Зображення сторінки

Pindar, and the rest. If the theory has receded out of modern criticism, it is because we have not had poets. Whenever they appear, they will redeem their own credit.

This ecstatical state seems to cause a regard to the whole, and not to the parts ; to the cause, and not to the ends : to the tendency, and not to the act. It respects genius, and not talent; hope, and not possession ; the anticipation of all things by the intellect, and not the history itself; art, and not works of art; poetry, and not experiment; virtue, and not duties.

There is no office or function of man but is rightly discharged by this divine method, and nothing that is not noxious to him if detached frorn its universal relations. Is it his work in the world to study Nature, or the laws of the world ? Let him beware of proposing to himself any end. Is it for use? Nature is debased, as if one looking at the ocean can remember only the price of fish. Or is it for pleasure ? he is mocked: there is a certain infatuating air in woods and mountains which draws on the idler to want and misery. There is something social and intrusive in the nature of all things; they seek to penetrate and overpower each the nature of every other creature, and itself alone in all modes and throughout space and spirit to prevail and possess. Every star in heaven is discontented and insatiable. Gravitation and chemistry cannot content them. Ever they woo and court the eye of every beholder. Every man who comes into the world they seek to fascinate and possess, to pass into his mind; for they desire to republish themselves, in a more delicate world than that they occupy. It is not enough that they are Jove, Mars, Orion, and the North Star, in the gravitating firmament; they would have such poets as Newton, Herschel, and Laplace, that they may re-exist and re-appear in the finer world of rational souls, and fill that realm with their fame. So is it with all immaterial objects. These beautiful basilisks set their brute glorious eyes on


of every child; and, if they can, cause their nature to pass through his wondering eyes into him; and so all things are mixed.

Therefore man must be on his guard against this cup of

enchantments, and must look at Nature with a supernatural eye. By piety alone—by conversing with the cause of Nature—is he safe and commands it. And because all knowledge is assimilation to the object of knowledge, as the power or genius of Nature is ecstatic, so must its science or the description of it be. The poet must be a rhapsodist : his inspiration a sort of bright casualty: his will in it only the surrender of will to the Universal Power, which will not be seen face to face, but must be received and sympathetically known. It is remarkable that we have out of the deeps of antiquity in the oracles ascribed to the half fabulous Zoroaster, a statement of this fact, which every lover and seeker of truth will recognise. “It is not proper,” said Zoroaster, “ to understand the Intelligible with vehemence, but if you incline your mind, you will apprehend it: not too earnestly, but bringing a pure and inquiring eye. You will not understand it as when understanding some particular thing, but with the flower of the mind. Things divine are not attainable by mortals who understand sensual things, but only the lightarmed arrive at the summit."

And because ecstasy is the law and cause of Nature, therefore you cannot interpret it in too high and deep a sense. Nature represents the best meaning of the wisest man. Does the sunset landscape seem to you the palace of Friendship,those purple skies and lovely waters the amphitheatre dressed and garnished only for the exchange of thought and love of the purest souls? It is that. All the other meanings which base men have put on it are conjectural and false. You cannot bathe twice in the same river, said Heraclitus; and I add, a man never sees the same object twice : with his own enlargement, the object acquires new aspects.

Does not the same law hold for virtue? It is vitiated by too much will. He who aims at progress, should aim at an infinite, not at a special benefit. The reforms whose fame now fills the land with Temperance, Anti-Slavery, Non-Resistance, No Government, Equal Labour; fair and generous as each appears, are poor bitter things when prosecuted for themselves as an end. To every reform, in proportion to its energy, early disgusts are incident; so that the disciple is surprised at the very hour of his first triumphs, with chagrins and sickness, and a general distrust: so that he shuns his associates, hates the enterprise which lately seemed so fair, and meditates to cast himself into the arms of that society and manner of life which he had newly abandoned with so much pride and hope. Is it that he attached the value of virtue to some particular practices, as, the denial of certain appetites in certain specified indulgences, and, afterward, allowing the soul to depart, found himself still as wicked and as far from happiness in that abstinence, as he had been in the abuse ? But the soul can be appeased not by a deed, but by a tendency. It is in a hope that she feels her wings. You shall love rectitude, and not the disuse of money or the avoidance of trade : an unimpeded mind, and not a monkish diet; sympathy and usefulness, and not hoeing or coopering. Tell me not how great your project is, or how pure,—the civil liberation of the world, its conversion into a Christian church, the establishment of public education, cleaner diet, a new division of labour and of land, laws of love for laws of

