Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

And then renews her work with double spirit.
Thus do they jest and laugh away their toil
Till the bright sun, now past his middle course,
Shoots down his fiercest beams which none may brave.
The stoutest arm feels listless, and the swart
And brawny-shouldered clown begins to fail.
But to the weary, lo—there comes relief!
A troop of welcome children o'er the lawn
With slow and wary steps approach : some bear
In baskets oaten cakes or barley scones,
And gusty cheese and stoups of milk or whey,
Beneath the branches of a spreading tree,
Or by the shady side of the tall rick,
They spread their homely fare, and, seated round,

Taste every pleasure that a feast can give.
Old Allan Ramsay has caught the inspiration of one of his most charming songs from the
same scene :--
The lass of Patie's mill,

Without the help of art, Sae bonnie, blithe, and gay,

Like flow'rs which grace the wild, In spite of all my skill,

Her sweets she did impart, She stole my heart away.

Whene'er she spoke or smiled : When tedding out the hay,

Her looks they were so mild,
Bareheaded on the green,

Free from affected pride,
Love 'midst her locks did play,

She me to love beguiled ; And wanton'd in her een.

I wish'd her for my bride. Her arms white, round, and smooth; 0! had I a' the wealth Breasts rising in their dawn;

Hopetoun's high mountains fill, To age it would give youth,

Insured long life and health,
To press them with his han

And pleasure at my will;
Through all my spirits ran

I'd promise, and fulfil,
An ecstasy of bliss,

That none but bonnie she,
When I ́such sweetness fand

The lass of Patie's mill, Wrapt in a balmy kiss.

Should share the same with me. Burns invites his “ bonnie lassie" to go forth to the “foaming stream" and “hoary cliffs," when “simmer blinks on flowery braes." He only echoes the general summons to the enjoyment of "the lightsome days" which Nature gives to all her children:

Bonnie lassie, will ye go, will ye go, will ye go,

Bonnie lassie, will ye go to the Birks of Aberfeldy? Now simmer blinks on flowery braes, The Birks of Aberfeldy. And o'er the crystal streamlet plays,

Bonnie lassie, &c. Come, let us spend the lightsome days The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers In the Birks of Aberfeldy.

White o'er the linns the burnie pours, Bonnie lassie, &c.

And, rising, weets wi' misty showers While o'er their heads the hazels hing, The Birks of Aberfeldy. The little birdies blithely sing,

Bonnie lassie, &c. Or lightly flit on wanton wing,

Let fortune's gifts at random flee, In the Birks of Aberfeldy.

They ne'er shall draw a wish frae me, Bonnie lassie, &c.

Supremely blest wi' love and thee, The braes ascend like lofty wa's,

In the Birks of Aberfeldy. The foaming stream deep roaring fa's,

Bonnic lassie, &c. O'er-hung wi' fragrant spreading shaws,

133,—PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS.

W.CAVE. TWILLIAM CAVE, a distinguished divine and voluminous theological writer, was born in 1637. He was of St. John's College, Cambridge, and received various preferments in the Church, without having reached any very important ecclesiastical dignity, during his long life. At his death he was Canon of Windsor, and Vicar of Isleworth. His Lives of the Apostles,' 'Lives of the Fathers,' and 'Primitive Christianity,' are works of standard value and authority.]

The Christian religion, at its first coming abroad into the world, was mainly charged with these two things, Impiety and Novelty. For the first, it was commonly cried out against as a grand piece of Atheism ; as an affront to their religion, ard an undermining the very being and existence of their gods. This is the sum of the charge, as we find it in the ancient Apologists : more particularly Cæcilius, the heathen in Minucius Felix, accuses the Christians for a desperate, undone, and unlawful faction, who by way of contempt did snuff and spit at the mention of their gods, deride their worship, scoff at their priests, and despise their temples, as no better than charnel houses, and heaps of bones and ashes of the dead. For these, and such like reasons, the Christians were everywhere accounted a pack of Atheigs, and their religion the Atheism; and seldom it is that Julian the emperor calls Christianity by any other name. Thus Lucian, bringing in Alexander the impostor, setting up for an oracle-monger, ranks the Christians with Atheists and Epicureans, as those that were especially to be banished from his mysterious rites. In anster to this charge, the Christians plead especially these three things:

First, That the Gentiles were, for the most part, incompetent judges of such cases as these, as being almost wholly ignorant of the true state of the Christian doctrine, and therefore unfit to pronounce sentence against it. Thus when Crescens the philosopher had traduced the Christians, as atheistical and irreligious, Justin Martyr answers, that he talked about things which he did not understand, feigning things of his own head, only to comply with the humour of his seduced disciples and followers ; that in reproaching the doctrine of Christ, which he did not understand, he discovered a most wicked and malignant temper, and showed himself far worse than the most simple and unlearned, who are not wont rashly to bear witness and determine in things not sufficiently known to them ; or, if he did understand its greatness and excellency, then he showed himself much more base and dişingenuous, in charging upon it what he knew to be false, and concealing his inward sentiments and convictions, for fear lest he should be suspected to be a Christian, But Justin well knew that he was miserably unskilful in matters of Christianity, having 101merly had conferences and disputations with him about these things; and therefore offered the senate of Rome, (to whom he then presented his Apology,) if they had not heard the sum of it, to hold another conference with him, even before the senate itself ; which he thought would be a work worthy of so wise and grave a council. Or, if they had heard it, then he did not doubt but they clearly apprehended how little he understood these things; or, if he did understand them, no knowingly dissembled it to his auditors, not daring to own the truth, as Socrates au in the face of danger--an evident argument that he was pilocopos, állà Quodotos, “not a philosopher, but a slave to popular applause and glory."

