I HAVE now serv’d you three Apprenticeships, yet, old as I am, I have no Inclination to quit your Service, but should be glad to be able to continue in it three times three Apprenticeships longer.
The first Astrologers I think, were honest Husbandmen; and so it seems are the last; for my Brethren Jerman and Moore, and myself, the only remaining Almanack-makers of this Country, are all of that Class: Tho’ in intermediate Times our Art has been cultivated in great Cities, and even in the Courts of Princes; witness History, from the Days of King NEBUCHADNEZZAR I. of Babylon, to those of Queen JAMES I. of England. - - - - But you will ask, perhaps, how I prove that the first Astrologers were Countrymen? - - - - I own this is a Matter beyond the Memory of History, for Astrology was before Letters; but I prove it from the Book of the Heavens, from the Names of the twelve Signs, which were mostly given to remark some Circumstance relative to rural Affairs, in the several successive Months of the Year, and by that Means to supply the Want of Almanacks. - - - - Thus, as the Year of the Ancients began most naturally with the Spring, Aries and Taurus, that is, the Ram and the Bull, represented the successive Addition to their Flocks of Sheep and Kine, by their Produce in that Season, Lambs and Calves. - - - - Gemini were originally the Kids, but called the Twins, as Goats more commonly bring forth two than one: These follow’d the Calves. - - - - Cancer, the Crab, came next, when that Kind of Fish were in Season. - - - - Then follow’d Leo, the Lion, and Virgo, the Wench, to mark the Summer Months, and Dog-days, when those Creatures were most mischievous. In Autumn comes first Libra, the Ballance, to point out the Time for weighing and selling the Summer’s Produce; or rather, a Time of Leisure for holding Courts of Justice in which they might plague themselves and Neighbours; I know some suppose this Sign to signify the equal Poise, at that Time, of Day and Night; but the other Signification is the truer, as plainly appears by the following Sign Scorpio, or the Scorpion, with the Sting in his Tail, which certainly denotes the Paying of Costs. - - - - Then follows Sagittary, the Archer, to show the Season of Hunting; for now the Leaves being off the Trees and Bushes, the Game might be more easily seen and struck with their Arrows. - - - - The Goat accompanies the short Days and long Nights of Winter, to shew the Season of Mirth, Feasting and Jollity; for what can Capricorn mean, but Dancing or Cutting of Capers? - - - - At length comes Aquarius, or the Water-bearer, to show the Season of Snows, Rains and Floods; and lastly Pisces, or the two Shads, to denote the approaching Return of those Fish up the Rivers: Make your Wears, hawl your Seins; Catch ‘em and pickle ‘em, my Friends; they are excellent Relishers of old Cyder. - - - - But if you can’t get Shad, Mackrell may do better.
I know, gentle Readers, that many of you always expect a Preface, and think yourselves slighted if that’s omitted. So here you have it, and much good may’t do ye. As little as it is to the Purpose, there are many less so, now-a-days. - - - - I have left out, you see, all the usual Stuff about the Importunity of Friends, and the like, or I might have made it much bigger. You think, however, that ‘tis big enough o’Conscience, for any Matter of Good that’s in it; - - - - I think so too, if it fills the Page, which is the Needful at present, from
Hail, infinite CREATOR! with thy Praise The Muse began, with thee shall end my Lays, These are thy Works, blest Architect divine! This Earth, and all this beauteous Offspring thine. Thy Breath first bid inactive Matter move And strait with Life the genial Atoms strove Producing Animal, and Plant, and Flow'r, Concurrent proof of Wisdom, and of Pow’r. The first Degree of Folly, is to conceit one’s self wise; the second to profess it; the third to despise Counsel. Take heed of the Vinegar of sweet Wine, and the Anger of Good-nature.
Thy potent Word infus’d the solar Light, And spread the Curtain of refreshing Night; With splendid Orbs enrich’d the Void profound, Rang’d the bright Worlds, and roll’d their Courses round. O sing his Praises then! How justly due, Created Kinds, the Strains of Praise from You? How grateful the deserv’d Returns of Love! Praise him thou Earth, ye Worlds that roll above, Each Pow’r, whole Nature, all his Works, conspire In Songs of Praise, an universal Choir. The Bell calls others to Church, but itself never minds the Sermon. Cut the Wings of your Hens and Hopes, lest they lead you a weary Dance after them. The Cat in Gloves catches no Mice.
