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nature of many virtues and vices, as materials for those discourses with which I daily entertain the public, I saw, methought, a pair of golden scales hanging by a chain of the same metal, over the table that stood before me; when, on a sudden, there were great heaps of weights thrown down on each side of them. I found, upon examining these weights, they shewed the value of every thing that is in esteem among men.
I made an essay of them, by putting the weight of wisdom in one scale, and that of riches in another: upon which, the latter, to shew its comparative lightness, immediately flew up and kicked the beam.
But, before I proceed, I must inform my reader, that these weights did not exert their natural gravity till they were laid in the golden balance, insomuch that I could not guess which was light or heavy whilst I held them in my hand. This I found by several instances : for upon my laying a weight in one of the scales, which was in. scribed with the word “ Eternity,” though I threw in that of Time, Prosperity, Affliction, Wealth, Poverty, Interest, Success, with many other weights, which in my hand seemed very ponderous, they were not able to stir the opposite balance; nor could they have prevailed, though assisted with the weight of the Sun, the Stars, and the Earth.
Upon emptying the scales, I laid several titles and honours, with Pomps, Triumphs, and many weights of the like nature, in one of them; and seeing a little glittering weight lie by me, I threw it accidentally into the other scale, when, to my, great surprise, it proved so exact a counterpoise, that it kept the balance in an equilibrium. This little glittering weight was inscribed upon the edges of it with the word “ Vanity.” I found there were several other weights which were equally heavy, and exact counterpoises to one another: a few of them I tried, as Avarice and Poverty, Riches and Content, with some others.
There were likewise several weights that were of the same figure, and seemed to correspond with each other, but
were entirely different when thrown into the scales ; as Religion and Hypocrisy, Pedantry and Learning, Wit and Vivacity, Superstition and Devotion, Gravity and Wisdom, with many others.
I observed one particular weight lettered on both sides; and, upon applying myself to the reading of it, I found on one side written, “ In the dialect of men," and underneath it, “ Calamities:" on the other side was written, “In the language of the gods," and underneath, “ Blessings." I found the intrinsic value of this weight to be much greater than I imagined, for it overpowered Health, Wealth, Good-fortune, and many other weights, which were much more ponderous in my hand than the other.
There is a saying among the Scotch, that an ounce of mother-wit is worth a pound of clergy: I was sensible of the truth of this saying, when I saw the difference between the weight of Natural Parts and that of Learning. The observations which I made upon these two weights opened to me a new field of discoveries ; for, notwithstanding the weight of the Natural Parts was much heavier than that of Learning, I observed that it weighed a hundred times heavier than it did before, when I put Learning into the same scale with it. I made the same observation upon Faith and Morality; for, notwithstanding the latter outweighed the former separately, it received a thousand times more additional weight from its conjunction with the former, than what it had by itself. This odd phenomenon shewed itself in other particulars, as in Wit and Judgment, Philosophy and Religion, Justice and Humanity, Zeal and Charity, depth of Sense and perspicuity of Style, with innumerable other particulars too long to be mentioned in this paper.
As a dream seldom fails of dashing seriousness with impertinence, mirth with gravity, methought I made several other experiments of a more ludicrous nature, by one of which I found that an English octavo was very
often heavier than a French folio; and, by another, that an old Greek or Latin author weighed down a whole library of moderns. Seeing one of the Spectators lying by me, I had it into one of the scales, and flung a two-penny piece into the other. The reader will not inquire into the event, if he remembers the first trial which I have recorded in this paper. I afterwards threw both the sexes into the balance: but, as it is not for my interest to disoblige either of them, I shall desire to be excused from telling the result of this experiment. Having an opportunity of this nature in my hands, I could not forbear throwing into one scale the principles of a Tory, and into the other those of a Whig; but, as I have all along declared this to be a neutral paper, I shall likewise desire to be silent under this head also; though, upon examining one of the weights, I saw the word “ TEKEL” engraven on it in capital letters.
I made many other experiments; and, though I have not room for them all in this day's speculation, I may perhaps reserve them for another. I shall only add, that, upon my awaking, I was sorry to find my golden scales vanished; but resolved for the future to learn this lesson from them, not to despise or value any things for their appearances, but to regulate my esteem and passions towards them according to their real and intrinsic value. C.
