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tion—and have, in all ages, been considered as among the happiest, the most elevated, and the most delightful productions which either the sacred or the profane Muse has ever breathed for the benefit of the human race. Of these, also, we intend, in the present article, to give a few specimens.
Although the Psalms of the "Monarch Minstrel" are chiefly to be found in the first portion of the collection, yet individual specimens of them may occasionally be found in all the remaining sections—and may be easily recognised by a practised student, by some very obvious tokens -by the highly lyrical tone which they are prone to assume-by alternating passages of vehemence and of sweetness, in the course of the same composition by the peculiar topics which naturally presented themselves to the mind of the composer, who was not only a first-rate poet and musician, but a warrior and a king-by the prophetic and penitential spirit with which they are always deeply imbued-and generally, by a constant reference which they bear to well known, and often deeply distressing, events in the history of their author.
The Psalms not composed by David, are uniformly in a calmer and more peculiarly meditative tone-they are rather didactic or descriptive than lyrical in their character-and, altogether, we never meet in them with those allusions to personal history or experience, which we have already noticed as so characteristic of the powerful effusions of the Monarch Minstrel. Yet many of these Psalms by the other composers, are not less beautiful or instructive than those of the "Sweet Singer" from whom the entire collection has received its name-and from the calm and meditative and didactic tone which they assume, are often resorted to with an interest, at least by some descriptions of readers, which the higher lyrics of the Great Artist do not always succeed in awakening.
In perusing the entire series of the PSALMS OF DAVID, we naturally image to ourselves the progress of a day which has been characterised by clouds and by tempests-a day, however, the clouds of which, though tinged by fire, have ever been disposed to exhibit that "silver lining," the beauty of which was hid behind their more threatening and sombre aspect and the passing away of which was occasionally succeeded by the golden light of the sun upon the grass-by the splendour of the bow that still beautified the dark portion of the sky-and eventually, by the "clear shining after rain."
In perusing the compositions of THE OTHER PSALMISTS, we seem to have arrived at the stillness and soft colouring of an evening without storms and without rain-at that pleasant and thoughtful time of the day, when man "goeth forth to meditate in the fields”—and when, with calm reflection on the day that has passed, and quiet hope as to the days that may yet be to come, he prepares himself for the repose which Nature kindly allows to man's wearied thoughts and exertions.
In the still farther perusal of the ASCENSION HYMNS, we seem to see the cottages of an extensive landscape sending up their evening smoke to heaven the domestic hearth swept and brightened-and the domestic circle united in praises for the blessings that have befallen them, and
in prayers for directing and supporting grace, during the remaining portions of their earthly pilgrimage.
In the LAUDATION HYMNS, the bright host of stars seem beginning to come forth the more glorious scenes of the universe are opening upon the eyes of the dwellers upon earth-earth itself seems to be taken into a kindly fellowship with heaven-and all Nature seems preparing to breathe one united hymn of exultation, of trust, and of holy joy.
Such are the images suggested by the series of Sacred Songs, of which, as examples of our general principle, we now proceed to give a few specimens beginning, of course, with those which have been termed the Sacred Idylls-and which are chiefly to be found between the Hundredth and the Hundredth and Twentieth Psalm.
The term Idyllium-or Idyll-is derived from the Greek word cidos, which means, an image, a likeness, a picture, or finely idealized representation-it may be either of some aspect of nature, or of some passages of life. In its use among the Greeks and Romans, the Idyllium was meant chiefly to exhibit beautiful pictures of nature as it was supposed to have been in something like its primitive or golden age or representations of pastoral or rural life, in which the turbulence, the vices, and the distracting rivalries of life were yet unknown. The general idea, however, meant to be suggested by the term, was that of a poem which was neither lyrical, nor didactic, nor historical, nor purely descriptive-but which rather dealt in idealized resemblances or pictures of scenes or transactions, which were of frequent occurrence in their ruder shapes on the theatre of Nature or of life-but which, in the Idyll, were supposed to be given in a more pleasing, less encumbered, and altogether a more finely and placidly idealized style.
In calling any of the Sacred Hymns, Idylls, we are aware that an idea is apt to be suggested of perhaps too great a resemblance to the more fantastic and visionary productions, which have a place among the minor effusions of the profane authors of Grecian or Roman antiquity. But the truth is, that there is unfortunately no other word that so well expresses the peculiar meaning and nature of the Sacred Songs which we have now more immediately in view. They are not lyrical, nor didactic, nor simply descriptive-they are rather graphic-that is to say, they are meant to depict and to suggest features of nature, or passages of life, which have their ruder counterparts on the actual scenery of this world, but which are capable of being viewed, by the light of a purer atmosphere, and with tints of softer beauty, so as to suggest pictures which may at once give pure delight to the fancy, and act as a refreshing, a stimulating, and a cleansing influence to the profoundest suggestions of the understanding and the heart.
We shall take four of these pictures, out of many others that might be chosen-both because the outline is given in each of them with singular beauty of colouring and effect-and because they relate to aspects of nature, or of life, the fundamental truth of which can be estimated by every reader of the Hymns.
The four Hymns to which we allude, are, first, that which contains an unrivalled picture of universal nature in a state of repose, and when
irradiated by the most pleasing lights under which it is capable of being contemplated. This picture is given in the Hundred and Fourth Psalm.
The second, which is a contrast to this, exhibits some of the most trying situations of peril or of privation, to which the dwellers upon earth are exposed-and is given in the Hundred and Seventh Psalm.