Thou SUN, Creation’s pure resplendent Eye; And all ye solar Orbs that deck the Sky, Round whose vast Systems, peopled Planets move. Ye central Suns of numerous Earths above. Praise the dread Pow’r, whose Goodness ye proclaim, And let your warbling Spheres attune his Name. Thou MOON, who with thy Rays of silver Light, Dost gild the shapeless Gloom of awful Night; In Rivers & bad Governments, the lightest Things swim at top.
And you satellitary Orbs on high, Who kindly Beams to distant Worlds supply, Hymn your Creator’s Praise, whose Skill divine Impow’r’d your Mass to roll, your Globes to shine. Ye Comets! that in long Ellipses stray, Whole Ages finishing your annual Way; Thou Darkness! Nature’s emblematic Tomb, Yield him your Reverence of impressive Gloom, In silent Praise - - - And thou dread Space profound, Thro’ all thy waste interminable Bound. If you’d know the Value of Money, go and borrow some. The Horse thinks one thing, and he that saddles him another. Love your Neighbour; yet don’t pull down your Hedge.
Winds! who in troubled Air your Voices raise, Sweet with loud Accents in your Maker’s Praise; And you, soft Breezes, that perfume the Spring, Bear him a Tribute on your gentler Wing. Spread it, ye pealing Thunders, round the Sky, Wide as your Vollies roll, or Lightnings fly. Ye Meteors! your Creator’s Praises show; The spangled Dew, the Cloud-reflected Bow, When Prosperity was well mounted, she let go the Bridle, and soon came tumbling out of the Saddle. Some make Conscience of wearing a Hat in the Church, who make none of robbing the Altar.
And moist’ning Show’r, - ye Frosts! his Praise proclaim; The pendant Icicle’s clear native Gem; Hoar Mists congeal’d, that dress the Meadow pale: Blue Vapour, whitening Snows, and pearly Hail. Praise him, ye Seasons! Spring with youthful Face, And Summer blooming with maturer Grace; Ripe Autumn clad in Vines, with Harvests crown’d, And Winter old - his solemn Praise resound. In the Affairs of this World Men are saved, not by Faith, but by the Want of it. Friendship cannot live with Ceremony, nor without Civility. Praise little, dispraise less.
The Flow’ry Tribes, in all their bright Array, Their lovely Forms and dazzling Hues display. Ye fruitful Branches! white with vernal Bloom, In rich Oblations breathe your fresh Perfume. Praise him, ye Plants! with all your sweet Supplies; Ye od’rous Herbs, in grateful Incense rise. Insects! that creep on Earth, or spread the Wing, In Troops your tributary Homage bring. The learned Fool writes his Nonsense in better Language than the unlearned; but still ‘tis Nonsense. A Child thinks 20 Shillings and 20 Years can scarce ever be spent.
Fowls of the upper Air! and Brutes supine! And Fish! that swim the Floods or Ocean Brine. Ye Seraphims, bright Flames! ye Angel Choirs! To the lov’d Theme tune all your sounding Lyres. Saints! thron’d in Bliss, who once convers’d below, In noblest Strains your loftier Praise bestow. Man! Image of thy Maker’s moral Pow’r, Last, labour’d Work of Heav’n’s creating Hour; Don’t think so much of your own Cunning, as to forget other Mens: A cunning Man is overmatch’d by a cunning Man and a Half. Willows are weak, but they bind the Faggot. You may give a Man an Office, but you cannot give him Discretion.
O shall his Goodness, his Indulgence move No warm Returns, nor swell the Breath of Love? Priest of the mute Creation, He demands Their Off'rings from thy consecrated Hands, Deputed Lord; - - - from thy dead Slumber part; Let Nature wake, awake the Pow’rs of Art, And with exerted Force attune his Praise, In Notes may emulate cælestial Lays. Let Music her divinest Succours bring, The breathing Flute, the Viol's warbling String, He that doth what he should not, shall feel what he would not. To be intimate with a foolish Friend, is like going to bed to a Razor. Little Rogues easily become great Ones.
