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"Ami, without breathing, man at well might bops for life, a' without piety, for peace."
"The house of laughter makes a house of we."
"li it greater pain Qur soul should murmur, or our dust repine.*'
*' Could human courts take vengeance on the mind, Axes might rust, and racks and gibbets fall. Guard, then, thy mind, and leave the rest to fate.
"Though tempest frowns, Though nature shakes, how soft to loan on Heaven! To lean on Him on whom Archangels lean 1 With inward eyes, and silent as the grave. They stand reflecting every beam of thought, Till their hearts kindle with divine delight; For all their thoughts, like angels, seen of old In Israel's dream, come from and go to Heaven.
"Patience and resignation are the pillars Of human peace on earth."
"Some joys the future overcast, and some
Throw all their beams that way, and gild the tomb."
Ah! dear Thomas Campbell I Thou hast dealt out scant and scrimp praise to the Bard of Night—but it was of such lines as these that thou said'st with thy native felicity, " ho has individual passages which Philosophy might make her texts, and experience select for her mottos."
Gloomy indeed 1 Is not the Poem called " The Complaint?'' If" Night Thoughts" are not gloomy — then nothing is gloomy on this side of the grave. There is a Poem, you know, called " The Grave," and a noble
one "Gloomy it stood as Night."
We have been familiarwith Young'* Night Thoughts from boyhood—and half a century ago the volume was to be seen lying—witlt a few others of kindred spirit—beside the Holiest—in many a cottage in the loneliest places in Scotland. The dwellers there were
grave not gloomy—but they loved
to look into deep waters.which, though clear, are black because of their depth and their overshadowings—yet show the stars. "Silence ami Darkness! solemn sisters)
twins From ancient Night, who nurse the tender
thought, To reason, and on reason build resolve, That column of true majesty in man, Assist me!"
To sing a cheerful song—a merry roundelay? No—such a song as may help to save his soul alive—the souls
of some many—of his brethren—and
jf th© Powers he invokes do hear—
i "I will thank you in the crave-"
But Silence and Darkness are but tha angels of God. And the Poet, inspired by them, ventures another invocation—
"But whatare ye ?—Thou who didst put
to flight Primeval silence, when the morning star, Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball 1 O Thou ! whose word from solid darkness
struck That spark the sun, strike wisdom from
my soul, My soul which flies to Thee I"
Assuredly the opening strain is magnificent; and what farther, is his prayer?
"Through this opaque of nature and of
soul, This double night, transmit one pitying
ray. To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind, A mind that fain would wander from its
wo. Lead it through varied scenes of life and
death; And from each scene the noblest truths
inspire. Nor less inspire my conduct than my song. Teach my best reason reason; my best
will Teach rectitude, and fix my firm resolve Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear; Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, poured On this devoted head, be poured in vain."
Compare this with the opening of any other Great Poem in our language, and its sublimity will not sink in the comparison.
Perhaps there may be some exaggeration in the sentiment as well as in the imagery, in parts of this noble introduction. But a great poet has dread tuoughts at the dead of night, ruminating on the destinies of the race, and collecting all his powers to sing them, within the shadow of the grave.
"Silence, how dead! and darkness, how profound t
Nor eye, nor listening ear an object finds; Creation sleeps!"
The bell strikes—and " 'tis as if an angel spoke."
"I feel the solemn sound—if heard aright, It is the knell of my departed hours: Where are they? With the huurs before the flood!"
Young, they say, was a disappointed man, and was world-sick because of unsuccessful ambition. Well he might be—for his talents, learning, eloquence, genins, and virtue ought to have elevated him to a conspicuous station in the Cliurch. But has he pictured the world worse than it is ?— Nor is it of the world—in the vulgar sense—that he sings—though with a bitter scorn he sometimes exposes its follies and its mockeries. His poem is "Of man, of nature, and of human life"
as they are by the necessity of their being—and who can blacken beyond the truth the character of sin and guilt "that makes the nature's groan ." We are not among the number of those, who from "golden urns draw light," and then make a display of their borrowed lustre—an audacious trick of many a mean-spirited thief, imagining that the world will admire his head as if it shone like that of Christopher among the Mountains, while children, at first scared by the glimmer in the hedge, soon scorn the illuminated turnip. We steal from no man—
"But like Prometheus draw the fire from Heaven."
But at times we delight to borrow from the rich—that, by scattering the treasure abroad, wo may exalt the fame of its creator and owner, and thereby enlarge the sphere of his empire, and increase the number of his subjects. Who has written on the genins of Young? Johnson—poorly —very very poorly indeed; and Her
bert Croft, the frog, that, with that bull in his eye, puffed himself up till he realized the fable. Thomas Campbell somehow or other missed it—the only miss he ever made—and when one poet goes wrong about another, he is neither to "baud nor to bin'," and flings the stones and gravel from his heels in a style that shows it would be the height of imprudence to attempt to follow. Bulwer alone has written worthily about "one among the highest, but not the most popular of his Country's Poets." And with a crowquill delicately nibbed by Mrs Gentle, two years ago, we copied in our Oberonic calligraphy, on the flyleaf of this our Diamond Edition, this fine and philosophic criticism from "The Student."
