Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[graphic][merged small]

:

"That, however, will not be, for, if ejected from one place, he will go to another, and all the evil things that are said of him make the people more eager to hear him. This was proved by the multitude that crowded to listen to his lecture in the College Yard, on the afternoon of Sunday, October 17th, after the use of the Court House had been refused to him, and by the overflowing audience, that more than filled the Unitarian Chapel, (opened to him in consequence of that refusal), on the Monday evening, October 18th, when not only the body of the chapel, but the gallery, porch, aisles, and vestry were all crowded with eager and attentive hearers. On the former occasion, Mr. Barker alluded to the denunciations of his adversaries, particularly to the uncharitable sentence of one in this town, apparently belonging to the amiable class of religionists, who, snatching from heaven the balance and the rod, “ dealt damnation round the land on all who differ from them in religious opinion, on the prin. ciple, it would seem, of their own infallibility, so justly ridiculed in the following lines :

Now you shall judge all people, yes, you shall

Judge with my judgment ! and by my decision,
Be guided, who shall enter heaven, or fall !

I settle all these things by intuition, This publication of his letter, in extenso, well exhibits the writer's powers of denunciation and delicate sarcasm, pronounced in his characteristic rhetorical style, and it must have created considerable local excitement.

It may be added that Joseph Barker frequently visited Rotherham to expound and defend Unitarianism, and the chapel was always crowded to hear him. Several converts were made by him, who became members of Mr. Brettell's flock. Even as late as Mr. Blazeby's ministry, Joseph Barker after his return from America lectured in the Chapel and attended a tea meeting in the Hollis School. At Rotherham, Barker was a popular favorite to the last. His final appearance was when preaching for the Primitive Methodists, after his intervening stage of Secularism. A good deal more could here be mentioned of Joseph Barker, if space permitted, as one of the narrator's oldest friends acted as secretary for the raising, among Unitarians chiefly, of £1000, to enable Mr. Barker to possess a Printing Press, whereby to publish, as he professed, cheap and valuable books for the people.

CHAPTER XXVI.

“ BRETTELL THE BARD.”

AS

S the singer of the peculiar trials and serene pleasures

of the life of the “Country Minister," the title of

his first and chief poem, Jacob Brettell won his title to poetic fame. To himself we may aptly apply the very words with which he descibes the country minister :

Soft from his lips the gentle accents fall
His manner simple, not the trick of art,
The unstudied action of the feeling heart;
Select his words, but plain, direct, and clear,
Such as affect the soul, nor hurt the ear ;
Not his the boyish style, where flowery tropes
Weave round immortal truths and loftiest hopes,
That like proud columns form’d to conquer time,

The less adorn'd, are but the more sublime."

In preparing one of his books the poet preacher adverted to the fact, that the poets of his time did not employ Bible truths and history in their work, to the regret of many readers. He drew attention to the fact that“ With the exception of a Milton and a Montgomery—the most enduring monuments of whose genius have been built on the basis of the Bible-our poets have sought materials for verse in the fictions of imagination, or the realities of profane history." Thus it was, that when he came to make use of his own very real poetic powers, he turned his muse largely into this neglected sacred channel, devoting himself to the composition of great numbers of superior hymns, and ultimately, as we shall find, producing a volume of poems wholly inspired by Biblical subjects.

“ THE COUNTRY MINISTER." This, his first and best poetic publication, appeared in 1821, and was dedicated to Viscount Milton. The first edition contained a smaller number of Cantos than the later

رو

editions of 1825 and 1827. The poet's original intention had been, to describe in his verse—“ the evils of poverty as connected with the ministerial profession”—a subject he could treat only too vividly from his own personal experience,-and it was with a plan of a poem, on these lines, that he first appealed to his subscribers ; but friends warned him that it would be wiser to avoid a theme too gloomy. The parson,

passing rich on forty pounds a year," had been thrillingly sung, a couple of generations earlier, by a superior poetic genius, Oliver Goldsmith, and, besides, it would not have done to suggest any comparison. Brettell was, however, induced to adopt the couplets of Goldsmith and of Crabbe, for depict. ing in his verse the tale of the life of Alfred, the country minister. That the poem is partly autobiographic, the poet himself admits, though he explains it is by no means wholly so. Naturally enough, contemporary critics considered the chief character as actually drawn after the author's own peronal type and experience. “It is true," said the writer, “there are in the course of the poem some allusions to my own history and sentiments, but these are few, and by no means sufficient to identify the hero with the author. Alfred is entirely the creature of imagination, called into existence to serve the purpose of a tale.”

The “ Tale" that is unfolded in " The Country Minister," is that of a young man who is left fatherless at an early age, and who, when it comes to choosing a profession, adopts the sacred calling of minister of the Gospel.

“Grief-early grief, sprung from his father's tomb,
That o'er his prospects spread untimely gloom ;
Reflection, turning thence her sober eyes
To life's short date ; and early piety,
And nature's secret bias-stronger still,
That modifies in each the various will ;
All prompt his mind, as with one common voice,

To make the sacred ministry his choice." He becomes a minister, and then seeks a partner, and, though his surroundings in his Country Living seem most unpromising, yet

“In every solitude some lovely flow'r
Adorns the walk, and blooms its transient hour,
And in this rude and desolate retreat,
One simple floweret blossom’d fair and sweet.

« PoprzedniaDalej »