And dulcid Voice - - - Ye Concerts louder grow! Let the shrill Trump, the deep’ning Organ blow, While with the Notes, the tremulating Ground, And ecchoing Roofs, strike awful Rapture round. Praise him each Creature, Plenitude and Space; Inanimate, and Things of living Race. From the terrestrial to the starry Pole, Praise him his Works, and thou my prostrate Soul! You may sometimes be much in the wrong, in owning your being in the right. Friends are the true Sceptres of Princes. Where Sense is wanting, every thing is wanting.
Thus while in vain the wretched human Brood, Pursue on Earth a false, imagin’d Good; That Good, which Creatures never can bestow, With him still only found from whom they flow; While Gold or Lust, with a deceitful Bribe, Tempt to sure Woes the easy list’ning Tribe; While Faction leads th’ unsteady Herd aside, And Vanity perverts the Sons of Pride; For Age and Want save while you may; No Morning Sun lasts a whole Day. Many Princes sin with David, but few repent with him. He that hath no ill Fortune will be troubled with good.
Would I from Vice, from Luxury remove, Conversing with the Themes of heav’nly Love. These shall my Hours of virtuous Life amuse, Cheer its dull Glooms, and brighter Hopes infuse; Pleas’d the lov’d Visit frequent to renew, While certain Bliss my rais’d Desires pursue, To meditate my Maker, and my Lays Tune to his Pow’r, who gave me Breath to praise. Learning to the Studious; Riches to the Careful; Power to the Bold; Heaven to the Virtuous. Now glad the Poor with Christmas Cheer; Thank God you’re able so to end the Year.
The sixth and outermost of the primary Planets is Saturn; he revolves round the Sun in the Space of almost thirty Years, at the Distance of about 800 Millions of Miles. His great Distance from us has hitherto prevented Astronomers from observing his Revolution on his own Axis. To make the Appearance he does to us, at the Distance of above 700 Millions of Miles, he must be several Hundreds of Times larger than the Earth, though his Magnitude is supposed to be much inferior to that of Jupiter. There is belonging to this Planet the most extraordinary and unaccountable Phænomenon in Nature, viz. A huge bright Circle, or Ring, surrounding his Body, supposed, by the Appearance it makes to us, to be no less than 20,000 Miles broad, and about as many from the Body of the Planet. Whether this amazing Appearance has been occasioned by any Disruption of the Body of the Planet, as our Earth has been by some supposed to have been reduced to her present shattered Condition by the Deluge; or whether this Ring has been designed by the Author of Nature as an original Appendage of the Planet, to encrease their Light, which, according to our Notions, must be very necessary at the Distance of Saturn; which of these, I say, or whether either of them is the Case, is not yet known. To the Inhabitants of Saturn, if there are any, this Ring must appear to be in the Heavens, and not to belong to the Planet itself. Saturn has no less than five Moons, very distinctly visible through a good Telescope, revolving round him.
To suppose that the Author of Nature had any View to us, when he created these secondary Planets or Moons, and gave them their Revolutions round Jupiter and Saturn; to imagine that he intended those vast Bodies (for some of those Moons cannot be supposed to be less than the Earth we inhabit) for any Benefit or Advantage to us, which he knew should never be seen by any but a few Astronomers peeping through Telescopes; to imagine, I say, that the divine Wisdom should contrive Things so ill, is as much to his Honour, as if we should suppose he had placed a Sun and planetary System within the Globe of the Earth, and intended it for our Use. But, to return, if there are Inhabitants in Saturn, which I know no Reason we have to doubt, their five Moons must not only be of vast Use in increasing their Light, which at that Distance can never, at mid Day, be so bright as our Twilight, but must likewise afford them great Entertainment in observing them as they rise, sometimes altogether, sometimes separately, and as they eclipse one another in their Revolutions. - - - -
Besides the six primary Planets, which revolve round the Sun, - - - - and the ten Secondaries or Moons, - - - - modern Astronomy shews, that there are a great many other stupendous Bodies, called Comets, to be considered as Part of the Solar System - - - - The Comets differ very much in Appearance one from another, and all from the Planets, in that they all look dusky and gloomy, as if surrounded with a very gross Atmosphere, and project behind them, that is, toward the Part of the Heavens that is opposite to the Sun, a Stream of Mist or Vapour, commonly called their Tails. It is most likely that the Tail of a Comet is only its Atmosphere rarified to a great Degree by the extreme Heat of the Sun, on its Approach to him: For it is always observed, that the Tail becomes longer as the Comet approaches nearer to the Sun, and contrariwise. The Tail of the Comet, which appeared in 1680, extended itself over no less than sixty Degrees, or a third Part of our whole Heavens from East to West. To make such an Appearance at the Distance that Comet was supposed to be at, the Tail must have been many Millions of Miles in Length.
