Page images

whose attendance on him was likely to excite suspicion, and involve him in difficulties before his hour had come. We also read in the 7th chapter of John that Jesus, after he had taught the populace in a manner which revolted their prejudices, 'walked in Galilee, for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.' To our mind, this caution wears any thing but the aspect of fanaticism. The enthusiast rather courts than shuns danger. By braving opposition he aims to put it down. His is the recklessness of the enraged combatant, who rushes on the sword's point and stakes his all on a thrust. The flames of his excitement keep no measures with impediments, but destroy and melt down all that they meet in their career. Prudential considerations, even when forced on his notice, are but as tow in the fire of his passions. He is impetuosity, or nothing. He wins the victory at a blow, or sinks in the conflict. But Jesus did all that integrity could do for the prolongation of his existence to the requisite period; and so far was he from aiming to bring about a rising of the people in his favour, that on more than one occasion, and particularly on the occasion described in the sixth chapter of John, Jesus seems to have studiously given expression to such sentiments as, however true in themselves, and however beautiful when interpreted in the light of his subsequent history, were calculated to repel the contracted and grovelling minds of a Jewish crowd, and actually occasioned the retirement of 'many' even of his disciples from his company.

[ocr errors]

And how was the conduct of Jesus met by the authorities of the country? Did they disregard him, as they might safely have disregarded a fanatic? Gamaliel's advice at a subsequent period was, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought;' and he supported his opinion by reference to the fate of two fanatics, Theudas and Judas, who had perished, and as many as obeyed them were scattered and brought to nought.' Similar pretensions would have met with a similar fate in the case of Jesus, if let alone.' And why were Theudas and Judas left by the authorities to find an end in their own insignificance, and Jesus encountered with all the subtlety and resources of the Sanhedrim? Can there be a stronger proof of the different light in which they appeared to the powers that were? The fanatic was passed over in the neglect of contempt-Jesus was watched and pursued, assailed with snares and open force, and at last mocked with a trial, and executed by virtue of a judicial sentence. In fact the Jewish government appears to have been almost from the first smitten with alarm at the doctrine and deeds of the carpenter's son, and declares to every succeeding age the apprehensions it experienced, the soundness of the mind of Jesus, and the validity of his pretensions. It is little

short of the ludicrous to suppose that the fanaticism of a mere mechanic would have excited serious fears in the breasts of the rulers of the nation; rulers who united in themselves the influence of religion as well as of the state, and were besides protected by the powerful arm of the mistress of the world. Their fears are our assurance. The watchfulness of their malignity is a proof, the more powerful because undesigned and indirect, of the moral and mental power of him against whom they arrayed themselves in self-defence. And independently of their testimony, men of every age, provided they have a sense of what is genuine and great and good in character, have only to look on the intellect of Jesus to be convinced that it was too powerful and well ordered to be the residence of fanaticism. The moral elevation of Jesus is not superior to his mental grandeur. Power was as much the attribute of his mind as benignity was of his heart. And all the harmonies of which human nature in its best estate is susceptible, kept up in his breast a full but gentle action of glory to God and good will to man. It is but the negation of wrong to maintain that he was no enthusiast ;-the truth is told only when the full proportioned beauty of his character is drawn in its separate and blended lineaments. He was humanity perfected. All its virtues and graces kept their court in his breast, under the overshadowing of heaven's own radiance for God was with him.'



THE goodness of the Deity is manifest in his works. Let him who doubts this great and glorious truth, read Paley's beautiful chapter on this subject, in his Natural Theology;' or, if he dislikes reading, and prefers the evidence that appeals to his senses to that which, in order to be duly appreciated, requires the exercise of his mind, let him wander into the fields, where he will find, without any intellectual labour in the search, - tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing. As You Like It, act ii. sc. 1.

The incurious observer will not, indeed, see so much of this good as the inquisitive philosopher; but even to the dullest and most ignorant peasant it will be sufficiently apparent, since the Divine Beneficence has made all nature

[ocr errors][merged small]

This music is delightful indeed, associated as it is with the most pleasing objects, harmonising with them so well, and being of so artless and unstudied a kind. It is, moreover, charac

terized by a pleasing universality-it is heard at all times and in all places, in every season, and in every clime, with an infinite variety of sounds that never wearies us by monotony of tone or length of duration. This 'every-day music' of nature, though met with in every quarter and at every hour, is every-day enchanting, either from its coming upon us unexpectedly, or from its being accompanied with circumstances of novelty, or from its transient nature, or from the agreeable scenes in which it occurs, or from the ideas of utility and happiness we connect with it, or from some other charm which it possesses peculiar to itself. It is often, too, of a refreshing character, and exercises a healthy influence on our frames; so that the pleasure we derive from it is partly physical.

One description of music of this kind, to which the last observation will justly apply, is the music of the wind. It is refreshing as well as harmonious-it fans the sultry cheek, and it braces the relaxed nerves. It purifies the air which we inhale, and it exhilarates the spirits by ministering to the health of the body. We drink in new life from the gales of spring and the breezes of summer: and how sweetly they whisper through the leafy woods-how melodiously they murmur along the flowery banks and the rippling waves of rural streams! It is delightful to hear them playing among the long grass of green meadows, or the bending ranks of yellow corn-fields: but still more pleasing is the sound they call forth from the hollow reeds and rustling ferns of the uncultivated moor. The bracken, and the moss, and the wiry bilberry, and all the creeping shrubs that grow upon the wild heath, when lifted up by the swelling breeze, send forth such a concord of sweet sounds,' that the desert seems to have its harp of thousand strings-the true Æolian-capable of the most mellifluous music, when touched by the minstrel wind. The roar of the blast amidst dark forests, ivyed ruins or lonely caves, like the pealing organ through cloistered aisles, is awfully sublime: and, when accompanied by the cloudy tempest, it is mingled with the roll of thunder, the voice of the storm must be allowed to exceed all other sounds in grandeur and effect. What hallelujah chorus from the pillared cathedral is half so impressive?

