« 上一頁繼續 »
great praise, Hall, in my opinion, manifests a decided superiority over Bossuet. It is in the power of generalization, of connecting expansive and noble sentiments with particular ideas and facts. On no occasion can this faculty be more usefully and impressively displayed, than in the composition of such discourses. The death of one individual seems a matter of comparative insignificance to those who see many daily falling around them. But it is when the preacher carries our minds from the individual instance to the universal law, when he points to the universal necessity of a preparation for eternity, and the general neglect of that preparation that our minds are impressed with the solemn importance of the scene at which we are present. In pointing out the mysterious contradictions of the human mind on this solemn subject, Robert Hall displays a clearness, originality and mighty grasp of intellect, and a chaste, yet sublime eloquence, which none has ever surpassed. Bossuet indeed does not want eloquent and solemn reflections suggested by the melancholy event which had occurred. But those reflections have the air of being brought forward more for rhetorical display than for their own sake. Hall clothes the vast conceptions of his great mind in diction, which no less a man than Dugald Stewart has pronounced "the perfection of the English language." But there is no effort at mere effect; his heart, as well as his head and imagination, seems to be interested in the solemn truths which he is uttering, and pressing home upon his auditory.
Bossuet's imagination was capable of the highest flights; his understanding grasped the mightiest ideas; his diction was magnificent, worthy of the second Augustan age in which he lived. But he lias the faults of all ages like the Augustan. His eagle pinions were trammelled by the necessity of pleasing men; the pure emanations of his genius were corrupted by the foul atmosphere which he breathed. Hall's powers were cramped by no such necessity, arising either from his own situation, or the habits of the age in which he lived. Accordingly we find combined with the elegance of an accomplished scholar and the eloquence of a real orator, the earnestness of a preacher who felt his responsibility, not to the Grand Monarque, but to the King of Kings. While we have endeavored to show why Hall devoted so much less of bis discourse to mere praise, we maintain that the passages in which he speaks of the Princess Charlotte, prove him equal, if not superior in the department of eulogy. According to universal admission, there was no occasion in his subject to cover vices with that varnish which genius so often spreads over them. She who was so warmly praised by Bossuet from the sacred desk, was one who but a short time before had been used by Lewis to make the licentious passions of her own brother, Charles II, the instrument of his disgrace. By giving him a
French mistress, she had aided in inducing him lo make a treaty disgraceful to himself and dangerous to his country, a treaty by which the King of England became the pensioner of France. There wis nothing like this in Charlotte to palliate or conceal. Hall spoke the sentiment of the English nation. concerning its lamented favorite, and in langoage which few, if any other Englishmen could hate spoken them. Bossuet has certainly elevated his subject by his eloquence, but he has, at the same time, lowered himself. Few men occupying his position would have shown more independent? But the palm must certainly be given to the man of equal genius, whose independence was ontrimmelled.
Having pointed out what seem tome the advantages of the Englishman, I will, by a selection and comparison of passages, enable the reader to jndge how far those advantages have been availing.
If we look for evidences of an adulatory spirit, we shall find them thickly scattered in Bossnet.
Let us see what he says of the Dutchess' hirth.
"Every thing, which not only birth and fortane, but qualities of mind greater than either can cmtribute towards the elevation of a Princess, is foond united and then annihilated in ours. In whaterer direction I follow the traces of her illustrious origin, I discover nothing but kings, and am erery where dazzled by the brilliancy of the most angost crowns. I see the house of France, beyond comparison the greatest in the universe, and to whicn the most powerful houses can yield without envy, since they are contented to derive their glory from that source: I see the kings of Scotland, the hins* of England, who have reigned for so many ages over one of the most warlike nations of the antverse, still more by their courage than by the anthority of their sceptre. But this Princess, bora upon the throne, had a mind and heart higher tban her birth."
Is this the language of a preacher intending to impress us with the instability of human affairs, or of a courtier eager to flatter the ancestral pride of the royal family, in whose presence he was speaking.
Again he thus speaks of Henrietta's visit to England, one of the principal objects of which was, as has been mentioned, to seduce her brother Charles into a betrayal of her native country and his owa kingdom, by becoming the pensioned viceroy of France. The means which she employed were worthy of the end. Knowing the licentious spirit of Charles, by the direction of Louis, equally licentious, but spoken of in terms approaching idolatry by Bossuet, she takes in her train a beautiful lady, whose charms she knew would fascinate the fcaglish monarch. The base king caught al the bar1, created this French mistress Duchess of Portsmouth, installed her as his favorite for life, is e accepted the dishonorable conditions which were offered him. Yet we find Bossuet, doubtless, wit" the full knowledge of all these facts, as indeed be pretty clearly intimates, speaking thus of that journey.
