Page images


Pilgrim's Progress" is the delight of the peasantry. In every nursery, the "Pilgrim's Progress” is a greater favorite than “ Jack the Giant Killer.” Every reader knows the strait and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius, that things that are not should be as though · they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. And this miracle the tinker has wrought. There is no ascent, no declivity, no restingplace, no turnstile, with which we are not perfectly acquainted. The wicket-gate, and the desolate swamp which separates it from the city of Destruction; the long line of road, as straight as a rule can make it; the interpreter's house, and all its fair shows; the prisoner in the iron cage; the palace, at the doors of which armed men kept guard, and on the battlements of which walked persons clothed all in gold; the cross and the sepulchre; the steep hill and the pleasant arbor; the stately front of the house Beautiful, by the way-side, the chained lions crouching in the porch; the low, green valley of Humiliation, rich with grass, and covered with flocks, -all are as well known to us as the sights of our own streets. Then we come to the narrow place where Apollyon strode right across the whole breadth of the way, to stop the journey of Christian, and where afterwards the pillar was set up, to testify how bravely the pilgrim had fought the good fight. As we advance, the valley becomes deeper and deeper. The shade of the precipices on both sides falls blacker and blacker. The clouds gather over-head. Doleful voices,

. the clanking of chains, and the rushing of many feet to and fro, are heard through the darkness. The way, hardly discernible in gloom, runs close by the mouth of the burning pit, which sends forth its flames, its noisome smoke, and its hideous shapes, to terrify the adventurer. Thence he goes on, amidst the snares and pit-falls, with the mangled bodies of those who have perished lying in the ditch by his side. At the end of the long, dark valley, he passes the dens in which the old giants dwelt, amidst the bones of those whom they had slain.

Then the road passes straight on through a waste moor, till at · length the towers of a distant city appear before the traveller ; and soon he is in the midst of the innumerable multitudes of Vanity Fair. There are the jugglers and the apes, the shops and the puppet-shows; there are Italian Row, and French Row, and Spanish Row, and Britain Row, with their crowds of buyers, sellers, and loungers, jabbering all the languages of the earth.

Thence we go on by the little hill of the silver mine, and through the meadow of lilies, along the bank of that pleasant river, which is bordered on both sides by fruit-trees. On the left, branches off the path leading to the horrible castle, the court-yard of which is paved with the skulls of pilgrims; and right onward are the sheep-folds and orchards of the Delectable Mountains.

From the Delectable Mountains, the way lies through the fogs and briars of the Enchanted Ground, with here and there a bed of soft cushions spread under a green arbor. And beyond, is the land of Beulah, where the flowers, the grapes, and the songs of birds, never cease, and where the sun shines night and day. Thence are plainly seen the golden pavements and the streets of pearl, on the other side of that black and cold river, over which there is no bridge.


THOMAS CARLYLE, One of the most remarkable writers of the present time, is a native of Scotland. His principal works are a Life of Schiller ; Sartor Resartus; The French Revolution ; Chartism; Critical and Miscellaneous Essays; Hero Worship, and The Past and Present. The first of these was published in 1836. Mr. Carlyle is a great admirer of German literature, and has done much to introduce a knowledge of it to the readers of the English language. " He has added to our stock of original ideas, and helped to foster a more liberal and penetrative style of criticism. The opinions and writings of Carlyle tend to enlarge our sympathies and feelings - to stir the heart with benevolence and affection — to unite man to man -- and to build upon this love of our fellowbeings a system of mental energy and purity, far removed from the operations of sense, and pregnant with high hopes and aspirations."


Such a gift had Nature, in her bounty, bestowed on us, in Robert Burns; but, with queen-like indifference, she cast it from her hand, like a thing of no moment; and it was defaced and torn asunder, as an idle bauble, before we recognized it. To the ill-starred Burns was given the power of making man's life more venerable ; but that of wisely guiding his own, was not given. Destiny - for so, in our ignorance, we must speak - his faults, the faults of others, proved too hard for him; and that spirit which might have soared, could it but have walked, soon sank to the dust, its glorious faculties trodden under foot in the blossom, and died, we may almost say, without ever having lived. And so kind and warm a soul —so full of inborn riches, of love to all living and lifeless things! How his heart flows out in sympathy over universal nature; and in her bleakest provinces discerns a beauty and a meaning! The “Daisy" falls not unheeded under his ploughshare; nor the ruined nest of that “wee, cowering, timorous beastie,” cast forth, after all its provident pains, to "thole the sleety dribble, and cranreuch cauld." The “hoar visage” of Winter delights him; he dwells with a sad and oft-returning fondness in these scenes of solemn desolation : but the voice of the tempest becomes an anthem to his ears; he loves to walk in the sounding woods, for “ it raises his thoughts to Him that walketh on the wings of the wind." A true poet-soul ; for it needs but to be struck, and the sound it yields will be music! But observe him chiefly as he mingles with his brother men. What warm, all-comprehending fellow-feeling! what trustful, boundless love! what generous exaggeration of the object loved! His rustic friend, his nut-brown maiden, are no longer mean and homely, but a hero and a queen, whom he prizes as the paragons of earth. The rough scenes of Scottish life, not seen by him in any Arcadian illusion, but in the rude contradiction, in the smoke and soil, of a too harsh reality, are still lovely to him. Poverty is, indeed, his companion, but love also, and courage; the simple feelings, the worth, the nobleness, that dwell under the straw roof, are dear and venerable to his heart; and thus, over the lowest provinces of man's existence he

