« PoprzedniaDalej »
the gathering of vast multitudes assembled athwart the beams of the declining sun. for one common purpose, and that the holiest Perhaps it is a venerable parent who has of which our mortal nature is capable, and been quietly translated to his place of rest, in the general aspect of sobriety, order, and and the tears of the surrounding mourners profound respect which pervades the thickly- fall into the grave without bitterness, and peopled city, how much more is to be felt almost without regret; for the poor have where man exists in a state of greater sim- happier thoughts of the last call announcing plicity, in the rude home of the peasant, the termination of mortal suffering, than
or in those little groups of humble dwellings those whose progress through this world gemming the fertile plain, in the midst of is less interrupted with hardship, toil, and which the tall village spire rises and points pain. to heaven. It is not here as in the city, But it is quite as possible that the lifeless that the loud peal of many bells announces form for which that bier is spread, should the hour of prayer, but the single bell tolling have been the rustic beauty of the fair and at intervals, is converted into music by the the festival, the pride of the village, the fresh pure morning air, and the many simple belle who bore away the palm of admiration and delightful associations connected with from her less lovely sisters who now stand that well-known sound. Perhaps a beloved weeping by her side, without one touch of and revered minister is there to welcome envy, or one wish, except to call her back to his people once again within the fold of
trace again the flowery meadows, to sing Christian communion; families separated by her songs of native melody, and to meet the occupations of the week, now meet to them with her ever-beaming smile of youth offer up their fervent prayers together; the and joy. But it may not be. And she who the village pauper stands upon the same was so fondly cherished, so tenderly beloved, foundation as the village lord, and looks so flattered and admired, is consigned to upward with the same calm countenance to the cold prison of the tomb, and left to the meet the light of heaven; the comely-habited unbroken silence of her solitary sleep. maiden closes the wicket of her father's With the Sabbath evening in the village, garden, and hastens at the universal call; / are connected a thousand agreeable associwhile the feeble steps of infancy and age, ations, which those who are not alive to the blending their weakness and their humble true poetry of life, are unable to enjoy. Nor confidence together, are heard slowly advan- is it the least portion of the satisfaction afcing along the solemn aisle. No sooner is forded by this day, to see the cattle that the simple service ended, than a cordial re- have borne their share in the labour of the cognition takes place between the pastor week, without participating in its reward, and his congregation, and often between browsing in the cool pastures, or resting those who meet too seldom-the rich and the their toil worn limbs upon the sunny slopes poor—the exalted and the lowly: and kind of the verdant hills. The shady lanes questions are asked of the suffering or the around the village afford shelter and reabsent, followed by visits of Christian love, freshment to many a persecuted animal that and words of consolation, to those who are knows no other day of rest; and as we pass debarred the privilege of meeting their along, we gee groups of rosy children wanbrethren and their friends within the con- dering hand in hand in quest of wild flowers, secrated walls of the church.
or the purple fruit of the bramble, which It is on these days, that through the still- seems to be the only upalienable property ness of the summer air, we often hear the of childhood; or we meet with families mournful cadence of distant and harmoni- going half-way home with a beloved son or
ous voices, singing at intervals their low daughter, whose portion of servitude is now !! sweet requiem over the bier of a departed cast in some distant hamlet, from whence
friend, as they bear him to his last long the occasional return is an event of long home beneath the outstretched arms of the promise, and widely participated joy. sheltering elms, that skirt the precincts of Around the open door of the peasant are the dead, and cast their sombre shadows other groups of more infantine beauty, and
as the father stands beside them, with the fiery passions of youth, subduing the stubBible in his hand, the fond mother looks born will, softening down the asperities of alternately at him and them, as if the whole nature, and mingling with the springs of wealth of her existence were centered in earthly feeling the pure, inexhaustible wathese her household treasures; while retir- | ters of eternal life. ing into some quiet nook of the cottage or How would the fond mother endure with the garden, the little patient pupil of Sab- fortitude the sad farewell, that separates the bath discipline carefully cons his lesson for son of her hopes from the genial atmosphere the coming week. Farther on within a of domestic peace, if she did not in her neatly trimmed enclosure, where the red heart consign him to the more judicious daisy, and the dark green box, mark out care of his heavenly Father? or how would the boundary lines surrounding the rose she send him forth alone to trace his distant tree, the sweet briar, and the climbing hon- and dubious pathway through the wildereysuckle, stands the quiet habitation of an ness of life, but for her faith in the guiding ancient dame, who diligently spells out the hand which she implores to direct him meaning of the sacred page, in uninterrupted through its manifold temptations, to lead loneliness and peace. In the distance we him safely through its dangers, and bring hear the sound of many voices joining in him back to her yearning bosom unspotted hymns of prayer and praise-the old and from the world. It is the internal support the young—the feeble and the firm, raised derived from religion that nerves her for the together in one delightful symphony of gra- trial, and reconciles her to the after hours titude and love: and if scattered here and of watchfulness and care, when she may there, we find little companies of the idle, look in vain for tidings from the wanderer, the thoughtless, or the gay, they are still and calculate with fruitless anticipation upon those whose outward decency-whose fresh | the hour of his return. bright looks of health and happiness, evince It is the same feeling of religion not una respect for the Sabbath, and a participa- frequently excited to enthusiasm, that tears tion in its universal calm.
