« AnteriorContinuar »
to all others, as it is to me, to avoid (I will not say such a Judas, but) a man that creeps into all companies, to jeer, trepan, and betray them.”
We must now reluctantly close our extracts from Marvell. His volumes, like the prose works of Milton's, will one day attract the attention which, as part of the standard literature and history of our country, they so justly merit ; and that day is not very far distant.
In our preceding article we gave a brief biographical memoir of Marvell, the Roman virtues of whose public and private character were alike distinguished; and it was one of his great maxims, that a man dishonest in private life would not honestly serve his country as a public servant.
The following imitation, by Marvell, from Seneca, (Traged. ex Thyeste, Chor. 2,) is highly characteristic of his own mind and private virtues :
“ Climb at Court for me that will
Tottering favor's pinnacle;
Death to him's a strange surprise.” In his person, Mr. Marvell is described as of a very dark complexion, with long flowing black hair, black bright eyes, his nose not small, but altogether a handsome man, with an expressive countenance: he was about 5 feet 7, of a strong constitution and active temperate habits; of reserved disposition amongst strangers, but familiar, entertaining, and facetious with his friends.
The late Mr. Hollis had an admirable portrait of Marvell, and we believe there is one in the town-hall of Hull. The prints are severally noticed in Granger; an octagon one before his folio poems of 1681; a second, 2mo. copied from the above; and a third, drawn and etched by J. B. Cipriani, from Mr. Hollis's picture, 4to. prefixed to his works in 1776.
END OF VOL. XI. PART I.
Vol. XI. Part II.
Art. I.—The Holy Bible. It is not our intention, in this article, to touch upon any doctrinal points; nor to discuss, in fact, any question of theology. Our object is, simply to consider the Bible as a literary work; and should we, in doing this, venture to contemplate for a moment the aspect of Christianity, it will be merely in reference to the literature to which it has given birth, and so far only as it approximates to imagination and poetry. " Amongst the many religions which have from time to time prevailed in the world, it would not be very easy for an indifferent person to determine the order of precedence. The advocates of each would probably decline to cede the priority to the others; for-however the stricter rites of the old superstitions might now be explained away or disregarded—the Egyptianthe Scandinavian-the Greek—the Chinese-the Hindoo, and the rest, would, we suspect, (were their respective creeds all at present existing) maintain, at least, their own antiquity. It is a sort of national privilege which never lapses by disuse, nor is broken down by the ravages of time. Perhaps, indeed, after all, these religions may be traced to the same vast source; although the innovations which have curtailed some, and the evident degeneracy of others, create some doubt as to their common origin. The mere fact of all nations having some unknown Deity, and worshipping a power greater than themselves, may in itself be sufficient to induce a supposition that the most dissimilar creeds must, at some very early period, have been the same; or, at least, that the idea of a Ğod-of a futurity-of
VOL. XI. PART II.
reward and punishment, &c. must have been inculcated by the believers in some one particular religion, however misunderstood by later proselytes, or changed in appearance (or, if it be so, even in spirit) by the lapse of succeeding ages.
It may be said, on the other hand, indeed, that, as hope and fear are common to man, so also must be the phantoms which those passions excite in the mind. But, the idea of a Godalthough it may seem to us at present obvious and even necessary —could scarcely have sprung up in twenty different regions, without a communication of one with the other; and the notion of an Hereafter, with its attendant consequences, is too complicated, and too much at variance with the proofs of mortality perpetually occurring before our eyes, to have arisen among a dozen different sects of Pagans without some teacher wiser than themselves.
Of all ancient mythologies, that of Greece appears to have been the most beautiful and imaginative. It sprang out of the base and earthy superstitions of Egypt, as the winged butterfly is born of the dull and loathsome chrysalis. It did not, indeed, touch the heavens, but it rose into the air, and there sate enthroned, above Pelion and Parnassus and Olympus with its hundred heads,-a creature of beauty before whom sages and poets were proud to bow down and worship. Nevertheless, it was falseand hollow. Its Gods had no perfection, except of form. They were cruel, lustful, rapacious, deceitful, and implacable. But they had strength and grace of body (mixed up with deformities of mind), and this was enough for the Greeks. God is said to have created man after his own image. The Greeks fashioned their Gods after themselves, and were satisfied. Indeed, their heroes or demigods were actually of human descent, and the great Olympian conclave itself had, probably, a similar origin, except where its deities were mere enibodyings of certain qualities of human nature, or impersonations of virtues which they themselves (if we may believe their stories) did not always think it necessary to exercise.
Every folly of every other creed, however, shrinks in comparison with the preposterous superstition of the Egyptians.In the belief that all things had their origin in the slime of the world-or the mud of the Nile-or some such notion, they went down to the dust for their Gods, and worshipped, in perverse absurdity, all that is held hideous in form or base in nature. The snake, and the crocodile, the ichneumon, the dog, and the bull, cats, onions, monkeys, goats, sheep, falcons, wolves, vermin, and, in short, every thing which the dirt of Egypt produced or nourished was considered sufficiently good for the humble idolatry of its inhabitants. They were once adorers of the visible heavens; but they left that worship, in order to .
invest with divine attributes every thing which was inferior to themselves. They thought, perhaps, to raise the idea of human nature, by reducing their Gods below it: but this, if it ever existed, was a short-sighted vanity; for they worshipped still.
Much learning and ingenuity have been employed, in different ages, in inventing for the Egyptians different rea. sons for their extraordinary conduct; yet it has not on all occasions been justified. It is said, that one idol was emblematic of wisdom, another of fruitfulness, a third of prudence, a fourth of eternity, and so on. These, however, (whatever might have been the case originally) do not latterly appear to have been mere symbols. The bull was not adored because he had power, or patience, or cunning, or innocence; but the God Apis was believed to exist in him,-incarnate. He was apt to die, indeed; but the people who could abase themselves before a cat, or pray by the hour to a monkey or a rope of onions, were not likely to be daunted by so small à difficulty. It was the death of a deity whom they could easily replace, and nothing else was wanting than a little more fiction to render the absurdity perfect. They adopted the idea of a transmigration of souls and created a perpetual Apis. We say amongst ourselves that the king never dies'-but this is considered an useful political fiction, and is held, indeed, necessary for the purposes of justice. We do not, we confess, so readily perceive the good which was to ensue from the mysteries of the Egyptian religion (of which, however, Plato and Pythagoras aspired to be members) or the supposed immortality of the holy bull.
The Indian is an obstinate and inveterate superstition, the creed of traditions which have existed six thousand years. Whatever beauty it originally possessed (and it certainly had beauty) is now defaced and worn away. Such as it is, however, it is still potent and mischievous. Its worshippers still retain their fears for their ancient gods, and pour out in blind obedience deluges of human blood before their brutish shrines. The system of excommunication, (the losing of cast,' as it is called,) their burnings and bruisings to death, still continue to excite both our wonder and contempt. Sir William Jones had learning and elegance enough to make us admire the theory of the Hindoo religion ; but nothing can extenuate certain points of its practice, or tempt us to forget the cruel and crafty policy of the priesthood, or the inexpressible folly of the people.
The Chinese, in religion, as in all other matters, claim an antiquity beyond all the rest of the world. There never was a people so completely the slaves of the giant Custom. They are the true practical optimists, and are utterly beyond both