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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 qf 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 connection 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.
J~l 3. In no other country but Judea, at that early period, were > such sentiments as the following either expressed or felt: "0 Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent "r
thou that hast set thy glory heuveus! When I con
sider thy heavens, the work of thy thigers, 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 crT5wneth 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. l('or he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust."
5. "O Lord, thou hast searched me and known mc: thou
know est my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understaDdest 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 dwelling of the departed, thou art there also. If I take the wings of t 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 comprelendcd 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 wnall 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 inhabitants 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'agery that the literature of the Hebrews surpasses the writings of the most learned 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 earliest 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 following observation made by Solomon contrast with the contempt expressed by Horace for the great body of his countrymen : ' He human conscience resold, philosophy proscribed, prejudices encouraged, the human mind diminished, instruction materialized and concentrated in the pure sciences alone, schools converted into barracks, literature degraded by censorship or humbled by baseness, national representation perverted, election abolished, the arts enslaved, commerce destroyed, credit annihilated, navigation suppressed, international hatred revived, the people op pressed, or enrolled in the army, paying, in blood or taxes, the ambition of an unequalled soldier, but covering with the great name of France the contradictions of the age, the miseries and degradations of the country.
5. This is the founder! This is the man ! — a man, instead of a revolution ! — a man, instead of an epoch ! — a man, instead of a country! — a man, instead of a nation! Nothing after him! nothing around him*butr his shadow, making sterile the eighteenth century, absorbed and concentrated in himself alone. Personal glory will be always spoken of as characterizing the age of Napoleon; but it will never merit the praise bestowed upon that of Augustus, of Charlemagne," and of Louis the Fourteenth.1' There is no age; there is only a name; and this name signifies nothing to humanity, but himself. False in institutions, for he retrograded; false in policy, for he debased; false in morals, for he corrupted; false in civilization, for he oppressed, — he was only true in war; for he shed torrents of human blood. But what can we, then, allow him? His individual genius was great, but it was the genius of materialism. His intelligence was vast and clear; but it was the intelligence of calculation. He counted, he weighed, he measured; but he felt not, he loved not, he sympathized with none; he was a statue rather than a man.
6. His metallic nature was felt even in his style. Much supe- , rior to Caesar in the account of his campaigns, his style is not the written expression alone, — it is the action. Every sentence in his pages is, so to speak, the counterpart and counter-impression of the fact. There is neither a letter, a sound, nor a color, wasted between the fact and the word, — and the word is himself. His phrases, concise," but struck off without ornament, recall those time& when Baj'azet and Charlemagne, not knowing how to write their names at the bottom of their imperial acts, dipped their hands in ink or blood, and applied them with all their joints impressed upon the parchment. It was not the signature; it was the hand itself of the hero, thus fixed eternally before the eyes; and such were the page3 of his campaigns, dictated by Napoleon, — the very soul of movement, of action, and of combat,
7. This fame, which constituted his morality, his conscience, and his principle, he merited, by his nature and his talents, from war and from glory; and he has covered with it the name of France. France, obliged to accept the odium of his tyranny and his crimes, should also accept his glory with a serfous gratitude. She cannot separate her name from his without lessening it; for it is equally incrusted with his greatness as with his faults. She wished for renown; and what she principally owes to him is the celebrity she has gained in the world. This celebrity, which will descend to posterity, and which is improperly called glory, constituted his means and his end. Let him, therefore, enjoy it. The noise he has made will resound through distant ages; but let it not pervert posterity, or falsify the judgment of mankind. He is admired as a soldier; he is measured as a sovereign; he is judged as a founder of nations; — great in action, little in idea, nothing in virtue. Such is the man! Lakaktine.
CLXXXIV. — NAPOLEON AS A STUDENT.
1. Diligence and self-control are the crowning attributes of genius. Napoleon, however extraordinary his mental gifts, no more attained his greatness by fits and starts than he made his way over the Alps by a sudden flight. In both cases the road was opened by labor, toil, and endurance. The evidences of his arduous study and persevering industry in youth afford a useful lesson for the consideration of those who, feeling within them a certain excitement, regard it—and, it may be, justly — as the token of mental power, but forget that it is as surely an evidence of power needing the strengthening and discipline of order and systematic study.
2. Napoleon appears to have gone through a regular and systematic course of reading with a definite object: nothing was done for mere amusement. His selections of works, and his extracts from them, are alike remarkable. He occupied himself with natural history, natural philosophy, and medicine. He studied ancient geography and history ;■ then turned to modern, and acquainted himself well with the history of Fr?nce. His object seemed rather to gain a knowledge of historical facts than to form a system from them. A thirst for general knowledge, and an indefatigable industry in attaining it, are manifested throughout his scholastic career.
3. We will not enter into the moral questions connected with Napoleon's aims and objects, with the use or misuse of his eneipies, for we are now only dealing with the training by which he leagued to concen'trate them; and with the great lesson to be drawn from the fact that it was by strenuous perseverance and unwearied effort, under difficulties and impediments, that his mental powers were—we will not say created — but fostered and made effectual to the attainment of his aims and objects. Napoleon, as well as Michael Angelo," and Newton," and all possessed of true genius, had to submit to that law of human nature, which decrees that nothing great can be done without great effort. Of all the subjects of which he afterwards showed himself master, he was first the regular and diligent student.
4. His clear ideas on legislation, on finance', and social organization, were not fruits of spontaneous growth, but the harvest reaped on the throne from the labors of the poor lieutenant" of artillery. He owed his mental development to that to which in every age every great and strong mind has owed it — industry, to solitary and patient vigil, to difficulty and misfortune. True it is that the revolution opened to him a vast field; but, had the revolution never occurred, Napoleon must have become distin guished; for characters such as his seize upon, but are never the slaves of, circumstances. When, after seven years spent in retirement, Napoleon made his first appearance on the world's stage, he had already within him the germs of his future greatness. Nothing was fortuitous with him.
5. His was a perpetual struggle, and not always a successful ,one. His being at Toulon" was owing to his never losing an opportunity of coming forward. Never did a new minister come into power without receiving a memorial from the young officer on the affairs of his native country; and never was any change in the military department of Corsica proposed, that Napoleon did not, at any risk, immediately repair thither. When unsuccessful in his object, he returned to Valence" to think and to study; and these seven years of the youthful life of Napoleon are to us the noblest and greatest in that life of prodigies, and are themselves sufficient to preclude his elevation being ascribed to fatality.
CLXXXV. — THOUGHTS ON BOOKS.
1. Obligations To "literature. — I will here place on record my own obligations to literature: a debt so immense as not to be cancelled, like that of Nature, by death itself. I owe to it some thing more than my earthly welfare. Adrift, early in life, upon the great waters, — as pilotlcss as Wordsworth's blind boy, afloat in the turtle-shell,— if I did not come to shipwreck, it was that, in default of paternal or fraternal guidance, I was rescued, like