Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

The following is an almost literal translation of the commencement of Bion's well-known elegy on Adonis.

“I mourn Adonis, and the Loves lament him,

The fair Adonis lies upon the mountains,
His white thigh wounded with a tusk, with a white tusk ;
And, as he dies, the graceful Venus grieves.
The black blood trickles down his snowy limbs; -
His eyes within their sockets sink ; – the rose
Fades from his lips; - around him dies the kiss,
Which sorrowing Venus ceases not to give.
Dear though to him, when living, her embrace,

Adonis knew not that she kissed him dying." Now, in contrast with the unmingled sadness and rayless gloom of these lines, we might refer to the commencement of Bishop Heber's well known dirge, as indicating the only class of sentiments, which modern taste can tolerate in a modern elegiac poem. “ Thou art gone to the grave! but we will not deplore thee,

Though sorrows and darkness encompass the tomb;
Thy Saviour hath passed through its portal before thee,

And the lamp of his love is thy guide through the gloom.” Thus essential, in a merely poetical point of view, are the sentiments suggested by the Bible to the delineation of the tender affections, and the pathetic scenes of life.

The worth of Scriptural subjects and imagery will still farther appear from the universal appropriation of them by modern poets, whether themselves religiously disposed or not. All the great epics, that have appeared since the Christian era, have been founded on Christian subjects and adorned by Christian imagery. Voltaire’s Henriade is only a partial exception to this remark; for, though his principal machinery consists of certain allegorical abstractions, all the finer portions of the poem owe their power and charm to illustrations drawn from the faith, which he blasphemed. Spenser, Milton, Cowper, and, in our days, Montgomery and Coleridge, are but a few of the names forever great, that owe their poetic inspiration solely to the fountains of Solyma. And those poets, who have essayed various classes of themes, have almost always, on Scriptural subjects, surpassed their wonted selves, winged a loftier flight, won a purer fame. This was preëminently the case with Racine, whose classical tragedies are polished, but icy, while his Esther and Athalie are warm and spiritual, full of the fire of genius, and of themselves constituting the twin pillars of their author's renown. Even licentious and unbelieving bards, like Moore and Byron, when they have drawn their themes from holy writ, have so far transcended their wonted powers of song, that we might almost suppose the harp to have been for the time wrested from them, and swept by an angel's hand.

But it is time for us to bring these remarks to a close. We have spoken of the indebtedness of modern poetry to the Bible. This view must have even more of truth in the future, than in the past. The time is close at hand, when poetry must depend entirely on the genius of Christianity for its imagery, its vitality, and its power. Poetry has always resorted, and must ever resort, to the region of the unexplored, the inaccessible, the dimly seen, for its themes, its materials, and its fountains of inspiration. Such a region has hitherto been open upon earth. When the whole expanse of nature was as a sealed book, the mystery, which brooded over every scene and event of life, furnished ample scope for the play of poetic fancy. And since the earth has been measured, the deep sounded, and the ordinances of the heavens registered, superstition has still kept open a world of marvel and mystery, on which modern poets have hitherto drawn deeply. But clouds are rolling away from the whole earth. Mystery is everywhere listing her veil. The terrestrial empire of the unknown and the wonderful is retreating and vanishing, before the resistless progress of truth and fact. Science and knowledge have started imagination from her every earthly covert, and left her no resting place, but in those boundless and exhaustless prospects of the true, the good, the infinite, the eternal, which the Bible brings to view. Poetry then can live only by being baptized into the Holy Spirit, by becoming the handmaid of devotion ; nor can the time be far distant, when every lyre shall strike seraphic tones, — when every strain shall breathe of heaven and sing the way.

A. P. P.

TO YOUNG.

From the German of Klopstock. By C. T. BROOKS.

Die, prophetic old man, die! for thy branch of palm
Long hath budded and bloomed; long has the tear of joy

Stood in the eyes of immortals,
Waiting, trembling to welcome thee.

Still thou tarriest ? and hast up to the clouds, e'en now,
Thine own monument reared! For the freethinker sits

Pensive, solemnly watching
Those night-hours with thee, and feels

That thy deep-rolling song, bodeful of coming doom,
Sings prophetic to him, - feels all that Wisdom means,

When she speaks of the judgment
And the trump that shall wake the dead.

Die! thou hast taught me to know, e'en the dread name of

Death
Like a jubilee-song sounds in a just man's mouth;

But still be thou my teacher ;
Die, and ever my genius be!

