Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

These clear distinctions of ranks have the further effect of producing in each man a certain pride in his particular Order ; not a hard, but a softened pride, softened by the filial affections and gentle remembrances, of which I have spoken ; a desire, also, of doing well, not only for the sake of his individual character, but for that, too, of the class to which he belongs.

Further, each one is in the way of having a just understanding of the Rights of his Class ; for the line being distinctly marked, it is plain when he himself oversteps it, or when another treads upon it.

Now, selfish as we are, a discernment of our own rights gives us a clearer apprehension of the rights of others. Indeed, our very selfishness puts us in more need of the former, that we may not misjudge the latter; for where we know our own bounds, conscience may keep us within them ; but where they are not at all, or but indistinctly seen, selfishness will be ever disposing us to push beyond our fair limits.

A sense of Security, while within our Order, disposes us to allow to those below or above us, whatever they are entitled to, according to their several places. Hence the ease, the kind courtesy (where rank is not questioned) with which he of the nobler, treats him of the humbler order, and hence, the respectsul return.

My christian friend, you to whom wealth and a cultivated mind have given advantages over that poor, aged, christian woman,—who can do little more than spell out her Bible,-did there not stir in you, while you stood talking with her, a feeling for her humblé condition ?-a protecting benevolence? And as you heard her patient, meek spirit utter its thankfulness for all God's goodness to her, did it not come like gentle and unconscious rebuke from her to you? Did you not reverence her in her lowly, earthly condition ? Did you not reverence her the more for it? Did you not go away more humble, more revering, than you would have gone from one ranking with yourself? And do you not believe that she took more heart-comfort in pouring out her soul to you, than she could have taken in so doing to one in the same condition of life with herself? Did not the earthly relation of rank which she bore to you, run on in grateful sympathy with that humility of soul in her which came from and related back to an infinitely high Power? Were you not both the better for the difference in your conditions ? I know how you will apswer me. And I know, also, what reply you would make, should I question you respecting any honourable

[ocr errors]

and respectable quality in a fellow-creature standing in a like difference of rank to yourself.

We may be assured, that where these distinctions are regarded from custom and old association, and reverenced as marked out by Law, existing rather as a sentiment in the community, than as an arbitrary rule, (and here old Law is transformed into a sentiment) pride on the one side, and a base feeling on the other, are kept out; for the tone of sentiment which is awakened has in it no touch of these. Thus, strange as it may seem, there is a feeling of respect called out in him of the superior rank, towards the individual respectable in his rank below, as well as in the lower, towards him in the rank above. And this feeling runs along the electric chain which connects the lowest peasant with the solitary monarch upon his throne. And what a blessing it is to him, thus lifted up over his fellows, with none above him but God and the Spirit of Law, to be held in sympathy with men, by reverence for his kind:

-reverence,
That angel of the world, doth make distinction

of place 'twixt high and low. It is easily seen, how this diversity of condition necessarily multiplies and diversifies the relations betwixt men, and how, running through these relations, the various passions and affections are brought into play, and the character, in its varied and more minute and delicate parts, is drawn out, and how opportunity is given for the development of the entire inner man.

Law in this form, is no longer a mere outer political rule, guiding public affairs only, and protecting men against wrong; it blends itself in kindly, congenial working, with the finest feelings in man's individual being, his private relations, his solitary, cherished thoughts, and with his social joys and employments; -it falls into the stream of his religious influences, adding to them, producing congruity, and giving continuity, through this congruity, to the healthful action upon his soul.

That has been called the best form of Law, which leaves man the most to himself, which allows him to forget, save where he openly and purposely violates it, that he is under Law.

If by this were meant, that the less of Law there is in the form of arbitrary, teazing enactments or dark oppression, the better,-- I would not deny it. But where its all-pervading spirit reaches man, intermediately, through his callings in life, and through the established distinctions of society, and thus brings him under its steady, diffusive and multiplied influences, softened by the media through which it passes, becoming emotion to the heart and reverence to the mind, made one with his religion, his household, bis toils, there it imparts a unity, steadiness, and spirit of respect to his character, which must be for his common good, in his private relations, and in those more abroad.

Established Orders lead also to a more social disposition among men, and from the very circumstance, too, of the well defined limits by which each is set off.

Here, all within their particular Order, are so far, not theoretically and in name merely, but in very deed, on an equalityan equality, too, not exacted, but unconsciously and cordially granted. Being of the same Order makes them a brotherhood; and the fact that they stand in a nearer connexion with one another than with those of any other class, gives them to feel nearer and freer with one another individually : there is more unbending, more free-heartedness, more open joy of countenance and voice, more ease in act. They have bonds of union in their peculiar employments, ties in their peculiar amusements, and characteristic thoughts, habits, and feelings of intercommunion, as insignia of their caste, which hold them together as one man.

