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In learning let a nymph delight,
The pedant gets a mistress by't. In like manner, leech anciently signified a physician. And straightway sent with careful diligence, To fetch a leech, the which had great insight In that disease of grieved conscience; And well could cure the same : his name was Patience.
Spencer's Fairy Queen. Even Dryden uses it in this sense.
Wise leeches will not vain receipts obtrude,
"Till some safe crisis authorise their skill. Roscommon has thus described the insect which has now usurped this name by being used in bleeding.
Sticking like leeches till they burst with blood.
We study speech, but others we persuade,
Sir John Davis. « The word dame," says Dr. Watts, in his Logic, originally signified a mistress of a family, who was a lady, and it is used still in the English law to signify a lady: but in common use now-a-days it represents a farmer's wife, or a mistress of a family of the lower rank in the country.”
Though the cause of such mutations may be principally ascribed to the caprice of mankind, yet much may be imputed to words being debased by vulgar use. An instance of this kind we have in the word lawyer, a name vulgarly given to every the meanest pettifogger; every farrier, little apothecary, or surgeon's mate, is also commonly honoured with the title of doctor; even chimney doctors are become frequent. So that doctor and lawyer will, perhaps, in time undergo the same change, with leech and pedant, though physician and counsellor still retain their dignity.
However, it is hoped, that our language will be more fixed, and better established when the public is favoured
with a new dictionary, undertaken with that view, and ads apted to answer several other valuable purposes; a work now in great forwardness.
V. The sense of Improbus as used in Virgil.
Labor omnia vicit Improbus,
Virg. Geo. i. L. 145. SCARCELY any passage in Virgil is more commonly quoted, and yet none seems to be so little understood. It has passed almost into a proverb; and the verb is usually expressed in the present tense, and the sense affixed to it by all the commentators, and all the translators that I have seen, is, Hard labour surmounts all difficulties. Upon the single authority of this place, all our dictionaries likewise have agreed to render IMPROBUS, hard, excessive, constant.
To justify this sense of the word, Dr. Trapp refers his reader to another passage in Virgil, Æneid xii. L. 687.
Fertur in abruptum magno mons improbus actu,
But why may not improbus be used here in one of its ordinary significations for destructive, mischievous, pernicious? The following words,
Sylvas, armenta, virosque Involvens secum, describing the mischiefs occasioned by its fall, prove that it ought to be so understood. Thus improbus anser. Georg. i. L. 118. Improbus anguis. Georg. iii. L. 431, are the mischievous gander and snake.
In the passage before us improbus is the same as impius, wicked, as will be evident to any one that will but read the foregoing lines, beginning at the line 121,
pater ipse colendi Haud facilem esse viam voluit, primusque per artem
Movit agros, curis acuens mortalia corda; where Jupiter is represented by the poet as designing to render husbandry a work of difficulty. Before his time the ground stood in no need of culture :
Ante Jovem nulli subigebant árva coloni, &c.
Ille malum virus serpentibus addidit atris. To relieve themselves from these mischiefs brought upon them by Jupiter, mankind had recourse to various inventions ;
Tum variæ venere artes. And this their opposition to the will of Jupiter, which, in the opinion of the poet, was no less than impious, prevailed over all obstacles, and made the art of tillage easier than Jupiter, at first, intended it should be.
Labor omnia vicit
Necquicquam Deus abscidit
Non tangenda rates transiliant vada. The sailors are here called impious, because in passing the seas they opposed the will of Jupiter, who designed they should have been non tangenda, impassable.
MARONIDES. 1749, March.
VI. On the Rebus and Ænigma. MR. URBAN, No small number of your friends and correspondents, I observe, are employed about that species of the Ænigma, or Riddle, called a Rebus ; for no sooner has one part of them been racking their invention to invelope some plain name in a dark and puzzling colour; but others are immediately exerting their sagacity to decypher it, and trying to crack the shell: and you, sir, from the benignity of your temper, are disposed to gratify both parties, at least so far as you are able, by inserting in your monthly entertainment their innocent amusements. For amusements they are, and innocent, which surely is saying a great deal, but I may add, for the pleasure and satisfaction of their admirers, that they are withal very ancient. For passing by the monkish ages, which hardly deserve the name of antiquity, and that large harvest which the heralds afford, and of which enough may be read in Camden's Remains, there want not instances of these allusions, this sporting with words, this mixture of words and things, even in the remotest times. To give a few examples :
History tells us, that Cyrus the Great was nursed by a bitch, that is, as I apprehend it, his nurse's name was Spaco, which, in the language of the Medes, as Herodotus informs us, signified a bitch; and so it does at this day in the Hyrcanian tongue, according to Tanaq. Faber, in his commentary upon Justin, Lib. i. We have a similar example, and much better known, in the Roman History; the two brothers Romulus and Remus were suckled by a wolf. See Livy, Lib. i. the truth was, that the good woman's name who took them to her breast was Lupa. “Sunt,” says Livy, “qui Larentiam vulgato corpore Lupam inter pastores vocatam putent: unde locum fabulæ ac miraculo datum." Lactantius makes great use of this confession of Livy, and thereupon reports the following Grecian story, very much to our purpose, of one Leæna, who had been instrumental in destroying Hipparchus: she was a strumpet, and because it was improper to erect a statue of a woman of her character in the temple, the Athenians placed the effigy of a lioness there, according to the import of her name.
No body nçeds desire a truer Rebus, than that of Virgil, Eclog. 111.
Dic quibus in terris inscripti nomina regum
Nascantur fores; alluding to the hyacinth, which takes its name; as the fables relate, from Hyacinthus, a favourite youth, accidentally killed by Apollo. "See Ruæus, or Dr. Martin, from whom it appears that the flower bore both the character of Hyacinth and of Ajax.
There is another as clear in the second book of that màsterly piece, the Æthiopics of Heliodorus, a work which certainly deserves a better edition. It is the story of Chariclea and Theagenes, and the author very appositely introduces the priestess of Apollo delivering an oracle, (and nothing could be better adapted to the manner of the ancient orac'es) in these artificial and ambiguous terms, alluding to the composition of their respective names :
Την χάριν εν πρώτοις, αυτάρ κλέος ύσατ' έχασαν,
xagos, adeós. Chariclea,
Otas ysvitns. Theogenes. Sigonius has engraved and explained a coin of Julius Cæsar's, (which is indeed common enough) with an elephant upon it, because the word Cæsar in the Punic language, as is testified both by Servius and Spartian, denoted an elephant.
But what is most remarkable, some of the fathers of the church, called our Saviour izdis, piscis, Tertullianus de Baptismo, p. 124, the letters of which word are severally the initials of Ιησύς Χριςός θεέ υιός σωτηρ.
And to name no more, of the same kind is that expression of the number of the beast, Rev. xiii. 18, which ch. xv. 2, is called the number of his name, where the sublime author fol. lows the ancient custom of representing the name by numerals, as on the contrary number was often expressed by artificial names. Thus the technical words Máðgas and 'Abgažas meant the sun, because the component letters numerally taken amounted to 365, that is, 365 days, in which the sun finished his annual course. The Greek word Naides, the river Nile, in like manner expresses the number 365, as is particularly taken notice of by the admirable author above-mentioned. Heliodorus, Lib. ix. This was according to the Greeks; for otherwise Mesgas and Neidos, had an etymology and signification of their own. The Basilidian heretics were fond of these fictitious
names, and were the coiners of that barbarous word Abraxas, by which, as St. Hierome thinks, they meant Mi.. thras, and which, with its companions Museas and Nudos is to be resolved thus :