Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

In the second stanza, the poet as. For the Literary Magazine. serts, that all human knowledge is limited to this :

HAS CLASSICAL LEARNING AN

ANTI-CHRISTIAN TENDENCY? that thou art God, And that myself am blind.

BEFORE the reformation of religion, the Romish clergy, with the

pope at their head, were railed at The next stanza contradicts this with unwearied animosity : their modest avowal of ignorance, and af- avarice, pride, sensuality, and hy. firms thus :

pocrisy were blazoned in all possi

ble shapes. The vices of the priest* Yet gave me, in this dark estate, hood became a bye-word; the sting

To see the good from ill; of every jest, the burthen of every And, binding nature fast in fate, ballad, the theme of every declama. Left free the human will. tion : yet it excited no alarm, and

provoked no punishment. It preThat part of mankind, who deny vailed, indeed, with more acrimony the power of all men to distinguish,

in the metropolis of the reigning rein this absolute way, evil from goodligion than any where else. and who maintain the moral and

These invectives, though less vioreligious truth of the necessity of human actions, will not be much in a very different light after the edified by this passage.

reformation. That which had preThe tenor of the two following

viously been uttered with impunity, stanzas is certainly irreconcileable and listened to with smiles, was with the spirit and obligations of thenceforth discountenanced as sa. revealed religion.

crilege and treason, and pursued with vengeance and rage.

It is curious to observe in what What conscience dictates to be done,

different light the same thing is Or warns me not to do, This teach me, more than hell, to shun,

placed by a difference of circumThat, more than heaven, pursue.

stances.

The present age seems to have

produced a similar event in relation What blessings thy free bounty gives to political distinctions. Mankind Let me not cast away;

might rail as much as they pleased For God is paid when man receives : at clerical establishments, provided T' enjoy is to obey.

they practically acquiesced in their

authority, and did nothing to subIn fine, this ode, or prayer, may vert them. So wits and moralists be considered as the creed of one might make the vices and follies of who lays aside all regard for reli- kings and ministers, the noble and gious distinctions and tenets, and the rich, the topic of unceasing inrejects every standard of duty but vective, with impunity, and awaken the casual suggestions of conscience: in the subject of their satire only that is, the notion of right or wrong smiles and good-humour, as long as which every man acquires from this hostility was confined merely to some source or other. From this invective: but when men began to remark we must except the allusion entertain designs of reducing kings to free will, in which the poet makes and nobles to the level of other morhis good man embrace, with great tals, and of utterly dissolving those confidence, a party in one of the distinctions, by which the wealthy, most abstruse, perplexed, and inde for the most part, hold their wealth, terminable of all theological contro- the case was quite altered : laughversies,

ter gave place to frowns, and exile

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

NAS CLASSICAL LEARNING AN ANTI-CHRISTIAN TENDENCY? 427

and death were denounced, where superstition, whose extirpation could formerly all was lenity and allow- not be more effectually promoted ance.

than by the utter destruction of the No one railed more at kings and priest, the temple, the statue, and lords than Pope. If we consult and the hymn. believe his writings, we should be In process of time, the Roman tempted to imagine, that wisdom or world became entirely christian. virtue, or liberal knowledge, is All former prejudices, habits, and incompatible with rank or royalty. traditions were exterminated in the Ignorance, pride, folly, are, accord. lapse of a dozen centuries. The ing to him, the sole generical dis- links which connected devotional tinctions of the great and the rich: ideas and remembrances with the yet princes and lords were the ancient temple and statue, with the friends of Pope, and, no doubt, re- drama or the hymn of Homer, Solished his jokes, though made at phocles, and Pindar, were utterly their own expence, in no small de- dissolved. Mankind found themgree.

selves able to view, without any The most offensive tenets of the danger of adoring, those objects of present times would express them- primitive superstition. They were selves, in relation to these matters, able to perceive the grace, beauty, in terms hardly more strong than or sublimity which these objects those of this poet. What censure possessed, disconnected with their could they utter more severe than claims to divine worship, with the this?

consideration of the sentiments of

their original builders or inventors. Court virtues bear, like gems, the high Their admiration of these qualities est rate,

led them to display the same zeal Born where heaven's influence scarce can in restoring and preserving those penetrate.

monuments of past ages, which had

already been displayed in their over· The same versatility is strongly throw and devastation. Hence the illustrated in the history of human popes and cardinals of the sixteenth conduct and opinions, respecting the century did all in their power to religious symbols, rites, and tradi- restore what their predecessors, in tions of the Greeks and Romans. the fourth and fifth centuries, had Christianity originally made its way laboured to demolish. The latter among men, in opposition to these were accused of ignorance and barrites and symbols. The world was barism in waging war against the peopled with the worshippers of Ju. statues and relievos of the Capitol piter and Venus. Their temples and Pantheon ; but surely this war and altars were frequented with re. was completely justifiable. It was ligious adoration. The prayers ad- even necessary to the advancement dressed to them were put up with a of the christian religion, though the sincere belief in their divinity, and modern Leos and Clements might, a lively faith in the efficacy of these with equal propriety, ratify a truce prayers. To discontinue and re- with those marble gods, since they nounce these prayers, to overthrow were now regarded, not as objects of these fanes, statues, and altars, was religious veneration, but merely as the natural dictate of the new reli. specimens of human art. gion.

