« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE BIBLE IN MANY TONGUES.
THE BIOGRAPHY OF BOOKS IN GENERAL, and of the BIBLE IN PARTICULAR.
WHAT an interesting volume might be written on the lives of books-their origin, history, and influence! By whom were these pages written, and under what circumstances? who have read them, and with what results ?-are questions which any great book may prompt us to ask. The answers, could we hear them, would be found to connect the books themselves with the highest temporal, and even with the eternal interests of our race.
Here, for example, is the "tale of Troy divine." In which of the seven cities that contend for the honour of being the birthplace of the poet was it written? Did he sing these lines through the streets of his native place? How did he live, and where is he now? himself a fiction, the shadow of a great name, the representative of a school of poets, whose fame is lost in his? These pages Plato has read. Hence he gathered, perhaps, the conviction that in his model republic, the deities which are here clothed with worse than human
passions should have no place. Hence, perhaps, his doctrine of the final absorption of all souls in one great Spirit gathered strength; for the souls of the heroes who were slain go, we are here told, to the shades below, while the heroes themselves lie bleaching on the shore. This book Alexander studied and admired while meditating fiercer struggles and wider conquest. Hence Virgil borrowed his measure and history. Milton mastered its mythology and rhythm while preparing his "Paradise Lost." Pope has rivalled the music of its numbers in a translation that has all the merit and (what in a translation must be called) the faults of an original work. In studying these pages, Cowper has found relief from the burden of well-nigh intolerable despondency, has caught the simplicity of his author, and has even thanked God that Homer lived. Millions of men, probably, have read or listened to those lines; and many have gathered impressions from them for good or for evil which have never been effaced.
Or let us open a very different volume. These Commentaries of Cæsar were written amidst the turmoil of conflict. These are lines penned, one might suppose, in the fastnesses of ancient Germany, or during the harassing attacks of the fickle Gauls, or in the fogs and privations of our own Britain. The whole was evidently composed by snatches, and is the work of a man of action, who could as easily conquer a country as describe it. But little