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is impossible to bring any thing much more vividly before the sight, than in the following verses:
“And the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand : and David played with his hand.
“ And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipt away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night."
The lament-the tender and beautiful lament of David over the body of Jonathan, his friend, is far too well known to need quotation; yet it is difficult to pass it over altogether. How sadly it commences
“The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places; how are the mighty fallen!”
“Tell it not ‘to Gath or Askelon,' lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice upon the earth,”—he says, “and call forth barrenness.
“ Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil."
He then tells of their feats in war, and adds this gentle and melancholy epitaph. Nothing ever surpassed its pathos :
“Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
“Yedaughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.”
The lament is then repeated, and the poet concludes:
“I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”
“How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!"
We shall forbear to expatiate upon the character of David, which, it must be confessed, had something of the low cunning and sensuality of an Israelite about it. Mis conduct towards Uriah needs no telling and is utterly beyond all kind of palliation. It is treacherous, cruel, adulterous, and base. He was repentant, it is true, and thankful, and it was in one of his better moments that he sung that sublime song of thanksgiving which is to be found in the 22d chapter of Samuel. After saying that, in his distress, he cried unto the Lord, who heard him out of his temple, he proceeds in this tremendous manner:
“ Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wrath.
“ He bowed the heavens also and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
“ And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.
“ Ănd he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.
“ The Lord thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice.
“ And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them.
“ And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils."
We forbear to make any quotations respecting Elijab,-or the story of Naaman,-or Elisha,-or Ahab, -or the destruction of Sennacherib, and his one hundred and four score thousand Assyrians in one night, or even regarding Solomon, his magnificent temple and his profound and memorable Proverbs, (though each might justify some extract) in order that we may arrive without more ado at the celebrated verses of the prophets.
These strange and inspired writings, upon which so much comment and eulogy has been poured by canonized priests and modern theologians, deserve in truth all their reputation. If there be a fault in them, or a thing which sounds like a fault to our critical ears, it is that they are somewhat diffuse and tautological, and, as a consequence of this last defect, monotonous. But the sublime does not always arise from brevity. “Let there be light, and there was light," appears, indeed, one instance against our opinion ; although we suspect that the value even of this famous sentence consists as much in its appositeness, as in any other quality. That the narrative of a rapid event should be itself not tedious, is a position which is almost selfevident. But there may be events of a different character, which require a solemn and more measured detail. In regard to the repetitions observable in the prophecies, it is to be remarked that these predictions were uttered or issued upon successive occasions, when the sins that were proclaimed, and the punishment that was to follow, wore the same character as at first, and demanded little more than a repetition of the original warning. It would not have been easy (had mere style been the object of the prophets) to have varied the same fact and the same menace into a dozen different rhetorical shapes; neither do we think that it would have gained any thing, by such change, which could have been considered an adequate compensation for the impressiveness which it must necessarily have lost.
Amongst the Hebrew prophets and poets, the principal
station is usually allotted to Isaiah. It is true, that he is, on the whole, perhaps, the most majestic. His style is more ample and imposing, and his verse has a richness of imagery and a magnificent exultation that is not to be found, or found more sparingly, in the others. But in pathos he is inferior to Jeremiah ; in sweetness and tenderness, to David ; in occasional splendour, to Ezekiel and others; in sublimity, to Job; and in the general display of intellect, immeasurably below the wonderful Proverbs of Solomon. The words of Isaiah-his visions
which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem,'_his warnings, which he utters in the name of God himself-come forth in full and rounded periods. The march of his verse is stately, and his reproofs (of the children of men') are delivered in a lofty tone. He tells them that they have rebelled and forsaken him, that their cities shall be burned by fire, and their lands overthrown by strangers ; that they shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.” Sometimes, he rises even to the sublime, as in the following verses, of which the third quoted (the 9th) is very grand.
“ The whole earth is at rest and is quiet : they break forth into singing,
Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.
“ Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming : it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth ; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations !
“ All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us ?
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm
is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. ·: “ How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations !
" For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.
“ I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the most High."
- Ezekiel is glittering and confused. There is a prodigality, and, if it may so be said, an ostentation cf imagery in his writings, which often defeats the object that is intended to be attained. We are lost in a maze of visions. The ' living creatures' winged like angels, and with the faces of lions and men, and which run and return like the flash of the lightningthe stones of 'beryl, the firmaments of chrystal and the sapphire throne, on which sate the APPEARANCE of a man” (a grand expression, which Milton did not forget)--the abominable
beasts-the wheels within wheels, four-faced and full of eyes, --the four-faced cherubim, &c. &c. dance before our eyes in dazzling and inextricable confusion. There are phrases, however, such as the one which we have quoted just above, and where the prophet speaks of a rush of wings • like the noise of great waters' which he heard, and the brightness' that he saw, and which was “ The Appearance of the Likeness of THE GLORY OF THE LORD,” (in which expression the ordinary principle of sublimity, if brevity be it, is inverted and set at nought, and an image of vastness accomplished that will yield to nothing in the circle of poetry,) that deserve to be excepted from such remarks.
Striking passages might also be quoted without much trouble from Jeremiah and Joel; but we prefer selecting the following from Habbakuk, under an idea that it may not so generally be known. He is speaking of God's coming from Teman, when ‘his glory covered the heaven, and earth was full of his praise.'
“ Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
“ He stood and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations, and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
“I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction : and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
“ Was the Lord displeased against the rivers ? was thine anger against the rivers ? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses, and thy chariots of salvation ?
Thy. bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
“ The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.
“ The sun and moon stood still in their habitation : at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.”
But we have passed by the first in order of these poets and prophets, and, in our opinion, the first in point of true grandeur and poetry, viz. Job. Assuredly, no one, under the pressure of misery, or death, or inspiration, ever raised his voice in grander utterance. He was a good man smitten down by pain and sickness, but preserving through all changes, and in the face of scorn and calamity, a high and philosophic patience. He seems to have been born beyond the ordinary weakness of humanity, and to have gathered strength from time and meditation. The splendour of his thoughts swell and dilate in sorrow, springing from the gloom of his fate, as the
VOL. XI. PART II.
eternal Sun arose out of darkness and chaos.
What was pure and gracious in him in prosperity, in adversity became enduring and noble. He is shorn and cast out to the winds; he is tempered in the winter of the world, like the sword in the icebrook. But the film which lay upon his eyes is removed, as his days of comfort vanish, and his imagination is let loose, and roams abroad unconfined amongst mysteries of heaven and the grave.
His curse is as the curse of some mighty power, delivered like a judgement in solemn words. And, altogether, there is a wild and vague character about his language, when he speaks of the “path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen ;” and a terrible sublimity when he invests Ruin with a voice, and gives words to the earth and ocean, that has scarcely ever (if ever) been 'equalled, and never, to our knowledge, surpassed.
But these things require to be read in their places, and to be pondered over, in order to receive the praise which is due to them. It must be not only a strong poetical flower, but one also of a particular nature (growing solitary and unincumbered) which will bear transplanting from the original text and continue to flourish apart.
The book of Job opens, as the reader knows, with the strange story of Satan's entrance into Heaven-his defiance to God to produce a perfectly good man--and the permission given him to afflict Job, in order to ascertain the measure of his virtue. All kinds of ills are showered down upon the unhappy mortal, who breaks out into gloomy curses or angry complaint:
“ After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
“ Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man-child conceived.
“Let that day be darkness, let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
“ Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it, let a cloud dwell upon it, let the blackness of the day terrify it.
Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein."
“With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves :
Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver :
“Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
“There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.