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not well, says Hawthorne's Coverdale, to mock the sacred past with any show of those commonplace civilities that belong to ordinary intercourse. He is speaking of the breach between himself and Hollingsworth, at Brook Farm. “Being dead henceforth to him, and he to me, there could be no propriety in our chilling one another with the touch of two corpselike
nother with the reach of fewno propelety hands, or playing at looks of courtesy with eyes that were impenetrable beneath the glass and the film.” Accordingly, when the two meet on a friend's doorstep, Coverdale resists a momentary impulse to hold out his hand, or at least to give a parting nod; and they pass each other as if mutually invisible. “ Think not,” says Schiller's Wallenstein, of that Piccolomini with whom for thirty years he had shared joy and hardship,sleeping together in one camp bed, drinking from one glass, parting one morsel,—“Think not that I will honour
That ancient love, which so remorselessly
Hate and vengeance, in the Duke of Friedland's case, succeed; “for never,” in Milton's words, “can true reconcilement grow, where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep." Painfully true, in spite of the solace it is meant to suggest, is what a latter day moralist says of certain forms of abused friendship, that the lad with whom you used to play, who was your closest friend at college, is in reality not the same person as the mean knave who abuses your friendship in order to play you a scurvy trick; there is the old friend, and there is the new-born knave. “ The new-comer is no friend, and never was.” You may, it is allowed, justly and poignantly lament that the old friend is dead. Dr. South's question is its own answer,—“ To be an enemy, and once to have been a friend, does it not embitter the rupture, and aggravate the calamity ?” But the pathos of the have been—and are not all have beens in some sort pathetic ?is denied to be any reason why old associations should be allowed to cluster round the new and degenerate nature, to the exclusion of a just recognition of the fact that it is new and
degenerate. The same writer who owns how shallow it would be to deny that all estrangements, all ruptures with a sweet and pleasant past, have a deeply pathetic side, which unhappily is likely to escape no one, calls attention to the other side as less familiar, and as containing a certain grain of comfort.
THE BLASPHEMY OF DESPAIR.
Job i. 9.
etic reachat suggestecall to God, a thanks
T TARIOUS readings are offered of the terrible language
V imputed by our version to Job's wife, when she bids the ruined, childless, plague stricken man “curse God and die.” Apologetic readings some of them are, tending to tone down or explain away that suggested blasphemy of despair. One scholar turns it into “Bid farewell to God, and die.” Another even proposes as the true rendering, “Give thanks to God, and die.” Common sense exegesis objects to these euphemistic innovations, that Job's reply proves him to have understood her as inciting him to “reject, renounce, or curse” his Maker. The accepted import of her words is, that she looked upon the Most High as unworthy of the patriarch's confidence, and upon submission to Him as unreasonable; that she wished her husband to give maledictory expression to this, and be relieved from his misery. In desperate case, let him vent his despair in a curse. Satan had confidently asserted that, once touched in bone and flesh by the hand of God, Job would curse Him to His face. And Job's wife prompted the peremptory fulfilment of Satan's pledged word. What could despair do better, or worse, than blaspheme? What was left to him, from whom all was taken, but to hurl upwards one strong curse, and then die ?
Of the man whose sole joy and inheritance is the earth he treads upon, it is said by Dr. South that what supports his feet must support his heart also : "he cannot, like Job, rest upon that Providence that places him upon a dunghill.” Such a person, the old divine proceeds to say, if he does not faint and sink in adversity, will on the contrary “murmur and tumultuate, and blaspheme the God that afflicts him.” A bold and stubborn spirit, it is added, naturally throws out its malignity this way. “It will make a man die cursing and raving, and even breathe his last in a blasphemy”; for no one knows how high the corruption of some natures will work and foam, when provoked and exasperated by affliction.
Ercles' vein is also the vein of Job's wife, with some of our old dramatists, as well as very many of our modern romancers. The hero in Marston's Antonio and Mellida complains, of or for his species, that we wring ourselves into this world to pule and weep, exclaim, to curse and rail,
“ To fret and ban the Fates, to strike the earth,
As I do now. Antonio, curse thy birth,
And die.”] One of Smollett's “heroes" unheroically gives in to calamity, and betakes him forthwith to that last resource, and worst of all, the blasphemy of despair : “I cursed the hour of my birth, the parents that gave me being, the sea that did not swallow me up, the poignard of the enemy, which could not find the way to my heart, ... and in the ecstasy of despair resolved to lie still where I was and perish.” Half a dozen chapters farther on, he is in the like evil case and evil mood : “I revolved all the crimes I had been guilty of, and found them
One of Miss Braddon's heroes declares that scarcely ever went there a ruffian out of prison doors who had not been more regretted by some one or other than ever he should be. “Knowing this, can you wonder that I have learned to recognise the sublimity of Job's patience? It is so easy to curse God, and die !” That is tall talk by one whose present cue is talking. But it goes beyond talk with Pope's reprobate knight, actually in articulo mortis,
“ And sad Sir Balaam curses God, and dies.” And so with the guilty wretch in Cooper's Prairie, whose shrieks are heard afar by the squatter and his mates. “At length there came a cry which . . . appeared to fill each cranny of the air, as the visible horizon is often charged to fulness by one dazzling flash of the electric fluid. The name of God was distinctly audible, but it was awfully and blasphemously blended with sounds that may not be repeated,” and that made even that rough squatter cover his ears with his hands.
so few and venial, that I could not comprehend the justice of that Providence which, after having exposed me to so much wretchedness and danger, left me a prey to famine at last,” etc. Gerard Eliassoen, in the Cloister and the Hearth, maddened by treachery and apparent abandonment, can forget himself, his past, his present, his future, so far as to bring his incoherent cries to this climax, “Then there is no God.” A chapter later, and still of the same mind—or out of his mind rather, he has his frenzy fit of maledictions. His malison he bestows on the church, on the world, on life, on death,“ and whosoever made them what they are.” In an earlier book of Mr. Reade's it is the Job of the story who is for cursing, and the Job's wife who restrains, remonstrates with him, and is his better, not his bad, angel. They and their children are starving, and the wife says, “We must pray to heaven to look down upon us and our children.” “You forget," says the man sullenly, “our street is very narrow, and the opposite houses are very high.” “James !” “How can Heaven be expected to see what honest folk endure in so dark a hole as this ?” cries the man fiercely, though a much enduring man hitherto. “ James !” again exclaims the wife, with reproachful fear and sorrow, “what words are these?” The man gets up from his pen work, and flings his pen upon the floor. “Have we given honesty a fair trial?” he cries: “yes or no ?” “No,” says the woman, without a moment's hesitation ; “not till we die as we have lived. Heaven is higher than the sky; children,” she says, lest perchance her husband's words may harm their young souls, “the sky is above the earth, and heaven is higher than the sky; and Heaven is just.”] The
1 "I suppose it is so,” says the man, a little cowed by her. “Everybody says so. I think so, at bottom, myself; but I can't see it. I want to see it, but I can't,” he cries fiercely. “Have my children offended Heaven? They will starve, they will. die! If I was Heaven, I'd be just, and send an angel to take these children's part. They cried to me for bread : I had no bread ; so I gave them hard words. The moment I had done that, I knew it was all over. God knows it took a long while to break my heart; but it is broken at last ; quite, quite broken ! broken ! broken !” And the poor thing lays his head upon the table, and sobs,
outburst of Seleucus in Corneille, Que le ciel est injuste, is hushed by his brother's rebuke, Plaignons-nous sans blasphème. A look, however, may be eloquent with the blasphemy of despair, even when the lips are locked,—as with the Laocoon of the poet, when he
“... to heaven his rueful look,
Imploring aid, and half accusing, cast;
His fell despair with indignation mixed.” In Luther's Table-talk there occurs a passage to this effect : “Dr. Justus Jonas asked me if the thoughts and words of the prophet Jeremiah were Christianlike; when he cursed the day of his birth. I said : We must now and then wake up the Lord God with such words. Jeremiah had cause to murmur in this way.” He could have borne with the poetical licence of Paracelsus, pleading, remonstrating :
“Dost Thou well, Lord ? Hadst Thou but granted him
Success,' Thy honour would have crowned success,
beyond all power of restraint. But already may be heard through his sobbings the footfall of an angel of mercy-a sister of it, at least-on the stairs, and at the door.
1 “There is something in success," writes Laman Blanchard to Douglas Jerrold, “that is necessary to the softening and sweetening of the best disposed natures.” The lessons of adversity, remarks the Caxtonian philosopher, are not always salutary; sometimes they soften and amend, but as often they indurate and pervert. “If we consider ourselves more harshly treated by fate than those around us, and do not acknowledge in our own deeds the justice of the severity, we become too apt to case ourselves in defiance,” etc. Such a self assured victim we sometimes see
“ With wistful eyes forlorn stand mutely by,
Reproaching life with some unuttered loss."
“Before unjust tribunals,—with a voice
Labouring, a brain confounded, and a sense