Obrazy na stronie

other charm, they may still be poetical-po- whose higher intellectual attainments she etical in their recollections, beyond what hu- has made every sacrifice, and exerted every man nature can be in any other state or faculty. And what if she be unlearned in stage of its existence.

the literature of modern times, she underIt is an unkind propensity that many stands deeply and feelingly the springs of writers have, to make old women poetical affection, and tenderness and sorrow. She through the instrumentality of their passions, knows from what source flow the bitterest exaggerating them into witches and mon- tears, and sters of the most repulsive description, and

“How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is that not so much “to point a moral," as “to

To have a thankless child." adorn a tale;" but in such instances the writer is indebted to their recollections for She sees the young glad creatures of all the interest which his unnatural exhibi- another generation sporting around her, and tions excite—to flashes of former tenderness her thoughts go back to the playmates of shooting through the gloom of despair—to her childhood --some reduced to the lowest bright and glowing associations following in state of helplessness or suffering-some the wake of madness—and to once familiar dead and some forgotten. She hears the images of love and beauty, re-animated by a reluctant answer when she asks a kindness strange paradox, at the touch of the wand of one of the merry group, and she thinks of death, and bending in all their early love of the time when kindness was more freely liness over the brink of the grave.

granted her, though far less needed than Infinite indeed beyond the possibility of now. She starts at the loud laugh, but cancalculation, must be the recollections and not understand the jest, and no one explains associations of her, whose long life, from its it to her listening ear. She loses the thread earliest to its latest period, has been a life of of earnest conversation, and no one restores feeling—whose experience has been that of the clue. She sits within the social circle, impressions, rather than events--and whose but forms no link in the chain of social union. sun goes down amidst the varied and innu- Her thoughts and feelings cannot harmomerable tints which these impressions have nize with those of her juvenile companions, given to its atmosphere. Endued with an and she feels in all its bitterness, that least inexhaustible power of multiplying relative tolerable portion of human experience-what ideas, how melancholy must be the situation it is to be desolate in the midst of societyof her who was once beloved and cherished, surrounded by kindred and friends, and yet now despised and forsaken-who in her turn alone, loved and cherished others, and is now neg- In looking at the situation of woman lected. If she be a mother-one of those merely as regards this life, we are struck fond mothers who expect that mere indul- with the system of unfair dealing by which gence is to win the lasting regard of their her pliable, weak and dependent nature is children, what sad thoughts must crowd subjected to an infinite variety of suffering, upon her at every fresh instance of unkind and we are ready to exclaim, thai of all ness, and every additional proof that she has earthly creatures she is the most pitiable. fallen away from what she was, both in her And so unquestionably she is, when unenown and others' estimation. Over the brow lightened by those higher views which lead that now frowns upon her, she perhaps has her hopes away from the disappointments watched with unutterable tenderness through of the present world, to the anticipated the long night when every eye but hers' fruition promised to the faithful in the world was sleeping. The lips that now speak to to come.

But the whole life of woman, her coldly, or answer her with silence when when studied with reference to eternity, preshe speaks, she has bathed with the welcome sents a view of the great plan of moral disdraught when they were parched and burn- cipline mercifully designed to assist her ing with contagious fever. The scorn with right conduct through the trials and temptawhich her humble pretensions are looked lions which surround her path. In childdown upon, arises in the hearts of those for hood she is necessarily instructed in what

belongs to social and domestic duty, and here she learns the difficult but important THE POETRY OF THE BIBLE. task of submitting, and of making her own gratification give place to that of others. In In tracing the connexion of poetry with youth she is plunged into a sphere of greater subjects most frequently and naturally pretemptations, and of more intense enjoyments, sented to our contemplation, we observe where her experience, embracing the widest how it may be associated with our pursuits, extremes of pain and pleasure, teaches her so as to give interest to what is familiar, to all the different means to be made use of in refine what is material, and to heighten avoiding or palliating the one, and promot- what is sublime. We now open the Bible, ing the other. As a wife and a mother she and find that poetry as a principle of intelhas an opportunity of acting upon the know- lectual enjoyment derived from association, ledge thus acquired, and if her practice does is also diffused through every page of the honour to her theory, it is here that she ob- sacred volume, and so diffused, that the tains an importance, and derives a satisfac-simplest child, as well as the profoundest tion, which might be dangerous even to a sage, may feel its presence.

This in fact, disciplined mind, did not age steal on and is the great merit of poetry, (a merit which diffuse his sombre colouring over the plea- in no other voluine but the Bible, can be sant pictures to which her affections had found in perfection) that it addresses itself given too warm a glow, and which her hap- so immediately to the principles of feeling piness had persuaded her to be satisfied with inherent in our nature, as to be intelligible contemplating. But this cold, blank me- to those who have made but little progress dium intervening between life and eternity in the paths of learning, at the same time -between beauty and ashes-between love that it presents a source of the highest and death, comes to warn her that all she gratification to the scholar and the philosohas been desiring, is but as the scattering pher. Let us refer as an example, to the of the harvest to be reaped in heaven; that first chapter of Genesis : all she lias been trusting in, is but typical of

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the that which endures for ever; and that all she has been enjoying, is but a foretaste of And the earth was without form and void ; and dark. eternal felicity.

ness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of

God moved upon the face of the waters. Let then the aged woman be no longer

And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. an object of contempt. She is helpless as a child; but as a child she may be learning A child but just grown familiar with the the last awful lesson from her Heavenly words contained in these verses, not only Father. Her feeble step is trembling on the understands their meaning here, but feels brink of the grave; but her hopes may be something of their sublimity-something of firmly planted on the better shore which the power and the majesty of the God who lies beyond. Her eye is dim with suffering could create this wonderful world, whose and tears; but her spiritual vision may be Spirit moved upon the face of the waters, contemplating the gradual unfolding of the and who said, Let there be light: and there gates of eternal rest. Beauty has faded vas light! While learned men of all ages from her form; but angels in the world of have agreed, that no possible combination light may be weaving a wreath of glory for of words, could express more clearly and her brow. Her lip is silent; but it may be powerfully than these, the potency of the only waiting to pour forth celestial strains first operations of almighty power of which of gratitude and praise. Lowly, and fallen, mankind have any record. and sad, she sits amongst the living; but We have more than once observed that exalted, purified, and happy, she may arise poetry must have some reserence, either from the dead. Then turn if thou wilt from uniformly or partially, to our own circumthe aged woman in her loneliness, but re- stances, situation, or experience, as well as member she is not forsaken of her God! to the more remote and varied conceptions

of the imagination; and in the Scriptures,


earth be blessed.

we find this fact fully illustrated. Witness! Am I my brother's keeper ? is a question the frequent recurrence of these simple with which we are too apt to answer the rewords-and God said. We are not told proaches of conscience, when we have viothat the mandates of almighty power issued lated the most important trust or neglected forth from the heavens, but simply, that God the duties which ought to be the dearest in said: a mode of speech familiar to the least lise. And what sufferer under the first incultivated understanding, yet in no danger fliction of chastisement, consequent upon of losing its sublimity as used here, because his own transgressions, has not given utterimmediately after, follow those manifesta- ance to the expressive language-my puntions of universal subordination, which give ishment is greater than I can bear? Thus us the most forcible idea of the omnipotence far this striking passage contains what is faof Divine will.

miliar and natural to every human being, Again, after the transgression of our first but beyond this, yet at the same time conparents, when

nected with it, it has great power and even

sublimity, in no instance more so, than they heard the voice of the Lord God walking where it is said, that Cain went out from the in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God presence of the Lord. amongst the trees of the garden.

The peculiarly emphatic manner in which And the Lord God called unto Adani, and said unto

the Lord promises to bless Abraham, bim, Where art thou ?

And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was sayingafraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that What description of shame and abase

curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the ment can be more true to human nature than this? But the character of Cain af

As well as afterwards whenfords the earliest, the most consistent, and

the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, say. perhaps, the most powerful exemplifications

ing, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceedof affections and desires perverted from ing great rewardtheir original purity and singleness of purpose. Cain, the second man who breathed is comprehensive and full of meaning beupon the newly-created earth, felt all the yond what more elaborate language could stirrings of envy and jealousy, precisely as possibly convey. And also after the sepawe feel them at this day, and he

ration from Lot, where the Lord said unto

Abraham, talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up Lin up now thine eyes, and look from the place where against Abel his brother, and slew him.

thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward and And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy westward : brother; and he said, I know not: am I my brother's For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give keeper ?

it, and to thy seed for ever. And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath thy seed also be numbered. opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in thy hand;

the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in yield onto thee her strength ; a sugitive and a vagabond the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there shalt thou be in the earth.

an altar to the Lord. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Here the act of stretching the sight to the Behold, thou hast driven me one this day from the face northward, and southward, and eastward, be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall and westward, and walking through the come to pass, that every one that findoth me shall slay land in the length of it, and in the breadth

And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever of it, presents to the mind ideas of space slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. and distance, at once simple and sublime; And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any Anding him

and when we read that whenever the faithshould kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord. --- ful patriarch found rest in his wanderings,


he built there an altar to the Lord, our that we see and feel the poetry even of the thoughts are led on by a natural transition historical parts of the Bible. The separate to our own experience, to ask what record accounts of the creation and the deluge, we have left, or could leave in the past, to handed down to us in language the most prove that the same divine presence was intelligible and unadorned, present to the with us in our journey through life. imagination pictures of sublimity so awful

The story of Hagar is one of great poeti- and impressive, that it seems not improbable cal interest. We pursue the destitute mo- we may in some measure have derived ther and her helpless child into the solitude our ideas of sublimity and power, from of the wilderness, and behold a picture impressions made by our first reading of which has become proverbial for the utter the Bible. Beside which, we find descripdesolation which it represents. Compelled tions of the desert, and the wilderness, the by a stern necessity, with the ultimate good wells of water, and the goodly pastures, of of which she was wholly unacquainted, the the intercourse of angels with the children mother goes forth as she believes, un- of men, and of the visitations of the Supreme friended and alone, to trust herself and the Intelligence, if not personally, in the diffetreasure of her affections to the mercy of the rent manifestations of his power and his elements, and the shelter of the pathless love-as a voice, and an impulse-all conwilds, unconscious that her peculiar situation veyed to us in language as simple as if a is made the especial care of the Father of the shepherd spoke of his flocks upon the mounfatherless, and the Protector of the forlorn. tain—as sublime as if an angel wrote the

record of the world. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast

Nor is the poetry of the Bible by any the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a

means confined to those passages in which good way off, as it were a bow-shot; for she said, Let the power of the Almighty is exhibited as me not see the death of the child. And she sat over

operating upon the infant world. The same against him, and lift up her voice and wept.

