Imágenes de páginas

the mockery of an insulting spectator. nexion with the proper subject of our Meditation on the works of external present enquiry. creation, and even on the abstractions 1. It is certain that most systems of our own intellect, has power, when of religious superstition have owed a animated by a moral spirit, to convert great part of their structure to a miss the subjects of our contemplation in. use of this principle. The visible to creatures who return a warm and forms or invisible powers of Nature, significant answer to the affections the multitudinous attributes of the with which they are regarded, and the Divine unity, and even the qualities enquiries with which they are ad- of our own frail and feeble minds, have dressed. Even fancy, taking the been endowed by religious fear or enplace of feeling, can imitate in sport thusiasın with an individual and living those vivid impersonations which ori- existence; nor does it matter much to ginally spring from the fountain of an this question whether, in some of the overflowing heart.

forms of Paganism, we suppose the The successful employment of the worshippers to have converted the vipersonifying faculty in poetical com- sible object itself into a god, or beposition has been always acknowledg. lieved the Godhead to exist in some ated as a source of pleasure and a test of tendant genius presiding specially over genius. Personification is not essen- the object. In either way, we have tial to poetry any more than it is suf- the same propensity displayed for conficient to produce it. But, in its pro- necting lifeless things with a living per place, it is a powerful auxiliary to principle. In the furthest extreme of the poet's other resources; and it is this feeling, combined with a blinded impossible for the true poet to deal barbarism of soul, we meet with that with some of the most poetical feelings form of worship which properly conand situations without being impelled stitutes idolatry, where the image of to seek its aid.

the divinity, though perhaps the work The art of poetry, and consequent- of the worshipper's own hands, is conly of criticism, must in this part of verted into the ultimate object of adoits province be guided by a mixed ration, the divinity himself. consideration of two points : the It would be idle in us to expatiate one, the state of mind which pro- on the operation of the personifying duces or justifies personification; the principle in connexion with misguided other, the character of the objects on religious feeling, or to trace its strange which personification is to be exerted, yet natural inconsistencies, aiming If either of these elements is over- sometimes at as high an intelligence looked or miscalculated, there will as the imagination of man can combe a failure in the result; and the pass, and sinking sometimes to as low same process which would otherwise a depth as his passions can descend to. have thrilled the heart and satisfied The exposition of this important subthe understanding, will appear weak ject has been more than once successor ridiculous from being unseasonably fully attempted, and in particular has attempted or incongruously pursued. been accomplished in a form at once There can be no greater absurdity attractive and satisfactory by the great than a startling personification unsup- philosophical poet of the age ;* and we ported by strong feeling, or a display of only refrain from inserting the noble strong feeling, employed in personify, lines in which it is conveyed, in the ing an unworthy object.

conviction that they must be as famiWe

propose to bestow a pretty full liar to our readers as they deserve to consideration on this curious chapter be. of poetical criticism ; but before pro- It is scarcely necessary to point out ceeding to do so, we think it material the connexion which subsists between to notice two remarkable forms which the personifications of superstition, and the personifying principle has assumed those which poetry employs. The in human history, and which demon- classical and other Pagan mythologies strate the prevalence and permanence have tinged too deeply the current of of its operation, at the same time that. literature to be easily overlooked, and they have a singular and close con- the images supplied from them have

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* Excursion, Book IV,

not only been profusely used, but have less remarkable that other languages, taught and encouraged our poets to though possessing a neuter gender, add analogous fictions of their own should not give it the full scope and creation.