property ;-) say to you plainly, there is no end to which your practical faculty can aim, so sacred or so large, that, if pursued for itself, will not at last become carrion and an offence to the nostril. The imaginative faculty of the soul must be fed with objects immense and eternal. Your end should be one inapprehensible to the senses : then will it be a god always approached-never touched; always giving health. A man adorns himself with prayer and love as an aim adorns an action. What is strong but goodness, and what is energetic but the presence of a brave man? The doctrine in vegetable physiology of the presence, or the general influence of any substance over and above its chemical influence, as of an alkali or a living plant, is more predicable of man. You need not speak to me, I need not go

you are,

that should exert magnetism on me. Be you only whole and sufficient, and I shall feel you

in every part of my life and fortune, and I can as easily dodge the gravitation of the globe as escape your influence.


When we

But there are other examples of this total and supreme influence, besides Nature and the conscience. "From the poisonous tree, the world,” say the Brahmins, “two species of fruit are produced, sweet as the waters of life, Love or the society of beautiful souls, and Poetry, whose taste is like the immortal juice of Vishnu.” What is Love, and why is it the chief good, but because it is an overpowering enthusiasm ? Never self-possessed or prudent, it is all abandonment. It is not a certain admirable wisdom, preferable to all other advantages, and whereof all others are only secondaries and indemnities, because this is that in which the individual is no longer his own foolish master, but inhales an odorous and celestial air, is wrapt round with awe of the object, blending for the time that object with the real and only good, and consults every omen in Nature with trenulous interest. speak truly,—is not he only unhappy who is not in love ? his fancied freedom and self-rule—is it not so much death ? He who is in love is wise, and is becoming wiser; seeth newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses. Therefore, if the object be not itself a living and expanding soul, he presently exhausts it. But the love remains in his mind, and the wisdom it brought him; and it craves a new and higher object. And the reason why all men honour love, is because it looks up and not down; aspires and not despairs.

And what is Genius but finer love, a love impersonal, a love of the flower and perfection of things, and a desire to draw a new picture or copy of the same? It looks to the cause and life: it proceeds from within outward, whilst Talent goes from without inward. Talent finds its models and methods and ends in society, exists for exhibition, and goes to the soul only for power to work. Genius is its own end, and draws its means, and the style of its architecture, from within, going abroad only for audience and spectators, as we adapt our voice and phrase to the distance and character of the ear we speak to. All your learning of all literatures would never enable you to anticipate one of its thoughts or expressions,

and yet each is natural and familiar as household words. Here about us coils for ever the ancient enigma, so old, and so unutterable. Behold! there is the sun, and the rain, and the rocks : the old sun, the old stones. How easy were it to describe all this fitly: yet no word can pass. Nature is a mute, and man, her articulate speaking brother-lo! he also is a mute. Yet when Genius arrives, its speech is like a river, it has no straining to describe, more than there is straining in Nature to exist. When thought is best, there is most of it. Genius sheds wisdom like perfume, and advertises us that it flows out of a deeper source than the foregoing silence, that it knows so deeply and speaks so musically, because it is itself a mutation of the thing it describes. It is sun, and moon, and wave, and fire, in music, as astronomy is thought and harmony in masses of matter.

What is all history but the work of ideas; a record of the incomputable energy which his infinite aspirations infuse into man ? Has anything grand or lasting been done ? Who did it ? Plainly not any man, but all men: it was the prevalence and inundation of an idea. What brought the pilgrims here? One man says, civil liberty; and another, the desire of founding a church; and a third discovers that the motive force was plantation and trade. But if the Puritans could rise from the dust, they could not answer. It is to be seen in what they were, and not in what they designed : it was the growth, the budding, and expansion of the human race, and resembled herein the sequent Revolution, which was not begun in Concord, or Lexington, or Virginia, but was the overflowing of sense of natural right in every clear and active spirit of the period. Is a man boastful and knowing, and his own master ? -we turn from him without hope ; but let him be filled with awe and dread before the Vast and the Divine, which uses him, glad to be used, and our eye is riveted to the chain of events. What a debt is ours to that old religion which, in the childhood of most of us, still dwelt like a sabbath morning in the country of New England, teaching privation, selfdenial, and sorrow! A man was born, not for prosperity, but to suffer for the benefit of others, like the noble rock-maple

« НазадПродовжити »