Secondly, They did in some sort confess the charge, that, according to the vilga! notion which the heathens had of their deities, they were atheists, i.e. strangers and enemies to them; that the gods of the Gentiles were at best but demons, impure and unclean spirits, who had long imposed upon mankind, and by their villapis sophistries, and arts of terror, had so affrighted the common people, who knew not really what they were, and who judge of things more by appearance than by reaso that they called them gods, and gave to every one of them that name, which

demon was willing to take to himself. And that they really were nothing but devils, fallen and apostate spirits, the Christians evidently manifested at every turn, forcing them to the confessing it, while, by prayer and invocating the name of the true God, they drove them out of possessed persons, and therefore trembled to encounter with a Christian, as Octavius triumphantly tells Cæcilius. They entertained the most absurd and fabulous notions of their gods, and usually ascribed such things to them, as would be accounted a horrible shame and dishonour to any wise and good man, the worship and mysterious rites of many of them being so brutish and filthy, that the honester and severer Romans were ashamed of it, and therefore overturned their altars, and banished them out of the roll of their deities, though their degenerate posterity took them in again, as Tertullian observes. Their gods themselves were so impure and beastly, their worship so obscene and detestable, that Julius Firmicus advises them to turn their temples into theatres, where the secrets of their religion may be delivered in scenes ; and to make their players

the wantonness and impieties of their gods, no place being so fit for such a religion as they. Besides the attributing to them human bodies, with many blemishes and imperfections, and subjection to the miseries of human life, and to the laws of mortality, they could not deny them to have been guilty of the most horrid and prodigious villanies and enormities, revenge and murder, incest and luxury, drunkenness and intemperance, theft and unnatural rebellion against their parents, and such like; of which their own writings were full almost in every page, which served only to corrupt and debauch the minds and manners of youth ; as Octavius tells his adversary, where he pursues this argument at large with great eloquence and reason. Nay, those among them that were most inquisitive and serious, and that entertained more abstract and refined apprehensions of things than the common people, yet could not agree in any fit and rational notion of a Deity ; some ridiculously affirming one thing and some another until they were divided into a hundred different opinions, and all of them further distant from the truth than they were from one another; the vulgar in the meanwhile making gods of the most brutish objects, such as dogs, cats, wolves, goats, hawks, dragons, beetles, crocodiles, &c. This Origen against Celsus particularly charges upon the Egyptians.

“ When you approach (says he) their sacred places, they have glorious groves and chapels, temples with goodly gates and stately porticos, and many mysterious and religious ceremonies; but when once you are entered, and got within their temples, you shall see nothing but a cat, or an ape, or a crocodile, or a goat, or a dog, worshipped with the most solemn veneration! Nay, they deified senseless and inanimate things, that had no life nor power to help themselves, much less their worshippers, as herbs, roots, and plants; nay, unmanly and degenerate passions, fear, paleness, &c. They fell down before stumps and statues, which owed all their divinity to the cost and folly of their votaries ; despised and trampled on by the sorriest creatures, mice, swallows, &c., who were wont to build nests in the very mouth of their gods, and spiders to perriwig their heads with cobwebs ; being forced first to make them, and then make them clean, and to defend and protect them, that they might fear and worship them, as he in Minicius wittily derides them: "In whose worship there are (says he) many things that justly deserve to be laughed at, and others that call for pity and compassion." And what wonder now, if the Christians were not in the least ashamed to be called atheists, with respect to such deities, and such a religion as this was?

