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Every distemper of our minds is truly base and ignoble; yet some passions are accompanied with a sort of levity, that makes men appear gay, prompt, and erect; but none, we may say, are wholly destitute of force for action. But the common charge upon all sorts of passions is, that they excite and urge the reason, forcing it by their violent stings. Fear alone, being equally destitute of reason and audacity, renders our whole irrational part stupid, distracted, and unserviceable. Therefore it is called δεῖμα because it binds, and τάρβος because it distracts the mind.1 But of all fears, none so dozes and confounds as that of superstition. He fears not the sea that never goes to sea; nor a battle, that [p. 170] follows not the camp; nor robbers, that stirs not abroad; nor malicious informers, that is a poor man; nor emulation, that leads a private life; nor earthquakes, that dwells in Gaul; nor thunderbolts, that dwells in Ethiopia: but he that dreads divine powers dreads every thing, the land, the sea, the air, the sky, the dark, the light, a sound, a silence, a dream. Even slaves forget their masters in their sleep; sleep lightens the irons of the fettered; their angry sores, mortified gangrenes, and pinching pains allow them some intermission at night.
Dear sleep, sweet easer of my irksome grief,
Pleasant thou art! how welcome thy relief!
Superstition will not permit a man to say this. That alone will give no truce at night, nor suffer the poor soul so much as to breathe or look up, or respite her sour and dismal thoughts of God a moment; but raises in the sleep of the superstitious, as in the place of the damned, certain prodigious forms and ghastly spectres, and perpetually tortures the unhappy soul, chasing her out of sleep into dreams, lashed and tormented by her own self, as by some other, and charged by herself with dire and portentous injunctions. Neither have they, when awake, enough sense to slight and smile at all this, or to be pleased with the thought that nothing of all that terrified them was real; but they still fear an empty shadow, that could never mean them any ill, and cheat themselves afresh at noonday, and keep a bustle, and are at expense upon the next fortuneteller or vagrant that shall but tell them:—
If in a dream hobgoblin thou hast seen,
Or felt'st the rambling guards o' th' Fairy Queen,
send for some old witch who can purify thee, go dip thyself in the sea, and then sit down upon the bare ground the rest of the day.
O that our Greeks should found such barbarous rites,
[p. 171] as tumbling in mire, rolling themselves in dunghills, keeping of Sabbaths, monstrous prostrations, long and obstinate sittings in a place, and vile and abject adorations, and all for vain superstition! They that were careful to preserve good singing used to direct the practisers of that science to sing with their mouths in their true and proper postures. Should not we then admonish those that would address themselves to the heavenly powers to do that also with a true and natural mouth, lest, while we are so solicitous that the tongue of a sacrifice be pure and right, we distort and abuse our own with silly and canting language, and thereby expose the dignity of our divine and ancient piety to contempt and raillery? It was not unpleasantly said somewhere by the comedian to those that adorned their beds with the needless ornaments of silver and gold: Since the Gods have given us nothing gratis except sleep, why will you make that so costly? It might as well be said to the superstitious bigot: Since the Gods have bestowed sleep on us, to the intent we may take some rest and forget our sorrows, why will you needs make it a continual irksome tormentor, when you know your poor soul hath ne'er another sleep to betake herself to? Heraclitus saith: They who are awake have a world in common amongst them; but they that are asleep are retired each to his own private world. But the frightful visionary hath ne'er a world at all, either in common with others or in private to himself; for neither can he use his reason when awake, nor be free from his fears when asleep; but he hath his reason always asleep, and his fears always awake; nor hath he either an hiding-place or refuge.

1 Plutarch derives δεῖμα from δέω, to bind, and τάρβος from ταράσσω, to distract or confuse. (G.)

2 Eurip. Orestes, 211.

3 Eurip. Troad. 759.

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