But are we sure after all it was upon the banks these trees, not now existing, were ever to be found? they grew in the Electrides if I remember right, and even there Lucian laughingly said, that he spread his garments in vain to catch the valuable distillation which poetry had taught him to expect; and Strabo (worse news still!) said that there were no Electrides neither; so as we knew before—fiction is false: and had I not discovered it by any other means, I might have recollected a comical contest enough between a literary lady once, and Doctor Johnson, to which I was myself a witness;—when she, maintaining the happiness and purity of a country life and rural manners, with her best eloquence, and she had a great deal; added as corroborative and almost incontestable authority, that the Poets said so: “and didst thou not know then,” replied he, my darling dear, that the Poets lye?
When they tell us, however, that great rivers have horns, which twisted off become cornua copiae, dispensing pleasure and plenty, they entertain us it must be confessed; and never was allegory more nearly allied with truth, than in the lines of Virgil;
Gemina auratus taurino cornua
Eridanus, quo non alius per pinguia culta,
In mare purpureuin violentior influit amnis[U];
Whence bull-fac’d, so adorn’d with gilded horns,
Than whom no river through such level meads,
Down to the sea in swifter torrents speeds.
so accurately translated by Doctor Warton, who would not reject the epithet bull-faced, because he knew it was given in imitation of the Thessalian river Achelous, that fought for Dejanira; and Servius, who makes him father to the Syrens, says that many streams, in compliment to this original one, were represented with horns, because of their winding course. Whether Monsieur Varillas, or our immortal Addison, mention their being so perpetuated on medals now existing, I know not; but in this land of rarities we shall soon hear or see.
Mean time let us leave looking for these weeping Heliades, and enquire what became of the Swan, that poor Phaeton’s friend and cousin turned into, for very grief and fear at seeing him tumble in the water. For my part I believe that not only now he
Eligit contraria flumina flammis,
but that the whole country is grown disagreeably hot to him, and the sight of the sun’s chariot so near frightens him still; for he certainly lives more to his taste, and sings sweeter I believe on the banks of the Thames, than in Italy, where we have never yet seen but one; and that was kept in a small marble bason of water at the Durazzo palace at Genoa, and seemed miserably out of condition. I enquired why they gave him no companion? and received for answer, “That it would be wholly useless, as they were creatures who never bred out if their own country.”