Thirdly, in the strict and proper notion of atheism, they no less truly than confidently denied the charge, and appealed to their severest adversaries, whether those who owned such principles as they did could reasonably be styled atheists. None ever pleaded better and more irrefragable arguments for the existence of a supreme infinite Being, who made and governs all things by infinite wisdom and Almighty power ; none were ever more ready to produce a most clear and candid confession of their faith, as to this grand article of religion than they. “Although we profess ourselves atheists, with respect to those whom yo'l esteem and repute to be gods (so their apologist tells the senate,) yet not in respect of the true God, the parent and foantain of wisdom and righteousness, and all other excellencies and perfections, who is infinitely free from the least contagion or spot of evil. Him, and his only begotten son, (who instructed us and the whole society of good angels in these divine mysteries,) and the spirit of prophecy, we worship and adore, honouring them in truth, and with the highest reason, and ready to communicate these things to any one that is willing to learn them, as we ourselves have received them. Can we then be atheists, who worship the great Creator of this world, not with blood, incense, and offerings, (which we are sufficiently taught he stands in no need of,) but exat him according to our power with prayers and praises, in all the addresses we make to him ; believing this to be the only honour that is worthy of him, not to consumo the creatures which he has given us for our use, and the comforts of those that want, in the fire by sacrifice; but to approve ourselves thankful to him, and to sing and celebrate rational hymns and sacrifices, pouring out our prayers to him as a grateful return for those many good things which we have received, and do yet expect from him, according to the faith and trust that we have in him.” To the same purpose Athenagoras, in his return to this charge : “ Diagorus indeed a guilty of the deepest atheism and impiety; but we who separate God from all material being, and affirm him to be eternal and unbegotten, but all matter to be made and corruptible, how unjustly are we branded with impiety! It is true, did we side with Diagorus in denying a Divinity, when there are so many and such powerful aryuments from the creation and government of the world to convince us of the existence of God and religion, then both the guilt and punishment of atheism might desertedly be put upon us. But when our religion acknowledges one God, the maker of the universe, who, being uncreato Himself, created all things by his word, we are manifestly wronged both in word and deed; both in being charged with it, and in being punished for it.” “We are accused (says Arnobius) for introducing profane rites and an impious religion; but tell me, O ye men of reason, how dare ye make so rash a charge? To adore the mighty God, the Sovereign of the whole creation, the Governor of the highest powers, to pray to him with the most obsequious rerê rence; under an afflicted state to lay hold of him with all our powers, to love him, and look up to him; is this a dismal and detestable religion, a religion full of sacrilege and impiety, destroying and defiling all ancient rites ? Is this that bold and prodigious crime for which your gods are so angry with us, and for which you yourselves do so rage against us, confiscating our estates, banishing our persons, burning, teoring, and racking us to death with such exquisite tortures? We Christians are nothing else but the worshippers of the supreme King and Governor of the world, according as we are taught by Christ our master. Search, and you will find nothing else in our religion. This is the sum of the whole affair; this is the end and design of our divino offices ; before Him it is that we are wont to prostrate and bor ourselves, Him we worship with common and conjoined devotions, from Him we beg those things which are just and honest, and such as are not unworthy of hin to hear and grant.” So little reason had the enemies of Christianity to brand it with the note of atheism and irreligion.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

134.—THE LITERATURE OF THE AGE OF ELIZABETH.

HAZLITT. (WILLIAM HAZLITT, one of the most voluminous writers of our times, was born in 1778 ; he died of cholera in 1830. His father was a Unitarian minister, and he was educated for bis father's profession. But he had a determined predilection for the fine arts, and devoted himself for several years to the studies of a painter. There is little doubt that he would have attained considerable excellence in this walk, had his fastidiousness allowed him to have been satisfied with his growing mastery over the difficulties of art. He, however, became a writer, and for a quarter of a century he devoted himself to an unremitting course of literary exertion. His political feelings were strong and almost passionate.' He became therefore an object of unceasing attack, and no man was pursued with more virulence by the party writers who supported the Government of the day. His reputation is now established as a vigorous thinker, and an eloquent critic, who in an age of imitation dared to be original.]

The age of Elizabeth was distinguished, beyond, perhaps, any other in our history, by a number of great men, famous in different ways, and whose names have come down to us with unblemished honours,-statesmen, warriors, divines, scholars, poets, and philosophers : Raleigh, Drake, Coke, Hooker, and higher and more sounding still, and still more frequent in our mouths, Shakespear, Spenser, Sydney, Bacon, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletchermen whom fame has eternised in her long and lasting scroll, and who, by their words and acts, were benefactors of their country, and ornaments of human nature. Their attainments of different kinds bore the same general stamp, and it was sterling: what they did had the mark of their age and country upon it. Perhaps the genius of Great Britain (if I may so speak without offence or flattery) never shone out fuller or brighter, or looked more like itself, than at this period.

For such an extraordinary combination and development of fancy and genlus many causes may be assigned; and we may seek for the chief of them in religion, in politics, in the circumstances of the time, the recent diffusion of letters, in local situation, and in the character of the men who adorned that period, and availed themselves so nobly of the advantages placed within their reach.

I shall here attempt to give a general sketch of these causes, and of the manner in which they operated to mould and stamp the poetry of the country at the period of which I have to treat; independently of incidental and fortuitous causes, for which there is no accounting, but which, after all, have often the greatest share in determining the most important results.

The first cause I shall mention, as contributing to this general effect, was the Reformation, which had just then taken place. This event gave a mighty impulse and increased activity to thought and inquiry, and agitated the inert mass of accumulated prejudices throughout Europe. The effect of the concussion was general ; but the shock was greatest in this country. It toppled down the full-grown intolerable abuses of centuries at a blow; heaved the ground from under the feet of 2ND QUARTER.

1

« AnteriorContinuar »