Lapas attēli

its own charm by the introduction of the name of the hero. Even when the authoress herself essays poetry, it is with no trivial success; for, the comical lines near the close of the book cannot fail to excite laughter, and comic poetry is one of the most difficult things to attempt.

There is, moreover, one additional charm which the book possesses, and that is, its “modernness."

“modernness.” Besides the fact that all the characters are persons of the day, there are to be found scattered everywhere throughout the work innumerable allusions which link it inseparably to the present, and to appreciate which in their full force, one must be familiar with the sources from which they are derived. This last characteristic, united to an aptness for adorning the pages with the fruits of an extended course of reading, has contributed largely to a novel, which in these book-surfeited times, is both entertaining and refreshing.

E. H. S.


O maiden fair, with auburn hair

And eyes of heavenly blue,
With dress so neat and mien so sweet,

Are you a worshiper true?

Each stated day, you come to pray

In the house of God, your King ;
And you rejoice to raise your voice

As loud his praises ring.

You bow your head, when prayers are read,

With reverent look and bend ;
The response repeat:

From sin's deceit,
Good Lord, deliverance send.”

You lend your ear the words to hear

Of the preacher strong and true;
Who would not say: “You seem to-day

A worshiper with the few ?"

[blocks in formation]

“In the woods we return to faith and reason."- EMERSON.

[ocr errors]

NOT many years ago James Anthony Froude, poet

and scholar as well as historian, told in Fraser's Magazine of a new and charming way of enlivening the summer months. Take your lexicon, he says, run over the doubtful words, fix them firmly in mind, and then select one of the old Greek tragedies. In the peace and buoyancy of a long sea voyage, its grandeur and pathos will speak to you as they never have before. Acting upon his own suggestion, he has given us a spirited description of the characters of Euripides; the strange and immortal Dionysus of the “ Bacchæ;" Hercules, who completes his labors only to die in misery by the cruelty of the gods; infelicitously domesticant Ion, Xuthus and Creusa; and lastly that perfect creation, over which the poet himself wondered, Macaria, the peerless, the “blessed.” Few have the tender enthusiasm and gifted scholarship of Mr.

Froude. The beauty of the Greek language, which he loves so well, is practically denied most men.

But there is no reason why the real meaning of the suggestion, which is only brought a little more vividly and fancifully to our minds than it has been brought a hundred times before, should not be accepted and acted upon. By the Greek language Mr. Froude symbolizes simplicity and elegance in thought and diction. By a tragedy he means something which has power to stir the blood to a keener sensibility of the mystery of Life and Death. When he speaks of a sea voyage as the most favorable condition to the study, it is not to the exclusion of other times and places, provided the analysis be made in communion with nature. There is a wide range for a choice of subjects of

. this kind. Many standard authors fulfill the requirements both of form and sentiment; and read in the seclusion of a pine grove, which seemed to Sir Arthur Helps one of the most beautiful objects in nature, or the depths of a real forest, whose solitude touched the great heart of Dante, and which Spenser loved to sing about so well, they will develop a beauty hitherto undreamed of. One subject may escape the notice of the disciple of this new faith or seem unfitted for his purpose. Theology, along with its sacred character, has borne a reputation for difficulty and dryness. A past age encrusted it with the phraseology and erudition of the metaphysicians, and a later skepticism, while rendering it more intelligible, poisoned it with a bitter sting. Modern science has inaugurated a new era, when the subject is dealt with calmly and feelingly, buť with a deeper and more searching inquiry after the truth than ever before. To-day there are books which ask in a serious and earnest spirit questions of new and wonderful import. Such a work is Brinton's “Religious Sentiment"-rightly called a “contribution to the philos

” ophy and science of religion.” Its depth and clearness make it a fit subject for a sylvan study.

The story of man's innate religious sensibility, told under the head of Myths and the Mythical Cycles, is as graceful and simple as an idyl. First came the question, common to all men, Whence came I, my fellows, and

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

the things which I see? And what will become of us all?” This was the beginning of the myth. Philosophi

” cally explained, it was a theory about the Unknown Power, not a complete narrative having the idea of a personal divinity. Perfected social order suggested the Unity of Nature, with new theories on Life and Death, and eventually the three great cycles of myths, the Epochs of Nature, Paradise lost, but to be regained, and the Hierarchy of the Gods. Taking these up in the order named, Time was always closely identified with Nature. Cronos, of the Greeks, was the oldest of their Gods, and the Egyptian Osiris came of a “yet older” God, Sev, Time. Nature, as it is felt by man, is a force, but one which is subjected to change, and this in turn to time, both“ beyond existence and including the non-existent." Man, that he might escape this oppression and be able to say “in the beginning” invented the myth of the Creation. Here a new difficulty occurred. He could not think of a change from non-existence to existence, and not furnish some material from which things came into being. Water was the most natural. Thus it came to be the original element in nearly all the cosmogonical myths. The real difficulty, however, was not removed. The question“ what was before the beginning ?" could not be satisfied by the answer “nothing," while Time, which knows no beginning, was still there. Only one supposition was left : that Nature was a series of epochs of destruction and restoration.

Never before, I think, has this wonderful story been told in a more simple and satisfactory manner. Seldom has its universality been brought so near the heart. For once there is a reasonable explanation of “what breathed religion into these dry bones of ours at all?" and a clear compendium of what thoughts are personal and what common to the whole race. Heterodox as some of the statements may seem, there is little which need be objected to by the Christian. The myth is but a "reflex


“ of man's personality,” invented to appease his doubts and fears, while religion, if it be what its followers claim, is matter far beyond his conception. Those who would



reject this explanation as debasing the divine nature of religion, in reality effect the opposite. On what other grounds can the existence of a belief in a creation, a flood, and a virgin mother, hundreds of years before the advent of Christianity, be satisfactorily accounted for?

At what time the myth took religious coloring is impossible to say. As men and nations grew old and lost their strength and vigor, disappointed with the present life, they looked back to what seemed a Golden age of valor and patriotism, and forward to a new era, when the good should be again separated from the evil. Hence the second great cycle of the mythus, Paradise lost and regained. Who the ruler of this was to be was at first unknown; but as the myth grew it gradually coalesced with the Epochs of Nature. The deliverer was to come at the last epoch, and was to be more than the hero of the Golden age-immortal. To define the history and nature of this and all supernatural beings, was invented the third great mythical cycle, called here the Hierarchy of the Gods. These originally were neither good nor evil, but acted arbitrarily. They had no moral character. Certain phenomena, however, excited fear and pain, while others allayed them. These, being ascribed to divine influence, led to a classification of the gods into good, that is kind, and evil, unfriendly. The subject here presented is fascinating but intangible. The variety in which the divine has appeared to the human imagination is multiform. There are more striking contrasts even than that between the terrible and vindictive gods of the Greeks, and the Christian's conception of a loving and self-immolated Saviour. To be able to estimate the correctness of the author's generalizations would require long and patient study.

Aside from the chapters, “ The Bearing of the Laws of Mind on Religion,” and “The Rational Postulates of the Religious Sentiment,” which together form a wonderfully powerful essay, demanding that the religious question be subjected to the laws of thought-a position denied by the present school of psychology--a part which will excite the greatest interest, as being forever at the root of

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »