Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

we

"And chiefly thoo, O Spirit, that dost prefer

or “stately tread the earth," or "lowly Before all temples the upright heart and pure, Instruct me, for thou knowist; thou from the first

creep," and we acknowledge them to be the Wast present, and with mighty wings ontspread

work and the care of an Almighty hand; Dove-like sat'nt brooding on the vast abyss,

but where is the fresh impulse of undeviating And mad'st it pregnant; what in me is dark, Illumine; what is low, raise and support;

will to worship that Almighty Father ? will Thut to the height of this great argument,

it return with the contemplatil n of his attriI may assert eternal Providence,

butes, and stimulate us to a more faithful And justify the ways of God to men."

service, or inspire a holier love ? “ Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best,

We are not among those who would limit And love with fear the only God; to walk As in his presence; ever to observe

the means appointed by Omnipotence for His providence; and on him sole depend,

winning back the wanderer from the fold, Merciful over all his works, with good

and we have no hesitation in saying, that it Still overcoming evil, and by small Accomplished great things, by things deemed weak is impossible studiously to examine, and seSubverting worldly strong, and worldly wise riously to consider the well directed aim of By simply meek; that suffering for truth's sako

Milton's genius, without feeling a fresh conIs fortitude to highest victory, And to the faithful, death the gate or life ;

viction that such should be the high and Taught this by his example, whom I now

glorious purpose of all human intellect-to Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blessed."

dignify the immortal nature of man-to If power be the faculty which presents us

throw open as far as human powers permit, most clearly and forcibly with ideas that lie the great plan of Divine benevolence, and beyond the scope of ordinary thought, there to teach the important lesson, that where is then a power in beauty, as well as in sub- cannot wholly understand, we may limity-a power in the language of the af- humbly admire, and where we cannot penefections to awaken their echo in the human trate, we should trust. heart, and in pure and holy aspirations, to

In connexion with mental power, there call us back to all the good we have for- remains some distinction to be made in its saken, and to lead us forward to all that yet mode of operation. There is a power of inmay be attained.

tellect, and a power of feeling. The writThat beautiful and majestic hymn in ings of Pope bear the most striking evidence which Milton describes our first parents, as

of the former, those of Byron will serve as calling upon the creation-upon every

an example of the latter. Pope addresses bright and glorious creature-to join in the

himself to man's reason, and wields convicsolemn praises of their universal Creator, tion like a thunderbolt. Byron appeals to comprehends all that we can imagine, both the soul through its strong sympathies and of the harmony of verse, and the force of passions, and spreads over it the shadow of mental power. Widely as we may have the mighty wings of a dark angel. But the wandered from the purity and the innocence genius of Milton combining the powers of of the first inhabitants of paradise, this morn- both, and pausing in its flight from heaven ing hymn seems to burst upon us like the to hell, treads the verdant paths of Eden dawn of a brighter day, when gratitude and with the footsteps of humanity, reposes in love shall again become the natural lan- the bowers of earthly bliss, and pours the guage of the re-illumined soul. We see

lamentation of a broken and a contrite spirit around us even now the same attributes of over the first sad exile of the progenitors of divinity—the sun, the “eye of this great sin and death. world,” the moon that “meets the orient We cannot complete our tribute to the sun,” and the “ fixed stars”—we feel the power of Milton's mind, without referring to winds that from four quarters blow”—we his prose, as well as to his poetical composihear the warbling flow of the fountains, tions; and here we find that strong internal humble instrument whose highest office was first stirrings of his youthful genius—the first to assist and promote the purposes of the impulse of inspiration, is worthy of the effect Most High. And when he levels the pow- it has produced, and still continues to proerful aim of his majestic mind against the duce upon mankind. abuse, and the oppression of a suffering

evidence of his calling and capability to " The birds,

work out what mankind in future ages That singing up to Heaven's gate ascend"

should wonder at and approve; accompawe behold the world of animate and mov- nied with a deeply reverential feeling, that ing life-creatures that “in waters glide,” | even with such capabilities, he was but an