"Think not that I intend to speak of the voyage to England in the style of one who would rashly pry into Stale secrets, or to imitate those speculative politicians who arrange the counsels of kings according to their own ideas, and compose the ann .!s of their age without any real information on the subject. I will not speak of this glorious voyage except to say that during her slay, she was admired more than ever. They never spoke, but wiili transport of the kindness of this Princess, which spite of the division too common in courts, at once gained her all hearts. They were never satisfied with praising her incredible dexterity in managing the most delicate affairs, in removing that concealed distrust which often holds them in suspense, and in terminating all differences in a manner which conciliated the most opposite interest. But who can think without tears of those marks of esteem and tenderness given to her by her brother? This great king, more sensible to the claims of merit than even those of blood, was never weary of admiring the excellent qualities of Madam."
This of a king whose reign has been thus no less truly than eloquently described by Macaulay.
''Then came those days never to be recalled without ablush—the days of servitude without loyalty, and sensuality without love, of dwarfish talents and gigantic vicej, the paradise of cold hearts and narrow minds, the golden age of the coward, the bigot, and the slave. The king cringed to his rival, that he might trample on his people, sunk into a viceroy of France, and pocketed with complacent infamy her degrading insult, and her still more degrading gold. The caresses of harlots, and the jests of buffoons, regulated the measures of a government, which had just ability enough to deceive, and just religion enough to persecute. The principles of liberty were the scoff of every grinning courtier, and the Anathema Maranatha of every fawning dean. In every high place, worship was paid to Charles and James—Belial and Moloch: and England propitiated those obscene and cruel idols with the blood of her best and bravest children. Crime succeeded to crime and disgrace to disgrace, till the race, accursed of God and man, was a second time driven forth, to wander on the face of the earth, and to be a by-word and shaking of the head to the nations."
If we turn now to a corresponding passage of Hall, we shall see nothing but such praise of his country, as became every patriot, a just tribute to the merit of a Princess universally respected, as well as admired, and sympathy, not flattery for her father, George the Fourth, who was too much like Charles the Second, to be praised by the upright and independent Englishman.
"It is no imputation on the Princess to suppose that in her early dawn, with the " dew of her youth" so fresh upon her, she anticipated a long series of years, and expected to be led through successive scenes of enchantment, rising above each other in fascination and beauty. It is natural to suppose
that she identified herself with this great nation which she was born to govern; and that while she contemplated its preeminent lustre in arts and arms, its arms encircling the globe, its colonies diffused through both hemispheres, and the beneficial effect of its institutions extending to the whole earth ; she considered them as so many component parts of her grandeur. Her heart, we may well conceive, would often be ruffled with emotions of trembling ecstasy, when she reflected that it was her province to live entirely for others, to compose the felicity of a great people, to move in a sphere which would afford scope for the exercise of philanthropy the most enlarged, of wisdom the most enlightened ; and that while others are doomed to pass through the world in obscurity, she was to supply the materials of history, and to impart that impulse to society, which was to decide the destiny of future generations. Fired with the ambition of equalling or even surpassing the most distinguished of her predecessors, she probably did not despair of reviving the remembrance of the brightest parts of their story, and of once more attaching the epoch of British glory to the annals of a female reign. It is needless to add that the nation went with her and even outstripped her in these delightful anticipations. We fondly hoped, that a life so inestimable would be protracted to a distant period, and that after diffusing the blessings of a just and enlightened administration, and being surrounded by a numerous progeny, she would gradually, in a good old age, sink under the horizon, amidst the embraces of her family, and the benedictions of her country. But alas! these delightful visions have fled, and what do we behold in their room, but the funeral pall and shroud, a palace in mourning, a nation in tears, and the shadow of death, settled over both like a cloud! O the unspeakable vanity of human hopes! the incurable blindness of man to futurity! ever doomed to grasp at shadows, to seize with avidity what turns to dust and ashes in his hand,' to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.'
