Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

"'Tis profane the cerecloth riving,

1

Where a spectre lurks beneath;

Error is the law of living,

Knowledge but the name for death.
Take, oh! take thy mournful splendour,

From mine eyes the lurid gleam;

Cursed the mortal thou would'st render
Mirror to thy flaming beam!

"Give me back my vision bounded,

And my senses' duskened sheen;
Word of joy nor song I've sounded
Since thy mouthpiece I have been.
Thou the Future hast imparted,

But the Present turned to pain,
Reft me of my youth light-hearted-
Take thy treacherous gifts again!
"With the bride's adornment never
I my dewy locks might twine:
Since thy vestal vowed for ever,

[blocks in formation]

See the sister's heart proud swelling,
Vainly struggling calm to seem;
Scarce ye gods there o'er us dwelling,
Hails she happier in her dream.
"I too 've gazed on him entreating,
Whom my yearning heart desired,
And partook the blissful greeting,
By the warmth of love inspired.
But to nuptial dwelling never
With the loved one might depart,
For a Stygian shadow ever

Cast its baleful gloom athwart.
"Spectres gaunt and shapes ungainly
Flock from Tartarus' shores to me,
Seeking rest or roaming vainly
From the grisly bands to flee.
'Midst the youthful sports and babble
Still the phantom troop would steal,
Shuddering grim and hideous rabble!
Howe'er could I joyous feel.

"I behold the glaive descending,

And the murderer's visage glare;
To the sacrifice impending,

With a conscious step repair.
On my gaze these visions fasten,
Felt, foreboded, fearless scanned;
To my destined doom I hasten,
Death-upon a foreign strand."
While her plaintive tones thus wander,
Hark! what deafening shouts arise!
At Minerva's portal yonder,

Stretched, a corpse Achilles lies.
Discord's gory crest proud towers,

The protecting gods are gone,

Thunder breaks and darkness lowers
O'er devoted Ilion.

Lincoln's Inn Fields, July, 1847.

SECRET SOCIETIES.

BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY.
PART II.

[ocr errors]

J. J. S.

"An

other guinea." "Then," replies the official person in a voice of thunder, "Fork out." Of course to a man coming sword in hand few people refuse to do that. This forms the first half of the mysteries; the second half, which is by much the more interesting, consists entirely of brandy. In fact, this latter mystery forms the reason, or final cause, for the elder mystery of the Forking

HAS the modern world no hoax of its own, [ cites him to the bar, saying, "What's that you answering to the Eleusinian mysteries of Grecian have in your pocket?" To which the novice redays? Oh, yes, it has. I have a very bad opin-plies, "A guinea." Anything more?" ion of the ancient world; and it would grieve me if such a world could be shown to have beaten us even in the quality of our hoaxes. I have, also, not a very favourable opinion of the modern world. But I dare say that in fifty thousand years it will be considerably improved; and, in the meantime, if we are not quite so good or so clever as we ought to be, yet still we are a trifle better than our ancestors; I hope we are up to a hoax any day. A man must be a poor creature that can't invent a hoax. For two centuries we have had a first-rate one; and its name is Freemasonry. Do you know the secret, my reader? Or shall I tell you? Send me a consideration, and I will. But stay, the weather being so fine, and philosophers, therefore, so good-tempered, I'll tell it you for nothing; whereas, if you become a mason, you must pay for it. Here is the secret. When the novice is introduced into the conclave of the Freemasons, the grand-master looks very fierce at him, and draws his sword, which makes the novice look very melancholy, as he is not aware of having had time as yet for any profaneness, and fancies, therefore, that somebody must have been slandering him. Then the grand-master, or his deputy,

out. But how did I learn all this so accurately?
Isn't a man liable to be assassinated, if he betrays
that ineffable mystery or anopinzo of masonry,
which no wretch but one since King Solomon's
days is reputed ever to have blabbed? And per-
haps, reader, the wretch didn't blab the whole;
he only got as far as the Forking out; and being
a churl who grudged his money, he ran away
before reaching the brandy. So that this fellow,
if he seems to you but half as guilty as myself,
on the other hand is but half as learned. It's
better for you to stick by the guiltier man.
yet, on consideration, I am not so guilty as we have
both been thinking. Perhaps it was a mistake.
Dreaming on days far back, when I was scheming
for an introduction to the honourable society of
the masons, and of course to their honourable