away the youthful devotee from all the joys It is after the contemplation of scenes like of nature, and the endearments of domestic these, that we return to our homes, more love; clothing her fair forehead in the mournhappy in the thought, that the young have ful vestments of monastic gloom, and shatheir serious moments, the widely separated dowing the young cheek from which the their time of meeting, the ignorant their last rose has faded, with the sable pall of a seasons of instruction, the old their consola- premature and living death. tion, and the weary their day of rest.
It is religion too that steals upon the soul It is not however to the public offices of of the contemplative student, and lures him religion, that its poetical interest is confined. him away from the haunts of convivial If we look into the private walks of life, we mirth, from the excitement of the flowing behold this powerful principle working the bowl, and from the ambition of the sordid or most important revolutions in the moral the gay, to devote the highest powers and character of man-if into the midst of fami- energies of his mind to the edification of his lies, we find it severing or uniting the firm- fellow creatures, and the spring time of his est links of natural connexion--giving so- existence to the service of his God. lemnity to the sad parting-over the glad It is this support which keeps alive the meeting after long separation diffusing a hope of the heart-stricken wife, as she purholy joy--imparting reverence to the attri- sues her reprobate husband through the butes of age-purity and happiness to the dark windings of his sinful course, wooing cheerful smiles of childhood—and presiding him back with her unfailing gentleness to with its sanctifying influence over all the the comforts of his home, watching over him different offices of duty, and charity, and in his unguarded moments, with the balm love-or if we look into the human heart, it of Christian consolation ever ready for his is here that religion is seen controlling the hour of need, and supplicating with incessant prayers, that a stronger arm than hers may which must inevitably follow, openly and be stretched out to arrest the progress of freely tells the truth. Sometimes a single his erring steps.
falsehood, or a mere evasion would save the Without this active and living principle, little culprit from the pain of public ignooperating upon the various dispositions of miny, from the fury of a tyrant master, and mankind, we should never witness those from the punishment that, even in anticipainstances of self denial in the cause of vir- tion, checks the warm current of his youthful tue, which afford the strongest evidence of blood, and sends a shivering thrill through the all-sustaining efficacy of religion. How, every nerve and fibre of his trembling frame. for instance, would the compassionate mai- | But he has been instructed by parents whose den find strength to reject her worthless word he cannot doubt, to believe that there lover, because the stain of guilt was upon is a good and gracious God looking down his brow, and because his spirit refused to upon the children of earth, caring for their bow down and worship at the altar of her sufferings, listening to their prayers, teachGod, if the claims of duty were not para- ing them his holy law, and encouraging mount to those of affection ? And yet such them to regard the performance of it above things have been; and warm, young hearts, all the enjoyments afforded by the world; whose cords of happiness were rent asunder and knowing that a strict adherence to the by the fierce and fiery trial, have chosen for truth is one of the essential points of that themselves a solitary lot, separate and dis- law, the penitent child, even with the tears tinct from the sphere of their long cherished of anguish on his cheek, pronounces the deenjoyments, and have dwelt in peace and cisive word of truth which seals his senresignation under the guiding influence of tence upon earth—the word which rejoicing the one divine light, by which all others, angels bear to the courts of heaven, as the from whence they had ever derived hope or richest tribute humanity can lay before the gladness were extinguished.
