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than despairing querist—who would lose, though full of pain, this intellectual being, those thoughts that wander through eternity, to perish rather, swallowed up and lost in the wide womb of uncreated night, devoid of sense and motion ? Milton's Adam, again, has a welcome for death at any hour whatever, so gladly would he meet mortality, his sentence, and be earth insensible—so glad would lay him down, as in his mother's lap; (indeed, what mother but earth had the first man known ?) yet one doubt pursues him still, lest all he cannot die ; lest that pure breath of life, the spirit of man which God inspired, cannot together perish with the corporeal clod :
" Then, in the grave,
On my defenceless head.” Take a man, as nature hath made him, says Feltham of the Resolves, and it must be confessed there is some reason why he should fear death; because he knows not what it will do with him. “What he finds here, he sees and knows; what he shall find after death, he knows not. And there is no man but would rather continue in a moderate enjoyment, which he knows, than endure pain, to be delivered to uncertainties.” Like Elia, he would set up his tabernacle here. “A new state of being staggers me,” that frankest of essay writers is free to own, when referring to some who profess indifference to life, who hail the end of their existence as a port of refuge, and speak of the grave as of some soft arms, in which they may slumber as on a pillow. “Some have wooed death—but out upon thee, I say, thou foul, ugly phantom! I detest, abhor, and execrate thee ... as in no instance to be excused or tolerated, but shunned as an universal viper : to be branded, proscribed, and spoken evil of! In no way can I be brought to digest thee, thou thin, melancholy Privation, or more frightful and confounding Positive !" No affinity of temperament, here, to that of the New Phædo, with whom—or rather with whose moribund hero-conjecture “incorporates itself into passion,” so that he is impatient to pass that Ebon Gate, and be lord of the Eternal Secret. Madame de Sévigné owns to her daughter, that, despite all the crushing griefs of life, all its wearying woes and smarting vexations (chagrins cuisants), she is still less in love with death; is indeed so wretched at the thought of having to finish life by dying, that she could be reconciled to living her life over again, were that the alternative. “Oh, were it but swift and easy for the body,” Scott makes his Mary Stuart, a prisoner in Lochleven Castle, say,— “were it but a safe and happy change for the soul, the woman lives not that would take the step? so soon as I! But, alas ! when we think of death, a thousand sins, which we have trod as worms beneath our feet, rise up against us as flaming serpents.” 2 And therefore she restrains herself, as Eudocia restrains the Syrian chieftain in the old play, with a
“... stay thee yet, О madness of despair !
And wouldst thou die? Think, ere thou leap'st the gulf,
Canst thou return? What if the change prove worse !" As David Hume, the philosopher, talked of his coming “leap in the dark,” so Ings, the Cato Street conspirator, as he ascended the scaffold, said, “ In ten minutes I shall know the great secret.”3 Le grand peut-être, some style it. More than
1 The one step there is betwixt a king's prison and his grave, as Machiavel has it.
2 Margaret Hall, in Archie Lovell, meditating suicide from London's bridge of sighs, is said to have hungered to die ; yet the sound of the river, the sight of the vessels, made her afraid. She is described as taking off her gloves, and holding her bare hands before her face with a sort of feeling of comfort from their warm touch. She turns her head from the river, feeling that life, any life, is sweet. “If at that moment she could be back in her lodgings, she thought, how good it would be to see the servant girl's face, and to go to her bed and sleep. The close, dull rooms, the noisome food, the ceaseless din from the streets without, were unutterably better than what she had before her now. They were life.”
To Janet Dempster, again, in George Eliot's story of Clerical Life, life might mean anguish, might mean despair ; “but, oh, she must clutch it, though with bleeding fingers ; her feet must cling to the firm earth that the sunlight would revisit, not slip into the untried abyss, where she might long even for familiar pains.”
3 Compare, or contrast, the state of mind of the condemned cell prisoner,–
once and again in Byron's Diary, we come across such entries as this, referring to death as likely to strike him soon. “Let it
-I only wish the pain over. The · leap in the dark' is the least to be dreaded.” “Is there anything beyond ?—who knows? He that can't tell. Who tells that there is? He who don't know. And when shall he know? perhaps, when he don't expect, and generally when he don't wish it.” Despite his jaunty air of studied recklessness, Byron's writings, alike in verse and in prose, contain proof positive of his interest in what he calls
“...: prying into the abyss,
To gather what we shall be when the frame
Its wretched essence.”
