Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

old. A literary past and present thus met in him, and, like all the greatest men, he did not fail to make a cast into the future. He began that pure poetry of natural description which has no higher examples to show in Wordsworth or Scott or Keats than his L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. Lastly, he did not represent in any way the England that followed the tyranny, the coarseness, the sensuality, the falseness, or the irreligion of the Stuarts, but he did represent Puritan England, and the whole career of Puritanism from its cradle to its grave.

THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.— With Milton the great Elizabethan age of imaginative poetry and the spirit of the New Learning said their last word. We might say that Puritanism also said its last great words with him, were it not that its spirit lasted in English life, were it not also that four years after his death, in 1678, John BUNYAN, who had previously written much, published the Pilgrim's Progress. It is the journey of Christian, the Pilgrim, from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The second part was published in 1684, and in 1682 the allegory of the Holy War.

I class the Pilgrim's Progress here, because, in its imaginative fervor and poetry and in its quality of naturalness, it belongs to the spirit of the Elizabethan times. It belongs also to that time in this, that its simple and clear form grew up out of passionate feeling and not out of self-conscious art. It is the people's book and not the book of a literary class, and yet it lives in literature, because it first revealed the poetry which fervent belief in a spiritual world can kindle in the rudest hearts. In doing this, and in painting the various changes and feelings of the pilgrim's progress towards God, the book touched the deepest human interests, and set on foot a new and plentiful literature. Its language is the language of the Bible. It is a prose allegory conceived as an epic poem.

As such it admits the vivid dramatic dialogue, the episodes, the descriptions, and the clear drawing of types of character which give a different, but an equal, pleasure to a peasant boy and to an intellect like Lord Macaulay's."

“Scholars of wide and critical acquaintance with literature are often unable to acquire an acceptably good, not to say an admirable, style; and, on the other hand, men who can read only their own language, and who have received little instruction even in that, often write and speak in a style that wins or commands attention, and in itself gives pleasure. Of these men John Bunyan is, perhaps, the most marked example. Better English there could hardly be, or a style more admirable for every excellence, than appears throughout the writings of that tinker. No person who has read The Pilgrim's Progress can have forgotten the fight of Christian with Apollyon, which, for vividness of description and dramatic interest, puts to shame all the combats with knights and giants and men and dragons that can be found elsewhere in romance or poetry; but there are probably many who do not remember, and not a few, perhaps, who, in the very enjoyment of it, did not notice, the clearness, the spirit, the strength, and the simple beauty of the style in which that passage

is written. For example, take the sentence which tells of the beginning of the tight:

• Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter; prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal Den that thou shalt go no further: here will I spill thy soul.'

A man cannot be taught to write like that, nor can he by any study learn the mystery of such a style.”R. G. White.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. MILTON.-D. Masson's Life of; English Men of Letters Series; W. E. Channing's Char. and Writings of; De Quincey's Essays; S. Johnson's Lives of Eng. Poets; R. W. Emerson in Characteristics of Men of Gen.; Macaulay's Essays; Brydges' Imaginative Biography; P. Bayne's Essays; W. Hazlitt's Sonnets of; F. D. Maurice's Friendship of Books; J. R. Seeley's Politics and Poetry of, in his Rom. Imperialism; Addison's Essays in Spectator, published in pamphlet; Ward's Anthology; Lowell's Among my Books, 2d Ser.; Ecl. Mag., Nov., 1849; Apr., 1852; and Nov., 1853.

BUNYAN.-Eng. Men of Let. Series; J. Tulloch's Eng. Puritanism and its Leaders; Macaulay's Essays; J. Baillie's Life Studies; Ecl. Mag., July, 1851; and May, 1852.

[ocr errors]

LESSON 32.

From Milton's Areopagitica. Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape, most glorious to look on; but, when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon' with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis? made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and Commons,3 nor ever shall do till her Master's second coming; he shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection. Suffer not these licensing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity, forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint.

We boast our light; but, if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it smites us into darkness. Who can discern those planets that are oft combust,5 and those stars of brightest magnitude that rise and set with the sun, until the opposite motion of their orbs brings them to such a place in the firmament where they may be seen evening or morning? The light which we have gained was given us not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. It is not the unfrocking of a priest, the unmitring of a bishop and the removing him from off the Presbyterian shoulders that will make us a happy nation; no, if other things as great in the church and in the rule of life, both economical and political, be not looked into and reformed, we have looked so long upon the blaze that Zwinglius and Calvin6 hath beaconed up to us that we are stark blind.

There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. 'Tis their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will

5 2

1 Brother to the Egyptian god Osiris, who was venerated under the form of a bull, whom Typhon killed, and whose body he cut into twenty-six pieces. 2 Sister and spouse of Osiris, 3 The pamphlet was addressed to Parliament. 4 An official license was needed for the publication of any book, 5 Burning 6 Reformers—the one a Swiss, the other a Frenchman.

hear with meekness nor can convince, yet all must be suppressed which is not found in their syntagma.? They are the troublers, they are the dividers of unity who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissevered pieces which are yet wanting to the body of truth. To be still searching what we know not by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we find it—for all her body is homogeneal and proportional—this is the golden rule in theology as well as in arithmetic, and makes up the best harmony in a church; not the forced and outward union of cold and neutral and inwardly divided minds.

Behold now this vast City,' a city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with God's protection; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers waking to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleagured truth than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation; others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement. What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly: and pregnant soil but wise and faithful laborers to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? We reckon more than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks; had we but eyes to lift up, the fields are white already.

Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making. A little generous prudence, a little forbearance of one another, and some grain of charity might win all these diligences to join and unite in one general and brotherly search after truth. I doubt not, if some great and worthy stranger should come among us, wise to discern the mould and temper of a people and how to govern it, observing the high hopes and aims, the diligent alacrity of our extended thoughts and reasonings in the pursuance of truth and freedom, but that he would cry out as Pirrhus4 did, admiring the Roman docility and courage, If such were my Epirots, I would not despair the greatest design that could be attempted to make a church or kingdom happy.

Yet these are the men cried out against for schismatics and sectaries; as if, while the temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some

3

4

1 Works. 2 London. Favoring. Tarentines against Rome.

King of Epirus, invited into Italy to aid the

squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort of irrational men who could not consider there must be many schisms and many dissections made in the quarry and in the timber ere the house of God can be built. And when every stone is laid artfully' together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in this world; neither can every piece of the building be of one form; nay rather the perfection consists in this, that out of many moderate varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes, that are not vastly disproportional, arises the goodly and the graceful symmetry that commends the whole pile and structure.

Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man’ after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unsealing her long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance, wbile the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.

From Bunyan's Pulgrim's Progress. I beheld, then, that they all went on till they came at the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the Gate; one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill; and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then he began to go up the hill.

The other two also came to the foot of the hill; but when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go, and supposing also that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill, therefore they were resolved to go in those ways. Now, the name of one of those was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell and rose no

more.

I looked then after Christian to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering

1 With art.

2 The allusion is to Samson.

8 Walking

« PredošláPokračovať »