"I began thus far to assent both to them and to divers church, it is with the full conviction that of my friends at home, and not less to an inward prompt. such is the solemn duty laid upon his soul.

ing which now grew daily upon me, that by labour and

intense study, (which I take to be my portion in this “ For surely (he acknowledges) to every good and

lise,) joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might

perhaps leave something so written to after times, as peaceable man, it must in nature needs be a hateful thing

they should not willingly let it die." to be the displeaser and molester of thousands; much better would it like him doubtless to be the messenger The poet then describes the high and of gladness and contentment, which is his chief intended business to all mankind, but that they resist and oppose

mighty compass of the work which he contheir own true happiness. But when God commands to templated, speaking uniformly of the great take the trumpet, and blow a dolorous or jarring blast, endowment of extraordinary intellect as a it lies not in man's will what he shall say, or what he shall conceal."

gist to be exclusively devoted to the honour

and instruction of his country, and the glory Milton then describes, in language of his God. scarcely less remarkable for its power than

-"To celebrate in glorious and losty hymns the for its poetical fervour, the self-upbraidings throne and equipage of God's almightiness, and what he ne should ever have felt in after life, had he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high neglected this high and holy call to rescue

providence in his church ; to sing victorious agonies of

martyrs and saints; the deeds and triumphs of just and the church from degradation.

pious nations, doing valiantly through faith against the

enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of " Timorous and ungrateful, the church of God is now kingdoms from justice and God's true worship. Lastly, again at the foot of her insulting enemies, and thou whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in virtue bewailest; what matters it for thee, or thy be wailing?

amiable or grave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration when time was, thou couldst not find a syllable of all

in all the changes of that which is called fortune from that thou hast read, or studied, to utter in her behalf.

without, or the wily subtleties or refluxes or tnan's Yet ease and leisure was given thee for thy retired

thoughts from within ; all these things with a solid thoughts, out of the sweat of other men. Thou hast the

and treatable smoothness to point out and describe. diligence, the paris, the language of a man, if a vain

Teaching over the whole book of sanctity and virtue subject were to be adorned or beautified; but when the

through all the instances of example, with such delight cause of God and his churco was to oe pieadea, for

to those especially of soft and delicious temper, who which purpose that tongue was given thee which thou

will not so much as look upon truth herself, unless they hast; God listened if he could hear thy voice among his

see her elegantly dressed; that whereas the paths of zealous servants, but thou wert dumb as a beast; from

honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, henceforward be that which thine own british silence

though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they will then hath made thee. Or else I should have heard in the

appear to all men easy and pleasant, though they were other ear; slothful and ever to be set light by, the church

rugged and difficult indeed. hath now overcome her late distresses after the unwea

-* A work not to be raised from the heat of ried labours of many of her true servants that stood up youth, or the vapours of wine ; like that which flows st in her defence; thou also wouldst take upon thee to waste from the pen of some vulgur amourist, or the share amongst them of their joy: but wherefore thou ?

trencher fury of a rhyming parasite; nor to be obtained where canst thou show any word or deed of thine by the invocation of dame Memory and her siren daugh. which might have hastened her peace ? whatever thou ters, but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit, who dost now talk, or write, or look, is the alms of other can enrich with all utterance and knowledge ; and sends men's active prudence and zeal. Dare not now to say out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, to or do any thing better than thy former sloth and infamy; touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases." or if thou darest, thou dost impudently to make a thrifty purchase of boldness to thysell, out of the painful merits of other men; what before was thy sin, is now

This is indeed quoting at great length, but thy duty, to be abject and worthless. These, and such the temptation is great also, to support with like lessons as these, would have bcen my matins daily,

the highest authority what has been asserted, and my evening song. But now by this little diligence, mark what a privilege I have gained with good men

that true mental power is always accomand saints, to claim my right of lamenting the tribulations panied with the consciousness of its existof the church, if she should suffer, when others, that

ence, and that the noblest exercise of this have ventured nothing for her sake, have not the honour to be admitted mourners. But if she lift up her drooping power is to promote the intellectual happihead and prosper among those that have something

ness, as well as the moral good of the human more than wished her welfare, I have my charter and freehold of rejoicing to me and my heirs."

family, and to “justify the ways of God to

man."

