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simply by great men are its deeds contemplated and copied. A thousand lesser spirits take heart and hope. The mere recollection of a name often determines the will. The recorded or the living example becomes an important element in moulding the character of myriads, whose name perishes on the spot that gave them birth.
But all these, at the best, are very imperfect examples. In the character of our Lord, we have absolute, yet attainable perfection. We may study it forever with unabated interest. It has just those points which touch the heart. The stern characteristics do not bear disproportionate sway. These are softened and made attractive by his inimitable gentleness, by his lamblike meekness, by all those softer qualities which form the foreground of the picture.
There is in the character of the Saviour that blending of quali ties, that mingling of different colors, that fair and exquisite proportion—the study of which never tires. It has a feeble analogy in one of those old paintings which requires years of study to detect all its beauties, whose rare workmanship one life cannot adequately perceive.
The study of our Lord's character is eminently rich in its moral effects. While we gaze, we are attracted, while we contemplate, the chains of ignorance and sin fall from around us.
VII. The Bible furnishes the most urgent motives, for the formation and perfection of the moral character. These motives are diversified, and appeal to various susceptibilities of our nature.
One motive addresses our self-interest. In the possession of the character which it aids in forming, we become associates with all the truly good and great. We are admitted into an illustrious company. This character is the key which opens to us royal palaces, and introduces us to kingly companions. We are no longer solitary wanderers on the wastes of life. We are guests at an imperial banquet. We are citizens of a mighty commonwealth. Possessed of this character, actuated by the spirit which it implies, we can almost converse with the departed whose bodies the grave conceals. We can almost see those old, familiar faces, whom a thin veil only hides from us. We are one with them, for the living and all the dead but one communion make. We are allied to them yet by the closest relations. They seem to call us upwards by their well-known, human voices.
The Design of Pastoral Poetry.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FOURTH ECLOGUE OF VIRGIL.
By Rev. Leonard Withington, Newbury, Mass. The fourth Eclogue of Virgil has always been regarded as a remarkable specimen of Pagan spirituality. The poet has been supposed to have uttered higher strains than he understood; and to have borrowed his sublimity from Hebrew inspiration. The Sibylline verses were of great account in the estimation of some of the fathers; their forgery and falsehood are pretty clear before the light of modern criticism. Still the design of this Eclogue is by no means certain; so obscure was it to Lowth, that he even expresses a doubt whether it ever can be explained. Yet we should never despair, because poetry is the language of the affections; and they are as permanent as the nature of man. If Virgil had any presages of his own immortality, he must have addressed his predictions to all generations.
My design is, to make some remarks on pastoral poetry in gen. eral, and then consider this Eclogue in particular.
Pastoral poetry is not intended to give us the most rigid representation of life and manners. It is not the design of it to hold the mirror up to nature, and to produce those feelings of recognition with which we read the dramatic writers. A pastoral is essentially a fancy piece by which we may obtain a distant glimpse of rural life, in those modes in which it plays before the imagination and exhilarates our hearts by relieving us from our present cares. As when we sail by some green island, or take a view from the sea of some Turkish city, we see nature and art dimly, with a few hints from reality for fancy to dress and adorn, and we contemplate the image while, at the same time, our reason tells us that a nearer view might impair the picture and dissipate the delusion; so, in pastoral poetry, the hint is taken from life, but we dress it at our pleasure; and the mind is delighted with the
Quid fuerit ipsius poetae consilium, quae mens, quanquam hic multum sese exercuerint doctissimorum virorum ingenia, tamen nec adhuc sciri arbitror, neque spem habeo, fore, ut unquam clarà investigetur.—Prelectiones XXI. p.
landscapes and personages of its own creation. Hence Mr. Pope has told us, that pastoral poetry “is an image of what they call the golden age. So that we are not to describe our shepherds, as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived to have been, when the best of men followed the employment."! Dr. Johnson has denied this allusion to the golden age. It is certain, however, that the thought which Pope was feeling after in this remark is mainly correct. He felt that naked nature here could not be pleasing, and his object was to show that descriptions of country life only charm refined minds when shown in distant perspective. The imagination must be permitted to dash them with the radiance of fancy and the colors of fiction. The tending of sheep can neither be romantic, nor pleasing to the man actually engaged in that occupation. A poetic excursion is commonly a migration from what we are to what we are not. The real shepherd knows too well the cares and toils of the employment, the noon-tide heats of summer, the rains and snows of winter, to relish the painting. Eclogues are the delight of those who dwell in cities and palaces; and to whom the country life seems pleasing because it is always in contrast with the art and excessive civilization around them.. We all of us become tired of experienced life; we love to change the scene; to escape from the world of sensation to the world of fancy; and hence an age of refinement is always an age of pastoral poetry.