"Standing upon the grave—the creations of two worlds are round him, and the grey hairs of the mourner become touched with the halo of the prophet. It is the time and spot he has chosen wherein to teach us, that dignify and consecrate the lesson: it is not the mere human and earthly moral that gathers on his tongue. The conceptiou hallow:, the work, and sustains its own majesty in every change and wandering of the yerse. And there is this greatness
in his theme—dark, terrible, severe
Hope never deserts it 1 It is a deep and gloomy wave, but the stars are glassed upon its bosom. The more sternly he questions the World, the more solemnly he refers its answer to Heaven. Our bane and antidote are both before him; and he only arraigns the things of Time before the tribunal of Eternity. It is this, which, to men whom grief or approaching death cau divest of the love and hankerings of the world, leaves the great monitor his majesty, but deprives him of his gloom. Convinced with him of the vanities of life, it is not an ungracious or unsoothing melancholy which confirms us in our conviction, and points with a steady hand to the divine Something that awaits us beyond j
'The darkness aiding intellectual liKht, And sacred silence whispering tiuths divine, And truths divine converting pain to peace.'
"I know not whether I should say too much of this great poem if 1 should
call it a fit Appendix to the ' Paradise Lost.' It is the Consolation to that Complaint. Imagine the ages to have lolled by since our first parents gave earth to their offspring! who sealed the gift with blood, and bequeathed it to us with toil:—imagine, after all that experience can teach—after the hoarded wisdom and the increasing pomp of countless generations—an old man, one of that exiled and fallen race, standing among the tombs of his ancestors, telling us their whole history, in his appeals to the living heart, and holding out to us, with trembling hands, the only comfort which earth has yet discovered for its cares and sores — the anticipation of Heaven! To me, that picture completes all that Milton began. It sums up the human history, whose first chapter he had chronicled; it preacheth the great issues of the Fall; it shows that the burning light then breathed into the soul, lives there still; it consummates the mysterious record of our mortal sadness and our everlasting hope. But if the conception of the ' Night Thoughts' be great, it is also uniform and sustained. The vast wings of the
inspiration never slacken or grow fatigued. Even the humours and conceits are of a piece with the solemnity of the poem—like the grotesque masks carved on the walls of a cathedral, which defy the strict laws of taste, and almost inexplicably harmonise with the whole. The sorrow, too, of the poet is not egotistical, or weak in its repining. It is the great one sorrow common to all human nature—the deep and wise regret that springs from an intimate knowledge of our being and the scene in which it has been cast. That same knowledge, operating on various minds, produces various results. In Voltaire it sparkled into wit; in Goethe, it deepened into a humour that belongs to the sublime; in Young it generated the same high and profound melancholy as that which excited the inspirations of the Son of Sirach, and the soundest portion of the philosophy of Plato."
Here is a passage that itself justifies even such an eulogy—for where is its superior—we had almost said its equal—either in poetry or philosophy —throughout the whole range of the creation of English genins?
'' How poor, how rich, bow abject, how august,
"'Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof,
Qf subtler essence than the trodden clod;
Active, aerial, towering, unconfined,
Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fall.
Even silent night proclaims my soul immortal:
Even silent night proclaims eternal day.
For human weal, Heaven husbands all events:
puM sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.'
The last paragraph is admirable— but the first is wondrous—and would have entranced Hamlet. "I have of late (but, wherefore, I know not) lost all my mirth, foregqne all custom of exercises : and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave, o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble iri reason 1 how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in eotion, how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust f" The ghost of one, " in form and moving, how express and admirable," was gliding through his imagination —and he knew that what was once "its smooth body," "A most instant tetter barked about Most laiar-like with vile and loathsome crust;"
his mother, whom that ghost, when in the body—
"Would not bcteem the wind of heaven Visit her face too roughly "—
now forgetful of" the buried Majesty of Denmark," and soaking "in the rank sweat of an incestuous bed ;" "the serpent that did sting his father's life now wearing his crown ;" "confusion worse confounded" among all the holiest thoughts and things that had made to him the religion of his being—beneath all that horrible and hideous oppression—and in the revealed knowledge of possibilities of wickedness in nature, otherwise " beyond the reaches of his soul," he thought of heaven and earth, and man—and spoke of them still as glorious and godlike—while there, was quaking in his soul an ineffable trouble never more to be appeased,
stirred up from its unfathomed depths by the voice of the dead disclosing deeds that changed the face of the firmament, and into worse than ." beasts that want discourse of reason," turned the creatures God had formed after his own likeness, " magnanimous to correspond with Heaven."
