Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

the Physician should be able to embrace a wider view of relations and results than the mere operator on a particular limb for a particular purpose, or than the trier of a few experiments-so the Divine has to consider and to test, not only the facts put before him by the critic-put before him often with a single eye to that critic's callingbut the cognate facts and necessities of the spiritual frame, and the history of religion.

The recent books, then, published in this country, such as Foxton's, Froude's, Newman's, excite in us no surprise-excessive as we think the strain is, which they put upon the logical and critical tendencies, when they employ them exclusively: and they supply us with no results which we had not anticipated, and anticipated as in part well-founded. It must gradually appear to the public mind incontestible that the old theory of the infallibility of the Scriptures as written records, and their absolute truth in every doctrine and statement delivered in them, must cease to be the foundation of our religion: that even in the matter of the authenticity of the Gospels as wholes, we must be prepared to meet with what shall be proved, or rather must be prepared to find the common views of their authenticity, whatever be still the presumption in favour of it, incapable of positive demonstration: and the result of this must necessarily be that the Scriptures will have to be received as instruments of religion, not as lords of religion. Religion is not to bow before them as supreme over her, but to accept them gratefully as handmaidens and attendants given for her use and service by the Lord of all. Thus freely and thankfully received, they will be judged of, not according to any untenable theory of infallibility and inspiration, but according to their essential service to the human soul. Notwithstanding all that the critical and logical faculties have done-and as the logical faculty, consistently with its own laws, may reason us out of a belief in the existence of a material world, the critical faculty may also, consistently with its own. laws, disprove the trustworthiness of the Gospels and Epistles we believe on wider grounds than these, though accepting the aid of these faculties with others, that we have a holier and higher, a truer and more commanding, revelation of God's moral character and will, and our

duties and hopes in the New Testament, than in any written book upon this earth; and that, without believing that the portrait of Christ contained in any of the Gospels has the precise and unerring faithfulness and literalness of a Daguerreotype, we believe that it is a faithful portrait of a living reality, drawn on the tablets of human hearts, in the undying colours of truth and nature. And of that original we further believe that he of all men that ever lived was in the fullest spiritual communion with the Divine Being; and that he is to us, at this day, the one Way unto the Father.

The connection between some present remark-worthy tendencies of the religious mind, and a portion of the subject before us, has led us into this digression. Each age has a great tendency to carry some decided characteristic into all its pursuits. There is no possibility of holding any special influence exercising itself upon any one of the three great departments of mental effort, theology, metaphysics, or literature, off any of the others. The metaphysics of an age affect its theology and its literature, and the literary tendencies of an age affect the religious. That man must have a very feeble discernment who does not at once see what Wolf on the Homeric Poems has had to do with Strauss on the Gospels; what Eichorn has had to do with Niebuhr, and Niebuhr with Ranke. The current of thought at present in England, as recently in Germany (and the word recently applied to Germany necessarily of course precludes the possibility of the same thing continuing to exist when that word is penned), is in the mythical direction; and, therefore (we can see no better reason), Mr. Grote turns the scale in favour of a mythical Homer. For ourselves, while reading such speculations with interest and a species of literary curiosity and amusement, we are as little affected by them, as regards all our stabler and more practical convictions, as we are by Bishop Berkeley's irrefutable reasonings, about there being no outward world. Strauss's à priori Messianic confabulators produce about as much effect upon us as Wolf's Homerida; and both are as real to us as those interesting personages who descended to take a part in the loves and hates of certain human realities one summer night in a wood near Athens. We believe in Shakespeare all

the time, though not in Oberon and Titania; in Homer, though not in the Homerida; and in like manner the gigantic spiritual reality, which we cannot bring ourselves to name in this sentence, stands out in everlasting duration, while the host of inventors of what that reality might have been, should have been, ought to have been, and therefore was, pass before us like a train of ghosts.

We listen to the Chorizontes, arguing that the Iliad and Odyssey are not from the same hand; we listen to the ultra-separatists (for it is the ultras who answer the intras), showing how even these poems, separately considered, are not integers, but that there are some dozen little poems (only all of giant-limbs) in the Iliad itself, just as we listen to Schleiermacher "rightly dividing the word" of Luke's Gospel, and showing in the most irrefragable manner, exactly where each of some twenty Gospelets in this Gospel begins and ends. And though these criticisms bring out a thousand unobserved features and points of interest, and though we even grant something to the theories themselves, in as it were an infant and unfledged form, we no more think of ceasing to read, to admire and to reverence the Iliad as a glorious Unity, and to believe in Homer as a transcendant Poet, than we think of ceasing to apply to those formations of pure and living water (so pure and living that no argument can either show them to be so, or show them not to be so), which we and our fathers have found, and our sons, wiser than their fathers, shall more wisely find, to be a main sustenance of our spiritual life or denying the existence of Him, in the image handed down to us, who is simply as real to us as our own souls.

While Wolf, Payne Knight, and their admirers, amuse themselves with their respective anatomies, and anatomical theories, operating as upon a dead body, but finding it determinedly living still, resisting all their efforts to point out how the living whole is the result of a leg put on there, and an arm there, a heart, and a brain, and a lung, variously contributed by clever and disinterested gentlemen-who retire, having made their contribution, without leaving their names—we are believing in Homer all the time, reading him, loving him, no more doubting him and his, than sensible men shall doubt Milton (of whose unity

there are, however, far more internal grounds for doubting than of Homer's), and after all their ingenuity and observation, much more grateful to any stupid commentator, who will take Homer in bonam partem, and touch upon, if he cannot bring out, the material of his author, than to those who concern themselves, however acutely and ingeniously, with the how, and where, and when, of his material-thinking with Wordsworth, that

"Benjamin with clouded brains,

Is worth the rest with all their pains."

We have to confess ourselves, therefore, as belonging to the class rather of Poet-lovers than Critic-lovers, two classes of men whose characteristics we alluded to at the beginning of this article, as being so different. What wellinformed and studious men, whose passion for a special hypothesis has imparted an almost supernatural acuteness to their critical vision, enabling them to discern, with wonderful readiness and penetration, in any work, even the most hidden features which favour that hypothesiswhat such men have to say is always worth attentively perusing-not so much on account of the support which it gives to their notion, as for the amount of attention it draws to, and light it throws upon, the staple of the work itself. The full sight into which their united labours bring every peculiarity of the work under their criticism, every power and weakness, every beauty and defect, every fact and error, is the result which will endure, when their respective theories shall have been destroyed, by being simply left to the tender mercies of each other. Except for this most valuable result, we should feel something approaching to shame, for the kind of criticism which has been bestowed on Homer for the last fifty years. When we reflect upon Aristotle's faith in the unity of this Author and his Material, of the manner in which he takes his illustrations of great natural facts or critical canons (albeit often in the syllogistic vein) from the living nature and beauty of the Poems themselves, and contrast such expository and ever-during criticism with that which sees the greatest as the most trifling things principally in the light of so much grist. for the mill of its theory, so much proof pro or contra, that the Iliad was one or twenty, and Homer a man or a cycle-we are deeply impressed with

the conviction that the true modern Critic of Homer is the man who, now nearly neglecting these contests, takes the Poems themselves as at least certainly existing and indisputable phenomena, and gladdens the heart of youth and manhood, with the display of the ever-increasing number of their perceived wonders and beauties.

Colonel Mure is surprised that there should exist no complete history of Grecian literature, either handed down to us by the Greeks, or accomplished by ourselves. He truly says that a nation is first engaged with its own thoughts—and it is not till later, often not until the period of its decline, that it begins to comment upon its thoughts, or the thoughts of other nations. He thinks that the political annals of society often exhibit human character in a most offensive aspect, and that it would be much more alluring to trace the history of a nation's mind, record and review its intellectual productions, than perpetuate its feats of valour or political enterprise. That the Greeks themselves should have shown so great an indifference to the value of this species of history, "appears the more remarkable," he says, "when we consider the infinite number of channels in which, during their latter days, their over-exuberant genius found vent, and the voluminous library of works which it produced in the kindred class of subjects. Yet, among their legion of commentators and grammarians, there is no record of an historian of literature in the wider sense. Similar was the case with the Romans."

We

We have no difficulty in discovering the reason of this. The absence of this tendency in ancient literature, and its presence in modern, is not to the advantage or to the honour of the last. The individual study of an original work has many times the worth of the study of that original. There is far too much derived literature among us. go cooking and eating, over and over again, the same viands in every variety of form; but each less nutritious and less wholesome than the form in which they are originally presented to us. The bulk of our learned works unhappily consist of these mere accretions and repetitions. Our time is occupied-is wasted-with the infinite quantity of this unimpressive iteration. The man of true scholarly courage would and does pass over these inter

« AnkstesnisTęsti »