1747
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Picture of Human Life. Translated from the Greek of Cebes, a Disciple of Socrates.

The Museum: or the Literary and Historical Register 3 (20 June 1747) 233-46.

Rev. Joseph Spence


Joseph Spence, who in 1747 published Polymetis, a study of classical allegory, anonymously translates the Table of Cebes. The attribution to the Theban philosopher and pupil of Socrates is now rejected, but whoever wrote it, this description of an allegorical picture was long influential in literature and the visual arts.

Spence's translation was anonymously reprinted in Robert Dodsley's popular textbook, Preceptor (1748), in which form it was read by several generations of young students.

Edmund Burke to Richard Shackleton: "You said, if I don't forget, that you would read the same authors that I do here [at Trinity College Dublin], which in my opinion is as useful a thing as you could do. Consult your master about it, and see how he approves of it. If he does, you had better take it in hands immediately. It as as follows: — nine first chapters of Burgersdicius, the six last Aeneids of Virgil, the Enchiridion of Epictetus, with the Tabula Cebetis, which my tutor recommended as a very fine picture of human life. It is the work of one Cebes, an ancient Theban philosopher, written in the allegorical way" 10 May 1744; Leadbeater Papers (1862) 2:607.

Edmond Malone: "The Rev. Joseph Spence, A.M. Rector of Great Harwood, in Buckinghamshire, and Prebendary of Durham, died at Byfleet in Surrey, August 20, 1768. He was a fellow of New College in Oxford, and held the office of Professor of Poetry in that University from 1728 to 1738" 1799; Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 4:434n.




As we were walking in the Temple of Saturn, and observing several of the Presents dedicated to that God, we were particularly struck with a Picture, hung up before one of the Chapels. Both the Manner and the Subject of it, seem'd to be foreign; so that we were at a Loss to know either whence, or what it was. What it represented was neither a City, nor a Camp; but an Inclosure, containing two other Inclosures, the one larger, and the other less. To the outer Inclosure, there was a Portal, with a great Number of Persons standing before it, and several Females within, and an aged Man standing by the Portal, in the Attitude of giving Directions to those who were going in.

After we had been debating among ourselves for some Time, what all these Things shou'd mean; an elderly Person, who happen'd to be by, address'd himself to us in the following manner. "As you are Strangers, 'tis no Wonder that you shou'd be at a Loss to find out the Meaning of this Picture; since several of the Natives of this City themselves know not the true Intent of it: And indeed it was not plac'd here by any of our Citizens, but by a Stranger who visited these Parts several Years ago. He was a very sensible Man, and a great Philosopher; and both in his Conversation and Practice seem'd to approach nearer to the Doctrines of Pythagoras and Parmenides, than to any other of our Sects. It was he who built this Temple, and dedicated this Picture in it to Saturn." Have you then seen the very Person who gave it? (said I,) and was you personally acquainted with him? — "Yes, reply'd he, I was both well acquainted with him, and admir'd him very much; for for tho' he was rather young, his Conversation was full of Wisdom; and, among other Things, I have often heard him explaining the Subject of the Picture before us." — I intreat you, cry'd I, if it will not be too troublesome, to acquaint us with his Explanation of it, for 'tis what we were all longing to know. — "That will be rather a Pleasure than any Trouble to me, reply'd the good old Man; but I ought to forewarn you of one Thing before I begin; which is this, that the hearing it is not unattended with Danger." — What Danger can there be in that? cry'd I. — "It is no less than this, reply'd he, that if you observe and follow the Lesson that it gives you, it will make you both wise and happy; but if you neglect it, you will be most miserable and wretched all your Days. So that the explaining of this, is not unlike the Riddle said to have been proposed to People by the Sphynx, which if the Hearer understood, he was saved, but if not, he was to be destroy'd. It is much the same in the present Case; for Ignorance is full as dangerous in Life, as the Sphynx was supposed to be in the Fable. Now the Picture before us includes all the Doctrine of what is good in Life, what is bad, and what indifferent; so that if you shou'd take it wrong, You will be destroy'd by it; not indeed all at once, as the People were by that Monster; but by little and little, thro' all the Residue of your Life, as those are who are given up to be put to Death by slow Tortures: On the contrary, if you understand it aright, then will your Ignorance be destroy'd, and you will be sav'd, and will become happy and blest for all the rest of your Days. Do you, therefore, attend carefully to what I shall say to you, and observe it as you ought." — O Heavens, how have you encreased our longing to hear, what may be of such very great Importance to us! — "It is certainly of the greatest that can be, reply'd he." — Explain it then to us immediately, we beseech you; and be assur'd, that we will listen to you with all the Care and Attention, that a Matter which concerns us so greatly must demand.