"How must the heart of the royal parent bo torn with anguish on this occasion; deprived of a daughter, who combined every quality suited to engage his affection, and elevate his hopes; an only child, the heir of his throne; and doomed apparently to behold the sceptre pass from his posterity into other hands; his sorrow must be such as words are inadequate to portray."
Here is sympathy such as the worst may claim, but not a word about the greatness of the Prince Regent, or his peculiar sensibility to merit.
In another passage he speaks of the reigning monarch in another strain.
"Whilst we were engaged in the fearful struggle which has been at length so successfully terminated, it pleased the great ruler of nations to visit our aged, beloved and revered monarch, with one of the most dreadful calamities incident to human nature; the pressure of which still continues, we fear, with unabated severity. While we are so deeply moved at the awful spectacle of majesty laboring under a permanent and hopeless eclipse, we are consoled with the reflection that he walked in the light, while he possessed the light; that as long as the exercise of reason was continued, he communed with eternal truth; and that from the shades
which now envelope him, he will, at no distant period, emerge into the brightness of celestial vision."
Contrast this respectful and tender language, which so well became a Christian minister, with that of Bossuet concerning Louis, who, in spite of his showy qualities, deserved to be branded as a debauchee and tyrant, and soon afterwards showed his judgment by revoking the edict by which his wise ancestor, Henry, extended toleration to his Protestant subjects, and banished 500,000 of her best citizens from the soil of France. Of him Bossuet says:
"But why enlarge on a matter, (he had been speaking of the talents of the Duchess of Orleans,) in regard to which I can express every thing in one word. The king, whose judgment is always a sure rule, esteemed the capacity of this Princess, and by his esteem above all our eulogies has put it."
Let us now examine some passages in both, which are similar in subject and conception, but in which we can find no evidence of servile imitation in the modern speaker.
Bossuet thus describes the death of Henrietta:
"O disastrous, O dreadful night, in which was heard like a clap of thunder the astounding intelligence: Madam is dying, Madam is dead! Which of us did not feel struck by this blow, as if some tragic accident had desolated his own family 1 At the first rumor of so unexpected a misfortune crowds hasten from all directions to St. Cloud: they find every thing alarmed except the heart of this Princess: every where are heard cries: every where are seen grief, despair and the image of death. The king, the queen, Monsieur, the whole court, all the people, all are overwhelmed, all are in despair: and it seems to me that I see the accomplishment of that expression of the prophet—' The king shall mourn, and the Prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled.'"
The corresponding passage in Hall is certainly like this, but in my opinion, far superior.
"How different the example of mortality presented on the present occasion! Without the slightest warning, without the opportunity of a moment's immediate preparation, in the midst of the deepest tranquillity, at midnight, a voice was heard in the palace, not of singing men and women, not of revelry and mirth, but the cry, 'behold the bridegroom cometh.' The mother, in the bloom of youth, spared just long enough to hear the tidings of her infant's death, almost immediately, as if summoned by his spirit, follows him into eternity. 'It is a night much to be remembered.' Who foretold this event, who conjectured it, who detected at a distance the faintest presage of its approach, which, when it arrived, mocked the efforts of human skill, as much by their incapacity to prevent, as their inability to foresee it 1 Unmoved by the tears of conjugal affection, unawed by the presence of grandeur, and the prerogatives of power, inexorable death hastened to execute his stern commission, leaving nothing to royalty itself but to retire and weep. Who can fail to discern on this awful oc
casion, the hand of him who bringeth princes to nothing, who maketh the judges of the earth is vanity; who says, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown; yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth; and he shall blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble."
On political topics. Bossuet certainly displays a comprehensive grasp of intellect, and a lofty power of description marred only by his spirit of adulation; but the following passage shows that Hall can speak on this subject in a strain as lofty as his predecessor.
"Preserved amidst the wreck of nations, and the hurricane of revolution, which swept for tweniv years over the face of Europe, with ruin and desolation in its train, we have not only been permitted to retain our soil unviolated, and our independence unimpaired ; but have come forth from a contest of unparalleled difficulty and extent, with a more splendid reputation, and in a more commanding attitude, than we possessed at any former period. Our successes, both by sea and land, have been so brilliant and decisive, that it is not easy to determine whether we have acquired most glory as a military or maritime power; while our achievements on both elements have been such as to distance all competition."
Let us now see what spiritual improvement each makes of the occasion on which he is speaking.
This, from Bossuet, is undoubtedly eloquence of the highest order.