N° 464. FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 1713.
Auream quisquis mediocritatem
Sobrius aula.-HOR. 2 Od. x. 5.
To baulk the envy of a princely seat.-- Norris.
in an old Greek and Latin author, that is not blown upon, and which I have never met with in a quotation. Of this kind is a beautiful saying in Theognis: “ Vice is eovered by wealth, and virtue by poverty ;" or, to give it in the verbal translation, “ Among men there are some who have their vices concealed by wealth, and others who have their virtues concealed by poverty." Every man's observation will supply him with instances of rich men, who have several faults and defects that are overlooked, if not entirely hidden, by means of their riches; and, I think, we cannot find a more natural description of a poor man, whose merits are lost in his poverty, than that in the words of the wise man: “ There was a little city, and few men within it, and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he, by his wisdom, delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Then, said I, wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless, the 'poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard."
The middle condition seems to be the most advantageously situated for the gaining of wisdom. Poverty turns our thoughts too much upon the supplying of our wants, and riches upon enjoying our superfluities; and, as Cowley has said in another case, “ It is hard for a man to keep a steady eye upon truth, who is always in a battle or a triumph.
If we regard poverty and wealth, as they are apt to produce virtues or vices in the mind of man, one may
observe that there is a set of each of these growing out of poverty, quite different from that which rises out of wealth. Humility and patience, industry and temperance, are very often the good qualities of a poor man. Humanity and good-nature, magnanimity and a sense of honour, are as often the qualifications of the rich. On the contrary, poverty is apt to betray a man into envy, riches into arrogance. Poverty is too often attended with fraud, vicious compliance, repining, murmur, and discontent; riches expose a man to pride and luxury, a foolish elation of heart and too great a fondness for the present world. In short, the middle condition is most eligible to the man who would improve himself in virtue; as I have before shewn, it is the most advantageous for the gaining of knowledge. It was upon this consideration that Agur founded his prayer, which, for the wisdom of it, is recorded in holy writ. "Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die. Remove far from me.vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”
I shall fill the remaining part of my paper with a very pretty allegory, which is wrought into a play by Aristophanes, the Greek comedian. It seems originally designed as a satire upon the rich, though, in some parts of it, it is, like the foregoing discourse, a kind of comparison between wealth and poverty:
Chremylus, who was an old and a good man, and withal exceeding poor, being desirous to leave some riches to his son, consults the oracle of Apollo upon the subject. The oracle bids him follow the first man he should see upon his going out of the temple. The person he chanced to - see was to appearance an old blind sordid man, but, upon his following him from place to place, he at last found, by his own confession, that he was Plutus the god of riches, and that he was just come out of the house of a miser. Plutus farther told him, that when he was a boy, he used to declare, that as soon as he came to age he would distribute wealth to no one but virtuous and just men ; upon which Jupiter, considering the pernicious consequences of such a resolution, took his sight away from him, and left him to stroll about the world in the blind condition wherein Chremylus beheld him. With much ado Chremylus prevailed
upon him to go to his house, where he met an old woman in a tattered raiment, who had been his guest for many years, and whose name was Poverty. The old woman refusing to turn out so easily as he would have her, he threatened to banish her not only from his own house, but out of all, Greece, if she made any more words upon the matter. Poverty on this occasion pleads her cause very notably, and represents to her old landlord, that, should she be driven out of the country, all their trades, arts, and sciences, would be driven out with her; and that, if every one was rich, they would never be supplied with those pomps, ornaments, and conveniences of life, which made riches desirable. She likewise represented to him the several advantages which she bestowed upon taries in regard to their shape, their health, and their activity, by preserving them from gouts, dropsies, unwieldiness, and intemperance. But whatever she had to say for herself, she was at last forced to troop off. Chremylus immediately considered how he might restore Plutus to his sight; and, in order to it, conveyed him to the temple of Æsculapius, who was famous for cures and miracles of this nature. By this means, the deity recovered his eyes, and began to make a right use of them, by enriching every one that was distinguished by piety towards the gods, and justice towards men; and at the same time by taking away his gifts from the impious and undeserving: This produces several merry incidents, till in the last act Mer