Upon this, taking up a Wand that was placed just by, and pointing with it to the Picture, "You see, says he, this grand Inclosure? All this Circuit, is the CIRCUIT OF HUMAN LIFE; and that great Number of People standing before the Portal, are those who are to enter into Life. This aged Person, who stands by the Entrance holding a Paper in one of his Hands, and pointing with the other, is the GENIUS who directs all that are going in, what they shou'd do after they are enter'd into Life; and shews them which Way they ought to take in order to be happy in it." — And which is the Way, interrupted I, that he shews them? Where is it? — "On the other Side, before the Portal, continued he; do you see that Seat, and the Woman sitting on it, with a Cup in her Hand? She who is so finely dress'd out and makes so shewy an Appearance." — I see her, reply'd I, and pray, who is she? — "That, says he, is DECEIT, the Misleader of Man." — And what does she do there? — "As they are entering into Life, she offers them to drink of her Cup." — And what does her Cup contain? — "Ignorance reply'd he, and Error; of which when they have drunk, they enter into Life." — And do all drink of this Cup? — "All, says he, drink of it; but some more, and some less. A little farther, within the Portal, don't you see a Company of loose Women, with a great deal of Variety in their Dress and Airs?" — I see them. — "Those, says he, are the OPINIONS, DESIRES, and PLEASURES; who, as the Multitude enter, fly to them, embrace them with great Earnestness, one by one, and then lead them away with them." — And whither do they lead them? — "Some to the Way of Safety; and others, to Perdition thro' their Folly." — Ah, why did they drink of that Liquor before they came in! — "But all of them alike tell those whom they are embracing, that they will lead them to what is best, and will make their Lives quite happy: whilst the new Comers blinded by the large Droughts they have taken from the Cup of DECEIT, are incapable of distinguishing which is the true Way in Life, and wander about inconsiderately here and there, as you see they do. You may observe too, that they who have been in some Time, go about just as these direct them."—

They do so, said I; but, pray, who is that Woman who seems to be both blind and mad and who stands on that round Stone there; — "That, says he, is FORTUNE; and she is really not only mad and blind, but deaf too." — What then can her Business be? — "She flies about every where, says he, and snatches what he has from one, to give it to another; and then takes it away again from him, to give it to a third, without any manner of Meaning, or any Degree of Certainty: which latter is very aptly signify'd by her Figure here." — How so? repy'd I. — "Why by her standing on that round Stone, says he, which shews that there is no Stability or Security of her Favours; as all who trust to her find, by some great and unexpected Fall." — And what does all that Company about her want of her? And how are they called? "They, says he, are called, THE INCONSIDERATES, and are begging for some of those Things which she flings about her." — And why do they appear with such a Diversity of Passions? Some of them as overjoy'd, and others as very much distrest? — "They, says he, who smile and rejoice, are such as have receiv'd something from her Hands; and these call her by the Title of GOOD FORTUNE: and such as weep and mourn, are they from whence she has resum'd what she had before giv'n them; and these call her BAD FORTUNE." — And what is it she gives, that shou'd make the former rejoice so much on the receiving it, and the latter lament so much at the Loss of it? — "All those Things, says he, which the greater Part of Mankind think good, such as Wealth and Glory, and Nobility, and Offspring, and Dignities, and Crowns; and all such Sort of Things." — And are not these really good Things? — "As to that, says he, we may talk more at large another Time; but at present, if you please, let us stick to our Picture.