pours the glory of his own soul; and they rise, in shadow and sunshine, softened and brightened into a beauty which other eyes discern not in the highest.

He has a just self-consciousness, which too often degenerates into pride : yet it is a noble pride, for defence, not for offence; no cold, suspicious feeling, but a frank and social one. The peasant poet bears himself, we might say, like a king in exile : he is cast among the low, and feels himself equal to the highest; yet he claims no rank, that none may be disputed to him. The forward he can repel, the supercilious he can subdue; pretensions of wealth or ancestry are of no avail with him; there is a fire in that dark eye, under which the insolence of condescension cannot thrive. In his abasement, in his extreme need, he forgets not for a moment the majesty of Poetry and Manhood. And yet, far as he feels himself above common men, he wanders not apart from them, but mixes warmly in their interests; nay, throws himself into their arms; and, as it were, entreats them to love him. It is moving to see how, in his darkest despondency, this proud being still seeks relief from friendship; unbosoms himself often to the unworthy; and, amid tears, strains to his glowing heart a heart that knows only the name of friendship. And yet, he was "quick to learn,” a man of keen vision, before whom common disguises afforded no concealment. His understanding saw through even accomplished deceivers; but there was a generous credulity in his heart.

And so did our peasant show himself among us; a soul like an Æolian harp, in whose strings the vulgar wind, as it passed through them, changed itself into articulate melody." And this was he for whom the world found no fitter business than quarreling with smugglers and vintners, computing excise dues upon tallow, and gauging ale-barrels! In such toil was that mighty spirit sorrowfully wasted : and a hundred years may pass on, before another such is given us to waste.



[blocks in formation]


By far the most finished, complete, and truly inspired pieces of Burns, are, without dispute, to be found among his songs.

* They do not affect to be set to music, but they actually, and in themselves, are music; they have received their life, and fashioned themselves together, in the medium of Harmony, as Venus rose from the bosom of the sea. the feeling, is not detailed, but suggested: not said, or spouted, in rhetorical completeness and coherence; but sung, in fitful gushes, in glowing hints, in fantastic breaks, in warblings, not of

The story,

[ocr errors]

the voice only, but of the whole mind. * * * With what tenderness he sings, yet with what vehemence and entireness! There is a piercing wail in his sorrow, the purest rapture in his joy; he burns with the sternest ire, or laughs with the loudest or slyest mirth; and yet he is sweet and soft, “sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet, and soft as their parting tear!” If we further take into account the immense variety of his subjects; how, from the loud-flowing revel in Willie brew'd a Peck O Maut, to the still, rapt enthusiasm of sadness for Mary in Heaven ; from the glad, kind greetings of Auld Lang Syne, or the comic archness of Duncan Gray, to the fire-eyed fury of Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled, he has found a tone and words for every mood of man's heart, it will seem a small praise, if we rank him as the first of all our song-writers; for we know not where to find one worthy of being second to him.


(From a Critique upon " Wilhelm Meister.”]


This mysterious child, at first neglected by the reader, at length overpowers him with an emotion more deep and thrilling than any poet since the days of Shakspeare has succeeded in producing. The daughter of enthusiasm, rapture, passion and despair, she is of the earth, but not earthly. When she glides

, before us through the light mazes of her fairy dance, or twangs her cithern to the notes of her home-sick verses, or whirls her tambourine and hurries round us like an antique Moenad, we could almost fancy her a spirit, so pure is she, so full of fervor, so disengaged from the clay of this world. And when all the fearful particulars of her story are at length laid together, and we behold, in connected order, the image of her hapless existence, there is, in those dim recollections, those feelings, so simple, so impassioned and unspeakable, consuming the already shrouded, woe-struck, yet ethereal spirit of the poor creature, something which reaches into the inmost recesses of the soul. It is not tears which her fate calls forth ; but a feeling far too deep for tears. The very fire of heaven seems miserably quenched

« PreviousContinue »