The manner in which Milton speaks of the

We know not that our language contains

any thing comparable in poetic fervour, and mental power, that we conclude only with sublimity, and power, to the solemn appeal the end of the chapter. Of those whom he to the Divine Being with which Milton closes has been denouncing, he says, his second book on the Reformation. After summing up a list of evils present and to

“Let them take counsel together, and let it come to

nought; let them decree, and do thou cancel it; let them come, he adds

gather themselves, and be scattered ; let them embattle

themselves, and be broken; let them embattle and be "I do now feel myself in wrapped on the sud. broken, for thou art with us. den into those mazes and labarynths of hideous and " Then, amidst the hymns and hallelujahs of saints, dreadful thoughts, that which way to get out, or which some one may perhaps be heard offering at high strains way to end, I know not, unless I turn mine eyes, and in new and lofty measures, to sing and celebrate thy with your help lift up my hands to that eternal and pro- divine mercies aud marvellous judgments in this land pitious throne, where nothing is readier than grace and throughout all ages; whereby this great and warlike refuge to the distresses of mortal supplianis. And it | nation, instructed and inured to the fervent and continual were a shame to leave these serious thoughts less piously practice of truth and righteousness, and casting far from than the heathen were wont to conclude their graver her the rags of her old vices, may press on hard to that discourses.

high and happy emulation to be found the soberest, * Thou therefore that sittest in light and glory unap- wisest, and most Christian people at that day, when proachable, Parent of angels and men! next thee I im. thou, the eternal and shortly expected King, shalt open plore, omnipotent King, Redeemner of that lost remnant the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world, whose nature thou didst assume, ineffable and everlast. and distributing national honours and rewards to religious ing love! and thou, the third subsistence of divine infini. and just commonwealths, shall put an end to all earthly tude, illumining Spirit, the joy and solace of created tyrannies, proclaiming thy universal and mild monarchy things! one Tripersonal godhead! look upon this thy through heaven and earth; where they undoubtedly, poor and almost spent and expiring church, leave her that by their labours, counsels and prayers, have been not thus a prey to these importunate wolves, that wait earnest for the common good of religion and their coun. and thiuk long till they devour thy tender flock; these try, shall receive above the inferior orders of the blessed, wild boars that have broke into thy vineyard, and left the legal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones the print of their polluting hoofs on the souls of thy ser: into their glorious titles, and in supereminence of beatific vants. Olet them not bring about their damned designs, vision, progressing the dateless and irrevoluble circle that stand now at the entrance of the bottomless pit, ex. of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and pecting the watch word to open and let out those dread bliss, in overmeasure for ever. fal locusts and scorpions, to reinvolve us in that pitchy " But they contrary, that by the impairing and diminucloud of infernal darkness, where we shall never more tion of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of Fee the son of thy truth again, never hope for the cheer- their country, aspire to high dignity, rule, and promotion ful dawn, never more hear the bird of morning sing. here, after a shameful end in this lise, shall be thrown Be moved with pity at the afflicted state of this our down eternally into the darkest and deepest gull of hell, shaken monarchy, that now lies labouring under her where under the despiteful controi, the trampio and throes, and struggling against the grudges of more spurn of all the other damned, that in the anguish of dreadful calamities.

their torture, shall have no other ease than to exercise “O thou, that, after the impetuous rage of five bloody & saving and bestial tyranny over them as their slaves inundations, and the succeeding sword of intestine war, and negroes, they shall remain in that plight for ever, soaking the land in her own gore, didst pity the sad and the basest, lowermost, the most dejected, most under. Ceaseless revolution of our swift and thick coming sos- foot, and down trodden vassals of perdition." rows; when we were quite breathless, out of thy free grace didst motion peace, and terms of covenant with us; and have first well nigh freed us from antichristian thraldom, didst build up this Britannic empire to a glorious and enviable height, with all her daughter islands about her ; stay us in this felicity, let not the obstinacy