You see then, continued he, after entering this Portal, there is another Inclosure, on a rais'd Ground, and several Women standing before it, dress'd out too, much like Ladies of Pleasure." — That they are, said I. — "Of these, says he, this is INTEMPERANCE; that LUXURY; this is AVARICE; and that other FLATTERY." — And what do they stand there for? — They are waiting, says he, for those who have receiv'd any thing from FORTUNE; and as they meet with them, they embrace them with the greatest Fondness, and attach themselves to them, and do every thing they can to please them, and beg them to stay with them; and promise them to render their whole Lives delightful, and easy, and free from all manner of Care or Trouble. Now whoever is carry'd away by them to what they call the Pleasure of Life, will find their Company agreeable to him at first, whilst they are fondling and tickling his Passions; but it is soon quite otherwise; for as soon as he recovers his Senses, he perceives that he did not enjoy them, but was enjoy'd by them; and that they prey upon him, and destroy him. And when he has, by their Means, consum'd all that he had receiv'd from FORTUNE, then is he oblig'd to become their Slave, and to bear all the Insults they are pleased to impose upon him, and to yield to all the most scandalous Practices; and in the End, to commit all Sort of Villanies for their Sake; such as Betraying, Defrauding, Robbing, Sacrilege, Perjury, and the like: and when all these fail him, then is he given up to PUNISHMENT. — And where is she? — "Don't you see there, says he, a little behind those Women, a narrow dark Cavern, with a small Sort of Door to it, and some miserable Women that appear within, clad only in filth and Rags?" — I do discern them, said I. — "She of them, says he, who holds up the Scourge in her Hand, is PUNISHMENT; this, with her Head sunk almost down to her Knees, is SORROW: and that other tearing her Hair, is ANGUISH OF MIND. — And pray, who is that meagre Figure of a Man without any Cloaths on, just by them? And that lean Woman, that resembles him so much in her Make and Face? — "Those, says he, are REPINING, and his Sister DESPAIR. To all these is the Wretch I was speaking of deliver'd up, and lives with them in Torments, till finally he is cast into the House of MISERY; where he passes all the Remainder of his Days in all sort of Wretchedness, unless, by Chance, REPENTANCE shou'd fall in his Way." What happens then? — If REPENTANCE shou'd chance to meet with him she will take him out of the evil Situation he was in, and will place two different OPINIONS or DESIRES before him: the one of those which leads to TRUE SCIENCE, and the other of those which lead to SCIENCE falsly so called." — And what then? — "If he embraces that which leads to TRUE SCIENCE, he is renew'd and sav'd, and becomes a happy Man for all his Days; but if the other, he is bewilder'd again by FALSE SCIENCE.

Good Heaven! what a new Danger do you tell me of! and pray, which is FALSE SCIENCE? — "You see that second Inclosure? says he." — Very plainly. — "And don't you see a Woman Handing without the Inclosure, just by the Entrance into it, of a very striking Appearance, and very well dress'd?" — As plainly. — "That is she, says he, whom the Multitude, and all the unthinking Part of Mankind, call by the Name of Science; tho' she is really FALSE SCIENCE. Now those who are sav'd out of the House of Misery call in here, in their Passage to TRUE SCIENCE." — Is there then no other Way to TRUE SCIENCE but this? — "Yes, says he, there is." — And pray, who are those Men that are walking to and fro within the Inclosure? — "Those, says he, who have attach'd themselves to False Science, mistaking her for the True." — And what are they? — "Some of them, says he, are Poets, some Rhetoricians, some Logicians, some Students in Music, Arithmetic, and Geometry; Epicureans, Peripatetics, Critics, and several others of the same Rank." — And who are these Women who seem so busy among them, and who are so like INTEMPERANCE, and her Companions, in the first Inclosure? — "They are the very same, says he." — Are they then admitted into this second Inclosure? — "Yes indeed are they, says he; but not so readily, or frequently, as in the first." — And the OPINIONS too? — "Undoubtedly, says he; for the Persons who belong to this Inclosure have not yet got rid of the Draught which they took out of the Cup of Deceit." — What then, IGNORANCE remains still with them! — "That it does, says he, and FOLLY too; nor can they get rid of the OPINIONS, nor all the rest of this vile Train, till they quit False Science, and get into the Way of the True, and drink of her purifying Liquor, and wash away all the Dregs of the Evils that remain in them; which that, and that only, is capable of doing. Such therefore as fix their Abode with False Science will never be deliver'd; nor can all their Studies clear them from any one of those Evils."—

