網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Modern Hymn-Books.

peaking generation the never. Hieron. A for

Puritan South--the quaint and witty Samuel Hieron. A few touching poems have come from the nerer-wearied pen of Baxter. But speaking generally, Puritanism was wonderfully little poetic. From Cartwright to Howe, during six reigns and three generations, Puritanism cultivated every branch of sacred literature except that of verse.

Influenced partly by Watts and Doddridge, but much more by German hymnology, in its Moravian form, the Wesleys gave England first a hymn-book. And Methodism, obliterating and otherwise arranging what traditional power Puritanism had left in South Britain, has, beyond all previous influence of reformers, churchmen, or nonconformists, coloured the religious life of our land. The scores of different “hymnals” (such is the form of expression the Anglican prefers) which, unsanctioned by convocation, unauthorised by bishop or archdeacon, float up and down the Church of England, and give one diversity more to that curious and costly ecclesiastical Mosaic, attest, were there no other proofs, how widely beyond her own bounds of travelling preachers, and class, and love feasts, the influence of Methodism has spread. Over other communions also the Wesleyan hymn-book has cast the shadow of its power. Independents and Baptists have long had also their collection of uninspired songs, and in our own day, slowly penetrated, but at last reached, the Presbyterian Church has adopted a collection of hymns. Even Scotland, most conservative, as least demonstrative, in her religion of all European lands, has in one at least of her three great Presbyterian divisions, received a hymnbook, and it is probably only an affair of time with the other two. America was even earlier than Britain in yielding her churches up to hymnic influence. We trust, however, that the supremacy of the Psalms will never be abandoned. There is a tendency, a strong one in some directions, in the hymn to dwell rather on the believer's joys and comforts than upon his stewardship and his service; and this one-sided and unhealthy influence needs the corrective which the odes of the inspired Psalmist will ever furnish.

We quote some verses from an American sacred poet, of whose name we regret we are ignorant. Does not even its quaintness only enhance its impression ? After stating what he had not heard, the poet goes on thus :

" And yet the music of that choir

Right pleasant was to hear,
Though nothing in the strain I found

To please a critic's ear;
But childhood join'd its ringing tones

To those of faltering age,
And rich and poor, and old and young,

In the blest work engage.

-1532ė. 19 = Sİ's roosted

TO MILIT I bouten
Izet

. Het mest
To use

;
And we thor: 1. be im God

This Dockery sig i gue:
I ceased ETETT DEL

IL TETETEL LTE.

Solveis.
Pcr Chris. Dit be sister.

Was Dosi acarezi ibera.
Its words cíciety Te

Dii the tice Tozier,
Infetter'd tridese of sect.

That modern Christian grace.
* Too soca that ferreat prayer tas c'ea,

The benedictica aste,
And slowly down the sracicus sisles

The congregation pass'd.
Slctis, as cle right turn his back

Con te gates of heaven,
After a taste of angels' food

L'nto his soul was giren.
- Strange though it seem, no single rond

These curious folks did say,
Of politics, of rise in stocks,

Or gossip of the day;
Not only did they shut up shop,

And lock the office door,
They turn'd the key on worldly thought

Till holy time was o'er.
“ The sermon, while a group discussid,

I listened with amaze,
And marvell'd at the words they used,

When speaking in its praise.
They did not call it great or deep,

Ingenious, witty, smart,
Or thank their stars they had a man

After the people's heart;
“ But whisper'd low, with moisten'd eye,

How precious was the word,
How full of hope the promises

Their strengthen’d souls had heard ;
And murmur'd blessings on his head,

Who, labouring by their side,
In all simplicity and truth,

Prcachd Christ the crucified."

Doubtless, among the many mournful memories of the present American contest, there is this bright interlude, that on battle-field and in hospital-ward the wounded and the dying have been cheered by Christian sentiments, embodied in native or in British hymns.

Our own age has witnessed a new development of sacred

[merged small][ocr errors]

song in translation. Not unknown in former literary eras, it has assumed a new and vast importance in this century. The Latin and the German have especially been sources of new strength and harmony for our verse-reading religious public. The “ Dies Iræ," that "crux instantiarum” of translation, has met with a whole host of renderers into English, from Sir Walter Scott downward. But where can such a line as “Quaerens me sedisti lassus,” for instance, ever find a rendering that can equal the effect it has on those who read the original ? These versions bave almost exclusively come from Episcopalian sources. But no mere heritage of the adherents of prelacy are the old bymos. As each creed of the Catholic Church, so cach hymın, whether of Oriental or Western origin, belongs to the whole "household of faith.” Let not Presbyteriaps, or other non-Episcopalians, ever be so uutrue to themselves as to allow that between the end of the Canon and the beginning of the Reformation there are no traditions, and no sympathies for them.

Another feature of the hymnology of our day is the number of sacred songs for special circumstances-missionary, juvenile, and occasional. We give a few verses from Mrs Browning's posthumous volume-a Ragged School Hymn.

* Women, leering through the gas

(Just such bosoms used to nurse you), Men turned wolves by famine---pass!