The thunder rolls:

His praise

be hush'd the prostrate world,
While cloud to cloud returns the solemn hymn.'
Thomson's Hymn on the Seasons, 1. 69–71.

The music of waters is as melodious as that of winds, and it is almost equally refreshing: the coolness it imparts to the air is noticed in these most exquisite lines, descriptive of a cascade

'Twas sweet of yore to see it play,
And chase the sultriness of day;
As, springing high, the silver dew
In whirls fantastically flew;

And flung luxurious coolness round
The air, and verdure o'er the ground.
Lord Byron's Giaour, 1. 299–304.

The same grateful effect on the atmosphere is produced by waters flowing in their natural course, which must have been felt by every one who has wandered on the verdant margin of a river;—and who has not been charmed by their liquid sweetness? In every field we listen with pleasure to the tinkling rill, the bubbling brook, and the rippling stream, which

-warble as [they] flow

Melodious murmurs.-Milton's Paradise Lost, bk. v. 1. 195–6.

The chime of water-falls heard far off amongst the hills, and the rush of torrents from the mountains, when the floods clap their hands,' afford a still higher gratification, which is exalted into sublime enjoyment by the dash of ocean roaring on the wave-beaten shore, or reverberated from its rocky caverns. There is music even in the fall of showers, increased, no doubt, by the pleasing associations connected with them: soft to the ear is the pattering rain, nor is their any discord in the rattling hail or the driving sleet.

The music of birds is delightful to all, and charms at all hours. Day has scarcely dawned when the cock's shrill clarion' sounds its welcome, and the swallow is heard twittering from the straw-built shed;' and no sooner is the sun risen, than the lark, ascending to heaven's gate,' salutes the morn, and pours forth its tuneful orisons. At noon every grove is full of harmony, the whole choir of feathered songsters making the woods re-echo with their rival notes-now falling, now rising, and at length gradually dying away: when the rest are silent, the solitary cuckoo continues her unvaried song, and the plaintive wood-pigeon murmurs her mournful lay.

When first the soul of love is sent abroad,
Warm through the vital air, and on the heart
Harmonious scizes, the gay troops begin

In gallant thought to plume the painted wing,
And try again the long-forgotten strain;
At first faint warbled; but no sooner grows
The soft infusion prevalent, and wide,
Than, all alive, at once their joy o'erflows
In music unconfined. Up springs the lark,
Shrill-voiced, and loud, the messenger of morn:
Ere yet the shadows fly, he mounted sings
Amid the dawning clouds, and from their haunts
Calls up the tuneful nations. Every copse
Decp-tangled, tree irregular, and bush
Bending with dewy moisture o'er the heads
Of the coy choristers that lodge within,
Are prodigal of harmony. The thrush

And wood-lark, o'er the kind contending throng
Superior heard, run through the sweetest length
Of notes; when listening Philomela deigns
To let them joy, and purposes, in thought
Elate, to make her night excel their day.
The blackbird whistles from the thorny brake;
The mellow bullfinch answers from the grove:

Nor are the linnets o'er the flowering furze
Pour'd out profusely silent. Join'd to these
Innumerous songsters, in the freshening shade
Of new-sprung leaves, their modulations mix
Mellifluous. The jay, the rook, the daw,
And each harsh pipe discordant heard alone,
Aid the full concert; while the stock-dove breathes
A melancholy murmur through the whole."

Thomson's Seasons, Spring, 1. 578–610.

When twilight approaches, the crow makes wing to the rooky wood,' uttering his regret in monotonous tone for the day's decline, and when evening has drawn o'er all things dual dusky veil,'

- the weak-eyed bat

With short shrill shriek flies by on leathern wing.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

her gra

Collins's Ode to Evening, stanza 3.

'The moping owl' from her ivy-mantled tower,' flits forth, unfolding her ample pinions, or sitting solitary on some lone turret's height, wails long her boding dirge'

[ocr errors]

Solaque culminibus ferali carmine bubo

Sæpe queri, et longas in fletum ducere voces ;'

Virgil's Eneid, bk. iv. v. 462, 3.

And the nightingale, hid under the shady covert of some umbrageous tree,

Tunes sweetest his love-labour'd song.'-Milton's Paradise Lost, bk. v. 1. 41.

The songs of insects may be classed with those of birds-an inferior kind of music, indeed; yet always pleasing when heard in the fields. Amongst these may be enumerated the chirp of the grasshopper, the horn of the beetle, and the hum of the bee. The latter is represented by the poets as exercising so soothing an influence on the mind as to incline us to sleep'Sæpe levi somnum suadebit inire susumo.'-Virgil's Eclog. i. 6. an influence which, in his Il Penseroso, Milton thus beautifully describes :

While the bee with honied thigh

That at her flowery work doth sing,

And the waters murmuring
With such concert as they keep,
Entice the dewy-feather'd sleep.'

The voices of different animals must be mentioned as a part of the every-day music' of nature-such as the bleating of sheep, and the lowing of herds- the cattle upon a thousand hills to which may be added the sounds of rural sports and rural labours, as sweetly described in these verses :

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »