Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

the only one capable of sustaining, in well-balanced proportions, that difficult combination of the heroic and passive virtues, which forms the highest order of the military character, is solely to be found in the enlightened fear of God, and the diligent keeping of his commandments. The soldiers of heathen antiquity, whose names are yet held in honorable remembrance, were generally distinguished, according to the light they possessed, by their religious character; among the Jews piety and valor were commonly united; the Christian soldier has often exhibited these qualities; and in our day we have many shining proofs, that there is no incompatibility between thein.

7. On the contrary, if there be any class of men, to whom, more than to all others, an abiding trust in the government and providence of God would seem to be important, the military profession, from the very nature of their duties, may, perhaps, be said to be that class. Exposed to peculiar temptations and perils, who can need, more than they, the guidance and support of the Lord of Hosts, — the God of wisdom, grace, and consolation ?

LESSON CXLIII.

The Wounded Spirit.

1. Man is a harp, whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws reversed (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease)
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their power and use.

2. Then neither healthy wilds, nor scenes as fair

As ever recompensed the peasant's care,
Nor soft declivities with tufted hills,
Nor view of waters turning busy mills,
Parks in which art preceptress nature weds,
Nor gardens interspersed with flowery beds,
Nor gales that catch the scent of blooming groves,
And waft it to the mourner as he roves,
Can call up life into his faded eye,
That passes all he sees unheeded by;

DEATH OF LORD BYRON.

295

No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God, who makes them, heals;
And thou sad sufferer under nameless ill,
That yields not to the touch of human skill,
Improve the kind occasion, understand
A father's frown, and kiss his chastening hand.

3. To thee the day-spring, and the blaze of noon,

The purple evening and resplendent moon,
The stars that, sprinkled o'er the vault of night,
Seem drops descending in a shower of light,
Shine not, or undesired and hated shine,
Seen through the medium of a cloud like thine :
Yet seek him, in his favor life is found,
All bliss beside a shadow or a sound.

4. Then heaven, eclipsed so long, and this dull earth,

Shall seem to start into a second birth ;
Nature, assuming a more lovely face,
Borrowing a beauty from the works of grace,
Shall be despised and overlooked no more;
Shall fill thee with delights unfelt before,
Impart to things inanimate a voice,
And bid her mountains and her hills rejoice;
The sound shall run along the winding vales,
And thou enjoy an Eden ere it fails.

LESSON CXLIV. Death of Lord Byron.

1. Amidst the general calmness of the political atmosphere, we have been stunned, from another quarter, by one of those death-notes which are pealed at intervals, as from an archangel's trumpet, to awaken the soul of a whole people at once. Lord Byron, who has so long and so amply filled the highest place in the public eye, has shared the lot of humanity. His lordship died at Missolonghi, on the 19th of April.

2. That mighty genius, which walked amongst men as something superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with wonder, and something approaching to ter

ror, as if we knew not whether they were of good or of evil, is laid as soundly to rest as the poor peasant, whose ideas rever went beyond his daily task. The voice of just blame and of malignant censure are at once silenced, and we feel almost as if the great luminary of heaven had suddenly disappeared from the sky, at the moment when every telescope was levelled for the examination of the spots which dimmed its brightness.

3. We are not about to become Byron's apologists, but we may note the part he has sustained in British literature since the first appearance of “Childe Harold,” a space of nearly sixteen years. There has been no reposing under the shade of his laurels, no living upon the resource of past reputation; none of that petty precaution which little authors call “taking care of their fame.” Byron let his fame take care of itself. His foot was always in the arena, his shield hung always in the lists; and although his own gigantic renown increased the difficulty of the struggle, since he could produce nothing, however great, which exceeded the public estimates of his genius, yet he advanced to the contest again and again, and always came off with distinction, almost always with complete triumph. As various in composition as Shakspeare himself, he has embraced every topic of human life, and sounded every string on the divine harp, from its slightest to its most powerful and heart-astounding tones. There is scarce a passion or a situation which has escaped his pen; and he might be drawn, like Garrick, between the weeping and the laughing muse, although his most powerful efforts have certainly been dedicated to Melpomene. 4. His genius seemed as prolific as various.