Those can speak themselves, and curse you.
" But those others-children small,

Spilt like blots upon the city,
Quay, and street, and palace-wall -

Take them up into your pity.
* In the alleys, in the squares,

Begging, lying little rebels ;
In the noisy thoroughfares,

Struggling on with piteous trebles.
“Sickly children, that whine low

To themselves, and not their mothers,
From mere habit; never so,

Hoping help or care from others.
"Can we smooth down the bright hair,

O my sisters, calm, unthrilled in
Our hearts' pulses? Can we bear

The sweet looks of our own children,
" While those others, lean and small,

Scurf and mildew of the city,
Spot our streets, convict us all,

Till we take them into pity ?
“On the dismal London flags,

Through the cruel social juggle,
Put a thought beneath their rags

To ennoble the heart's struggle.
"O my sisters! children small,

Blue-eyed, wailing through the city,
Cur own baher cry in them all,

Let us take them into itx.

Our task is done. Neither to French nor to Dutch hymnology have we had space to allude. We conclude with, in a somewhat different form, repeating what we stated at the commencement of the paper, our regret that the historical element has entered so little into sacred verse. The individual and the contemporary are indispensable; but the accomplished and lapsed is equally needful to give completeness. Christians only do their cause injustice in their almost universal neglect of the story of the ecclesiastical past. Surely the time is not far distant when the history which the Bible has made, the gospel has excavated from humanity for eighteen centuries, shall be a favourite study with a large per-centage of professed theologians, and a not inferior proportion of cultivated church members of either sex. An era, in which works of literary merit so great as those of Dean Milman and Arthur Stanley, and such a popular compendium as that of Islay Burns have appeared, is not one in which repulsive want of interest can be alleged as a reason for the neglect of the theme. Far inferior yet to both Protestant and Romanist Germany as we are in church history, may we not anticipate a not remote epoch when, as the Fatherland has thrown into the shade in that department the country of Natalis Alexander, Fleury, and Dupin, so she may again be eclipsed by Britain here! As preparatory to, or as accompanying of, such a time, we would hail Christian verze doing justice to the sacred past. Let it not continue to be said that Britain wraps herself up in the insular and the modern, forgetful of what is the counterpart of either!

[ocr errors]

Art. III.-The Law of Circularity, or Retrogression an

Essential Element of Progress.

It is a universally acknowledged principle in aesthetical science, that all forms of beauty are composed exclusively of curved lines. The circle is the most complete figure; its proportions are the most perfect and harmonious; and therefore it admits of the utmost variety consistent with unity of effect. The universe has apparently been framed according to this principle. Nature attains her ends, not in a series of straight lines, but in a series of circles; not in the most direct, but in the most roundabout, way. All her objects, organic and inorganic, have a tendency to assume the circular form, and in the attainment of this form consists their highest perfection. The lowly lichen on the wall spreads itself out in a circle ; the mushroom in the

[blocks in formation]

meadow, with its round cap and stem, grows in fairy rings ; the moss-tuft on the tree-the clump of fern in the shady bankthe plot of wildflowers in the wood—the trees in the forest, alike in their individual and social state, exhibit this form in endless and graceful diversity. The cell, which is the ultimate germ of all life, is round, and every increase which it makes by growth or reproduction, preserves the same shape. The leaf, with all its varied modifications in the different parts of the plant—the stem, the flower, the fruit, the seed—are all more or less circular. So also are the different parts and organs. of animals, from the simple primary cell of the animalcule, barely visible under the microscope, up through increasingly complex structures, to the highly organised and wonderfully formed head of man—the apex of creation ; and though dead, inert minerals may seem to offer an exception to this law, crystallizing, or, in other words, attaining the highest perfection of which they are capable, not in circles but in straight lines, yet, when exposed to the influence of natural agencies, they speedily assume the circular form. Angular masses of rock from the quarry, when disintegrated by the weather, or rolled about in water, become smooth and rounded; the granite and the diamond become plastic under the silent touch of the sunbeam and the breeze, and are moulded into curves and spheres. The various forces of nature, and the properties of the matter upon which they act, are so arranged and balanced, that they invariably bring out curve lines in the surface of the earth. The winds and the waters produce undulating surfaces wherever they operate. The sea and the lake flow in curving wares and ripples to the shore; the rivers and streams meander in silvery links through the landscape ; the clouds float in evervarying curves of magical loveliness along the sky; the very winds—emblems although they are of fickleness and changeobey fixed laws, and blow over the earth in cyclones and rotatory currents. In short, look where we may over the earth, we see its surface and its objects curving in every possible direction : from the rounded form of the highest mountain peak that towers to heaven, to the little pebble at the bottom of the stream over which the dimpled waters eddy and ripple in ceaseless music,- from the snow-drift that hangs in sweeping festoons far up the Alps, or the cloud that lies cradled near the setting sun, to the dew-drop that clings to the freckled ear of the cowslip, everywhere we discern the operation of the same striking law; and most, if not all, of the beauty of nature, and the pleasing effect which she produces upon our minds, may be attributed to this cause.

And as our eyes behold the effects of this law in moulding the forms of nature, so our minds furnish lis with evidence

« 上一頁繼續 »