Cupid and Death


Cupid, one sultry summer's noon, tired with play, and faint with heat, went into a cool grotto to repose himself, which happened to be the cave of Death. He threw himself carelessly down on the floor, and his quiver turning topsy-turvy, all the arrows fell out, and mingled with those of Death, which lay scattered up and down the place. When he awoke, he gathered them up as well as he could; but they were so intermingled that, though he knew the certain number, he could not rightly distinguish them; from which it happened that he took up some of the arrows which belonged to Death, and left several of his own in the room of them. This is the cause that we, now and then, see the hearts of the old and decrepit transfixed with the bolts of Love; and with equal grief and surprise behold the youthful blooming part of our species smitten with the darts of Death.


If we allow for this fable's being written by a heathen, and according to the scheme of the ancient pagan theology, it will appear to be a pretty probable solution of some parts of the dispensation of Providence, which otherwise seem to be obscure and unaccountable. For, when we see the young and the old fall promiscuously by the hand of Death, and at the same time consider that the world is governed by an all-wise Providence, we are puzzled how to account for so seemingly preposterous and unnatural a way of working. We should look upon a gardener to be mad, or at least very capricious, who, when his young trees are just arrived to a degree of bearing, should cut them down for fuel, and choose out old, rotten, decayed, sapless stocks to graft and inoculate upon: yet the irregular proceedings of those two levellers, Love and Death, appear to be every jot as odd and unreasonable. However, we must take it for granted that these things, though the method of them is hidden from our eyes, are transacted after the most just and fit manner imaginable: but, humanly speaking, it is strange that Death should be suffered to make such undistinguished havoc in the world; and, at the same time, just as shocking and unnatural to see old age laid betwixt a pair of wedding sheets, as it is for youth and beauty to be locked up in the cold embraces of the grave.