A stranger, with imperfect inforHence the general ruin that in- mation, would be oddly affected by volved the architectural, sculptural, the prevalence of Greek and Roand literary monuments of the an- man ideas in modern times. Should cients. Their poems and narratives he go into our seminaries, he would were merely tributes to the honour find our youth, at the most docile of false and pernicious divinities. and susceptible age, intensely busy Their temples were the resorts of in the study of the names, history,

VOL. III. NO. XXI.

428 HAS CLASSICAL LEARNING AN ANTI-CHRISTIAN TENDENCY?

and attributes of deities long since on the ruins of whose habits, literaexploded. He would find them la- ture, and religion christianity was boriously conning over volumes, built, is deemed, not only ornamenwhich may be considered, in some tal in the citizen, but necessary to sense, as the bibles of paganism. the preacher of truth. In opening our books he would find These may justly be considered perpetual allusions to these anti- as groundless and absurd modes; and quated deities, not in terms hostile they have frequently and deservedly or contemptuous, but exactly in the been condemned: but the reasons same apparent spirit with the Ro- for condemning them have seldom or mans and Athenians. Our poetry never been built upon the supposed abounds in hymns and invocations to danger there is of the student's conthese imaginary gods, which cannot version to the religion of the Athebe distinguished by any thing but nian populace, or of his becoming, on language from those which the this account, lukewarm or hostile to Greeks and Romans were accustom- that of his own country, and his own ed to offer. Our greatest geniuses times. Of all objections to classical have thought themselves worthily learning, this is surely the most employed in translating the ancient groundless and absurd. hymns into modern tongues.

This fashion has seldom excited any alarm as to the stability of the popular faith. No tutor thinks it ne For the Literary Magazine. cessary to apprize his pupil that the stories of Ovid and Virgil are

THE ART OF WAR. false, or to guard his imagination against implicitly crediting their fa- THE art of war has undergone a bles. A sincere convert to pagan. considerable change in the course jsm would be deemed, in the present of the eighteenth century; and the age, quite a prodigy. Some may rapidity of the movements, as well deem such opivions not absolutely as the extensive line on which they inconsistent with sound intellects; are conducted towards its close, but, in general, such belief would be form a striking contrast to the prethought the clearest evidence of cision and regularity which in the madness. Thomas Taylor, an emi. early part of the century distin. nent scholar, now alive, has avowed guished the campaigns of the duke his belief in paganism in the most of Marlborough, The great Fre. positive manner; but the volumi deric brought the old system to its nous publications of this man afford utmost perfection; the Austrians numerous proofs, besides this one, of adopted it, and have been compelled insanity.

to change it by the French, who This kind of education, this early have made as great a revolution in and intimate acquaintance with all their art of war as in their politics. the apparaius of the old Roman religion, has been fashionable during sereral centuries. The most eminent dignitaries of the church, and For the Literary Magazine. some of the most famous devotees, have been celebrated for their know. INFLUENCE OF RELIGION ON ledge of, and attachment to this

- HAPPINESS. mythology. Nay, in almost every European hierarchy, this kind of WHETHER happiness or misery knowledge has been an indispensa. occupies the heaviest scale, in the ble qualification of a teacher of the balance of human experience, is a gospel. To be conversant with the question that will never be univerlistory, literature, and religion of a sally decided. The tribe of benenation that was not christian, and volent philosophers fancy that the

good greatly predominates, and draw - What truth on earth so precious as inferences from the wonder-work

the lie! ing power of habit, not only to equalize the goods of every condition in « My idle reasonings sometimes human life, but almost to annihilate make me a little sceptical, but the the evils. Wealth, they say, is ac- necessities of my heart always give companied with its train of peculiar the cold philosophizings the lie. evils, and poverty by a numerous Who looks for the heart weaned company of benefits, to which po- from earth ; the soul affianced to verty alone gives a claim.

her God; the correspondence fixed Let us listen to the feelings of one with heaven; the pious supplication who received a full measure of the and devout thanksgiving, constant as joys and sorrows of this life; and if the vicissitudes of even and morn; speculation can but little help us to who thinks to meet with these in a right decision, let us bow to the the court, the palace, in the glare of lessons of experience. The poet public life? No: to find them in Burns expresses himself thus, in a their precious importance and diletter to a friend :

vine efficacy, we must search among “ After all that has been said on the obscure recesses of disappointthe other side of the question, man ment, affliction, poverty, and disis by no means a happy creature. tress.” I do not speak of the selected few, Religious people tell us, that, in a favoured by partial heaven ; whose future state, all the disorders of the souls are tuned to gladness, amid present system of things will be rec. riches and honours, and prudence tified, that every suffering will be and wisdom. I speak of the neglect- amply compensated, and man deed many, whose nerves, whose sin- prived of even the power to injure ews, whose days, are sold to the himself, to impair his own felicity. minions of fortune.