compass that seems philosophically to 2. The other example we would belong to it, but should, with much apadduce, in which the spirit of personi- parent caprice and confusion, promote fication has left a permanent impress many nouns to the masculine or femiof its power on the history of man, is nine class, that seem to have no predifferent both in character and dignity tensions to any sexual or personal from that of mythological superstition, character whatever. It may be obthough not without a strange simila. served, on the other hand, that the rity to it, both in its origin and in its neuter gender seems sometimes, on effects. We allude to the almost uni- very sound views of reason, to have versal prevalence, in the various forms assumed even a higher ground than of human language, of a principle the other distinctions of the same which attributes the qualities of sex to kind, as where in Sanscrit, the deriinanimate objects, by means of a gram- vative deities of Indian mythology are matical distinction of genders. Lan- masculine or feminine; but BRAHMA, guages of the greatest antiquity pre in the sense of the abstract divine essent

us with this remarkable, and ap- sence, or unknown God, is neuter or parently irrational tendency, of which sexless, as a being far elevated above it seems so difficult to get rid, that it has any participation in the bodily qualicharacterised almost the whole even ties of frail humanity. of the most cultivated forms of speech; There can be little doubt that, at and has only been thrown off and certain stages in the progress of literaeliminated from our own tongue by ture, the existence of artificial grammasome peculiar process, of which the tical genders-if that should be called nature and operation are scarcely at artificial which seems congenital with all understood. It is extremely diffi. almost every language-has contributcult to explain, upon any clear grounds, ed to prompt the use and promote the the anomalies of a nomenclature of reception of poétical personifications. inanimate things diversified by gram According

According to a common result, howmatical gender. It is probable that ever, what at first would facilitate a supposed analogy between certain the process, would come ultimatephysical qualities and the attributes of ly to weaken its effect; and there is sex, have partly produced this pheno much justice in the remark so fre. menon ; and that a similarity in the quently made, that the genderless chamere form of words has acted as an racter of the English language, in its important secondary element, in ex- ordinary form, in reference to the names tending the distinction when it was of inanimate objects, gives it a higher once established.

But after allowing prominence and relief when the approfully for these influences, it seems yet priate diction of personification comes undeniable that the personifying prin- to be employed. This poetical figure has ciple, in some shape or other, must less powerin languages where there is no have been the chief or primary agent room forgiving a further elevation to the in the operation. It is probable, that expression, by bestowing on material in many cases the personifications that things those characteristics of sex and led to the attribute of gender, origi- personality, which already belong to nated in the superstitious feelings which them according to the ordinary rule we have already noticed.

of grammatical formation : just as There is a curious diversity in there is nothing sublime in a wide languages as to the extent to which range of table-land, and nothing emthe idea of imaginary gender has been phatic in a book printed wholly in carried. In some of them, such as İtalics. We think that we might make the Romance languages, and we be- this further and analogous remark, lieve the Celtic, Lithuanian, and He that the extinction of superstition gives brew, the neuter gender is entirely a greater effect to images of poetical wanting, and every noun, whether personification than if there still the name of a person or of a thing, is remained a popular, though proba. ranged either under a masculine or bly not a very vivid conviction that under a feminine character. This is the object personified has a real existremarkable enough; but it is scarcely ence. It may require imaginative

genius to invent a mythology, but it “ The heavens declare the glory of requires none to'assent or adhere to God; and the firmament showeth his handyit; and there is a greater feeling of

work. poetical power when we are presented Day unto day uttereth speech, and with impersonations which are not niglit unto night showeth knowledge. coldly adopted as parts of a received

“ There is no speech nor language where

their voice is not heard." creed, but impressed upon us as the warm creations of individual enthu,

Again :siasm.

6. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, Having made these preliminary re

all the earth : make a loud noise, and remarks on collateral matters, to which

joice, and sing praise. we may occasionally wish to revert in

Let the sea roar, and the fulness the course of this discussion, we pro

thereof; the world, and they that dwell ceed, as we proposed, to examine in

therein. some detail the modes in which personi. “ Let the floods clap their hands : let fication may be employed in poetry. the hills be joyful together

We shall endeavour first to illus- " Before the Lord : for he cometh to trate the nature of the feelings which judge the earth.” produce or justify personification.