We find this remark verified by the whole course of literary history. The Songs of Solomon, (the piece of Hebrew poetry that comes the nearest to this species of verse,) were written at Jerusalem in the golden age of Jewish refinement. We know that Solomon was married to some of the Arab princesses;3 and perhaps in the summer season he might leave the city, and go to the native mountains of his rustic wife and enjoy the brooks and breezes, the flowers and forests of her paternal land. The beautiful Idyls of Theocritus are supposed to have been written in the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, long after the Greek nations had passed the acme of their glory and were verging to the excesses of civilization. The age of Epic and Dramatic literature was over. The Doric dialect was on the wane even in Sicily; and probably would
· Discourse on Pastoral Poetry prefixed to his Eclogues.-Works, page 4.
. I cannot easily discover why it is thought necessary to refer descriptions of a rural state to remote times, nor can I perceive that any writer has consistently preserved the Arcadian manners and sentiments.- Rambler, No. 37.
3 1 Kings 11: 1, 2.
Niebuhr's Criticism upon Virgil confuted.
sound to the Egyptico-Greeks very much as the phrases of Burns sound to us. It was looking through the shades of time to new modes of thought and a different organization of life. Virgil has followed the same natural law. He introduces his Greek shepherds on the Latin plains; he calls the Sicilian Muses to the banks of the Mincio; he gives the agreeable contrast between past simplicity and present refinement:
Et variis albae junguntur saepe columbae
Et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave.
We wish to tend our sheep only on a sunshiny day; to shear them without greasing our hands; to sit under a tree without catching the rheumatism; to embrace poverty without its wants; and to find in rural labor only sweet recreation.
If these remarks are just, they show the perversity of that criticism which Niebuhr has aspersingly cast on Virgil. Niebuhr is a man of profound learning, but certainly not always of correct
He has wonderful sagacity in gathering all the items of probability which bear on the civil constitution of the Roman State ; to trace the laws of their history and the secret of their success. Sometimes, too, his remarks on literature have the rare union of originality and truth. But, in general, I should rather hear his investigations than trust his taste. He regards Virgil's Bucolic poetry as a total failure! The Æneid is bad, the pastorals much worse. The Æneid is laid too far back among the shadowy personages of mythology; though he allows it to be a tessellated pavement of beautiful pieces, where the polish of the parts scarce atones for the incongruity of the whole. He thinks also that in worshipping Greek literature, the Roman poet totally forgot nature; and to introduce Greek names into Roman lays, to make the Trinacrian rustic pipe on the Italian plains, and in his Bucolics to be such a servile imitator of Theocritus, not only impairs his genius but depreciates his judgment. Then his attempt to give such refined songs to such rural characters and to apply such artificial versifications to such rustic descriptions, was to encounter difficulties which not even his genius could conquer.
1 In his posthumous Lectures on Roman History; I quote froin memory and cannot refer to the page.
But does not the critic forget, in these severe remarks, the very origin and nature of the pastoral Muse? She is never born amidst the flowers and shades, which she pretends to celebrate. It is her duty and delight to throw the veil of refinement over the nak. edness of nature. Pastoral poetry is essentially retrospective. It depends on that faculty in man for its enchanting power. Sailors never like songs about rocks and tempests. Farmers never wish to hear about the privileges and enjoyments of rustic life;
'Tis nature pictured too severely true. The blended imagery of fact and fancy always pleases us most.1 The poor love to inspect the scenes of the rich. On the other hand, Horace has informed us, that the rich delight occasionally in the grateful vicissitudes of a voluntary poverty.
Plerumque gratae divitibus vices,
Solicitam explicuere frontem. Perhaps there is no poetry in which the deception is so complete (namely that while we are looking after nature we are really
i Perhaps there is no way in which we can so find the force of these remarks as in appealing to youthful recollections. The individual is a specimen of the race; and the literary history of our world is mirrored in the experience of the individual. I recollect when I was young (a country boy) and read Addison's Cato, the first play I ever read, the part which struck me most, was, not the soliloquy in the fifth act, not the stoicism of Cato, or the grandeur of his sentiments, but it was those few lines where Marcus describes to his brother, the position of Lucia. It was music to my ear.
But see! where Lucia at her wonted hour,
Enjoys the noon-day breeze. O that marble arch, with such a paragon of perfection on it, was a perfect picture to my juvenile imagination. Whereas a cottage nymph, though a Helen in beauty, would have been tame and uninteresting. Fancy loves innovation and hates experience. In my youth, two of the most popular writers were Richardson and Fielding ; both of them, in themselves and in their effects on their readers, are exemplifications of our remarks. Richardson was a printer's boy ; Fielding was brought up in high life ; and yet the printer is always seated in the cedar parlor and the patrician is always among stables and inns; the one is all fastidious refinement and the other always revels in low life. Richardson's novels, in New England, owed as much to their aristocratic manners, their titles, coaches, masquerades, balls and servants as they did to their buckram imi. tations of nature ; for Richardson did imitate nature, though he always dressed her up in stays and hooped petticoats and mounted her on a pair of high heeled shoes.