Now, with all the differences of characteristics, which the humbleness or dignity of the several Orders must create, this same principle of intimacy within each order will prevail from the highest to the lowest of them. And thus we find the great community divided up into many small communities, each happy in itself, and the happier because it is by itself. For it will forever hold true, however cosmopolitan we may grow, that we shall be happier within our own peculiar circle, than with the world at large.

I have already shown that this principle of Orders, does not cut off kindly interchange between individuals of different orders, modified by the mutual relation in which these orders stand. And I would appeal, for confirmation, to those who remember the earlier state of our domestic relations, when the old scripture terms of, ' master and servant' were in use. I do not fear contradiction when I say, that there was infinitely more of mutual good-will then, thạn now; more of trust on the one side, and fidelity on the other; more of protection and kind care, and more of gratitude and affectionate respect in return; and, because each understood well his place, there was actually more of a certain freedom, tempered by gentleness and by deference: from the very fact that the distinction of classes was more marked, the individuals of these two classes, as in other cases, were the closer bound to each other. As a general truth, I verily believe, that with the exception of near blood relationship, and here and there peculiar friendships, the attachment of master and servant was closer and more enduring than that of almost any other connexion in life. The young of this day, under a change of fortune, will hardly live to see the eye of an old faithful servant fill at their fall; nor will any old domestic be longer housed, and warmed by the fireside of his master's child, or be followed by him to his grave: The blessed sun of those good days has gone down, it may be, forever; and it is very cold!

As the characteristics of each well defined class reached to manners, and even to forms of speech, and to dress, they gave an enlivening diversity to the surface of society ; and a perpetual change was going on under the eye of the observer, as, distinguished by the peculiarity of its class, object after object passed by

This kept the mind alive ; the imagination was set in motion, the fancy roused up to play, and the associating principles of our natures put in action. More than this, that equality before spoken of, which every one felt within his own class, leading as I have before said to freedom in the expression of thought and feeling, the character was acted out, and man became a subject of easier observation, and more thorough acquaintance, to his fellow-man : men might be said, in the main, to have known each other better.

But to the profound mind there was a further advantage. Human nature, brought under Law, as exercised upon it through the diversifying influences of multiplied Orders, was developed at one time and among one people, in nearly all possible varieties. All moral and intellectual affinities were applied to it; and numberless combinations took place, and analyses, more subtile than chemistry could work, were the product. Think of these objects as in themselves living and conscious, and acting and reacting upon each other, in ceaseless and ever increasing combinations and changes, and what a study have you for man-rather, let me say, of man. Is there not something here favorable to the bringing out of the various attributes of our being? And is there not a beauty to the mind, in beholding

[ocr errors]

these quick and varied transitions so multiplied as at first to seem mere confusion-all brought about by, and carried through the harmonizing Orders of a great general Law ?

I have sometimes thought it would be interesting to examine the changes in the states of society, in respect to their influences upon the poetic mind, and to point out in what way is to be traced to those changes, the difference between such a mind, in our present, and in our earlier literature-how poets of this day, men of as high powers and of as sympathetic natures as their ancestors, have lost that dramatic spirit and form, and above all, that simple and delightful expression of a common bumanity, which marked our poets of earlier times. This loss is not from the native poverty of the poetic mind of this age, but from the comparative meagreness of society, and a tendency in it to sameness in its forms and manners, and in apparent, if not real character. There is less vividness of spirit; and the poet, feeling the want of sympathy with what is dearest to him, is driven in upon himself, and under a sense of solitariness, seeks a soothing, yet sad fellowship with the fields and woods and water-courses alone.

This will not be thought by many a very serious objection to any form of Law, nor would it be by me, were my views of poetry the same with theirs. But that which to my mind is poetry, is a manifestation of the dearest faculties and affections of man, in their greatest strength, beauty and variety: there is nothing more serious than poetry. Many content themselves with admiring its more delicate branches, its leaves and blossoms, not beeding that this fair array is put forth through roots which run down deep into the soil of our humanity, and are watered by its nether springs. If this be so, that state of society, which is least congenial with poetry, is most unfavorable to human nature itself.

Nor is Law, acting upon us through established Orders, unfavorable to well-regulated liberty. Indeed, as these Orders serve as checks upon each other, that most reckless form of despotism-sudden and passionate Change—is brought to a stand. There are so many interests to be consulted, so many minor rights to be respected, so many different prejudices to be regarded, that change, to make its way at all, must work along slowly and deviously through these, and as some streams take the tinge of the soil, so, change, thus going forward, takes a hue from the very things it is meant to affect, while, by an al

« FöregåendeFortsätt »