The third, is the picture of a man of prudence, of integrity, of liberality, and of piety-and of the blessings which, in the established order of nature, are the appointed recompense of a life distinguished by a steady adherence to such attributes of conduct. It occurs in the Hundred and Twelfth Psalm. And
The last, is the representation or picture of the feelings of a pious man who has been brought to "the gates of death;" but who is recovering from that great trial-and is in the affectionate and becoming indulgence of all the thankful and devout emotions which such a situation is fitted to call forth. This occurs in the Hundred and Sixteenth Psalm.
With respect to the Hundred and Fourth Psalm, Humboldt-than whom no author was better fitted to form a judgment of extensive and finely grouped views of universal nature-has expressed unbounded admiration at the skill and power displayed by the inspired author of this composition-who, by a few masterly strokes, has contrived to paint the whole scheme of things, as revealed to the eye of man, with a distinctness and force, and with a skill of grouping, which could not have been equalled by the most minute detail of arrangements, unaccompanied by a display of the exquisite order in which they are here placed together.
After a short note of preluding praise, the Psalmist commences his description, by an allusion to the higher scenery and phenomena of na ture, as the robe assumed by the Creator for the manifestation of himself to his earthly creatures.
"O Lord my God, Thou art clothed with honour and majesty—
Thou hast stretched out the heavens as a curtain
Thou makest the clouds thy chariot
Thou walkest upon the wings of the wind
Thy messengers are the winds,
The lightnings are thy servants."
After this opening of the magnificent picture, comes the separation of the dry land from the sea-and the formation of mountains and of vallies:
"Thou hast given stability to the earth,
Once, the waters stood above the hills,
At the voice of thy thunder they hastened away—
The mountains rose upwards,
The vallies sunk downward,
Into the places which thou hadst ordained for them-
That it may no more cover the earth."
Next follows an inland landscape, with a fine view of the various adap
tation of all the tribes of animals to the scenery they are appointed to inhabit :
"Thou sendest the springs into the vallies,
Which run among the hills
They give drink to every beast of the field;
There the wild asses quench their thirst
By them the fowls of the heaven have their habitation,
Thou makest grass to grow for the cattle,
And grain for the service of man
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats,
And the rocks for the conies."
The Psalmist next glances at the distribution of the seasons, and the beautiful alternation of day and night :
"Thou hast appointed the moon for seasons,
In this sublime rehearsal of the wonderful works of God, the marvels of the great deep could not be overlooked :
"The earth is full of thy riches;
So is this great and wide sea
Wherein are things creeping innumerable,
Both great and small
There go the ships-there is that Leviathan
Whom thou hast made to play therein.”
Life and death-the continued sustenance of all the orders of creaturesthe fixed order of external nature, and the great convulsions to which it is sometimes liable, are next glanced at :
"All creatures wait upon thee,
Thou givest them their meat in due season-
Thou takest away their breath, they die
Thou sendest forth thy spirit-they are created;
And thou renewest the face of the earth
Thou lookest on the earth and it trembleth
Thou touchest the hills and they smoke."
The magnificent picture is now completed-and all eyes in heaven and in earth are represented as delighted with its beautiful perfection :"The Lord has pleasure in his works; His glory shall endure for ever ; My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord."
The whole of this picture is marked by stillness, by placid and yet brilliant lights, by grand arrangement, and by extensive sweep. The effect which it leaves upon the mind is that of boundless trust, of pious admiration, of confident hope in all the doings of the great Author of
nature, and it seems to us, while busied with the train of emotions which such a representation of the works of God is fitted to call forth, as if in a world so constituted, so illumined, so finely arranged, there could be only happiness, in its purest forms, among all the beings who have been privileged and honoured to tread the surface of a world, over which so many tokens of the paternal care of its Author are so constantly manifested. Yet the thought occurs, that amidst all the stillness, and beauty, and fine ordination of the processes of nature, there is in fact great trouble and perplexity occasionally occurring to the inhabitants of this world, and as a contrast to the Psalm we have now been considering, we may, therefore, next take another, in which those situations of peril and of privation are exquisitely delineated,- though still in such a manner as to shew that the same goodness and tender mercy that are over all the higher works of the Omnipotent, are extended also to every situation in which the frailty or even the errors of his creatures may place them. This, accordingly, is the inviting subject presented to our notice by the HUNDRED AND SEVENTH PSALM,-which may thus be considered as an exquisite contrast to the series of pictures presented to us by the magnificent composition we have already reviewed. The situations it brings before us successively, are those of the wanderer in the desert, the prisoner,-the sinner suffering under effects of former transgression, the tempest-tossed mariner, the sufferer from severe drought and prevailing famine-situations everywhere occurring, in some of these forms at least, over the wide scenes of this beautiful but yet agitated world, but to all of which also, the expression is applicable, that the goodness and tender mercy of God are over all his works.
After a preluding call upon all men to praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men,-a call which forms the constantly recurring intercalary stanza of the whole composition,―the Psalmist thus depicts the privation and peril of the wanderer in the wilderness, whether he be a solitary individual, or the member of a company passing drearily to their distant homes, from long years of captivity and
They wandered in the wilderness,
In pathless tracks;
And found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried unto the Lord, and he delivered them,
Out of all their troubles.
And he led them forth by a right way,
That they might go to a city,
In which they might dwell.
For he satisfieth the longing soul,
And filleth the hungry with good things."
Next comes the following painful description of the prisoner,—of him who is bound with fetters of iron, and placed in darkness,—although that may have been the effect of great errors which he had previously committed :
They sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death;