"But do I tell the truth? is man whom God created in his own image nothing but a shadow' is that which Jesus Christ came from Heaven io earth to seek, which he thought he could purchase with his own blood without abasement, a mere nothing 1 Let us confess our error; wilhoot doobf this sad spectacle of human vanity deceived n-*; and the sudden frustration of public hope by the death of this Princess, carried us too far. Man must not be permitted to despise himself entirely, for fear that believing with the impious, that our life is nothing but a game of chance, he should, unregulated and unrestrained, yield to the impulse of his blind desires. It is for this reason that the preacher, after having commenced his divine work by the words which I have read, after having filled all its pages with contempt for human affairs, chooses at last to show man something more solid, and concludes his whole discourse by saying to him,—
"'Fear God and keep his commandments: f* this is the whole duty of man.
'•' For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it he gowi or whether it be evil.'
"Thus every thing is vain in man, if vreregaru that which he gives to the world; but on the contrary every thing is important, if we consider *hat he gives to God. Again every thing is vain in man, if we regard the course of his mortal Mt. but every thing is precious, every thing is important, if we contemplate the goal to which he w tending, the account which he must render. W us then, in sight of this altar, and this tomb, mutate on the first and the last words of the prop""' the former of which show the nothingness of man, arid [he latter establish his greatness."
In the following passage of Hall we find the same train of ideas, but with the peculiarity of true genius, assimilated and made his own.
"The vanity which adheres to the world in every form, when its pleasures and occupations are regarded as ultimate objects, is at once corrected when they are viewed in connection with a boundless eternity; and whatever may be their intrinsic value, they rise into dignity and importance when considered as the seed of a future harvest, as the path which, however obscure, leads to honor and immortality, as the province of labor allotted us, in order to 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling.' Nothing is little which is related to such a system; nothing vain or frivolous which has the remotest influence on such prospects. Considered as a state of probation, our present condilion loses all its inherent meanness; it derives a moral grandeur even from the shortness of its duration, when viewed as a contest for an immortal crown, in which the candidates are exhibited on a theatre, a spectacle to beings of the highest order, who conscious of the tremendous importance of the issue, of the magnitude of the interest at stake, survey the combatants from on high, with benevolent and trembling solicitude."
Again we have this passage of most surpassing
"The nation has certainly not been wanting in the proper expression of its poignant regret at the sudden removal of this lamented Princess, nor of their sympathy with the royal family deprived by this visitation of its brightest ornament. Sorrow is painted in every countenance, the pursuits of business and of pleasure have been suspended, and the kingdom is covered with the signals of distress. But what, my brethren, if it be lawful to indulge such a thought, what would be the funeral obsequies of a lost soul? Where shall we find the tears fit to be wept at such a spectacle; or could we realize the calamity, in all its extent, what tokens of commiseration and concern would be deemed equal to the occasion? Would it suffice for the sun to veil its light, and the moon her brightness; to cover the ocean with sackcloth; or were the whole fabric of nature to become animated and focal, would it be possible for her to utter a groan too deep, or a cry too piercing, to express the magnitude and extent of such a catastrophe."
There is another portion of Hall's discourse, in which he states and explains the great enigma, that man, so provident in all things else, is often so exceedingly improvident in regard to his immortal interests.
But I forbear and will only give the concluding paragraph of each discourse.
Bossuet ends his discourse thus:
"Begin to day to despise the favors of the world; and every time that you are in these august places, in these proud palaces to which Madam gave a brilliancy which your eyes still look for, every time that looking at this great place which she filled so well, you feel that she is wanting, reflect that the
glory which you admired formed her peril in this life, and that in the other she has become the subject of a rigorous examination, in which nothing can cheer her but that sincere resignation which she felt to the orders of God, and the holy humiliations of penitence."*
"We presume there are none who can survey this signal interposition of Providence with indifference, or refrain from ' laying it to heart.' No, illustrious Princess, it will be long ere the name of Charlotte Augusta is mentioned by Britons without tears ; remote posterity also, which shall peruse thy melancholy story, will 'lay it to heart,' and will be tempted to ask, why no milder expedient could suffice to correct our levity and make us mindful of our latter end; while they look back with tender pity on the amiable victim, who seems to have been destined by the inscrutable wisdom of Providence to warn and edify that people by her death, which she was not permitted, to the extent of her ambition, to benefit by her life.
