« AnteriorContinuar »
of military rigor would not, one should hope, be productive of much inconvenience. And upon this principle, though by our standing laws (still remaining in force, though not attended to), desertion in time of war is made felony, without benefit of clergy, and the offense is triable by a jury and before justices at the common law; yet, by our militia laws before mentioned, a much lighter punishment is inflicted for desertion in time of peace. So, by the Roman law also, desertion in time of war was punished with death, but more mildly in time of tranquillity. But our Mutiny Act makes no such distinction; for any of the faults above mentioned are, equally at all times, punishable with death itself, if a court-martial shall think proper. This discretionary power of the court-martial is indeed to be guided by the directions of the crown; which, with regard to military offenses, has almost an absolute legislative power. «His Majesty,” says the act, «may form articles of war, and constitute courts-martial, with power to try any crime by such articles, and inflict penalties by sentence or judgment of the same.” A vast and most important trust! an unlimited power to create crimes, and annex to them any punishments, not extending to life or limb! These are indeed forbid. den to be inflicted, except for crimes declared to be so punishable by this act; which crimes we have just enumerated, and among which we may observe that any disobedience to lawful commands is one. Perhaps in some future revision of this act, which is in many respects hastily penned, it may be thought worthy the wisdom of Parliament to ascertain the limits of military subjection, and to enact express articles of war for the government of the army, as is done for the government of the navy; especially as, by our constitution, the nobility and the gentry of the kingdom, who serve their country as militia officers, are annually subjected to the same arbitrary rule during their time of exercise.
One of the greatest advantages of our English law is that not only the crimes themselves which it punishes, but also the penalties which it inflicts, are ascertained and notorious; nothing is left to arbitrary discretion; the king by his judges dispenses what the law has previously ordained, but is not himself the legislator. How much therefore is it to be regretted that a set of men, whose bravery has so often preserved the liberties of their country, should be reduced to a state of servitude in the midst of a nation of free men! for Sir Edward Coke will inform us that it is one of the genuine marks of servitude, to have the law, which is our rule of action, either concealed or precarious; « misera est servitus ubi jus est vagum aut incognitum.” Nor is this the state of servitude quite consistent with the maxims of sound policy observed by other free nations. For the greater the general liberty is which any state enjoys, the more cautious has it usually been in introducing slavery in any particular order or profession. These men, as Baron Montesquieu observes, seeing the liberty which others possess, and which they themselves are excluded from, are apt (like eunuchs in the eastern seraglios) to live in a state of perpetual envy and hatred towards the rest of the community, and indulge a malignant pleasure in contributing to destroy those privileges to which they can never be admitted. Hence have many free states, by departing from this rule, been endangered by the revolt of their slaves; while in absolute and despotic governments, where no real liberty exists, and consequently no invidious comparisons can be formed, such incidents are extremely rare. Two precautions are therefore advised to be observed in all prudent and free governments: 1. To prevent the introduction of slavery at all; or, 2. If it be already introduced, not to intrust those slaves with arms; who will then find themselves an overmatch for the freemen. Much less ought the soldiery to be an exception to the people in general, and the only state of servitude in the nation.
ugh Blair, whose «Rhetoric” made him famous as a critical e essayist, was born at Edinburgh, April 7th, 1718. He was
3 educated at the University of Edinburgh, and its chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres was founded as a result of his lectures delivered under the patronage of Lord Kames. A still more important result was Blair's «Lectures on Rhetoric,” which has been in the hands of students ever since. Dr. Blair's work as a preacher and lecturer makes him somewhat discursive, but he is always attractive. His work as an essayist began at sixteen with an “Essay on the Beautiful,” which won him the favor of Professor Stevenson, of Edinburgh. In 1741 he was licensed to preach, and his sermons, when published, were greatly admired by Dr. Samuel Johnson. It is said that they have been translated into almost every language of Europe.” Dr. Blair died December 27th, 1800.
THE POETRY OF THE HEBREWS
The several kinds of poetical composition which we find in 1 Scripture, are chiefly of the didactic, elegiac, pastoral, and
lyric. Of the didactic species of poetry, the book of Proverbs is the principal instance. The first nine chapters of that book are highly poetical, adorned with many distinguished graces and figures of expression. At the tenth chapter the style is sensibly altered, and descends into a lower strain, which is continued to the end; retaining, however, that sententious pointed manner, and that artful construction of period, which distinguish all the Hebrew poetry. The book of Ecclesiastes comes likewise under this head; and some of the Psalms, as the 119th in particular.