TASTE. of our hall obedience and will.worship bring forth that viper of sedition, that for fourscore years hath been breeding to eat through the entrails of our peace; but Taste, the last mentioned of the four relet her cast her abortive spawn without the danger of quisites for writing poetry, is by no means this travailing and throbbing kingdom : that we may still remember in our solemn thanksgivings, how for us, the

the least important, because its sphere of Northern Ocean even to the frozen

Thule was scattered operation belongs so much to the medium with the proud shipwrecks of the Spanish Armada, and through which poetical ideas are conveyed, the very maw of hell ransacked, and made to give up her concealed destruction, ere she could vent it in that

that even where impression, imagination, horrible and damned blast.

and power exist, we may lose by the absence

of taste, all the sensible effect of their presMilton then goes on with somewhat too ence, as well as all the pleasure naturally much of the rancour of a zealot to stigmatize arising from their combined influence. and condemn the enemies of the church, but We speak of taste as belonging chiefly to still his language is so perfectly illustrative the medium of the poet's ideas, because in the of what we have attempted to describe as choice and arrangement of his subjects, he

uses a higher faculty (or rather a higher and ble of taking into consideration the nature, more profound exercise of the same,)-the relation, and application of the laws which faculty of judgment; in its nature so nearly regulate public action, and private thought; allied to taste, that we are inclined to de- but if such individuals could be made to unscribe taste as a superficial application of derstand these laws, there is no reason why judgment. Both are faculties whose office they should not judge as correctly of their it is to take note of the fitness of things gen- effect as of that of a group of flowers. In orerally, the one by casual observation of them, der to compose a tasteful bouquet it is only the other by mature consideration of their necessary that we should have clear percepnature. Taste applies chiefly to those qual- tions of form and colour; in order to invent ities which immediately strike our attention laws for the government of nations, or syswithout much exercise of thought, such as tematize the thoughts and “imaginations of beauty and harmony; while judgment ad- man's heart," we must have distinct ideas of mits within its compass the weightier con- physical force, and moral good, of action, siderations of present utility, and ultimate and motive, of power, and integrity. good.

It is a familiar, but not the less important If, for example, we say of a lady that she and comprehensive fact, that every thing dresses with taste; we mean with due re- has a proper place; and the faculty which gard to beauty of form, harmony of colours, enables us to ascertain by instantaneous and general suitableness to her appearance perception what is, or is not the proper place -if with judgment, we mean with regard to of any object, is taste—that by which we her pecuniary means, her character, and ascertain the same fact by conviction is station in life; but the operation of the mind judgment. We admire, and derive pleasure in the exercise of taste, and judgment is the from the operation of the former; we rever same, differing only in the subjects to which ence, and derive benefit from that of the it is applied. In both cases we draw con- latter. Our looks, words, movements, and clusions from the general nature of the sub-trifling pursuits come under the cognijects considered, those of which taste takes zance of taste; nor let its superficial chacognizance, being superficial and evident to racter lessen the value of this universal test the senses, its conclusions are prompt, and of beauty and harmony, which are the two immediate; and thus it erroneously obtains grand sources of our enjoyment. It is not the character of an intuitive power, directing the profound nature of the cases in which it the choice at once to what is most suitable, acts, but their frequent recurrence in the oror best. In the tasteful arrangement of a dinary walks of life, as well as their imgroup of flowers, we are apt to suppose it is mense variety and number, which renders an instinctive impulse by which they are so the influence of taste so important to our placed before us, as to display their beauties happiness. If from the causes upon which to the greatest advantage, and produce the it operates, we are liable to receive pain or most agreeable effect; but it is in fact upon pleasure every moment of our lives, the culconclusions previously drawn from the prin- tivation of this faculty must indeed be of no ciples of pleasure, that the mind operates in inconsiderable weight in the aggregate of contrasting the colours so as to make one human affairs; yet how to cultivate it so as heighten the brilliancy of another, and com- ultimately to produce the greatest good, is a bining the whole group so as to render not delicate and difficult question. Refined to only colour, but form, and character condu- the most acute perception of all the degrees cive to the beauty of the whole.