"Should her lamented and untimely end be the means of giving that impulse to the public mind, which shall turn us to righteousness, the benefit she will have conferred upon her country in both worlds, will more than equal the glories of the most extended and prosperous reign."
I have trespassed too long on your patience already, and I fear have given but a poor idea of Bossuet, for who can translate eloquence? But I shall be satisfied if I shall succeed in turning the attention of your readers to compositions which contain so much to gratify the taste, to enlighten the understanding, and improve the heart.
G. E. D.
* 1 am not sure that penitence, the original word, should not be translated penance according to the Roman Catholic notion.
LAYS OF COURAGE.
BV THE STRANGER.
STARS OF GLORY.
Stars that have gone out in glory,
Spirits of the olden age,
Of the poet and the sage.
Demonstrations unto man,
To the issues of a span? How vast deeds, the heart achieving,
In the space of three-score years, Pleiad-like, may pass, receiving
Place above terrestrial spheres 1 Place, from whence celestial beaming
Breaks upon these lower orbs,
Which, as in the hours of dreaming,
The sad soul of man absorbs;
Is a benison of love,
Falling dew-like from above.
Smiles beneath the vernal shower,
Hails the spirit light of power. As a beacon, guiding havenward, Warning from a rocky coast; So above us ever heavenward,
Point the glory crowned host. Is thy path a path of sorrow 1
Dash not down life's crimson cup; Strength from stars of glory borrow,—
Though 'twere wormwood, drink it up. They full oft, with hearts grief-broken,
Wept o'er ills they dared defy, Till the word of life was spoken,
Ere they joined the lights on high. Art despised by the scorning
Sons of arrogance and pride % Stars the brightest, heaven adorning,
Thus have lived, thus too have died. Feel ye oft a loathing springing For the bonds of fleshy birth? Stars above, in glory singing,
Whisper—" Perish they with earth." Art thou friendless and a stranger!
He to whom all others bend,
Few to bless, none to defend.
On his couch a look of love;
Brought glad tidings from above. So there are above us ever
Purer friends than earth can give; Change they not, desert they never,
Much forbear, still more forgive. Stars that shine to cheer and guide us,
They have done what we may do; And no earthly ills betide us,
That they have not tasted too. Courage then;—for him that faileth,
Better had he ne'er been born!
Mid her robed and crowned Kings.
THE BACHELOR. A TALE.
It was in the month of March, near the close of a wild, stormy day, during the greater part of which a cold rain had fallen, mingled with sleet, and blown about in every direction by a keen, nipping wind. The sun went down, " the bright track of his fiery car" obscured by a heavy pile of dull, sullen clouds, which hung in a lowering mass over one of our principal cities, in which are placed the opening scenes of this desultory tale. The gaslights shone upon streaming streets, gutters flaring with water and half-melted ice, and upon the faces of the drenched and shivering passengers, who were hurrying over the pavements.
At this inclement hour, Mr. Paul Lefevre, i thriving practitioner of the law, sat cozily before the blazing fire in the snug dining-room of his private residence in street.
Mr. Lefevre was a prosperous gentleman,in the jocund prime of his days, and he could well afford to collect around him all the means and appliances of comfort, and nothing prevented him from lasline the pleasures of life with as keen a relish as most mortals possess.
Mr. Lefevre, then, sat in his cushioned chair, wrapped in a dressing-gown embroidered with gold and silver figures, in a style rather too gorgeous for correct taste, with a pair of worked slippers on his feet, and a cigar in his mouth. A decanter of wine stood at a convenient distance on his right hand; several letters, newspapers, olive dishes, kz., littered the table; while the cheery fire threw a bright light on the splendid picture-frames and the polished furniture, and lit up the room with a warm, rosy glow. Paul Lefevre basked languidly in the warm light, gently puffing the Havanna cigar, which mingled its fragrant odor with the rich aroma of the wine. Nothing could be in more comfortable contrast to the wet, dreary scene without, than the warmth and light of this pleasant apartment. Its occupant, as we have stated, was engaged very successfully in the practice of the law; and most conveniently did its profits swell the steady income arising from the rents of several houses, which had been devised to him br a" aged relation of seventy years complete. That he was a bachelor the reader has inferred, from the easy and comfortable manner in which he was situated. That he continued to be a bachelor hid been a source of surprise to many of his male friends, who were well acquainted with his fcr»ent admiration of beauty, and it had been no less s«