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BUNYAN'S PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
The characteristic peculiarity of the Pilgrim's Progress is, that it is the only work of its kind which possesses a strong human interest. Other allegories only amuse the fancy. The allegory of Bunyan has been read by many thousands with tears. There are some good allegories in Johnson's works, and some of still higher merit in Addison. In these performances there is, perhaps, as much wit and ingenuity as in the Pilgrim's Progress, But the pleasure which is produced by the Vision of Mirza, or the Vision of Theodore, or the Contest between Rest and Labour, is exactly similar to the pleasure which we derive from one of Cowley's odes, or from a canto of Hudibras. It is a pleasure which belongs wholly to the understanding, and in which the feelings have no part whatever.
It is not so with the Pilgrim's Progress. That wonderful book, while it obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those who are too simple to admire it. Doctor Johnson, all whose studies were desultory, and who hated, as he said, to read books through, made an exception in favour of the Pilgrim's Progress. That work, he said, was one of the two or three works which he wished longer. In the wildest parts of Scotland, the Pilgrim's Progress is the delight of the peasantry. In every nursery, the Pilgrim's Progress is a greater favourite than Jack the Giant-Killer. Every reader knows the straight and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has
backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius—that things which are not should be as though they were; that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. And this miracle the tinker * has wrought.
There is no ascent, no declivity, no resting-place, no turn-stile, with which we are not perfectly acquainted. The wicket-gate,
Bunyan was a tinker.
and the desolate swamp which separates it from the City of Destruction ; the long line of road, as straight as a rule can make it; the Interpreter's house and all its fair shows; all the stages of the journey, all the forms which cross or overtake the pilgrims, giants and hobgoblins, ill-favoured ones and shining ones ; the tall, comely, swarthy Madam Bubble, with her great purse by her side, and her fingers playing with the money ; the black man in the bright vesture; Mr. Worldly Wiseman and My Lord Hategood, Mr. Talkative and Mrs. Timorous ;--all are actually existing beings to us.
We follow the travellers through their allegorical progress, with interest not inferior to that with which we follow Elizabeth from Siberia to Moscow, or Jeanie Deans from Edinburgh to London.
Bunyan is almost the only writer that ever gave to the abstract the interest of the concrete. In the works of many celebrated authors, men are mere personifications. We have not an Othello, but jealousy ; not an Iago, but perfidy; not a Brutus, but patriotism. The mind of Bunyan, on the contrary, was so imaginative, that personifications, when he dealt with them, became
A dialogue between two qualities, in his dream, has more dramatic effect than a dialogue between two human beings in most plays.
The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as a study to every person who wishes to obtain a wide command over the English language. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people. There is not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of theology, which would puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed several pages which do not contain a single word of more than two syllables. Yet no writer has said more exactly what he meant to say. For magnificence, for pathos, for vehement exhortation, for subtle disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working men, was perfectly sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we would so readily stake the fame of the old, unpolluted English language ; no book which shows so well how rich that language is, in its own proper wealth,
and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed.
Cowper said, fifty or sixty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say, that though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds. One of these produced the PARADISE Lost, the other the PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
THE FAMILY MEETING.
We are all here !
We are all here !
Even they, the dead -though dead, so
Fond Memory, to her duty true, [dear, All who hold each other dear.
Brings back their faded forms to view. Each chair is filled we're all at home: How life-like through the mist of years To-night let no cold stranger come. Each well-remembered face appears ! It is not often thus around
We see them as in times long pastOur old familiar hearth we're found : From each to each kind looks are cast; Bless then the meeting and the spot; We hear their words, their smiles beholdFor once be every care forgot ;
They're round us, as they were of old : Let gentle Peace assert her power,
We are all here.
We are all here!
And by the hearth we now sit round,
May each repeat, in words of bliss,
LIKE as the damask rose you see,
Like to the grass that's newly sprung.
THE ELDER'S DEATH-BED.
“ JAMIE, thy own father has forgotten thee in thy infancy, and me in my old age; but, Jamie, forget not thou thy father nor thy mother, for that, thou knowest and feelest, is the commandment of God.”
The broken-hearted boy could give no reply. He had gradually stolen closer and closer unto the loving old man; and now was lying, worn out with sorrow, drenched and dissolved in tears, in his grandfather's bosom. His mother had sunk down on her knees, and hid her face with her hands. “Oh, if my husband knew but of this, he would never, never desert his dying father!" And I now knew that the elder was praying on his death-bed for a disobedient and wicked son.
At this affecting time the minister took the family Bible on his knees, and said, “ Let us sing to the praise and glory of God part of the fifteenth psalm ;” and he read, with a tremulous and broken voice, those beautiful verses —
"Within thy tabernacle, Lord,
Who shall abide with thee?
Who shall a dweller be?
The man that walketh uprightly,
And worketh righteousness,
So doth he truth express."
Ere the psalm was yet over, the door was opened, and a tall, fine-looking man entered, but with a lowering and dark countenance, seemingly in sorrow, in misery, and remorse. Agitated, confounded, and awe-struck, by the melancholy and dirge-like music, he sat down on a chair, and looked with a ghastly face towards his father's bed. When the psalm ceased, the elder said, with a solemn voice, “My son, thou art come in time to receive thy father's blessing. May the remembrance of what will happen in this room, before the morning again shine over the Hazel Glen, win thee from the error of thy ways! Thou art here to witness the mercy of thy God and thy Saviour, whom thou hast forgotten.”
The minister looked, if not with a stern, yet with an upbraiding countenance, on the young man, who had not recovered his speech, and said, “William! for three years past your shadow has not darkened the door of the house of God. They who fear not the thunder, may tremble at the still small voice. Now is the hour for repentance, that your father's spirit may carry up to heaven tidings of a contrite soul saved from the company of sinners !"
The young man, with much effort, advanced to the bed-side, and at last found voice to say, “Father, I am not without the affections of nature; and I hurried home the moment I heard that the minister had been seen riding towards our house. I hope that you will yet recover; and, if ever I have made you unhappy, I ask your forgiveness—for, though I may not think as you do on matters of religion, I have a human heart. Father! I may have been unkind, but I am not cruel. I ask your forgiveness."
“ Come near to me, William ; kneel down by the bed-side, and let my hand feel the head of my beloved son—for blindness is coming fast upon me. Thou wert my first-born, and thou art my only living son. All thy brothers and sisters are lying in the church-yard, beside her whose sweet face thine own, William, did once so much resemble. Long wert thou the joy, the pride of my soul-ay, too much the pride!—for there was not in all the parish such a man, such a son as my own William. If thy heart has since been changed, God may inspire it again with right thoughts. I have sorely wept for thee--ay, William, when there was none near me !—even as David wept for Absalom--for thee, my son! my son!”
A long deep groan was the only reply; but the whole body of the kneeling man was convulsed, and it was easy to see his sufferings, his contrition, his remorse, and his despair. The pastor said, with a sterner voice and austerer countenance than were natural to him, “Know you whose hand is now lying on your