« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
pursued by Pharaoh and the forces of Egypt, gives rise to the third figure. The enemy follow Israel flying through the sea with its heaped-up waters. God marches after them riding on his horses and chariots of salvation.-(Ver. 8.) That Israel is saved, and that their enemies are destroyed, is not added. Just at the moment of intense expectation the figure is broken off. Israel's peril is seen; his deliverance is certain, but it lies yet in the future, and this leaves room for human despondency. The same fear which oppressed the prophet at the outset (ver. 2), returns again upon him. A distant deliverance does not extinguish his alarm at the approaching calamity. "I heard," -not God's majestic approach, for that was presented to the eye rather than the ear, and was besides, to his people, an occasion, not of terror, but of joyful expectation, because its object was their rescue, but the same that he had heard with similar feelings before (ver. 2), viz., the prediction in chap. i. of a speedy judgment upon Judah-“I heard and all within me" (both physical and spiritual) "trembled; at the voice my lips quivered; rottenness enters into my bones," (paralysing all my strength,) "and I tremble where I stand, that I must quietly wait for the day of trouble, for his coming up against the people who shall invade them in troops." It is the being obliged to await this righteous inevitable chastisement which gives rise to the feelings just expressed. The next verse expands the idea of the day of trouble by giving the consequences of the invasion. It is a prophetic picture of the desolation of the holy land by the wars with the Chaldeans; and in part also, for the prophet does not chronologically separate them, its mournful condition during the Babylonish exile. But the confidence of faith triumphs over all, and with the exultation of victory the psalm closes.
ART. III.-Course of the History of Modern Philosophy. By M. D. VICTOR COUSIN. Translated by O. WIGHT. New York: Appleton & Co., 1852.
In these volumes is presented for the first time entire, in English dress, the second series of M. Cousin's Lectures on the History of Modern philosophy. The translation is spirited and faithful, and so far as such a thing is possible, it has succeeded in anglicising the peculiar mannerism of this most celebrated of modern lecturers on philosophy. M. Cousin, beyond any writer in his own department, wields a despotic command of all the resources of style and language. Rich in thought,
and luminous to a proverb in the most abstract processes of the understanding, he suffers no films to obscure the medium through which he speaks. His style shapes itself with an easy fluency to the varied movement of his thought,-falling into no misty Germanisms of phraseology, even amid the profoundest reaches of speculation, but every where clear and radiant with the light of his perspicacious intellect. Unlike most writers, in becoming diffuse in statement he does not cease to be precise in meaning; nor with him does redundancy beget weakness or confusion. M. Cousin's first object, as a lecturer, is to communicate to other minds the results of his own processes of investigation; and not merely to dazzle by profuse exhibitions of his resources, or to captivate by finished rhetorical arrangement. And yet he is eloquent,-charmingly so. His lectures are worth reading for the glow, and elegance, and animated march of the style. The diction flows along the windings of his theme, marked as the emergency requires-here with a graceful mellow beauty worthy to drape the choicest effusions of the imagination; and there with a muscular vigour and stern severity which tolerate no verbal hindrance to the finest touches of analysis or the most intense compression of logical formulas.
Nor is this show of eloquence,-this ready and felicitous. adaptation of the word to the idea, the fruit of conscious design or studied effort. It is rather the natural and spontaneous dress of the offspring of his intellect. His style is what it is, so lively and instinct with grace, and yet so vigorous and transparent, simply because it is the direct offshoot of a genuine heart-interest in the most abstruse labours of the understanding the warm and instant gushing forth of an irrepressible enthusiasm felt for all that lies within the domain of philosophy. We know of no writer in this department who exhibits so much feeling in his thinking. M. Cousin, as he tracks his way through the known and the unknown of the shoreless regions of metaphysics, and coasts along its vast unmapped continents of thought, is far from regarding his journey as one of privation and solitude. Not a step taken but he perceives verdure, and fragrance, and beauty. In all his labours, whether engaged upon the mystic and involved speculations of Proclus, or the immortal dialogues of Plato, or the cold, hard pages of Descartes, there is no tiring of the first impulse, no flagging of the original interest. They come from the heart, and are fed by the native bias of his intellect. Over the very fragments of the old philosophies-over the decayed and vanishing wrecks of the ancient mythologies and anthropologies; and even over the muddy, confused issues of the Hindu metaphysics; in short, over all the attempts, from first
to last, of the human mind to solve the mysteries of its own being and destiny, there lingers for him a strange and fascinating interest, a very halo akin to that nameless, visionary glory which the imagination sees, and loves to see hovering over all created things,
"The light which is neither on land or sea,
The consecration and the poet's dream."
Nor yet, when entering the dry, and to most minds verdureless domain of mediæval scholasticism, where the common ear hears only the rattle of skeletons and sapless husks, does he feel himself in fellowship with other than living forms whom he may address as acquaintances of the hour. He visits the fountains of the sharp, yet fruitless dialectics of Scotus Erigena and Roscelinus, of Peter Lombard and Amaury de Chartres, very much in the humour in which the poet fancies himself travelling to the top of Parnassus, or the waters of Helicon. And under his guidance, we are pleased to trace the stream of those old, obscure, scholastic wrangles, as it flows on calm and full, with many a turn not devoid of grace, with many an eddy sparkling with the choicest juices of the intellect, and with many a spot along its banks green with the earliest blossoming of those germs, from which have been gathered the boundless and immortal harvests of modern life and culture.
