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Melai, a Conftantinopolitan Tale.

THE deftruction of the images among the Greeks of the middle empire, was a stroke which the art of ftatuary, however flourishing before, was never able entirely to recover. Painting was now the only ornament of their palaces and temples; a hundred pictures of unexceptionable beauty were more eafily to be met with, than a fingle tolerabie ftatue; and those who were defcended from Phidias and Scopas, were as totally unacquainted with the art of their ancestors, as they were with the bravery of Miltiades and Themistocles.

The reign however of Conftantine X. promised to this art a more favourable destiny. Having vifited Italy, before he mounted the throne, and acquired a fondness for the remains of Roman magnificence, he embraced every opportunity of encouraging his fubjects in attempting to imitate the models of antiquity.

Nor did he fail in his defign. No fooner was it known that in his court genius was fure of being protected and rewarded, than the artists repaired to it from every quarter, embellished with their performances the place of his refidence, and exerted their talents in obedience to his will.

Among all these labourers in brass and marble, the most fortunate, and at the fame time, the moft deferving, was Melonion; a man whofe reputation for integrity and virtue was not inferior to his profeffional abilities, and whofe fenfibility of taste, however exquifite, was fully equalled by the benevolence of his heart.

One evening at funfet, as he was about to give over his labours for the day, there came into his work-fhop a very old man, and begged the permiffion to examine his perforinances. The white hair of this venerable figure, a certain brilliancy and animation in his eyes, which age had leffened, but had not been able to extinguish; his habit, which, though coarfe, was yet neat and becoming; the look which he threw upon the masterpieces before him,

look which betokened both intelligence and feeling ;' and the few, but pertinent remarks which he made, all united to raise the artist's curiofity, and to render him more atten tive to his present visitor, than he was accustomed to be to those who usually intruded.

The ftranger had now taken a deliberate view of the works which were at prefent in the artist's poffeffion; and it happened by a chance, which was rather unusual, that most of them were engroffed in the celebration of victories. The continual wars between the Greeks and the Arabs; which were never interrupted but by a temporary truce, could not fail of interefting the cotemporaries of Melonion; and the grateful Constantine had, by the affistance of Sculpture, endeavoured to immortalize his moft illuftrious commanders. This ftriking fimilarity in the performances before him did not escape the observation of the stranger, who, immediately after having finished his circuit, turned about, and addreffed himfelf to Melonion.

I fee, faid he, that these excellent performances of yours reprefent none but conquerors and heroes; have you con fecrated your talents entirely to their fervice?

Mel. Far from it. I am too great a friend to the interefts of mankind, to behold their destroyers with a favour able eye. That my work-fhop fhould at prefent be fo full of their images, is a circumstance, I affure you, merely accidental; a circumstance, to speak freely, which I feel rather difagreeable. When I was occupied in commemorating thefe deftructive achievements, I could not help frequently regretting my employment, and dropping my chiffel with vexation and disguft.

Old Man. Deferved indeed is the reputation of the artist, who thus unites fenfibility to genius. You would not then, I imagine, be unwilling to be employed in celebrating fidelity and affection, under whatever fhape thefe virtues might appear?

Mel. Surely not, provided they were really displayed. Old Man. That they were, and in fo high a degree, that neither of us could have difplayed them more confpicu ufly.

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While the ftranger fpoke thus, the tear ftood in his eye; and his tone was altered from the fobriety of age, to all the fervour and animation of youth.

He proceeded.

But what price do you demand for a monument of your handy-work?

Mel. Two thoufand golden byzantines.

Old Man. A large fum, yet not more than he deferves. And of whom do you speak? asked Melonion, fomewhat furprised.

Before I can tell that, you must answer me once more. You fay you have no intention of confining yourself to heroes. Would you then confider your art as degraded, if it were to be employed on an animal of another fpecies, whofe life was deferving of admiration and praise?

Every word which the ftranger uttered, contributed to increase the perplexity of Melonion. "An animal of an

other fpecies what canft thou mean?"

Old Man. I fee you are already fufficiently aftonished; but your furprise will be still greater, when I tell you it is my dog.

The old man was in the right. Melonion, on hearing these words, stood aghaft. He examined the firanger's countenance, and his habit by turns; and unable to reconcile fuch apparent contradiction, fixed his eyes upon the ground in perplexity and amazement. The wildness and extravagance of fuch a propofal made him imagine, that either his vifitor was mad, or that he was a perfon employed by his enemies, to turn both himself and his art into ridicule. The first of thefe fuppofitions was however contradicted by his fenfible converfation at his firft coming in; and the fecond by his ferious and animated tone. It was not till after the artist had bewildered himself for fome minutes in fruitless conjectures, that he fo far recovered himielf as to be able to speak.

I must confefs to you, reverend old man, that your prefent propofal furprifes me not a little; for it is the first of the kind which I have ever received; permit me then to afk, if you are jefting or ferious?

Old Man. Serious indeed.

Mel. Have you deliberately confidered the matter?


Old Man. Deliberately.

Mel. And what it will coft you? two thousand byzan-! tines.

Old Man. That alfo I have thought on.

Mel. And if I were prevailed upon to undertake what' you wish for, what certainty could you give me that I fhould not labour in vain ?

Old Man. This stone fhould be your fecurity.

While he faid this, he drew a ring from his finger, which, exclufive of all that had hitherto paffed between them, would alone have been fufficient to ftrike the artist with astonishment. It could not indeed, now be called a ring with propriety, as it was only the focket of what had formerly been one; in which, however, there ftill continued: fome remains of its ancient fplendor. The fize of the spaces, which were now empty, teftified fufficiently of what value it had been; and this was ftill more ftrongly confirmed by the two ftones, which were yet left. The artist, who was no ftranger to the value of jewels, eftimated one of them at about four thousand ducats, and the other about half as much.

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He could no longer reftrain his curiofity and astonishment.-Old man, faid he, (fpringing up and carefully shutting the door), old man, I intreat thee to tell me immediately who thou art, and what is thy defire?.

"What I defire, you know already;-but to discover who I am, requires fome deliberation.-I must first have ap oath of inviolable fecrecy."

Mel. That you shall have. I am not, indeed, much accustomed to fwearing, unlets upon matters of the highest importance; and I should even imagine, that my unble. mished reputation would of itself be fufficient to prevent any fufpicion.

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Old Man. It is not your reputation, however unquestionable, but that voice of integrity with which you appeal to it, which has already perfuaded me that an oath is unneceffary. If you have an apartment where we can be more private, and lefs expofed to the danger of interruption, lead me to it, and your curiofity fhall be fatisfied.

Melonion immediately complied with his request; and after they were feated, the ftranger began thus:


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My father was fovereign of the greateft part of Indoftan: I, Melai, was his eldest fon, and, of confequence, the peaceful inheritor of his throne.

The artist was confounded, and started from his feat, to testify his respect for a vifitor fo illuftrious; but the old man took him by the hand, and with a friendly fmile, obliged him to refume it. I intreat you, faid he, to let ceremony alone. It is the fate of princes to be flattered in prosperity; but when, at any time, by the viciffitude of human affairs, they are reduced to the level of ordinary mortals, thoufands are ready to cenfure and defpife them; but few, very few, either to comfort or to pity. Be you but one of these, and I am more than contented :- -Then, after paufing a few moments, the king of Indoftan proceeded as follows:

My father was a prince who delighted in war.-His neighbours trembled at the terror of his name; and even his fubjects looked up to him with fear. My difpofition was totally different; my chief wifh, even from my youth, was to fecure the tranquillity, and the affection of my people. He was grown old amid the tumults of war, and looked upon his arms with as much fatisfaction, as the bridegroom contemplates his nuptial attire. I, on the contrary, put them on with reluctance, and never without offering a fervent fupplication, that I might foon be able to lay them afide for ever.

A few minutes before the death of my father, he called me for the last time to his bedfide; when, taking this ring from his finger, and putting it upon mine, he spoke with difficulty the following words :-With this I bequeath to you the government of my kingdom: may you never be in danger of lofing it. But the foftnefs of your temper, and your averfion to war, embitters with anxiety these last moments of my life. I fee that the eminence to which you will foon be exalted, is a station you was never intended to fill; and I tremble with apprehenfion for what may be the confequence, when your fubjects become acquainted with your unmanly difpofition. I beseech you, at leaft, fo long as you are a monarch, never to let that ring part from your finger: A time may perhaps come, in which it will be useful. I promifed it, and he expired.

The beginning of my government was employed in bentfactions, which were amply requited with acclamation and

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