Once more: We have already noticed the influence of religious emotions in pro- " Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the ducing a superstitious personification Lord from the heavens: praise him in of the objects with which they may the heights. come to be connected. But, indepen

“ Praise ye him, all his angels: praise dently of superstition, and consistently ye him, all his hosts. with the purest piety and the clearest

“ Praise ye him, sun and moon : praise knowledge, devotional sentiments have him, all ye stars of light.

“ Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, a powerful tendency to excite the

personifying faculties.

The true wor

and ye waters that be above the heavens.

" Let them praise the name of the shipper of the Divine essence cannot

Lord; for he commanded, and they were indulge his meditations, or pursue

created. his exercises of praise and prayer, in “ He hath also stablished them for ever presence of those innumerable hosts of

and ever : he hath made a decree which his fellow.creatures, whether animate shall not pass. or inanimate, that attest the power " Praise the Lord from the earth, ye and goodness of their common Crea- dragons, and all deeps: tor, without seeking and seeing, in all " Fire and hail; snow and vapour ; of them alike, a confirmation of his stormy wind fulfilling his word: creed, and a sympathy with his ado. “ Mountains, and all hills ; fruitful trees, ration. At early morn and at the and all cedars ; noon of night, the light or the dark- “ Beasts, and all cattle ; creeping things ness, the joyous revival of the awaken- and flying fowl : ing earth or the solemn vigils of the “ Kings of the earth, and all people ; stars on high, will seem in the ear of princes, and all judges of the earth : piety not less audibly, and often, alas! “ Both young men and maidens; old more faithfully, than the tongues of

men and children: men, to resound the excellences of the “ Let them praise the name of the God that made them, and their own

Lord: for his name alone is excellent ; gratitude for the gracious gifts of ex

his glory is above the earth and heaven." istence and of beauty. Hear the royal Or listen to the morning orisons of singer of Israel, and say if his lofty our first parents, while yet pure, in the imaginations are not reflected, how words of him who of all uninspired ever feebly, by your own hearts ? men was the most inspired.

“ These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,

Almighty! thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thyself how wondrous then,
Unspeakable, who sitt'st above these heavens,
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine,
Speak, ye who best can tell, ye sons of light,
Angels; for ye behold him, and with songs

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And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne rejoicing ; ye in heaven,
On earth join, all ye creatures, to extol
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.
Fairest of stars, last in the train of night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
Sure pledge of day, that crown'st the smiling mora,
With thy bright circlet, praise him in thy sphere,
While day arises, that sweet hour of prime.
Thou Sun, of this great world both eye and soul,
Acknowledge him thy greater ; sound his praise
In thy eternal course, both when thou climb'st,
And when high noon hast gain'd, and when thou fall’st.
Moon, that now meet'st the orient sun, now fly'st
With the fix'd stars, fix'd in their orb that flies;
And ye five other wandering fires, that move
In mystic dance, not without song, resound
His praise who out of darkness call'd up light.
Air, and ye elements, the eldest birth
Of Nature's womb, that in quaternion run
Perpetual circle, multiform; and mix
And nourish all things; let your ceaseless change
Vary to our great Maker still new praise.
Ye mists and exhalations, that now rise
From hill or steaming lake, dusky, or gray,
Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold,
In honour to the World's great Author rise ;
Whether to deck with clouds the uncolour'd sky,
Or wet the thirsty earth with falling showers,
Rising or falling still advance his praise.
His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud ; and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship wave.
Fountains, and ye that warble, as ye flow,
Melodious murmurs, warbling tune his praise.
Join voices, all ye living souls ; ye birds,
That singing up to heaven-gate ascend,
Bear on your wings, and in your notes his praise.
Ye that in waters glide, and ye that walk
The earth, and stately tread or lowly creep,
Witness if I be silent, morn or even,
To hill or valley, fountain, or fresh shade,

Made vocal by my song, and taught his praise." Scarcely less worthy of the theme same noble though beaten track, and are the similar aspirations of a faithful to draw from the same familiar but worshipper and priest of Nature, who, exhaustless fountain. disdained not to follow closely in the

