Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

CLXXXI. — LITERATURE OF THE ANCIENT HEBREWS.

1. In no respect does the Hebrew nation appear to greater advantage than when viewed in the light of their sublime compositions. Nor is this remark confined simply to the style or mechanism of their writings, which is nevertheless allowed by the best judges to possess many merits; it may be extended more especially to the exalted nature of their subjects, — the works, the attributes, and the purposes of Jehovah. The poets of pagan antiquity, on the other hand, excite by their descriptions of divine things our ridicule or disgust.

2. Even the most approved of their order exhibit repulsive images of their deities, and suggest the grossest ideas in conection with the principles and enjoyments which prevail among the inhabitants of Olympus. But the contemporaries of David, inferior in many things to the ingenious people who listened to the strains of Homer and of Virgil, are remarkable for their elevated conceptions of the Supreme Being as the Creator and Governor of the world, not less than for the suitable terms in which they give utterance to their exalted thoughts.

3. In no other country but Judēa, at that early period, were such sentiments as the following either expressed or felt: “O Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, thou that hast set thy glory above the heavens! When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Bless Jehovah, O my soul! O Lord, my God, thou art very great, and art clothed with honor and majesty! Thou coverest thyself with light as with a garment, and stretchest out the heavens like a curtain : who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, who maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind!

4. « Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits ; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction ; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies. Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, neither rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. For ho knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust.” 5. “ O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me : thou know est my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thoughts long before. Thou art about my bed and about my path, and art acquainted with all my ways. Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I go down to the dwell. ing of the departed, thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning and abide in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me, If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be turned into day. Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." ..

6. A similar train of lofty conception pervades the writings of the prophets. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the heavens with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabit. ants thereof are as grasshoppers. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, who bringeth out their host by number; he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding."

7. But it is not only in such sublimity of language and exalted im'a gery that the literature of the Hebrews surpasses the write ings of the most learnëd and ingenious portion of the heathen world. A distinction not less remarkable is to be found in the humane and compassionate spirit which animates even the earli. est parts of the sacred volume, composed at a time when the manners of all nations were still unrefined, and the softer emotions were not held in honor. “ Blessed is he who considereth the poor and needy ; the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive; he shall be blessed upon earth, and thou wilt not deliver him into the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness,"

8. We shall in vain seek for instances of such a benign and liberal feeling in the volumes of the most enlightened of pagan writers, whether poets or orators. How beautifully does the fol. lowing observation made by Solomon contrast with the contempt expressed by Horace for the great body of his countrymen : " He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth ; but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker.”

RUSSELL.

CLXXXII. — PASSAGES FROM SHAKSPEARE.

1. MERCY. — PORTIA TO SHYLOCK.
The quality of Mercy is not strained ;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed ;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.
'T is mightiest in the mightiest ; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings :
But Mercy is above this sceptred sway ;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself :
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When Mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy ;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

2. A Good CONSCIENCE.
What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!
Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just;
And he but naked, though locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

3. A MOTHER'S BLESSING.
Be thou blest, Bertram! and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood, and virtue,
Contend for empire in thee! and thy goodness
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none : be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life's key: be checked for silence,
But never taxed for speech. What heaven more will
That thee mily furnish, and my prayers pluck down,
Full on thy head! Farewell !

4. EXHORTATION TO COURAGE
But wherefore do you droop? Why look you sad!
Be great in act, as you have been in thought;
Let not the world see fear and sad distrust
Govern the motion of a kingly eye;
Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire;
Threaten the threatener, and outface the brow
Of bragging horror; so shall inferior eyes,
That borrow their behaviors from the great,
Grow great by your example ; and put on
The dauntless spirit of resolution ;
Show boldness and aspiring confidence.
What! shall they seek the lion in his den,
And fright him there, -- and make him tremble there!
0, let it not be said ! Forage, and run
To meet displeasure further from the doors,
And grapple with him ere he comes so nigh!

5. GRIEF NOT TO BE JUDGED BY EXTERNALS.
Seems, madam ! — nay, it is; I know not seems.
"T is not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitfu} river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly. These, indeed, seem,
For they are actions that a man might play ;
But I have that within which passeth show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

6. THE MIND MAKES THE Body Rich.
Well, come, my Kate, we will unto your father's
Even in these honest mean habiliments;
Our purses shall be proud, our garments poor;
For, 't is the mind that makes the body rich ;
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds,
So honor peereth in the meanest habit.
What! is the jay more precious than the lark.
Because his feathers are more beautiful ?
Or is the adder better than the eel,
Because his painted skin contents the eye?
O, no, good Kate; neither art thou the worse
For this poor furniture, and mean array.

7. VALUE OF REPUTATION.
Good name in man, and woman, dear136 my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls;
Who steals muy purse, steals trash ; 't is something, nothing:
T was mine, 't is his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enrichas him,
And makes me poor indeed.

8. SUSPICION.
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights :
Yond141 Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much :— such men are dangerous.
'Would he were fatter! But I fear him not ;
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer, and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men : he loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music;
Seldom he smiles; and smiles in such a sort,
As if he mocked himself, - and scorned his spirit,
That could be moved to smile at anything.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease
While they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.
I rather tell thee what is to be feared,
Than what I fear; for always I am Cæsar.
Come on my right hand, — for this ear is deaf, -
And tell me truly what thou think’st of him.

9. THE CHARACTER OF BRUTUS.
This was the noblest Roman of them all :
All the conspirators, save only he,
Did that they did in envy of great Cæsar;
He only, in a general honest thought,
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle ; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, This was a man!

CLXXXIII. - NAPOLEON.

1. NAPOLEON's reign was nothing but a campaign; his em pire, a field of battle as extensive as all Europe. He concen'. trated the rights of people and of kings in his sword; all morality in the number and strength of his armies. Nothing which threatened him was innocent; nothing which placed an obstacle in his way was sacred ; nothing which preceded him in date was

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »