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No. 012 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Were I a Father, I should take a particular Care to preserve my Children from these little Horrours of Imagination, which they are apt to contract when they are young, and are not able to shake off when they are in Years. I have known a Soldier that has enter’d a Breach, affrighted at his own Shadow; and look pale upon a little scratching at his Door, who the Day before had march’d up against a Battery of Cannon. There are Instances of Persons, who have been terrify’d, even to Distraction, at the Figure of a Tree or the shaking of a Bull-rush. The Truth of it is, I look upon a sound Imagination as the greatest Blessing of Life, next to a clear Judgment and a good Conscience. In the mean Time, since there are very few whose Minds are not more or less subject to these dreadful Thoughts and Apprehensions, we ought to arm our selves against them by the Dictates of Reason and Religion, to pull the old Woman out of our Hearts (as Persius expresses it in the Motto of my Paper), and extinguish those impertinent Notions which we imbibed at a Time that we were not able to judge of their Absurdity. Or if we believe, as many wise and good Men have done, that there are such Phantoms and Apparitions as those I have been speaking of, let us endeavour to establish to our selves an Interest in him who holds the Reins of the whole Creation in his Hand, and moderates them after such a Manner, that it is impossible for one Being to break loose upon another without his Knowledge and Permission.

For my own Part, I am apt to join in Opinion with those who believe that all the Regions of Nature swarm with Spirits; and that we have Multitudes of Spectators on all our Actions, when we think our selves most alone: But instead of terrifying my self with such a Notion, I am wonderfully pleased to think that I am always engaged with such an innumerable Society in searching out the Wonders of the Creation, and joining in the same Consort of Praise and Adoration.

Milton [2] has finely described this mixed Communion of Men and Spirits in Paradise; and had doubtless his Eye upon a Verse in old Hesiod, [3] which is almost Word for Word the same with his third Line in the following Passage.

‘Nor think, though Men were none,
That Heav’n would want Spectators, God want praise:
Millions of spiritual Creatures walk the Earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep;
All these with ceaseless Praise his Works behold
Both Day and Night. How often from the Steep
Of echoing Hill or Thicket, have we heard
Celestial Voices to the midnight Air,
Sole, or responsive each to others Note,
Singing their great Creator: Oft in bands,
While they keep Watch, or nightly Rounding walk,
With heav’nly Touch of instrumental Sounds,
In full harmonick Number join’d, their Songs
Divide the Night, and lift our Thoughts to Heav’n.’


[Footnote 1: who]

[Footnote 2: ‘Paradise Lost’, B. IV., lines 675-688.]

[Footnote 3: In Bk. I. of the ‘Works and Days,’ description of the Golden Age, when the good after death
Yet still held state on earth, and guardians were
Of all best mortals still surviving there,
Observ’d works just and unjust, clad in air,
And gliding undiscovered everywhere.

‘Chapman’s Translation’.]