Which then is the Way to TRUE SCIENCE? — "Do you see, says he, that Place on high there, that looks so uninhabited? — I do, said I. — "And do you discern a little Opening between the Rocks, and a small Track leading to it? which is scarce beaten, and with very few People walking in it, all rough, and stony, and difficult as it is." — I discern it very plainly. — "And don't you see a high Cliff on the Hill, almost inaccessible, and with Precipices on each Side of it?" — I see it, said I. — "That, says he, is the Way which leads to TRUE SCIENCE." — It is frightful, cry'd I, only to look upon it. — "And up above that Cliff, don't you see a large rising Rock, with Precipices all round it? I see it. — "Then you see also the two Women that stand upon it, with so much Firmness and Beauty in their Make, and how earnestly they extend their Hands." — I do so; and pray, who are they? — "Those two, said he, are Sisters, and are called TEMPERANCE and PATIENCE." — And why do they extend their Hands so earnestly? — "They are encouraging, says he, those who are arriv'd to that Rock, and call out to them, to be of good Heart, and not to despond; because they have but a little more to suffer, and then will find the Road all easy and pleasant before them." — But how can they ever get up upon that Rock itself? for I don't see any the least Path to ascend it by. — "The two Sisters, says he, descend to meet them, and help them up with them. Then they order them to rest themselves a little, and inspire them with new Strength and Resolution, and promise to conduct them to TRUE SCIENCE; and point out the Way to them, and make them observe how even, and easy, and charming it is; and how free from all manner of Difficulty or Danger, as you see it represented here." — How well does it answer the Description! — "And you see, says he, before that Grove, the Ground that extends itself into a beautiful Meadow, with such a lively Light over it." — Very plainly. — "Then you see the third Inclosure, in the Midst of that Meadow, and the Portal to it?" — I do so; and pray, what do you call this Place? — "The Habitation of the Blest, says he; for here it is that HAPPINESS, and all the VIRTUES dwell." — What a charming Place, cry'd I, have they to dwell in! — "And do you observe, says he, the Lady near the Portal, with so beautiful and steddy a Look; of a middle Age, or rather a little past it, and dress'd in a plain long Robe, without any the least Affectation of Ornaments? She is standing there, not on a round Stone, but a square one, firmly fix'd in the Ground; and by her are two other Women, who look as if they were her Daughters." — They do so. — "Of these, she in the Midst is SCIENCE and the other two are TRUTH and PERSUASION. — And why does SCIENCE stand on that square Stone? — "To signify, that her Ways are Ways of Certainty, and that the Presents which she gives to those that arrive to her, are firm and lasting." — And what is it that she gives to them? — "Strength, says he, and Tranquillity of Mind, arising from a full Assurance, that they shall never undergo any Evil again in their whole Lives." — O Heavens, how desirable are her Presents! But why does she stand thus without the Inclosure? — "To receive those that arrive hither, says he, and give them to drink of her purifying Liquor, and to conduct them into the Presence of the VIRTUES within, when they are thoroughly cleans'd by it." — I don't rightly understand what you mean by this cleansing, said I. — "I will make that clearer to you, replied be. Suppose any Friend of yours was afflicted with some dangerous Fit of Illness; if he goes to some knowing Physician, and takes what he prescribes, in order to root out the Causes of his Disease, he may be restor'd to a perfect State of Health; but if he refuses to take what is order'd him, his Physician will give him up, and leave him to be destroy'd by his Distemper." — That is clear enough, said I. — "In the very same manner, continued he, when any one comes to SCIENCE, she takes him under her Care, and gives him a Draught of her Cup to cleanse him, and drive out all the noxious Things that are in him." — And what are those noxious Things? — The Error and Ignorance that he drank out of the Cup of DECEIT; and his Arrogance, and Lust, and Intemperance, and Anger, and Covetousness; and in short, all the evil Impressions and Habits that he had contracted in his Passage thro' the first Inclosure." — And when she has cleansed him from all these, whither does she send him? — "In thro' that Portal, says he, to KNOWLEDGE, and the other VIRTUES." — And where are they? — "Don't you see, says he, within the Portal, a select Company of Ladies, of singular Beauty and Decency, both in their Look and Dress; and in a Word, with every Thing handsome, and nothing affected about them?" — I see them, said I, and should be glad to know their Names. — "That, says he, at the Head of them is KNOWLEDGE; and the rest are all her Sisters, FORTITUDE, JUSTICE, HONESTY, PRUDENCE, DECENCY, FREEDOM, TEMPERANCE, and CLEMENCY. — What Beauties they are! cry'd I, and what a longing Desire do they inspire one with to enjoy their