throne of its Creator. Yes; and the man of strong affections,
These are but single instances, chosen whose downward tendency in the career of
out from a mass of evidence, clearly proving worldly occupation, had reduced a tender that religion in its influence upon the affecwife and helpless children to the last extreme tions, in its intimate connexion with those of poverty and wretchedness, has been important scenes and circumstances of life, visited with powerful temptation in his hour from which we derive the greatest pain or of weakness, when his perceptions of right pleasure, in short, in its supreme dominion and wrong were so confused with bodily and over the human heart, is, above all other mental suffering, that the limitations of subjects, that which possesses the highest moral good seemed to be yielding to the claim to the regard of the poet; not only as encroachments of physical evil
, when the being most productive of ntellectual gratiwants of his starving family were bursting fication, but most worthy of him who aspires forth in audible and heart-rending appeals to the right exercise of the loftiest attributes for which he had no answer, when the sha- of mind. dows of despair fell around him, and squalid A superficial view of religion may lead to misery encircled his cold hearth. And he the popular and vulgar notion, that its practoo has stood his ground, strong in the con- tical duties are incompatible with true refinefidence that real good, or lasting happiness, ment of feeling, and elevation of thought; never yet was purchased by the sacrifice of but is not that the most genuine refinement virtuous rectitude.
which penetrates into the distant relations of But if we measure the strength of the things, and cements, by mental association, principle by the weakness of the agent it the visible and material—the familiar or inspires, we would point out, above all other the gross, with powerful impressions of mor. instances of its operative power, that in al excellence, and beauty, and happiness? which a child looks boldly in the face of au- Is not that the most elevated range of thought thority, and daring the retributive judgment which combines the practical and temporal
affairs of men, with the eternal principles might be averted ? How would he solemupon which the world is established and nize the vow, or seal the blessing, or ratify governed ?
the curse, without the sanction of divine auWe know of nothing that can so fully and thority ? or how might his soul aspire to the so beautifully adorn the ordinary path of life, sublime, without expanding its wings in the as religion; because it imparts a spiritual es regions of eternity ? sence to all our customary actions and pur- No; there is nothing which the poet need suits, in which the slightest portion of good reject in the religion of the Bible, or the and evil is involved. We can imagine no- religion of the heart; but rather let him seek thing to exceed in tenderness the merciful its benignant and inspiring influence, as a dealing of our heavenly Father with his er- light to his genius, a stimulus to his imaginring and rebellious creatures; and as there is ation, a guide to his taste, a fire to his arnothing to equal the perfection of the Divine dour, an impetus to his power, and a world character, so there is no sublimity comparable thrown open to his enjoyment. to that of his nature. Nor is this all. We have said that poetry must come home to our own bosoms in order to be truly felt, and religion teaches us that we have a portion
IMPRESSION. in everlasting life-an inheritance in eternity—that the hopes and the fears which stim. Hitherto we have bestowed our attention ulate our actions, the powers and the ener- upon what essentially belongs to poetry, as gies with which we are endowed, are not a medium for receiving and imparting the merely given us for the brief purposes of highest intellectual enjoyment. We now temporal existence—to play their little part come to the qualifications for composing upon this sublunary stage--to animate frail poetry—the fundamental characteristics of creatures that must perish in the tomb, but the poet. All persons of cultivated underas links woven in with the great chain of standing, endowed with an ordinary share being to be unfolded in a sphere without of sensibility, are more or less capable of limitations, in a “world without end." feeling what is poetical; but that all, even
We would not depreciate the freeness, and amongst those who attempt it, are not equal the fulness of the benefits of religion, by say- to writing poetry, is owing to their deficiency ing that the poet has a participation in their in some or all of the following qualificadelights, beyond that enjoyed by others; be- tions : capacity of receiving deep imprescause we reverently believe the nature of sions — imagination — power — and taste. religion to be such as to adapt it to every These qualifications we shall now consider understanding, render it available in every separately, beginning with the first, which condition of humanity, and sustaining, and for want of a better term, I have called consolatory to every heart. But we have no impression. hesitation in pronouncing it impossible for We have already seen how poetry derives the poet to reach the same intellectual height, its existence from the association of ideas, without the aid of religion, as when he soars as well as how such associations must arise on angels' wings up to the gates of heaven out of impressions, and it follows as a natu-to touch the strings of human feeling so ral consequence, that if this be necessary to powerfully, as when his hand is bathed in enable a man to feel poetry, it is still more the pure fountains of eternal truth.
