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• There flock the hosts as to a holy ground,
There, where the dove at last may fold the wing!
Fair as in fable stands the Dragon King,
What lutes made joyaunce sweet in jasmine bowers
Slow fall the mists, and closing droop the flowers;
And Dream-land sleeps round golden Carduel.:—P. 451. We have thus at some expense of the reader's time attempted to give an idea of the fable of the poem, without which no proper
view of its merits can be gained. We are aware that an abstract cannot do justice to its subject, yet a full perusal leaves the same impression, of a lack of human interests, and of vigorous power to arrest and sustain attention. With many striking, effective, beautiful parts, the poem fails as a whole. At no time do we feel the hero a real personage; we seldom can sufficiently believe in his existence to sympathise in his trials, or to feel truly concerned for him. His fairy mystic guide greatly aggravates this evil, not only from the additional haze of unreality she diffuses round him, but that we feel well satisfied she will keep him from all real peril, whatever dangers may seem to threaten his path. This unerring guardian is open to the objection Dryden makes to the machinery of all Christian poets. Like Ariosto's angel in contest with Discord, who soon makes her know the difference of strength between a nuncio of heaven and a minister of hell,' we know (and surely the hero also) that giants may threaten, and fiends gibber, and death inevitable may seem to oppose his path, but she will in fact bring him nowhere where he may not pass safely through.
The rules of criticism, in common with all dogmas, often offend by a seeming technicality and trivial attention to forms; a sacrifice of real worth and beauty, to dry correctness : yet experience teaches us the substantial truth of many a dictum which at one time we deemed merely arbitrary; and amongst these is the paramount necessity of the subserviency of parts to the whole. This our author has not regarded; he has said whatever suited him at the time to say, or seemed to enhance the effect of the particular portion he was engaged upon. Whether it be a point of erudition to be displayed, a fling at a political opponent suggested by the matter in hand, a train of speculation or sentiment appropriate to modern times, but professedly from the lips of ancient wisdom-if it roughly dispel an allusion ; if it weakens our faith; if it loosens our hold and our interest on
the main theme, however dear to the author, the mistimed show of wit or wisdom should have found no place. In the words of Waller, 'a poet ought not to say all he can, but only all he ought.' The present writer has wished to make his poem the depository of all his thoughts; to say all he can say ; to record his view of every topic which has engaged his own or the popular attention; to display acquaintance and sympathy with the whole field of modern inquiry.
In the preface to his second edition he complacently observes upon the charge of too much learning, answering it in the words of a modern critic, that an epic poet ought to possess all the learning of his age. A poet ought unquestionably to possess
' learning, but every man's own experience tells him that the most learned do not commonly talk most learnedly. We presume that it is learning out of place of which the critics complain. What is yet crude and of recent acquirement is obtrusively exhibited; the accumulated stores of an observant mind,--what have matured the understanding and formed the judgment, are no subjects for display. They enrich and illustrate every theme, but they are only manifest when the occasion asks for them. We
agree with the author in thinking the choice of his metre a happy one. He quotes Dryden's emphatic praise of the 'quatrain, or stanza of four alternate lines ;' but those who are acquainted with the only long poem in which Dryden has used it, The Annus Mirabilis,' will feel how greatly the monotony of this measure is relieved by the rhyming couplet which concludes the stanza, allowing more scope too, for the completion of the thought or picture. Many of the preceding examples prove that our author has understood its capabilities. His diction, if not poetical in the highest sense, is easy, graceful, and eloquent, well-fitted for the alternations of thought and narrative through which his subject leads him.
In conclusion, though we have no expectation that the mass of Sir E. Bulwer Lytton's readers will acquiesce in his judgment, we are inclined to agree with it so far as to believe that of all his works 'King Arthur' has perhaps the most claim to a lasting reputation. What hindrances we see to the realization of his sanguine hopes for this darling of his latest care, we have explained elsewhere. But a long poem is a great venture, and it is something even to fail with credit, where the stake that is tried for is lasting fame.
ART. III. Commentary on the Psalms. By Dr. E. W. HENG
STENBERG, Professor of Theology at Berlin. Translated from the German by the Rev. P. Fairbairn and Rev. J. Thompson. Edinburgh : Clark.
OUR object at present is not so much to weigh the character of this work of Dr. Henstenberg, whose high merits as a most learned and strenuous asserter of Orthodoxy in the Lutheran School are well known, as to lay before our readers a few thoughts on a subject connected with the Sacred Psalter, on which earnest minds are sometimes disposed to seek for assistance. Indeed we believe there are but few, amongst those who have been accustomed to make a devout and considerate use of these inspired poems, that have not often felt embarrassed and perplexed by the tone, in which the sacred penmen are wont to speak when referring to enemies. The difficulty is, how to reconcile the feeling which such passages seem to breathe, with the prescriptions which abound on the subject in the New Testament. There we find sentiments of long-suffering, of forgiveness, even of positive love, enjoined upon us, alike by the teaching and by the example both of our blessed Lord and of his Holy Apostles; and this, too, so constantly and in so great a variety of ways, that the impression of no one quality of our holy religion is left more distinctly on the minds of all who come into contact with it, than that of the great leniency and even kindness which it requires of us, even in dealing with our bitterest foes. But when we turn to the Book of Psalms, what is it that we seem to find there?
In order that we may have the facts of the case fairly before our minds, let us first collect some of the passages in which enemies are spoken of by the holy Psalmist, disposing them under the several heads under which they naturally class themselves; and then we will proceed to consider how they are to be regarded.
In the first place, then, there is a considerable number of instances, in which the Psalmist simply implores deliverance on his own behalf, and his adversaries' disappointment and confusion. Thus, for example, 'Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly,' (vi. 10.) 'Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil,'(xl. 14.)
Now, so far as such prayers express a desire that the
supplicant may himself be freed from afflictions brought upon him by the injurious conduct of others, there is nothing in them which can be felt in any degree to jar upon the Christian spirit. But it may be fairly questioned even in respect to these, whether they do not express more than the frustration of the wicked designs complained of. For though the petition, that those evildoers may be ashamed,' is susceptible of an interpretation pointing merely to their repentance, yet it admits likewise of being taken in another sense, according to which the thing desired would be, that they might be made to suffer feelings of shame and vexation simply in retribution for their wrongful doings, and without any reference to their being thereby brought to a better state of mind. In short, the punishment required may be taken as vindictive merely and not as corrective. The consideration of the next class of petitions leads, perhaps, to the inference that the latter is the true interpretation.
• Seek out his wickedness till thou find none,' [i.e., visit him with unceasing inflictions of thy judgments, till the full demerit of his guilt shall have been exhausted,] x. 15. • Give them according to their deeds...render to them their desert,’ xxviii. 4. Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.' xl. 15. “But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them,' xli. 10. "God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living,' lii. 5. “He shall reward evil unto mine enemies : cut them off in thy truth,' liv. 5. • Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell [i.e. Sheol, the world of destruction; for, clearly, the Gehenna revealed in the New Testament is not specifically meant,] for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them,’lv. 15. Be not merciful to any wicked transgressors ... Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord, our shield. Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city, (unsatisfied and hungry.] Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied' [or rather, which is nearly the sense given in the margin, though they be not satisfied with what they find, let them have to pass the whole night with nothing better], lix. 5-15. • Render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord,' lxxix. 12. • Persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish,' lxxxiii. 15,17. "What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper' [which are thought to retain their heat for an especially long time], cxx. 3, 4. “As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. Let burning coals fall upon them; let them be cast into the fire into deep pits, that they rise not up again,' cxl. 9, 10.
There can be no question but that in these passages evil is imprecated upon evil-doers altogether irrespectively of their
amendment thereby. The thing desired is, clearly, that they may be punished; punished, in retribution for their wickedness, and not in order to any beneficial result to be ultimately produced on their own character.
There is a third class of passages, in which this same desire goes out into expressions, which convey to our minds the feeling, that the Psalmist experiences a kind of complacency in contemplating these inflictions of retributive judgment, and even dwells upon them with satisfaction and pleasure.
Two of these, indeed, occur in Psalms which are altogether so remarkably distinguished by the highly wrought tone of imaginative poetry which pervades them, that the language in which the punishment of the wicked is described admits of being regarded as being merely a poetical enlargement of the idea rather than as the expression of gratified feeling.
In the 18th Psalm David commemorates his victories over his enemies thus:
• I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them :
I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.' Considering the tone of language which marks the Psalm generally, it is obvious that this particular passage is to be taken as the symbolical language of triumphant exultation, referring indeed to actual successes in real warfare, but still, representing those successes poetically in the imagery which would naturally be presented by war and conquest as then carried on.
Of a similar kind is the passage which we find in the 68th Psalm, in verses 21–24. The meaning of these verses is somewhat obscured both in the translation which we use in the Prayer Book and also in the authorized version. We believe that we have the judgment of most Hebrew scholars on our side, in preferring the following translation as giving the true sense of the passage :
• But God shall wound the head of his enemies,