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But although a very indifferent novel, this is a valuable and indeed interesting book, considered in iis proper character, as presenting a view of the Jewish manners, customs, and religion, as existing in the Holy Land. Since this remarkable people has been an exiled nation, wandering over the face of the earth, far from the favoured spot assigned to them by the Deity himself, and endeared to them by a thousand of the holiest and highest, as well as tenderest associations, we have lost sight of them in their primitive elevated character, and have permitted ourselves to confine our views to the state in which we at present find them, outcast and degraded. If we analyze our feelings, we shall find that we do not regard them as of the saine race with that great monarch whose temple to the true God was the wonder of his age, and whose power, riches, and wisdom have been the boast of his countrymen and the admiration of mankind in all succeeding ages. Our associations with the Jews are mostly of a degrading character, and to acquire juster notions, we must go back to old times, and consider them at home, in their own country, governed by their own laws, and enjoying their own institutions. To enable us to do this is precisely the object of Helon's Pilgrimage; and little skill as its author has exhibited as a novelist, he has communicated a great mass of information in a very agreeable and occasionally in a lively manner. Of the correctness of his representations we do not pretend to be competent judges; few persons are so. But there is an air of complete familiarity with the subject, an appearance of truth, and a correspondence with what we know about the matter, which gives us a confidence in his accounts of those things of which we know nothing. There is no reason to doubt that he has studied the antiquities of the Jews very thoroughly; and there can be no reason for believing that he would misrepresent or misjudge.
He has chosen for the period of his story that in which the Jewish people were suffered, for the last time, to enjoy, in independence and security, their own laws, their own religion, and their own political institutions. This period existed immediately after the successful resistance by the family of the Maccabees to the tyrannical sway of the king of Syria, and whilst John Hyrcanus, one of the family, exercised the double office of prince and high priest. The hero is a Jew of Egypt, residing and educated in Alexandria ; who
has been deeply imbued with the schemes of philosophy of the day; has tried them all, but finds nothing to satisfy him till he returns to the law and the observances of his fathers. In those days, as indeed with the true Jews in all
the Holy Land, and more particularly Jerusalem, was the spot towards which the eyes of an Israelite indeed were always turned. Wherever over the face of the earth he was carried or driven,-in exile, in poverty, in death, his heart yearned towards Jerusalem. There only could God be acceptably worshipped. There was the temple and the mount of God. There were the bones of his fathers and of a line of kings consecrated and anointed by the Deity himself. There was the Messiah to appear. Returning to the primitive faith of Israel, Helon's first and strongest desire is to visit this seat of his faith. He makes accordingly a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the Passover, in the year 109 before the birth of Christ. He remains there during the half year which includes the principal religious festivals ; becomes a priest, marries,--and, in the interval between the seasts of his reli. gion and his duties as a priest, travels into the most interesting parts of the territory of Palestine, and is finally drowned, very unceremoniously, with nearly all the other dramatis persone, on his return to Alexandria. His adventures are so contrived as to embrace a description of almost every thing which is curious and important in the customs and manners of the Jews, and even of the privacy of their domestic life.
The individuals who principally figure in the management of the plot, beside the hero, are Elisama, an uncle of Helon, .advanced in life, a Jew bigoted to every thing Jewish, narrowminded, and with a full share of that spiritual pride wbich the institutions of his nation were calculated to produce. He is contrasted with Myron, a young Greek, a companion and fellow student of Helon, lively and volatile, full of the Platonic philosophy, and listening with a philosophical scepticism to the enthusiastic encomiums bestowed on their religion, by his friends, the Jews.
The pilgrimage to Jerusalem is undertaken by Elisama and Helon; and they are accompanied part of the way by Myron. They travel from Alexandria as far as Gaza with a caravan; the night being principally occupied with their journey, whilst the heat of the day was devoted to repose. This journey occupies no less than an hundred and forty pages, and embraces no one single incident of importance. To relieve the dullness of the time during which they halted each day, Elisama undertakes to relate to Myron the history of the Jewish nation. The narrative is taken almost entirely from Scripture, and if it were not more entertaining to Myron than it was to us, the tediousness of his hours must have been but little relieved. It is in fact a bare detail of a history familiar to us from infancy; and although it might be perfectly civil in Elisama to relate it to Myron, to whom doubtless it was quite novel and instructive, yet it was certainly an error of judgment to retail it to us good Christians who have it all by heart.
Many passages of a descriptive nature in this account of the journey of the caravan, have considerable merit, and are interesting as conveying some idea of the ancient manner of travelling. The following passage presents a well combined picture.
The caravan still lay buried in profound slumber. By the time that the camels were loaded and themselves ready to depart, the morning began to dawn, and a singular spectacle was unfolded by it. The camels were crouching in a wide circle around the baggage, the horses, and the merchandise; and their long necks aod little heads rose like towers above a wall. The men had encamped round fires or in tents. Most of the fires had burnt out, only here and there dying embers occasionally shot a flame, which feebly illuminated the singular groups around. Within the great circle all was still, save that the watchmen with their long staves were going their rounds, and calling their watchword in the stillness of the hour. In the distance were heard the hoarse sounds of the waves, breaking on the shore. On the other side of the camp was Gaza with its towers and ruins; and the fiery glow of morning was lightening up the scene of the fearful accomplishment of the word of prophecy. Gaza, once so populous, magnificent, and strong, when she committed the shameful outrage on Samson, had no longer any gates at the spot where the mighty hero once lifted them up, and placed them on the hill opposite to Hebron.
There is nothing perhaps better done in this work than the representation given of the national pride and enthusiasm of the Jews. It is displayed in a variety of ways, and it is every where apparent, either relating to their country or their political and religious institutions. They look down upon the heathen, not with the compassion and pity which their delusion would seem calculated to inspire, but rather with horror, and something like scorn and hatred. This we take to be perfectly natural and characteristic.
No nation, perhaps, ever experienced these feelings so strongly as the Jews. With them Palestine was the garden of the earth, Jerusalem
the queen of cities, and their temple the only seat of the Deity. We quote a passage in which Elisama reproves Myron, who had been reflecting upon his nation for iis comparalive ignorance and want of tasie in the fine arts.
“A nation,” said Myron, “which, in its most flourishing period, is obliged to engage artists from foreign kings, and can do nothing by its own ingenuity and dexterity, is surely a poor and helpless race. How different from the great Hellenic people! Poetry in abundance I have indeed heard from you, but this is the only branch of art in which you have done any thing. No painting, no statuary, no drama!”
“ Thou speakest,” said Elisama, interposing angrily, “like a blind heathen, and what I have so often intimated seems to have been lost upon thee. Israel was not designed, nor ever aimed, to excel in such worldly arts. It was to be a kingdom of priests and a boly people, to receive and to preserve the law of Jehovah ; and on this account he calls it his people, his Jeshurun, his beloved Israel. The time which other nations might devote to the culture of the elegant arts, Israel was to spend in the observance of the law. You have omitted all mention too of our music. This and our poetry are alone worthy to accompany the people before the presence of Jehovah ; his temple must be splendid, but it was of no consequence that it was made so by foreign hands. Besides, the present temple, which yields little if at all to the former, was built by native artists; and supposing that in Solomon's time architecture was unknown among us, could this skill be reasonably expected in a nation, which had struggled for five hundred years for the possession of the soil, which even then had not been completely united for more than half a century, and had passed a considerable portion even of that short time in internal commotion.!"
From Hebron, Helon and Elisama travel in company with the Jews who are going to the Holy City to celebrate the Passover, filled with zeal and enthusiasın. This journey is described with much spirit and effect. When they had arrived near the ohject and termination of their pilgrimage,
The eager haste of the multitudes now increased with every step, and their impatience for the first sight of Jerusalem was expressed in the following psalm :
Great is the Lord; and greatly to be praised
Walk about Zion, go round about her!
He will be our guide, as in our youth.-Ps. xlviii. Expectation had reached the highest pitch. The last strophes were not completely sung; many were already silent, eagerly watching for the first sight of Jerusalem. All eyes were turned towards the north ; a faint murmur spread from rank to rank arnong the people, only those who had been at the festival before continued the psalm, and these solitary scattered voices formed a solemn contrast with the silence of the rest of the multitude. Helon's heart was in his eye, and he could scarcely draw bis breath. When the psalm was concluded, the instru. ments prolonged the sound for a moment, and then all that mighty multitude, so lately jubilant, was still as death.
All at once the foremost ranks exclaimed, Jerusalem, Jerusalem ! Jerusalem, Jerusalem ! resounded through the valley of Rephaimn.* “ Jerusalem, thou city built on high, we wish thee peace! The child ren dragged their parents forward with them, and all hands were lifted up to bless.
The high white walls of the Holy City cast a gleam along the valley : Zion, rose witb its palaces, and from Moriah the smoke of the offering was ascending to heaven. It was the hour of the evening sacrifice. Scarcely had the multitude recovered a little, when they began to greet the temple and the priests :
Bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord,
He who made heaven and earth.-Ps. cxxxiv. We omit some passages, which we had marked for quotation, containing a description of the ceremonies at the feast of the Passover, and retain one only which relates to the temper of mind in which the Jews were accustomed to celebrate their religious rites.
Festivity and cheerful conversation now reigned among the whole assemblage. Whether it be that a people, which had suffered so much calamity and oppression, naturally enjoys the more keenly a temporary interval of pleasure, or that every approach to God is to the pure mind a source of joy and peace, certain it is, that no nation has ever more carefully studied to remove all trace of sorrow from religious services than the Jews. If the service of the law was a heavy burthen, the
* Ecco apparir Gerusalem si vede,
Ecco additar Gerusalem si scorge,
Gerusalemme Liberata, Canto III.