“ Nature attend ! join every living soul,

Beneath the spacious temple of the sky,
In adoration join; and, ardent, raise
One general song! To Him, ye vocal gales,
Breathe soft, whose spirit in your freshness breathes.
Oh, talk of Him in solitary glooms !
Where o'er the rock, the scarcely waving pine
Fills the brown shade with a religious awe.
And ye, whose bolder note is heard afar,
Who shake th' astonish'd world, lift high to heaven
Th' impetuous song, and say from whom you rage.
His praise, ye brooks, attune, ye trembling rills ;
And let me catch it as I muse along.
Ye headlong torrents, rapid and profound ;
Ye softer floods, that lead the humid maze
Along the vale ; and thou, majestic main,
A secret world of wonders in thyself,


Sound his stupendous praise, whose greater voice
Or bids your roar, or bids your roarings fall.
Soft roll your incense, herbs, and fruits, and flowers,
In mingled clouds to Him, whose sun exalts,
Whose breath perfumes you, and whose pencil paints.
Ye forests bend, ye harvests wave, to Him ;
Breathe your still song into the reaper's heart,
As home he goes beneath the joyous moon.
Ye that keep watch in heaven, as earth asleep
Unconscious lies, effuse your mildest beams,
Ye constellations, while your angels strike,
Amid the spangled sky, the silver lyre.
Great source of day! best image here below
Of thy Creator, ever pouring wide,
From world to world, the vital ocean round,
On Nature write with every beam his praise.
The thunder rolls : be hush'd the prostrate world ;

While cloud to cloud returns the solemn hymn.” Nor is it only in acts of general It is not alone in seasons of exultaworship and praise that our inanimate tion that Nature thus affords her symfellow-creatures seem to unite and pathy. Events, too, of Divine judg. sympathize with us. The special in- ment, or of deep guilt and wide-spread terpositions of Divine mercy for the disaster, seem to excite her dread or benefit of mankind, are considered by claim her condolence. The oracles of our excited fancies to fix the admiring sacred truth have recorded the agitaattention of the universe : nor, as tions and apparent agonies of the ma. we fondly deem, were the awe and terial world, at periods of signal sowonder due to the most stupendous of lemnity or surpassing horror; and the such events confined alone to angels imagination of the poet is tempted to and the heavenly host of intelligent feign things similar, where their moral spectators.

suitableness is his only warrant. To

the mind of Milton, contemplating, in “ But peaceful was the night, Wherein the Prince of Light

its fulness of sin and misery, that first

and dreadful disobedience which His reign of peace upon the earth began : The winds, with wonder whist,

“ Brought death into the world and all Smoothly the waters kist,

our woe,'Whispering new joys to the mild ocean, Who now hath quite forgot to rave,

the poetical belief was unavoidable,

that the elements of nature lamented While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

over the fall of those who had been

set to rule their fellow-creatures in the “ The stars, with deep amaze,

image of their Creator. At the transStand fix'd in steadfast gaze,

gression of Eve, Bending one way their precious influ.

“ Earth felt the wound, and Nature, from

her seat, And will not take their flight,

Sighing through all her works, gave signs For all the morning light,

of woe Or Lucifer that often warn'd them

That all was lost!” thence; But in their glimmering orbs did glow,

At the final ruin of both our parents Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid

6 Earth trembled from her entrails, as

again And, though the shady gloom

In pangs; and Nature gave a second

groan ; Had given day her room,

Sky lower'd; and, muttering thunder, The sun himself withheld his wonted

some sad drops speed,

Wept at completing of the mortal sin.” And hid his head for shame, As his inferior flame

The Pagan fabulists called in the aid The new enlighten'd world no more

of such bold images on similar occashould need :

sions of tragic horror, though of less He saw a greater Sun appear

universal interest. The sun recoiled Than his bright throne or burning axlee in his course, that he might not look tree could bear."

on the hideous banquet prepared for

ence ;

them go.

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