In this trait of M. Cousin-this enthusiasm, this undisguised and undisguisable love of the work, this æsthetic apprehension of all the problems, the efforts, and wanderings of philosophy, we have beyond question the secret of his wonderful success as the leader of the speculative intellect of France. Others might be named of, perhaps, equal depth and grasp of understanding, and equally possessed of the main requisites for interpreting and illustrating the course of modern philosophy; but it would be difficult to name one who, out of his own resources, could so array in living beauty and fascinating ornament the cold, unseemly tenants of that abstract realm.
We have spoken of M. Cousin's wonderful success as a lecturer on philosophy. No intellect of the day has run a career of such brilliancy and triumph in this department. Certainly there is nothing in modern times to rival the account given of the interest which his lectures inspired throughout France; or that approaches the imposing splendour of the circumstances under which they were delivered. Restored in 1827 to the chair of philosophy, after seven years of silence and virtual exile, enforced by the suspicions of arbitrary power, surrounded by the growing evidences of the genesis of a new school of thought, protestant at once towards the extravagances of German idealism, and the gross bowing down to earth of the materialism of the predominant systems of England, and his own
country, occupying the very position over which the illustrious Royer Collard had just thrown the halo of brilliant genius and honourable achievements, and with Guizot and Villemain for his associates in co-ordinate branches of the University,-under these auspices he entered upon the "Course of the History of Modern Philosophy."
His lectures won an unexampled popularity. Crowds of the keenest intellects of the rising generation of France gathered round him in enthusiastic devotion. Audiences of two and three thousand persons pressed, day after day, into the great lecture-room of the Sorbonne. The daily press eagerly reported them as among the most exciting incidents of Parisian life. For any thing like a parallel to the scene witnessed, we must go back to those days silvered over to the modern eye by the light of romance; days when the famous Abélard, returning from the school of Corbeil, and from his sweeping assault upon the Realism of his master, William of Champeaux, entered the gates of Paris amid a retinue of disciples, and from the cloisters of Notre Dame, and the gardens of St Genevieve, unfolded with a sublime and captivating eloquence, to no less than three thousand scholars, the rival philosophies of his age.
Aside from these recorded triumphs in the actual commerce and purveyorship of philosophic thought; aside from his unequalled popularity as the founder of a school, and the leader of a new era in his own land, we have abundant evidence in what lies patent to every eye on the printed page, that in assuming the task of an expositor of the various philosophies of humanity, he made no vain or partial estimate of his powers. It was neither chance, nor favour, nor self-conceit, nor temporal advantage, nor yet any sordid lusting after a place in the literary annals of his country, that induced him first to choose, and then to persevere in the walk of philosophy. He determined to give up to this theme all the energies and acquirements of his mind; and his determination, we have reason to believe, arose from a conscientious conviction that he could do better service here than in any other field. They alone, who are familiar with the fruits of his laborious years, can tell what the world would have lost; and what a waste of princely faculty would have been seen, had he yielded to the urgent temptations, so often thrown in his way, to enter upon the line of political promotion.
We have spoken warmly of M. Cousin, because we admire his genius, and love the enthusiasm with which he has cultivated his favourite department of thought. It is impossible. to know what he is, as a man, and as a thinker, and do less. The grasp and acumen of his understanding; the vast extent of his acquired resources; the accuracy and fulness of his
knowledge; his subtlety and thoroughness as an analyst; his diligence as an observer of the facts of human consciousness; his vigour and polish as a logician; his judicial fairness as a critic; and running through all, the mild and animating fervour of a large and affectionate heart,-these are attributes of character which compel the homage of minds most alienated from him by the tone and drift of his speculative theories. Nor do we, by yielding this voluntary homage to the most distinguished intellect of France, intend, in the least, to fetter our liberty of dissenting from many of his principles, or from reprobating those leading features of his system which he reckons the noblest fruits of his labours.
After a few more introductory words on a point suggested by the times, not less than the idiosyncrasies of our author, we shall go on to remark upon the method and results of his philosophy. It cannot be doubted that, of late, feelings of alienation and disgust have been growing among us toward the French character. Generally the world had come to look with a large charity on its weaknesses and wanderings, as exhibited during the close of the last century. A disposition had been shown to forgive and forget those scenes of blood and ruin which so shocked the moral sense and social order of mankind; and to look to the brighter side of the record,-to the advantages and benefits which have been conferred, by its stormy and painful experience, upon other nations, and other schools of moral and economical science.
But a renaissance of the revolutionary phrenzy has recently shown itself and spread over France. Though bringing with it less to try the sensibilities,-less of terror, and death, and destruction, it has revealed a yet more flippant temper under the pressure and gloom of desperate calamities, and a yet more capricious instability of purpose amid exigencies demanding the most immovable firmness of national resolve. It has done less to startle and offend the social affections, but more to provoke public ridicule and contempt, than the great revolutionary era which preceded it. Recent events have, indeed, put to the test the bonds of international charity and respect. France has just called the world to witness a spectacle, strange in its origin, rapid in its transit, contemptible in its finale, and in spirit throughout a grotesque mixture of tragedy and farce, patriotism and treachery, magnanimity and meanness, devotion to freedom and craven submissions to daring usurpation. In a few short years, she has run through the whole circle of politi cal experience and state hazards. Starting from the point of undisturbed peace and a wholesome civil rule, she has shot, at a bound, to the depth of social anarchy; and then, under the reaction of her own disgust and amazement, has leaped back