so to qualify him for writing it. Impressions How for instance would he expatiate up-are, in fact, the secret fund from whence the on beauty or excellence, if they had no arche- poet derives his most brilliant thoughts—the types in heaven ? How would he describe material with which he works, the colouring the calamities which tear up the root of do- in which he dips his pencil when he paints mestic peace, and agonize the tortured bo- --the inexhaustible fountain to which he apsom, if neither prayer nor appeal were wrung plies for the simplicity of nature, and the out by such wretchedness, and directed to force of truth. a spriritual power by whom the calamity We have before observed, that it is impossible to trace a great proportion of our fields—and so on, until at last the idea of associations to their original source, because number loses all limitation, and the child we cannot recall the impressions made upon conceives for the first time, that of infinity. our mind in infancy; but we know that in From the contemplation of a widely exthat early stage of life. when we were most tended view, we have unquastionably dealive to sensation, all the impressions which rived our notion of space. Why this idea, we did receive, must have been connected arising out of an incalculable number of with pain or pleasure, and that hence arise objects, in themselves ordinary and familiar, preference and antipathy, hope and fear, should obtain the character of sublime, it is love and hatred. We have the authority not easy to determine, unless it be that the of Dr. Johnson, as well as that of our own same expansion of mind is as necessary to observation for asserting, that children are receive these two impressions, as to contemnot naturally grateful, and from the history plate the nature of unlimited power, which of man in a barbarous state, we learn that is universally accompanied with sensations he is not naturally honest. The reason is, of awe, and sometimes of terror. that both the infant and the savage have Duration is generally the last which the received pleasure from self-indulgence, but mind receives of these impressions, and not from the exercise of any moral duty; when extended to eternity, it is the most and therefore it is evident that greater matu- | important. This idea does not arise like rity of mind is necessary for the formation that of infinity, from objects of calculation, of those ideas which arise out of impressions nor like power, from any connexion with made by the social intercourse of mankind. impulse or sensation ; but steals quietly upYet in a very early state of existence we are on the mind from deep and earnest meditacapable of deriving more simple ideas from tion, sometimes upon objects which have impressions whose strength and durability existed from time immemorial, sometimes constitute the riches of the poet.
upon those which will exist for ages yet to Perhaps the first of this description is, the come.
We gaze upon the ivied walls of idea of power, naturally arising in the mind the ruined edifice, whose very structure of a child, from the bodily force by which its bears evidence of the different manners, most violent attempts at resistance are customs and occupations of those who once easily overcome. But in order to be deeply surrounded the now deserted hearth. We impressed with this idea, it is necessary that walk into the spacious banqueting-room we should have witnessed some manifesta- whose walls once echoed to the songs of tion of power beyond the reach of man's ut- festivity or triumph, and there the bat holds most capabilities, and this we behold in the nightly converse with the owl. We listen tremendous violence of the winds, the rage to the rush of the evening breeze amongst of the ocean, the cataract, or the volcano. the deep dark foliage of the firmly-rooted
The idea of number multiplied 10 infinity trees, which have arisen out of seeds scatcomes next, and this it is reasonable to sup- tered by the wandering winds amongst the pose may originate in the contemplation of desolation of fallen magnificence. Even then the stars. We may not be able to recall to the pile must have been a ruin, and we see our remembrance the time when our own by the broken pillar whose base is buried in minds were first awakened to a conception the earth, what an accumulation of matter of the splendour of the heavens; but we time must have strewn around it, to raise have an opportunity of observing in others the level of the surrounding earth, from its the rapt and astonished gaze with which foundation to its centre. We look through they first regard the stars in reference to the wide yawning aperture that seems to their number, and how the opening mind have been a richly-ornamented vindow, expands as one after another of these and there, where the gallant knight once nightly suns rises, and dawns upon it-first laid his conquering sword at the feet of seen in separate points of light—then in smiling beauty, where the minstrel tuned his groups—then multitudes—then fields span- lyre, and sung the praise of heroes now forgotgled all over with shining glory--then wider | ten, where the snow white hand of the court