And God heard the voice of the lad ; and the angel of influence extending over the passions and God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, affections of human nature, is described with What aileth thee, Hagar ? Fear not; for God hath heard

the most touching pathos, and the most imthe voice of the lad where he is.

Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for pressive truth. That moving and controll I will make him a great nation.

ing influence, so frequently spoken of as

the word of the Lord coming with irresistiAnd in the following chapter, where ble power upon the instruments of his will, Abraham, faithful, even to the resigning is nowhere set before us in a stronger light, his dearest treasure, goes forth with his son, than in the character of Balaam, when he prepared to render him up if the Lord declared that if Balak would give him his should require it at his hand;

house full of silver and gold, he could not go And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father and said, beyond the word of the Lord his God to do My father? and he said, Here am I, my son ; and he said, less or more. Not even when he stood Behold the fire and the wood : but where is the lamb for

upon the high place amidst the seven altars a burnt offering ? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself

with the burning sacrifice, and all the princes a burnt offering : so they went both of them together. of Moab around him, and knew that the ex

press object of his calling was to curse the How strong must have been the faith of people whom the most high had blessed ; the patriarch at that moment; or if not, how yet here, before the multitudes assembled to agonizing his feelings as a father! But if hear the confirmation of their hopes, he was there were any of the natural struggles of compelled to acknowledge how those hopes humanity between his faith and his love, were defeated, saying: they are sealed to us, by the simple and

Balak, the king of Moab, hath brought me from beautiful conclusion, -50 they went both of Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, them together.

curse me Jacob, and conne, dery me Israel. Yet it is not merely in particular instances, how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied ?

How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed 7 or such as may be singled out for examples, For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him : lo, the people shall dwell alone, and

from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, shall not be reckoned among the nations.

and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into righteous, and let my last end be like his !

his hands. And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done

And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, be. to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the hold, thou hast blessed them altogether.

vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the child. And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to

ren of Ammon were subdued before the children of speak that which the Lord hath put into my mouth ?


And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and be. Although Balaam knew that by obeying

hold his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels

and with dances: and she was his only child; beside the word of the Lord he was sacrificing the her he had neither son nor daughter. favour of his master, who had promised to

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent

his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! Thou hast promote him to honour, yet again, when

brought me very low, and thou art one of them that brought to the top of another mountain with trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, the vain hope of escaping from the power and I cannot go back. of Omnipotence—when seven altars were

And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened

thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that again built, and seven bullocks and seven which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as rams sacrificed, the people of Moab were the Lord hath taken vengeatice for thee of thine enemies,

even of the children of Ammon. again told, that the Lord

The character of Samson displays in a hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with powerful manner that combination of strength him, and the shout of a king is among them.

and weakness, which too frequently pro

duces the most fatal and irrevocable ruin. Disappointed and defeated, Balak now very naturally exclaims, Neither curse themIt is a character well worthy of our greatest at all, nor bless them at all. Yet still will-poet, yet one, to the interest of which, his ing to try for the third and last time, the genius could add nothing, and (what is saypower of man against bis Maker, he leads ing much) could expatiate upon without Balaam to the top of Mount Peor, where taking anything away. 'We first behold the same ceremonial gives the sanction of

Samson as the man before whom the Phitruth, and the majesty of power, to the words listines trembled, after rending the lion, and of the prophet; and here it is that he pours scattering thousands with a single arm, forth for the last time, a blessing, still richer stooping to the dalliance of a false and and more unlimited than before, beginning worthless woman-three times deceived with the beautiful and poetic language,

wantonly and wickedly deceived, yet trust

ing her at last with the secret of his strength. How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy taberna- Next, betrayed into the hands of his enemies, cles, O Israel !

we find him, As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.

“ Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves." To those wno are best acquainted with

And lastly, as if this punishment were not the poetry of the human heart, the sad his sufficient

, he is led forth and placed between tory of Jephthah and his daughter affords the pillars in the public hall of entertainparticular interest, told as it is in language ment, to make sport at the festival of his

enemies, rejoicing in his weakness and his never yet exceeded for simplicity and genuine beauty, by any of the numerous wri bonds; where the indignation of his unconters who have given us, both in prose and querable soul finally nerves him for that

tremendous act of retributive vengeance, verse, imaginary details of this melancholy

by which the death of Samson is commemstory.

orated. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said,

The story of Ruth is familiar in its touchif thou shalt without fail deliver the children of ammon ing pathos, to every feeling heart; as well into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the

as intrinsically beautiful to every poetic doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace

mind. What for instance can exceed the

« PoprzedniaDalej »