Companies! — "That you may do, reply'd he, if you are wise enough to follow the Way that I have shown you." — That, said I, will I strive to do as far as I am able. — "Then, said he, you will arrive safely to them." — And when these have receiv'd any one, whither do they carry him? — "To their Mother, reply'd he." — And who is she? — HAPPINESS." — And where? — "Do you see, said he, the Way which leads to that high Edifice, which appears above all the other Risings of the Mount, as a Citadel does above all the Buildings in a City?" — Yes. — "And do you see that composed, beautiful Lady, sitting on a Throne in the Portico to it, with so easy and disengag'd an Air; and with that beautiful Chaplet of fresh Flowers on her Head? — How beautiful does it look! — "That, says he, is Happiness." — And when any one arrives to her, what does she do to him? — "Why Happiness, said he, assisted by all the Virtues, crowns him with her own Influences; in the same manner as they are crown'd, who have obtain'd the greatest Conquests." — But what Conquests, said I, has he obtain'd? — "The greatest Conquests, replied he, and over the most terrible of Monsters, which formerly devour'd and tormented, and enslaved him. All these has he conquer'd, and driven from him; and is become so much Master both of himself and them, as to make those Things obey him, which he himself obey'd before." — I don't yet comprehend what Monsters you mean; and shou'd be very glad to know. — "In the first Place, says he, his Ignorance and Error; will you not allow them to be Monsters? — Yes, replied I, and most dangerous ones too. — "Then, says he, his Sorrows, and Repinings, and Covetings, and Intemperance, and every Thing that is bad. All these has he subdued, and is not subdued by them as he used to be." — O glorious Exploits! cry'd I, and most noble of all Victories! But be so good as to inform me yet farther, what may be the Influence of the Crown, with which you were saying he was to be crown'd? — "It is that which renders him happy, replied he: for he who has it once on his Head, immediately becomes easy, and blest; and does not place his Hopes of Happiness in any Thing without him, but possesses it in his own Breast." — How desirable is such an Acquisition! And after he is crown'd, what does he do? or whither does he go? — "The VIRTUES, says he, take him and lead him to the Place that he had left, and bid him observe those who continue there, amidst what Difficulties and Troubles they pass their Time; and how they are shipwreck'd in Life, or wander about in it; or are conquer'd, and led along like Captives, some by INTEMPERANCE, and others by ARROGANCE; here by COVETOUSNESS, and there by VAINGLORY, or any other of the VICES: whose Chains they are in vain striving to get loose from, that they might escape and get to this Place of Rest: so that their whole Life seems to be nothing but one ineffectual Struggle. And all this they suffer from their mistaking the right Way, and forgetting the Orders given them by the directing GENIUS." — That appears to me to be the Case; but I don't so clearly see, why the VIRTUES lead the Person that has been crown'd, back to the Place that he had left. — "Because, says he, he had never form'd a full and exact Idea of the Things that passed there; but at best, had only guessed and doubted about them: for from the Draught of Ignorance and Error that he had taken at his Entrance, he had imagin'd Things that were bad to be good, and Things that were good to be bad; by which means he had liv'd wretchedly, as indeed all do while they are there. But now that he has obtain'd the Knowledge of what is really good, he can both live happily himself, and can see how very unhappy the others are." — And when he has taken a full View there, what does he do, or whither does he go then? — "Whenever he pleases, says he, for every where in he as safe as one that is got into the Corycian Cave; so that wheresoever he goes, he lives in full Security and Happiness undisturb'd, and is receiv'd by all others, with as much Pleasure as a Physician is by his Patients." — And has he no longer any Dread of those Females which you called Monsters? Nor any Apprehension of being hurt by them? — "Not in the least; for he will never any more be molested either by ANGUISH, or SORROW, or INTEMPERANCE, or COVETOUSNESS, or POVERTY, or any other Evil; for he is now Master of them all, and superior to every Thing that formerly gave him any Trouble. As they who practise the catching of Vipers, are never hurt by the Bite of those Creatures, which is so venomous, and even mortal to others, because they have an Antidote against their Poison; so is he safe from any Influence of all these Evils, because he has the Antidote against them." — That you have explain'd to me very well; but I beg you wou'd tell me yet farther, who they are that are descending from the middle of the Rock, some of them crown'd, and with an Air of Joy on their Countenances; and others without Crowns, that seem to have been rejected, and have the Marks of several Falls about them, and are follow'd by those Women. — "They, says he, who are