Obrázky na stránke


[ocr errors]

foe like a feather, and, rearing on his hind legs, rush to the fray again with his jaws distended and a dauntless eye. But age and a pampered life greatly disqualified the noble mastiff for such a struggle. In every thing but courage he was only the vestige of what he had once been. A higher bound than ever raised the wary and furious beast far beyond the reach of the dog, who was making a desperate but fruitless dash at her, from which she alighted in a favourable position on the back of her aged foe. For a single moment only could the panther remain there, the great strength of the dog returning with a convulsive effort. But Elizabeth saw, as Brave fastened his teeth in the side of his enemy, that the collar of brass around his neek, which had been glittering throughout the fray, was of the colour of blood, and directly that his frame was-sinking to the earth, where it soon lay. prostrate and helpless. Several mighty efforts of the wild cat to extricate herself from the jaws of the dog followed, but they were fruitless, until the mastiff turned on his back, his lips collapsed, and his teeth loosened; when the short convulsions and stillness that succeeded, announced the death of poor Brave. Elizabeth now lay wholly at the mercy of the beast. There is said to be something in the front of the image of the Maker that daunts the hearts of the inferior beings of his creation; and it would seem that some such power, in the present instance, suspended the threatened blow. The eyes of the monster and the kneeling maiden met for an instant, when the former stooped to examine her fallen foe, next to scent her luckless cub. From the latter examination it turned, however, with its eyes apparently emitting flashes of fire, its tail lashing its sides furiously, and its claws projecting four inches from its broad feet. Miss Temple did not or could not move. Her hands were clasped in the attitude of prayer, but her eyes were still drawn to her terrible enemy; her cheeks were blanched to the whiteness of marble, and her lips were slightly separated with horror. The moment seemed now to have arrived for the fatal' termination, and the beautiful figureof Elizabeth was bowing meekly to the stroke, when a rustling of leaves from behind seemed rather to mock the

than to meet the ear. “Hist, hist!" said a low voice, “stoop lower,


your bonnet hides the creature's head.” It was rather the yielding of nature than a compliance with this unexpected order that caused the head of our heroine to sink on her bosom, when she heard the report of the rifle, the whizzing of the bullet, and the enraged cries of the beast, who was rolling over on the earth, biting its own flesh, and tearing the twigs and branches within its reach. At the next instant her opportune deliverer emerged to view in the person of Leather-stocking. COOPER.


At Athens, at once the centre and capital of the Greek philosophy and Heathen superstition, takes place the first public and direct conflict between Christianity and Paganism. Up to this time there is no account of any one of the apostles taking his station in the public street or market-place, and addressing the general multitude. Their place of teaching had invariably been the synagogue of their nation, or, as at Philippi, the neighbourhood of their customary place of worship. Here, however, Paul does not confine himself to the synagogue, or to the society of his countrymen and their proselytes. He takes his stand in the public market-place (probably, not the Ceramicus; but the Eretriac Forum) which, in the reign of Augustus, had begun to be more frequented, and at the top of wbich was the famous portico, from which the Stoics assumed their name. In Athens, the appearance of a new public teacher, instead of offending the popular feelings, was too familiar to excite astonishment, and was rather welcomed as promising some fresh intellectual excitement. In Athens, hospitable to all religions and all opinions, the foreign and Asiatic appearance, and possibly the less pol-. ished tone and dialect of Paul, would only awaken the stronger curiosity. Though they affect at first (probably the philosophic part of his hearers) to treat him as an idle.“babbler," and others (the vulgar, alarmed for the honour of their deities) supposed that he was about to introduce some new religious worship which might endanger the supremacy of their own tutelar divinities, he is conveyed, not without respect to a still more public and commodious place, from whence he may explain bis doctrines to a numerous assembly without disturbance. On the Areopagus the Christian leader takes his stand, surrounded on every side with whatever was noble, beautiful, and intellectual in the olden world,—temples, of which the materials were surpassed only by the architectural grace and majesty; statues, in which the ideal anthropomorphism of the Greeks had almost elevated the popular notions of the Deity, by embodying it in human forms of such exquisite perfection; public edifices, where the civil interests of man had been discussed with the acuteness and versatility of the highest Grecian intellect, in all the purity of the inimitable Attic dialect, when oratory had obtained its highest triumphs, by "wielding at will the fierce democracy;" the walks of the philosophers, who unquestionably, by elevating the human mind to an appetite for new and nobler knowledge, had prepared the way for a loftier and purer religion. The opening of the apostle's speech is according to those most perfect rules of art which are but the expressions of the general sentiments of nature. It is calm, temperate, conciliatory. It is no fierce denunciation of idolatry, no contemptuous disdain of the prevalent philosophic opinions; it has nothing of the sternness of the ancient Jewish prophet, nor the taunting defiance of the later Christian polemic. “Already the religious people of Athens had, unknowingly indeed, worshipped the universal Deity, for they had an altar to the unknown God. The nature, the attributes of this sublimer being, hitherto adored in ignorant and unintelligent homage, he came to unfold. This God rose far above the popular notion; he could not be confined in altar or temple, or represented by any visible image. He was the universal father of mankind, even of the earth-born Athenians, who boasted that they were of an older race than the other families of man, and coeval with the world itself.” The next sentence, which asserted the providence of God, as the active, creative energy, as the conservative, the ruling, the ordaining principle, annihilated at once the atomic theory and the government of blind chance, to which Epicurus ascribed the origin and preservation of the universe. The great Christian doctrine of the resurrection closed the speech of Paul; a doctrine received with mockery perhaps by his Epicurean hearers, with suspension of judgment probably by the Stoic, with whose theory of the final destruction of the world by fire, and his tenet of future retribution, it might appear in some degree to harmonize.

At Athens all this free discussion on topics relating to the religious and moral nature of man, and involving the authority of the existing religion, passed away without disturbance. The jealous reverence for the established faith, which, conspiring with its perpetual ally political faction, had in former times caused the death of Socrates, the exile of Stilpa, and the proscription of Diagoras the Melian, had long died away. With the loss of independence political animosities had subsided, and the toleration of philosophical and religious indifference allowed the utmost latitude to speculative inquiry, however ultimately dangerous to the whole fabric of the national religion. Yet Polytheism still reigned in Athens in its utmost splendour; the temples were maintained with the highest pomp; the Eleusinian mysteries, in which religion and philosophy bad in some degree coalesced, attracted the noblest and the wisest of the Romans, who boasted of their initiation in these sublime secrets. Athens was thus at once the head-quarters of Paganism, and at the same time the place where Paganism most clearly betrayed its approaching dissolution.


47.-DRAMATIC POETS. SHAKSPEARE was the man, who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him; and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily. When he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him of having wanted learning give him the greater commendation. He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inward and found her there. I cannot say that he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flati and insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not raise himself as high above the rest of poets.

“Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi." The consideration of this made Mr Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever wrote, but he would produce it much better done in Shakspeare.

As for Jonson, if we look upon him while he was himself, (for his last plays were but his dotages) I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself as well as of others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit, and language and humour also in some measure, were had before. him; but something of art was wanting to the Drama till he

He managed his strength to greater advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom find him endeavouring to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such a height. Humour was his proper sphere, and in that he delighted more to represent mechanic people. He was deeply conversant with the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarcely a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times whom he has not translated in “Sejanus" and “Catiline.” But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft in: other poets is only victory in him. If there was any fault in his language, it was that he weaved it too closely and laboriously, in his comedies especially.; perhaps too he did a little too much Romanize our tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latin as he found them; wherein, though he learnedly followed their language, he did not enough to comply with the


[ocr errors]


« PredošláPokračovať »