“... I gazed (as I have often gazed the same)
To try if I could wrench aught out of death
And here we go :but where?” Burns, in sceptical mood—with him a chronic complaint, not but what it was at times acute too-declares the close of life to be dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun“ had tried his beams athwart the gloom profound.” The Scotch poet might have quoted (as he was fond of quoting) from his favourite English poet, Young, the lines on that
“.... plunge opaque
Beyond conjecture, feeble nature's dread,
not criminal,-in Shakspeare, to whom the jailer says, “ Look you, sir, you know not which way you shall go.”. “Yes, indeed, I do, fellow," replies Leonatus. "Your death has eyes in 's head then," rejoins the jailer; “I have not seen him so pictured.” “I tell thee, fellow," continues the doomed man, “there are none want eyes to direct them the way I am going, but such as wink, and will not use them.” Bent on having his quibble, as well as on having the last word, the jailer exclaims: “What an infinite mock is this, that a man should have the best use of eyes, to see the way of blindness !"-Cymbeline, act V., sc. 4.
The dying Nelly of Cometh up as a Flower speaks of her hand as on the thick black curtain, whose warp is darkness, and whose woof is grief: “when next the hedges, burgeoning now, are putting forth their sprouting green, I shall have raised the curtain, and have found out what there is behind it; but oh, my friends, I cannot come back to tell you; if I shriek with agony, if I laugh with rapture, at what I find there, you will not hear me.”] What things are we, exclaims Violenzia in the tragedy, handling Ethel's sword,
“That, like an infant groping in the dark,
1 “Tell us, ye dead; will none of you in pity
. . . disclose the secret. . . . What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be?
. . . . . . Well, 'tis no matter : A very little time will clear up all,
And make us learn'd as you are, and as close.” This passage from Blair's Grave too was a pet quotation of Burns's, who made it the text of a rhetorical paragraph in one of his florid letters to Mrs. Dunlop, beginning, “ Can it be possible, that when I resign this frail, feverish being, I shall still find myself in conscious existence ?" etc. Had he been as conversant with Chaucer, he might have been equally apt to quote a fragment from the Knightes Tale:
“His spiryt chaunged was, and wente ther,
As I cam never, I can nat tellen wher,
Therefore I stynte, I am no dyvynistre.” 2 Compare the musings of Phocyas, in an older tragedy, Hughes's now all but forgotten and quite unread Siege of Damascus :
" But how to think of what the living know not,
And the dead cannot, or else may not, tell?
It is the owner of that sword, to Violencia suggestive of selfslaughter, that, in a later scene, gazing on Robert and Arthur asleep, exclaims:
“ They are asleep ;-asleep! and by to-morrow
They will have looked into the mystery,
And seen the other side of awful death.” Mrs. Oliphant forcibly depicts, in Francis Ochterlony, the state of mind, not uncommon, of one who sees the shadow drawing nearer and nearer to his door, and though chilled at the first recognition, is not afraid of it, or much concerned in speculating on the issue. He is not very clear about the unseen world, and if he be to end altogether, he may not greatly mind it; but his state of feeling is, that God certainly knows all about it, and that He will arrange it all right. But, all the same for that, he is, like Jaazaniah' in The Gayworthys, going to bed in the dark. Great is the mystery of darkness-ofthat darkness beyond all. Great the possibilities of the grand peutêtre, the mighty Perhaps,-for so the author of Lucile translates the French word of doubt, significantly sad :
“ The Future's great veil our breath fitfully flaps,
And behind it broods ever the mighty Perhaps.”
THE PARTING ASUNDER OF PAUL AND BARNABAS.
Acts xv. 39. | EREMY TAYLOR, speaking of what he calls those
“ earnest emissions and transports of passion,” which “do
sometimes declare the weakness of good men,” refers, by way of historical instance, to St. Epiphanius and St. Chrysostom
1-The stupor passed off from him before he died. He lifted the eyelids they had thought he would never lift again. The eyes found Wealthy's face. ... There was the strange deep imploringness in them that eyes have, sometimes, taking their last look of earth. . . . . 'You ain't afraid, dear,' Wealthy whispered. “No,' came the faint reply.
It's only going to bed in the dark. God knows when it's time. He 'll wake me up in the morning.'”