crown'd, are such as got safe to SCIENCE, and are delighted with the Reception that she has given them; and those without Crowns, who seem to have been rejected by her, and are returning in so bad a Condition, are such as found their Hearts fail them, when they came to the Precipice where PATIENCE stands, and who turn'd back from that Point, and are now wandering irregularly they know not whither." — And who are the Women that are following them? — "They, says he, are SORROW and ANGUISH, and DESPAIR, and INFAMY, and IGNORANCE. — By your Account, they are attended by every thing that is Bad! — "Undoubtedly so they are, says he; but when they are got down into the first Inclosure, to VOLUPTUOUSNESS and INTEMPERANCE, they don't lay the Blame on themselves, but immediately say all the ill Things they can of SCIENCE, and of those who are going to her; and tell how miserable and wretched those poor People are, and how much they suffer, who leave the Life they might have enjoy'd below, and the good Things bestow'd there." — And what are the good Things which they mean? — "Luxury and Intemperance; to say all in two Words: for to indulge their Passions like the brute Beasts, is what they look upon as the Completion of all their Happiness." — And those other Women that are coming down there, who look so gay and so well-pleased with themselves, what are they? — "The OPINIONS, says he, who after conducting those to SCIENCE, who have gain'd Admission to the VIRTUES, are returning to bring up others, and to acquaint them how happy those are, whom they have already conducted up thither." — And have they been admitted to the Virtues themselves? — "By no means, says he; for 'tis not allowable for OPINION to enter, where KNOWLEDGE has her Dwelling. Their Business therefore was only to conduct them to SCIENCE; and when she has receiv'd them, they turn back again to bring others; like Transport Ships, which as soon as they have deliver'd in one Freight, return for another." — You have now, I think, very well explain'd all the figures in the Picture; but you have not yet told us what Directions they were, which the Genius at the first Portal gives to those that are entering into Life. — "He bids them be of good Courage, says he; wherefore be you also of good Courage; for I will tell you the whole, and leave no one Thing unexplained to you. — We shall be extreamly obliged to you, replied I. — On this, he pointed lower again with his Wand, and said; "Do you see that blind Woman there, on the round Stone, who I told you before was FORTUNE?" — I see her. — "As to that Woman, says he, he orders them not to place any Confidence in her, nor to look on any of her Gifts as firm, or secure; nor to consider them as their Property; for there is no hindering her from resuming them, and giving them to any Body else; and 'tis what she is extreamly apt to do. He therefore orders them to regard all her Presents with Indifference, and not to rejoice if she makes them any, nor to be dejected if she takes them away, and to think neither well nor ill of her; for whatever she does is done without Thought, and all by meer Chance and Accident, as I have acquainted you already. 'Tis on this Account that the Genius commands them, not to attach themselves to any thing she can give; nor to he like those simple Bankers who when they have receiv'd any Sum of Money in Trust, are apt to be pleased with it, and look upon it as their own; and when they are called upon to repay it, grow uneasy, and think it very hard; not considering that it was deposited in their Hands on that very Condition, that the true Owners might demand it again whenever they pleased. Just thus the GENIUS commands Men to look upon all the Gifts of FORTUNE: and to be aware, that she may recall them whenever she has a Fancy to do it; or may send in more, and if she pleases, may resume that and the former all together. He therefore commands those who are entering into Life, to receive whatever she offers them, and as soon as they have receiv'd it, to go on in quest of a more lasting Acquisition." — What Acquisition do you mean? said I. — "That which they may obtain from SCIENCE, says he, if they can arrive safe to her." — And what is it that she gives them? — "the true Knowledge of what is really good, says he; and the firm, certain, and unchangeable Possession of it. He therefore commands them to quit Fortune immediately, in Pursuit of this; and when they come to those Women, who, as I told you before, were INTEMPERANCE and VOLUPTUOUSNESS, to leave them too directly, and not to mind whatever they can say; but to go on for the Inclosure of FALSE SCIENCE; there he bids them stay a little while, to get what may be useful to them on the rest of their Road, and then to leave her directly too, and go on for TRUE SCIENCE. These are the Orders which the GENIUS gives to all that enter into Life: and whoever transgresses or neglects them, will be a miserable Wretch. I have now explain'd the whole of the Parable contain'd in this Painting; but if you have any particular Question to ask in relation to any thing that I have said, I am very ready to answer it."

