses, and by stealth, and was unwilling to have them revised by Apollo. I could now from this Height and serene Sky behold the infinite Cares and Anxieties with which Mortals below sought out their way through the Maze of Life. I saw the Path of Virtue lie strait before them, whilst Interest, or some malicious Demon, still hurry'd them out of the Way. I was at once touched with Pleasure at my own Happiness, and Compassion at the sight of their inextricable Errors. Here the two contending Passions rose so high, that they were inconsistent with the sweet Repose I enjoy'd, and awaking with a sudden start, the only Consolation I could admit of for my Loss, was the Hopes that this Relation of my Dream will not displease you.' [2]


[Footnote 1: Room is made for this paper, in the original issue, by printing it in smaller type.]

[Footnote 2: This Advertisement follows:

A Letter written October 14, dated Middle Temple, has been overlooked, by reason it was not directed to the SPECTATOR at the usual Places; and the Letter of the 18th, dated from the same Place, is groundless, the Author of the Paper of Friday last not having ever seen the Letter of the 14th. In all circumstances except the Place of Birth of the Person to whom the Letters were written, the Writer of them is misinformed.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. Georg. iii. 291.
'But the commanding Muse my chariot guides,
Which o'er the dubious cliff securely rides:
And pleased I am no beaten road to take,
But first the way to new discov'ries make.'