Whether these tremendous Bodies, which the Almighty has set a traversing in this fearful Manner through the vast Expanse, be Worlds formerly inhabited, and now reduced to a Chaos, with their wicked Inhabitants left in them in a State of Punishment; or whether they are future Worlds, not yet reduced to an habitable State; or whether they are vast Masses of combustible Matter, made to pass periodically round the Sun, and after a Number of Revolutions, approaching every Time nearer and nearer, as it is supposed some of them do, are at last to drop into the Sun, as an Addition of Fewel to make up for his immense and continual Waste of Light and Heat; or whether they are intended to impregnate from Time to Time the Regions of the Planets with a Quantity of salutary Particles to make up for the Decay or Waste of those necessary Principles; or whether they are form’d to bring about Deluges or Conflagrations, and so prove the Instruments of the Divine Vengeance upon his offending Creatures; whether any of these, I say, be the Design for which infinite Wisdom formed these amazing Bodies, and let them loose to wander through the Sky, is above human Understanding to determine. It is plain, that the Shock of a Body, of the Size of a Comet, against the Earth, or any of the Planets, moving with the Rapidity they have in their Approach to, or Recess from the Sun, especially if the Motion of both the Comet and Planet should happen to be contrary, must be attended with Consequences frightful beyond all Imagination. But it is highly probable, that even the near Approach of a Comet to the Earth would cause terrible Effects. Our Comfort is, that the whole Machine of Nature is in the Hands of one who knows how to conduct and manage all its vast and unwieldy Parts, and that the Motions of those dreadful Bodies, though to such puny Creatures as we are, they seem the more terrible the more we consider them, are entirely under his Rule and Guidance, and that no one Part of Nature can break loose upon, or bear down another, without his Permission. - - - -
If we consider the immense Distance of the fixed Stars, and consequently, the Magnitude they must be of, to be visible by us at this Distance, we can hardly suppose the Divine Wisdom, which does nothing in vain, has created such Numbers of luminous Bodies, of Magnitudes inconceivable, and at Distances almost infinite, for no other Purpose but to afford us a little glimmering Light in the Night, which could have been done more effectually, and with infinitely less Exertion of creating Power, by one single additional Moon. For what Purpose then shall we suppose such a Profusion of stupendous Luminaries created? In all Probability, or rather without all Doubt, to enlighten innumerable Systems of Worlds, which revolve round them, in the same Manner as our Earth and the other Planets of our System revolve round the Sun. - - - -
If each of those innumerable Millions and Myriads of Luminaries be in fact, as is highly probable, a glorious Sun, a stupendous World of Light and Heat, with its System of Planets, Moons and Comets going round it; and if all those Planets and Moons be Worlds inhabited by various Orders of Beings, enjoying or preparing themselves for such Degrees of Happiness as the divine Wisdom and Goodness has appointed for them; if this, I say, be a just Idea of the Universe (and surely no Idea we can frame is too grand for Omnipotence to produce) we have here a View of that Expanse to which the Epithet VAST, is not improperly given, in our Poem of last Year, and must own, that the Universe, considered in this Manner, is a Theatre truly fit for a God to display his infinite Power, Wisdom and Goodness. But after we have, by Computation, extended the created Universe to a Space containing the greatest Number of Miles human Arithmetic can express, what is that Space to Infinitude? It is even a Point that bears no Proportion to the unbounded and unlimited Presence of the divine Nature. Were an angelic Being to take his Flight from this Part of the Universe, and to proceed in a direct Course with the Swiftness of Light, it is certain, that, should he continue his Flight to all Eternity, he must still find himself in the Centre of the divine Presence. So strictly just, as well as inimitably sublime, are those Expressions of Scripture, “In him we live, and move, and have our Being. There is no flying from his Presence. The Heavens, even the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain him,” &c.