—We are much obliged to you, replied I, and pray then, what is it that the GENIUS orders them to get in the Inclosure of Science, falsly so called? — "Whatever may be of use to them." — And what is there there, that may be of use to them? — "Literature, (says he;) and so much of the Sciences, as Plato says, may serve People in the beginning of their Lives as a Bridle, to keep them from being drawn away by idler Pursuits." — And is it necessary for all who would arrive at True Science, to do this? — "No, says he, it is not necessary, but it may be useful; tho' in truth, these things themselves do not contribute towards making them the better Men." — Not contribute at all towards making them better! — "Not at all, says he; for they may be as good without them. And yet they are not wholly unuseful; for they may sometimes help us, as Interpreters do, to the Meaning of a Language we don't understand: But after all, 'tis better to understand the Language ourselves, than to have any need of an Interpreter; and we may be good, without the Assistance of Learning." — In what then have the Learned any Advantage over others, towards becoming better Men? — "Why do you imagine they should have any Advantage, reply'd he; since you see they are deceiv'd like others, as to what is good or bad: and continue to be as much involved in all manner of Vices? For there is nothing that hinders a Man, who is a Master of Literature, and knowing in all the Sciences, from being at the same time a Drunkard, or Intemperate, or Covetous, or Unjust, or Villainous, or in one Word, Imprudent in all his Ways." — 'Tis true, we see too many Instances of such. — Of what Advantage then is their Learning, toward making them better Men? — You have made it appear, said I, that it is of none; but pray what is the Reason of it? — "The Reason, says he, is this: That when they are got into the second Inclosure, they fix there as if they were arriv'd at True Science. And what can they get by that? (added he) since we see several Persons who go on directly from INTEMPERANCE, and the other VICES in the first Inclosure, to the Inclosure of TRUE SCIENCE; without ever calling in, where these learned Persons have taken up their Abode. How then can the Learned be said to have any Advantage over them? On the Contrary, they are less apt to move, or to be instructed, than the former." — How can that be? said I. — "Because, says he, they who are in the second Inclosure, not to mention any other of their faults, at least profess to know, what they do not know; so that they acquiesce in their Ignorance, and have no Motive to stir them up toward the seeking of TRUE SCIENCE. Besides, do you not observe another thing; that the OPINIONS, from the first Inclosure, enter in among them, and converse with them, as freely as with the former? So that they are not at all even better than them; unless REPENTANCE shou'd come to them, and shou'd convince them, that it is not SCIENCE that they have been embracing all this while; but only the false Appearance of her, which has deceiv'd them. But while they continue in the same Mind they are in, there is no Hope left for them. To close all, my Friends, what I would entreat of you is, to think over every thing I have said to you, to weigh it well in your Minds, and to practise accordingly. Get a Habit of doing right, whatever Pains it cost you; and let no Difficulties deter you, in the way to Virtue: Account every thing else despicable, in comparison of this. Then will the Lesson that I have taught you, prove a Lesson of Happiness to your selves." — May we all use our utmost Endeavours to make it such!


[pp. 243-46]