But not Shakspeare—not Young, ever drew such a picture of Man as the one now emerging from the still deep waters of our memory—by whom painted? One of the Masters in Israel.
"And first, that lie hath withdrawn himself, and left this his temple desolate, we have many sad and plain proofs before us. The stately mines are visible to every eye, that bear in their front (yet extant) this doleful inscription: "Here God once dwelt." Enough appears of the admirable frame and structure of the soul of man, to show the divine presence did sometime reside in it, more than enough of vicious deformity, to proclaim he is now retired and gone. The lamps are extinct, the altar overturn'd. The light and love are now vanisht, which did the one shine with so heavenly brightness, the other burn with so pious fervour. The golden candlestick is displac't, and thrown away as an useless thing, to make room for the throne of tha Prince of Daikness. The sacred incense, which sent rowling up in clouds its rich perfumes, are exchang'd for a poisonous hellish vapour, and here is, instead of a sweet savour, a stench. The comely order of this house is turn d all into confusion. The beauties of holiness into noisom impurities. The house of prayer, to a don of thieves, and that of the worst and most horrid kind, for every lust is a thief, and every theft, sacrilege; continual rapine and rob. bery is committed upon holy things. The noble powers which were design'd and dedicated to divine contemplation and delight, are alienated to the service of the most despicable idols, and employ'd unto vilest intuitions and embraces; to behold and admire lying vanities ; to indulge and cherish lust and wickedness. What, have not the enemies done wickedly in the sanctuary! How have they broken down the carved work thereof, and that too with axes and hammers; the noise whereof was not to bo heard in building, much less in the demolishing this sacred frame. Look upon the fragments of that curious sculpture which once adorn'd the palace of that great king: The reliques of common notions; the lively prints of some undefaced truth; the fair idseas of things; the yet legible precepts' that relate to practice. Behold! with what accuracy the broken pieces shew these to have been engraven by the finger of God, and how they now lie torn, and scatter'd, one in this dark corner, another in that, buried in heaps of dirt and rubbish. There is not now a system, an entire tablo of coherent truths to be found, or a frame of holiness, but some shiver'd parcels. And if any, with great toil and labour, apply themselves to draw out here one piece, and there another, and set them together, they serve rather to show how exquisite the Divine workmanship was in the original composition than for present use, to the excellent purposes for which the whole was first design'd. Some pieces agree, and own one another; but how soon are our enquiries and endeavours nonplust and superseded! How many attempts have been made since that fearful fall and ruin of this fabrick, to compose again the truths of so many several kinds into their distinct orders, and make up frames of science, or useful knowledge; and, after so many ages, nothing is finisht in any one kind. Sometimes truths are misplac'd, and what belongs to one kind is transferred to another, where it will not filly match; sometimes falsehood inserted, which shatters or disturbs the whole frame. And what is with much fruitless pains done by one hand, is dasht in pieces by another; and it is the work of a following age to sweep away the fine-spun cobwebs of a former. And those truths which are of greatest use, though not most out of sight, are least regarded. Their tendency and design are overlookt; or they are so loosen'd and torn off, that
they cannot be wrought in, so as to take hold of the soul, but hover as faint, ineffectual notions, that signify nothing. Its very fundamental powers arc shaken and disjointed, and their order, towards one another, confounded and broken. So that what is judg'd considerable is notconsider'd. What is recommended as eligible and lovely, is not loved and chosen. Yea, the truth which is after godliness, is not so much disbeliev'd, as hated, held in unrighteousness, and shines as too feeble a light in that malignant darkness which comprehends it not. You come amidst all this confusion, as into the ruin'd palace of some great prince, in which you see here the fragments of a noble pillar, there the shatter'd pieces of some curious imagery, and all lying neglected and useless among heaps of dirt. He that invites you to take a view of the soul of man, gives you but such another prospect, and doth but say to yon, behold the desolation, all things rude and wast. So that should there he any pretence to the divine presence, it might be said, If God be here, why is it thus? The faded glory, the darkness, the disorder, the impurity, the decay'd state in all respects of this temple, too plainly show the Great Inhabitant is gone."
From "The Living Temple" of John How I
Sometimes we have fears about our memory — that it is decaying; for, lately many ordinary yet interesting occurrences and events, which we regarded at the time with pain or pleasure, have been slipping away almost into oblivion, and have often alarmed us of a sudden by their return, not to any act of recollection, but of themselves, sometimes wretchedly out of place and season, the mournful obtruding upon the merry, and, worse, the merry upon the mournful—confusion, by no fault of ours, of piteous and of gladsome faces—tears whero smiles were a duty as well as a delight, and smiles where nature demanded and religion hallowed a sacrifice of tears.
Yet we forget no beautiful or glorious passage—in prose or verse—that had been committed to memory, either by the heart or by the soul—and, like another star stealing through the sky to join its constellation—lo 1 another Light of Song.