The most prodigal use did not exhaust his powers, nay, seemed rather to increase their vigor. Neither “ Childe Harold,” nor any of the most beautiful of Byron's earlier tales, contains more exquisite morsels of poetry than are to be found scattered amidst later verses, which the author appears to have thrown off with an effort as spontaneous as that of a tree resigning its leaves to the wind. But that noble tree will never more bear fruit or blossom! It has been cut down in its strength, and the past is all that remains to us of Byron. We can scarce reconcile ourselves to the idea, scarce think that the voice is silent forever, which, bursting so often on our

SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.

297

ear, was often heard with rapturous admiration, sometimes with regret, but always with the deepest interest :

"All that 's bright must fade,

The brightest still the fleetest." 5. With a strong feeling of awful sorrow, we take leave of the subject. Death creeps upon our most serious as well as upon our most idle employments; and it is a reflection solemn and gratifying, that he found our Byron in no moment of levity, but contributing his fortune and hazarding his life, in behalf of a people only endeared to him by their past glories, and as fellow-creatures suffering under the yoke of a heathen oppressor.

LESSON CXLV. Sir Joshua Reynolds.

1. His illness had been long, but borne with a mild and cheerful fortitude, without the least mixture of anything irritable or querulous, agreeably to the placid and even tenor of his whole life. He had from the beginning of his malady a distinct view of his dissolution, which he contemplated with that entire composure which nothing but the innocence, integrity, and usefulness of his life, and an unaffected submission to the will of Providence, could bestow. In this situation he had every consolation from family tenderness, which his tenderness to his family had always merited.

2. Sir Joshua Reynolds was, on very many accounts, one of the most memorable men of his time :- he was the first Englishman who added the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country. In taste, in grace, in facility, in happy invention, and in the richness and harmony of coloring, he was equal to the great masters of the renown

In portrait he went beyond them; for he communicated to that description of the art, in which English artists are the most engaged, a variety, a fancy, and a dignity derived from the higher branches, which even those who profess them in a superior manner did not always preserve when they delineated individual nature. His portraits remind the spectator of the invention of history and the amenity of landscape. In painting portraits, he appears not to

ed ages.

be raised upon that platform, but to descend to it from a higher sphere. His paintings illustrate his lessons, and his lessons seem to have been derived from his paintings.

3. He possessed the theory as perfectly as the practice of his art. To be such a painter, he was a profound and penetrating philosopher. In full happiness of foreign and domestic fame, admired by the expert in art, and by the learned in science, courted by the great, caressed by sorereign powers, and celebrated by distinguished poets, his native humility, modesty, and candor never forsook him, even on surprise or provocation; nor was the least degree of arrogance or assumption visible to the most scrutinizing eye in any part of his conduct or discourse.

4. His talents of every kind, - powerful from nature, and not merely cultivated in letters, - his social virtues in all the relations and all the habitudes of life rendered him the centre of a very great and unparalleled variety of agreeable societies, which will be dissipated by his death. He had too much merit not to excite some jealousy; too much innocence to provoke any enmity.

LESSON CXLVI. Advantages for Christianizing the

Heathen.

1. Should any be still disposed to insist, that our a Ivantages for evangelizing the world are not to be compared with those of the Apostolic age, let them reverse the scene, and roll back the wheels of time, and obliterate the improvements of science, and commerce, and arts, which now facilitate the spread of the Gospel. Let them throw into darkness all the known portions of the earth, which were then unknown. Let them throw into distance the propinquity of nations; and exchange their rapid intercourse for cheerless, insulated existence.

2. Let the magnetic power be forgotten, and the timid navigator creep along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and tremble and cling to the shore when he looks out upon the broad waves of the Atlantic. Inspire idolatry with the vigor of meridian manhood, and arm in its defence, and against

« PředchozíPokračovat »