Of elegiac poetry, many very beautiful specimens occur in Scripture: such as the lamentation of David over his friend Jonathan; several passages in the prophetical books; and several of David's Psalms, composed on occasions of distress and mourning. The 42d Psalm, in particular, is, in the highest degree, tender and plaintive. But the most regular and perfect elegiac composition in the Scripture, perhaps in the whole world, is the book entitled the Lamentations of Jeremiah. As the prophet mourns in that book over the destruction of the temple, and the holy city, and the overthrow of the whole state, he assembles all the affecting images which a subject so melancholy could suggest. The composition is uncommonly artificial. By turns, the prophet, and the city of Jerusalem, are introduced, as pouring forth their sorrows; and in the end, a chorus of the people send up the most earnest and plaintive supplications to God. The lines of the original, too, as may, in part, appear from our translation, are longer than is usual in the other kinds of Hebrew poetry; and the melody is rendered thereby more flowing and better adapted to the querimonious strain of elegy.
The Song of Solomon affords us a high exemplification of pastoral poetry. Considered with respect to its spiritual meaning, it is undoubtedly a mystical allegory; in its form, it is a dramatic pastoral, or a perpetual dialogue between personages in the character of shepherds; and suitably to that form, it is full of rural and pastoral images, from beginning to end.
Of lyric poetry, or that which is intended to be accompanied with music, the Old Testament is full. Besides a great number of hymns and songs, which we find scattered in the historical and prophetical books, such as the song of Moses, the song of Deborah, and many others of like nature, the whole book of Psalms is to be considered as a collection of sacred odes. In these, we find the ode exhibited in all the varieties of its form, and supported with the highest spirit of lyric poetry; sometimes sprightly, cheerful, and triumphant; sometimes solemn and magnificent; sometimes tender and soft. From these instances, it clearly appears that there are contained in the Holy Scriptures full exemplifications of several of the chief kinds of poetical writing.
Among the different composers of the sacred books, there is an evident diversity of style and manner; and to trace their different characters in this view will contribute not a little towards our reading their writings with greater advantage. The most eminent of the sacred poets are the authors of the books of Job, David, and Isaiah. As the compositions of David are of the lyric kind, there is a greater variety of style and manner in his works than in those of the other two. The manner in which, considered merely as a poet, David chiefly excels is the pleasing, the soft, and the tender. In his Psalms there are many lofty and sublime passages; but, in strength of description, he yields to Job; in sublimity, he yields to Isaiah. It is a sort of temperate grandeur, for which David is chiefly distinguished; and to this he always soon returns, when, upon some occasions, he rises above it. The Psalms in which he touches us most are those in which he describes the happiness of the righteous, or the goodness of God; expresses the tender breathings of a devout mind, or sends up moving and affectionate supplications to Heaven. Isaiah is, without exception, the most sublime of all poets. This is abundantly visible in our translation; and what is a material circumstance, none of the books of Scripture appear to have been more happily translated than the writings of this prophet. Majesty is his reigning character; a majesty more commanding, and more uniformly supported, than is to be found among the rest of the Old Testament poets. He possesses, indeed, a dignity and grandeur, both in his conceptions and expressions, which is altogether unparalleled, and peculiar to himself. There is more clearness and order too, and a more visible distribution of parts, in his book, than in any other of the prophetical writings.
When we compare him with the rest of the poetical prophets, we immediately see in Jeremiah a very different genius. Isaiah employs himself generally on magnificent subjects. Jeremiah seldom discovers any disposition to be sublime, and inclines always to the tender and elegiac. Ezekiel, in poetical grace and elegance, is much inferior to them both; but he is distinguished by a character of uncommon force and ardor. To use the elegant expressions of Bishop Lowth, with regard to this prophet: « Est atrox, vehemens, tragicus; in sensibus fervidus, acerbus, indignabundus; in imaginibus fecundus, truculentus, et nonnunquam penè deformis, in dictione grandiloquus, gravis, austerus, et interdum incultus; frequens in repetitionibus, non decoris aut gratiæ causa, sed ex indignatione et violentiâ. Quidquid susceperit tractandum id seduld persequitur; in eo unice hæret de fixus; a proposito raro deflectens. In cæteris, a plerisque vatibus fortasse superatus; sed in eo genere, ad quod videtur a natura unice comparatus, nimirum, vi, pondere, impetu, granditate, nemo unquam eum superavit.” The same learned writer compares Isaiah to Homer, Jeremiah to Simonides, and Ezekiel to Æschylus. Most of the book of Isaiah is strictly poetical; of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, not above one-half