which lie between the remote extremes of If taste and judgment differ only in being beauty and deformity-of pleasure and pain, exercised

upon different subjects, it may be taste is any thing but a blessing; unless asked, why then are not the individuals best where there is judgment to go deeper into skilled in the arrangement of flowers, able the essential qualities of things, and to dislegislators, and profound logicians? It is cover a moral good beneath a physical evil; because there are many minds possessed of because the outward aspect of our world, the faculty of judgment yet wholly incapa-| even with all its loveliness, and the external

character of our circumstances, even with own delicacy they have made this laudable all our enjoyments, are such as often to pre- discovery. Better would it beseem an elesent pictures repulsive and abhorrent to vated soul to pass on, and leave such blemperceptions more delicate than deep. But ishes unnoticed; or to prove its just and nothe cultivation of taste when confined as it ble admiration of true genius, rather than its ought to be to its proper place, and limited capability of discovering petty faults. to its proper degree, is eminently conducive Where the poet is gifted with judgment, to our happiness, and eventually to our good. and not with taste, he is compelled 10 ponTaste should even rule itself, and set bounde der at every verse; and while he weighs to its own existence, for its laws are as much the merit of his subject, compares his ideas, violated when we are too sublime for useful and new models his expressions, the warmth service, and too delicate for duty, as when of his poetic fervour is expended, and that we descend to the use of vulgar epithets, which ought to appear to us as if it flowed and ape the absurdities of our inferiors. from a natural and irrepressible impulse, be

As a proof of the immediate application comes painful and laborious, both to himself, of taste, we seldom wholly approve of the and to his readers. But he who is gifted language and customs of past ages. That with a high degree of taste, calls in the aid the same astonishing productions of art of this important faculty, the lively exercise which adorned the most enlightened eras of whose immediate power directs him to the of Grecian history, should remain to be mo- choice of expressions in which to clothe his dels of excellence at the present day, is be- ideas, striking out what is defective, and secause of their relation to the senses, whose lecting what is appropriate, with the rapidipower in assisting the judgment is limited ty of an instantaneous impulse. One kind of to a degree of cultivation ; but language and metre admits of a pompous array of words, social customs having more immediate re- another of expressions volatile and gaylation to the intellectual and moral constitu- one of abrupt and broken, another of smooth tion of man are continually fluctuating, or and flowing sentences. One subject requires progressing, without any perceptible limita a correspondence of solemn or melancholy tion to their capability of improvement. We sound, another of the rapid movements which cannot look back to the literature of the past belong to lively joy. One scene calls forth century, and pay our just tribute to its supe- the glowing ornament of eastern magnifiriority in force of expression, without at the cence, another, the cold majesty of the frosame time being struck with words and zen north. For the description of one pasphrases, which to say the least of them, sion the poet must adorn his muse with the arrest our attention, and often impede, by attributes of love and beauty, for another the difference of their associations, our per- he must place in her hand the lighted brand ception of their sense and application. In- of fury and destruction. All this is the work deed so wide is this difference, that many of taste, and when no law, either intellectuminds endowed with fine taste and sensi- al or moral has been violated; when the bility, are now incapable of appreciating the customs and regulations of society have been beauties of Shakespeare; though we own consulted, and no feeling or prejudice there is some cause to suspect of such minds, offended; when propriety, and order, and that they are deficient both in imagination harmony, have ruled the poet's theme, and and power, or they would unquestionably verse; and when supreme regard has been be listed above what appear to us now the paid to beauty, both in its physical and inabsurdities of this extraordinary writer, by tellectual character, we may confidently the unrivalled splendour of his mighty ge- pronounce the writer to have possesed a nius. Insensible to the brilliance of a great more than common share of taste. , luminary, which reveals a world of glory, On this snbject we may go yet farther. these fastidious critics take the light of their We may say of the faculty of taste, that it tiny perceptions into partial spots of shade, makes the nearest approach to what we are and extracting from thence the rank nettle in the habit of calling inspiration ; because or the wandering weed, cry out that by their it is the direct rule of propriety in action:

« PoprzedniaDalej »