SKETCHES OF HOPKINSIANISM.

It appears from authentic sources of information, that about twenty-five years ago, the celebrated Dr. Emmons, having passed the age of threescore and ten years, and being apprehensive, that the end of his earthly course was draw

VOL. XXXIII. — 3D S. VOL. XV. NO. II.

22

ing near; and anticipating that after he should die there would be an interment and a funeral discourse; and have ing a desire, as it was natural he should have, that justice might be done to his memory, which could be expected only from a friendly hand, suggested a wish to Mr. Williams, then a Congregational minister in Providence, that he would undertake that service. Mr. Williams complied, and forthwith composed the Sermon, carried it to Dr. Eminons, read it, and received the Doctor's remarks. This is said to have been done repeatedly; so that we have here, in fact, what, many years ago, we had in fiction, “a minister preaching his own funeral sermon.”* We undertake not to say that there was any impropriety in all this; and have, in regard to it, only to remark, that we may safely rely on the accuracy and faithfulness of the representations given in the sermon, that Dr. Emmons was (at the least, aimed to be) just such a minister as the sermon describes.

Gathering our materials from this discourse and from other sources, we propose to offer some brief notices of the character and writings of this distinguished man, and of the part taken by a few others, also remarkable men, in the controversies that grew out of the opinions first broached by Dr. Hopkins.

Nathaniel Emmons was born in East Haddam, now Millington, Connecticut, on the first day of May, 1745. He entered Yale College when eighteen years of age, and was graduated four years after, 1767. He closed his college course with blushing honors, having assigned to him the Cliosophic Oration, delivered at the conclusion of the examination of his class for the Baccalaureate. He then employed four years in studies preparatory to the Christian ministry ; two of them with Mr. Strong of Coventry ; the other two with Dr. Smalley of Bertin, Connecticut. It is not said, but the fact seems to be implied, that Emmons was educated under the influences of the Old Light School, and studied divinity two years in that connexion; that he then sustained a change in his religious views, and went over to the New Lights. He made his public profession of religion about this time. It has been represented that he passed through a scene of deep mental depression, caused more, however, by the difficulties which perplexed his reason than by those which thwarted his heart. For a considerable time he was in utter darkness. He could not see the rectitude and beauty of God's moral kingdom. “At length,” said be, "I thought I saw one gleam of light. Keeping my eye fixed upon it, the brightness seemed to increase. And by steadily looking to that light, it has grown brighter and brighter to the present day.” This scrap of Dr. Emmons's religious experience may serve as an index to many chapters and volumes on the same subject. The mistake is often made of regarding the just remonstrances of reason, as being the vile rebellion of the heart. President Edwards states that he remembered the time when, in his youth, the orthodox “ doctrines of grace appeared to him unreasonable and unrighteous." His moral nature was then unprejudiced. Its dictates were impartial and just. But he was taught to consider them as the murmurs of the carnal mind; that the pride of human reasoning must be put down ; that it is the office of humility to be still and submissive. But where is the propriety of silencing the voice of pure reason, and misnaming it the rebellion of pride? Do not the Scriptures often appeal to the reason of mankind ? And is that real and enlightened humility, which gives up the testimony of one's own heart, and bows to the dogma of a reigning creed? It is when the heart bends before the throne of duty and of truth that there is humility ; the rest is but selfdeception.

* The Official Character of the Rev. Nathaniel Emmons, D. D. Taught and shown in a Sermon on his Life and Death. By Rev. Thomas Williams, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Mr. Emmons now took his stand with the New Lights. “He was,” says the author of the Funeral Sermon, " the last and the youngest of the old school, the first and the oldest of the new; the wisest and the best of them both.” We stop not to inquire about the propriety and truth of this representation. Undoubtedly Emmons was considered a valuable acquisition. He now placed himself under the tuition of Dr. Smalley, of whom Mr. Marsh in his Ecclesiastical History says, he was “a man of astonishing logical powers, and contributed more than any one of his age to the progress of theological science.” The New Lights had now gained the ascendency in the ecclesiastical establishment of Connecticut. The printed works of Edwards, Bellamy, Hopkins, West, and Smalley had done much to lop off the excrescences of their divinity, which had worked so ill in the great revival of 1740,- and to give it shape, consistency, and strength. It was now wrought

« FöregåendeFortsätt »