By these reasonings it is generally “ If I thought you had never seen intended merely to raise the sum of it, I would transcribe for you a good, to intellectual beings, higher stanza of an old Scottish ballad, call- than the sum of evil ; but the truth ed, "The Life and Age of Man ;' is, that such considerations produce beginning thus :

an immediate effect. They fill the

mind, directly and immediately, ''Twas in the sixteenth hunder year

with joy and hope. The prospect Of God and fifty-three,

of future good annihilates the preFrae Christ was born, that bought us sent evil. The reward is possessed dear,

the moment it is distinctly unveiled As writings testifie.'

to view.

I think I never saw the influence “ I had an old grand-uncle, with of religious promises on present whom my mother lived a while in happiness pourtrayed with more her girlish years; the good old man, touching eloquence, than in the folfor such he was, was long blind ere lowing passages from a genuine let. he died, during which time his ter of a nameless and obscure girl highest enjoyment was to sit down to her friend, which is in my posand cry, while my mother would session : sing the simple old song of " The “Ignorance, I believe, my Julia, Life and Age of Man.

is the mother of some kinds of hap“ It is this way of thinking, it is piness; at least, of quietude. How these melancholy truths, that make can we regret what we have never religion so precious to the poor mi. lost ? and to lose it we must have serable children of men. If it is it; and by having it only can we a mere phantom, existing only in know its value ? I am now, in all the heated imagination of enthusi- external respects, just as if I never asm,

had a sister; but how different

would my feelings be, if, in truth, mind, and ills of body betide him ne they had never been born!

more? “How my mother shrieked over "But I have lost him!' a breathless son who died in child. “ No; while he lived I had lost hood! But suppose the boy had him indeed, for the space between never been born; then, as now, us was so wide that I saw him ne. she would have had but four child- ver, and heard from him but rarely; ren, and she would not have lament- but now has he not come home to ed that they were but four.

me? and do I not hourly commune Pleasure and pain, my Julia, with him ? Am I not sure of his strangely run into and mingle with existence and safety, for my friend each other. Ignorance, I said, is was good? And is he not more prethe mother of content ; but I would sent to my thoughts, and more the not, for all that, be ignorant. Con- guardian of my virtue, and partaker tentment, methinks, is no desirable of my sympathy, than ever? thing. Pleasure, indeed, cannot be But I shall never see him more!' had without the risk, at least, of “Indeed! and whose fault will be accompanying or ensuing pain ; but that? I must die like him. It is this mixture of bitter and sweet is uncertain when ; but then we shall better than the utterly insipid ; bet- meet. And what, then, but my ter than the limpid, tasteless potion own unworthiness, my own misof indifference.

deeds, shall sever us? Nothing but < But why do I call the broken guilt will divide us from each other bones of sympathy pain? Why, in- dead, though virtue itself was unadeed, do I call them broken? Death ble to unite us living. And how severs us not from those we love. invigorating to my fortitude, what They still exist, not in our remem- barrier against temptation is that brance only, but with true exist- belief! ence; and if good, their being is a “No, my Julia, death is no calahappy one. What more should we mity to virtue, to dead or to living wish, and why should life, with all worth. Our wailings for the dead its cares and maladies, be prayed are breathed only by thoughtless or for, either for ourselves or our erring sensibility. Is it not so? I friends?

would not affirm too positively, or “My friend removes to the next too much, I know so little. Yet I village, or he crosses the sca; but can't but think that many of our I am not much unhappy, even at woes are selfish woes. parting, and that sadness is succeed. “ Yet I mourned for my sisters, ed soon by sweet tranquillity. He but rebuked myself while I mournis living, and is prosperous, and for. ed. Such reflections as those comgets me not; and some time I shall forted me; but they would not see him again, and that consoles come at first, nor would they stay me in his absence ; but how blind long, till time had soothed me into is my sagacity!

some composure. Now and then, “ How know I that he lives ! that at thoughtful moments, when taken, he is virtuous and happy! that he if I may say so, unaware, my tears gives me still a place in his remem- gushed anew, and my breast was brance. Is he not a mortal crea- agonized by sobs. ture, and encompassed, therefore, “ Still have I, as I long have had, by the causes of sickness and death; something that may be called sorbeset by temptations, and liable to row; but a sweet, a chastening, new affections, that exclude the old ? a heart-improving sorrow. Most

But intelligence is brought that dearly do I prize it. For the world he is dead, and why should I weep? I would not part with my sorrow. Am I grieved that he has gone, Glad am I that I once had sisters, from perishable, feverish life, to and I have them still; but I would that eternity, where maladies of not have them any where on earth.

« ПредишнаНапред »