« PreviousContinue »
has afforded ample materials for animadversion, founded on the very best authority, his own. In several parts of the volume, we met with various misrepresentations of scriptural 'doctrine; these indeed might naturally be expected in a
course of sernions on philosophy and philosophers', in which the minuteness of theological accuracy would hardly accord with speculations on ' man and the universe'. With many of these speculations, however, we were well satisfied. The discourses on natural and revealed religion-on man as a rational, moral, and religious being-on the proofs of immortality from reason and revelation and on the resurrection of the dead, may be read with pleasure and improvement. In all of them many instructive reflections are conveyed, intermingled with others, which are either defective or erroneous, and need either to be explained or expunged. We cannot close our remarks without introducing a quotation that exhibits the purity and neatness of the author's style ; and is, at the same time, distinguished by just reasoning and useful tendency, The exordium of the sixth sermon, on Revealed Religion, (John xiv, 9) thus introduces the subject. • The
request of Philip to our Lord, led me, my brethren, in a former discourse (on natural religion') to point out that reply which it might have received from the suggestions of nature, even if he to whom the „ request was addressed, had not given the answer which you have now heard. 6 Shew us the Father (said Philip) and it sufficeth us." Nature, as we have seen, might have replied, you behold him “wherever you
live and move and have your being."
The answer of our Lord to his disciple does not at all supersede this general language of nature to all the children of inen ; it is however a different answer ; and to those who are accustomed to derive their religious impressions from natural appearances alone, it may perhaps seem to have been in a great measure superfluous. Yet it was a reply which many wise and good men of former ages had longed to hear, the anticipation of which had brightened the inspiration of ancient propheus and kings, and which we, my brethren- know, I trust, in what man. ner to prize, and to receive with thankfulness and joy. Jesus saith-he that hath seen me hath seen the Father ; and how sayest thou, then, shero us the Father's
• The leading ground upon which those proceed, who deny the authority of revelation is, that it is unnecessary : and that nature and reason can supply us with all the religious knowledge which we require. Now, admitting to those who maintain this opinion, that there is nothing deficient in the intimations concerning God and his laws, which we derive from these sources, there still occurs an important observation, which does not seem to strike them with the force which it deserves. In cunsidering the subject of religion, a material distinction is to be made between what may be effected by the unassisted powers of the human mind, and what the history of mankind informs us has been actua. ally effected by them. The natural evidences of religion may appear to, 25 very clear and indisputable ; and yet we know that, not two thoa. sand years ago, these evidences were very imperfectly discerned by philosophers themselves, and that inankind in general were involved in the grossest darkness and idolatry.--Even admitting, therefore, that reason and philosophy might possibly have led men to just notions of religion, this at least is certain, that in point of fact, they never did so; and that till the æra of the Christian revelation, the principles of natural religion were almost as little understood by the bulk of mankind as the scheme of their future redemption.' pp. 79-84.
We would rather condole with Mr. Morehead, than congratulate him, on the forced and temporary popularity which a friendly critic has procured for his Sermons. The egregious partiality and extravagant applause we refer to, has afforded great amusement to such of us on this side of the Tweed as were in the secret; and produced equal astonishment, no doubt, among the 'gude' followers of John Knox. No such efforts, however, can obtain a permanent success, or confer a lasting fame. We cannot see much probability that our countrymen will escape the sudden revulsion from fanaticism to licentiousness, with which they have been sagaciously threatened, through the influence of discourses that have so effectually tired both shepherd and flock. Kindness of manner is a most admirable recommendation to the public regard : but it will avail a man but little to be so introduced, if he has nothing important or interesting to communicate. People are not to be seduced from their vices, or wheedled out of their unbelief. If the Christian ambassador' is to succeed in his mission, he must not only disa play the conciliating candour of his own heart, but the right, the power, the will, and the plans of his Sovereign, to bless or punish. Indeed, whatever may be the momentary effect of the flattery Mr. Morehead has received, we are apprehensive he is not quite satisfied with the terms of it himself. If a scoffer will find so little temptation and opportunity to laugh at Mr. Morehead's sermons, it may be presumed they differ more entirely from the writings of inspired and pious men, which have been the standing jest of the scoffer in all places and times, than on reflection he would be svilling to allow. Art. V. Les Trois Règnes de la Nature, &c. The Three Kingdoms of
Nature, by J. Delille : with Notes by M. Cuvier, of the National Institute, and other literary Characters, 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 580. Price
31. Dulau. 1809. FRANCE has hitherto been as destitute of epic and didactic
poetry, as she has been rich in lyric and dramatic. The
contrast is truly surprising, and has never been accounted for. Oar present observations are limited to the didactic class alone; and, of this class, to that particular order which is recognized by the name of descriptive poetry. The catalogue of the descriptive poets of France, dowti to the epoch of the writer before us, forms indeed but a meagře account, when made the most of. The Anti-Lucretius of Polignac, though a didactic, can scarcely be called a descriptive poem; an observation which may equally apply to the horticultural verses of Rapin. These, moreover, are both written in Latin and, even if regarded as of the descriptive order, will hardly redeem their country from the verdict we have just passed upon it. With regard to the latter, we may safely say, with M. Delille himself, in a work long since published, " Il n'a traité que la partie mécanique de l'art des jardins. Il a en
. tièrement vublié la partie la plus essentielle, celle qui cherche dans nos sensations, dans nos sentimens, la source des plaisirs que nous causent les scènes champêtres, et les beautés de la nature perfectionnées par l'art.” And the spirit of the observation, if not the letter, will apply with nearly, though not altogether as much force, to the Anti-Lucretius, sive de Deo et nutura.”
Yet, discarding these, what have we to enumerate? The Agriculture of Rosset is still more barren of ornament than the Latin production of Rapin : not a single episode, not a single spark of genius, is to be met with through the whole toutine of his six cantos. He has solely confined himself to the task of putting into French verse a mere catalogue of the labours of the agriculturist. His style, it is true, is generally correct ; but he is deficient in fańcy, in elegance, and even at times in rhyming. If to these we add the Predium Rusticum of Vanière, and The Seasons of Saint Lambert, both wbich writers have unquestionable merit; though not enough to have rendered them very popular among their countrymen, we shall have glanced at all the French poets who are intitled to attention in the descriptive department. Boileau, though a host in himself, does not fairly belong to it; and Le Mierre, notwithstanding the numerous beauties of his poem on Painting, for the chief of which, however, he is indebted to the Abbé de Marsy, has scarcely more pretension to such an arrangement,
It is for want, therefore, of a sufficient variety of good descriptive poems, that this species of verse bas found but little favour in France. Even M. Delille bimself, notwithstanding his numerous and successful labours in the descriptive field, is compelled to introduce the work before us with an apology : “Ce poëme," says he, “ne peut se districké
per d'appartenir au genre descriptif." And for the same reason he is also compelled to look for examples among the poetic tribe of our own country, instead of forming himself upon vernacular compositions.
1 There is, however, another reason for his directing his eye towards Great Britain, and a reason which cannot fail to interest every English man most strongly in his bebalf : ive mean a firm and honourable spirit of independence, a native love of the manners and the constitution of England; and a grateful recollection of the asylum and friendships it afforded him when the first horrors of the revolution drove him from his native land, and a sense of loyalty to his deposed and afflicted monarch induced him to take his share in the calamities of the Bourbons, rather than to stay be. hind and riot on the ruins of law, order, and moral excellence, of an uprooted and disorganized state.
The work by which the unrivalled poet before us (unri. val!ed at least in his own country, and in his own day) was first known to us, is his very admirable translation of the Georgics ; a translation imperatively called for in his native tongue, and which he has executed in a that will insure to him an immortality coeval with that of the language.
After all his labours, prolific and prosper. ous as they have been, it is indeed his master-piece. To this excellent version succeeded his Jardins, which has had the honour of two distinct and very respectable translations into English ; and which has also the remarkable coincidence of having been composed contemporaneously with the English Garden of our own venerated countryman, Mr. Mason; of having equally had in view to banish the old system of stiff, grotesque, and artificial parterres, in favour of the modern style of landscape, or, as it is usually called, picturesque gardening; of having equally taken Milton for his model, and of having equally also celebrated, in an appropriate and spirited digression, the genius of independence which was then mounting the ascendant in North America. To this poem succeeded, a few years afterwards, another of a similar character, intitled L'Homme des Champs, ou Georgiques Françoises, which has also been respectably translated into our own tongue, and denominated “ The Rüral Philosopher," an awkward and paraphrastic title, and which, if it should reach a second edition, we would advise the author to exchange for “ The Ruralist.” This poem has great excellence, and, if inferior to his version of the ori, ginal Georgics, is at least equal to his Gardens. Le Nlalheur et la Pitié constitutes his next metrical production ; and might perhaps be rendered, with ån allowable alliteration, " Sorrow and Sympathy.". It was first published, if we mis- . take not, in London, during the author's residence amongst us, as it was written to commemorate French calamities and English generosity: it possesses M. Delille's usual ease of ver. sification, and is enriched with various striking and impressive episodes. His translation of Paradise Lost immediately followed; the greater part of which was also composed in London, though the poem was not completed till the author's return to his own country, in consequence of the peace of Amiens, a general amnesty offered to all Frenchmen by the French government, and a particular and pressing invitation conveyed to himself by Bonaparte, then First Consul of the French republic. The translation of Paradise Lost is a work of admirable skill and execution : it bears about the same resemblance to the original that the Iliad of Pope does to that of Homer, It is by no means calculated to satisfy an English critic; but it is attempted upon the only plan which afforded a prospect of making the work popular in France.
It only remains for us to add in these preliminary remarks, that though the Abbé yielded to the solicitations of the First Consul to return to his native country, he seems uniformly to have frustrated his expectations of converting him into a court panegyrist: his native independence of spirit appears in no instance to have forsaken him ; we have no fulsome compliments even in the work before us ; and we verily believe that to this hour neither his heart nor his tongue has recanted the following pathetic eulogy to Monsieur, the brother of Lewis XVIII, with which the opening of his Malheur et la Pitié is adorned.
• Ainsi jeté moi-même, aux rives étrangères,
Je chantois la pitié, je peignois nos misères..
Qui; d'autres lieux en vain bénissoient ta presence,