And

secret, with the single-minded intention of in- of the dove. The success was, the victory of the stantly betraying that secret to a dear female Christian church over the armies that waylaid friend (and, you see, in honour it was not possible its infancy. Without falsehood, without shadow for me to do otherwise, because she had made me of falsehood, all the benefits of falsehood-the propromise that I would)—all this time I was sooth-foundest-were secured. Without need to abjure ing my remorse with a belief that woman was anything, all that would have raised a demoniae answerable for my treachery, she having positively yell for instant abjuration was suddenly hidden compelled me to undertake it. When suddenly out of sight. In noonday the Christian church I woke into a bright conviction that all was a was suddenly withdrawn behind impenetrable dream; that I had never been near the Free- veils, even as the infant Christ himself was masons; that I had treacherously evaded the caught up to the secrecies of Egypt and the wiltreachery which I ought to have committed, by derness from the bloody wrath of Herod. And perfidiously forging a secret quite as good, very whilst the enemies of this infant society were likely better, than that which I was pledged in roaming around them on every side, seeking for honour to betray; and that, if anybody had them, walking upon their very traces, absolutely ground of complaint against myself, it was not touching them, or divided from their victims only the grand-master, sword-in-hand, but my poor as children in bed have escaped from murderers ill-used female friend, so confiding, so amiably in thick darkness, sheltered by no screen but a credulous in my treachery, so cruelly deceived, muslin curtain; all the while the inner principle who had swallowed a mendacious account of of the church lurked as in the cell at the centre Freemasonry forged by myself, the same which, of a labyrinth. Was the hon. reader ever in a I greatly fear that, on looking back, I shall find real labyrinth, like that described by Herodotus ? myself to have been palming, in this very page, We have all been in labyrinths of debt, labyrinths upon the much-respected reader. Seriously, how- of error, labyrinths of metaphysical nonsense. ever, the whole bubble of Freemasonry was shat- But I speak of literal labyrinths. Now, at Bath, tered in a paper which I myself once threw into in my labyrinthine childhood, there was such a a London journal about the year 1823 or 4. It mystery. This mystery I used to visit ; and I was a paper in this sense mine, that from me it can assert that no type ever flashed upon my had received form and arrangement; but the mind so pathetically shadowing out the fatal materials belonged to a learned German, viz., irretrievability of early errors in life. Turn but Buhle, the same (Ebelison) that edited the "Bi- wrong at first entering the thicket, and all pont Aristotle," and wrote a History of philoso- was over; you were ruined; no wandering phy. No German has any conception of style. could recover the right path. Or suppose you I therefore did him the favour to wash his dirty even took the right turn at first, what of that? face, and make him presentable amongst Chris- You couldn't expect to draw a second prize; five tians; but the substance was drawn entirely turnings offered very soon after; your chance of from this German book. It was there establish- escaping error was now reduced to one-fifth of ed, that the whole hoax of masonry had been in-unity; and supposing that again you draw no vented in the year 1629 by one Andrea; and the blank, not very far had you gone before fourteen reason that this exposure could have dropped out roads offered. What remained for you to do of remembrance, is probably, that it never reach- now? Why, if you were a wise man, to lie down ed the public ear; partly because the journal had and cry. None but a presumptuous fool would a limited circulation; but much more because count upon drawing for a third time a prize, and the title of the paper was not so constructed as to such a prize as one amongst fourteen. I mention indicate its object. A title, which seemed to pro- all this, I recall this image of the poor Sidney mise only a discussion of masonic doctrines, must Labyrinth, whose roses, I fear, must long ago have repelled everybody; whereas, it ought to have perished, betraying all the secrets of the have announced (what in fact it accomplished) | mysterious house, simply to teach the stranger the utter demolition of the whole masonic edifice. how secure is the heart of a labyrinth. Gibraltar At this moment I have not space for an abstract is nothing to it. You may sit in that deep graveof that paper; but it was conclusive; and here-like recess, you may hear distant steps approachafter, when I have strengthened it by facts since noticed in my own reading, it may be right to place it more effectually before the public eye.

Finally, I will call the reader's attention to the most remarkable by far of all secret societies ever heard of, and for this reason, that it suddenly developed the most critical wisdom in a dreadful emergency; secondly, the grandest purpose; and, lastly, with entire success. The purpose was, to protect a jewel by hiding it from all eyes, whilst it navigated a sea swarming with enemies. The critical wisdom was the most remarkable evidence ever given by the primitive Christians of that serpent's subtlety which they had been warned to combine with the innocence

No

ing, but laugh at them. If you are coining, and
have all the implements of coining round about
you, never trouble yourself to hide them.
body will in this life ever reach you. Why, it is
demonstrable by the arithmetic of combinations,
that if a man spent the flower of his life as a
police-officer in trying to reach your coining-
shop, he could not do it; you might rest as in a
sanctuary, that is, hidden and inaccessible to
those who do not know the secret of the con-
cealment. In that recess you might keep a
private still for a century without fear of the
exciseman. Light, common daylight, will not
show you the stars; on the contrary, it hides
them; and the brighter this light becomes,

the more it hides them, Even so, from the exquisite machinery of the earliest Christian society, whatever suspicions might walk about in the darkness, all efforts of fanatical enemies at forcing an entrance within the air-woven gates of these entrenchments were (as the reader will see) utterly thrown away. Round and round the furious Jews must have circumambulated the camp, like the poor gold fish eternally wheeling round his crystal wall, but, after endless cruisings, never nearer to any opening. That concealment for the Christian nursery was absolutely required, because else martyrdom would have come too soon. Martyrdom was good for watering the church, and quickening its harvests; but, at this early stage of advance, it would utterly have ex- | tirpated the church. If a voice had been heard from heaven, saying, "Let there be martyrs,' soon the great answering return would be heard rolling back from earth, "And there were martyrs." But for this there must be time; the fire, to be sure, will never be extinguished, if once thoroughly kindled; but, in this earliest twilight of the primitive faith, the fire is but a little gathering of scanty fuel fanned by human breath, and barely sufficient to show one golden rallying star in all the mighty wilderness.

[ocr errors]

calls the thesis of that paper "paradoxical." Now paradox is a very charming thing, and, since leaving off opium, I take a great deal too much of it for my health. But, in this case, the paradox lies precisely and outrageously in the opposite direction; that is, when used (as the word paradox commonly is) to mean something that startles by its extravagance. Else I have twice or three times explained in print, for the benefit of my female or non-Grecian readers, that parador, being a purely Greek word, ought strictly to be read by a Grecian light, and then it implies nothing, of necessity, that may not be right. Here follows a rigorous definition of paradox in a Greek sense. Not that only is paradoxical which, being really false, puts on the semblance of truth; but, secondly, that, also, which, being really true, puts on the semblance of falsehood. For, literally speaking, everything is paradoxical which contradicts the public doxa (da), that is, contradicts the popular opinion, or the public expectation, which may be done by a truth as easily as a falsehood. The very weightiest truths now received amongst men have nearly all of them, in turn, in some one stage of their development, been found strong paradoxes to the popular mind. Hence it is, viz., in the Grecian sense of There was the motive to the secret society which the word paradox, as something extraordinary, I am going to describe there was its necessity! but not on that account the less likely to be true, "Masque, or you will be destroyed!" was the that several great philosophers have published, private signal among the Christians. "Fall flat under the idea and title of paradoxes, some firston your faces," says the Arab to the pilgrims, rate truths on which they desired to fix public atwhen he sees the purple haze of the simoom run- tention; meaning, in a short-hand form, to sayning before the wind, "Lie down, men," says "Here, reader, are some extraordinary truths, the captain to his fusiliers, "till these hurricanes looking so very like falsehoods, that you would of the artillery be spent." To hide from the never take them for anything else if you were not storm, during its first murderous explosion, invited to give them a special examination." was SO absolutely requisite, that, simply Boyle published some elementary principles in from its sine qua non necessity, and supposing hydrostatics as paradoxes, Natural philosophy there were no other argument whatever, I should is overrun with paradoxes. Mathematics, mechainfer that it had been a fact. Because it must have nics, dynamics, are all partially infested with been, therefore (I should say), it was. However, | them. And in morals the Stoics threw their do as you like; pray use your own pleasure; con- weightiest doctrines under the rubric of parasider yourself quite at home amongst my argu-doxes-a fact which survives to this day in a ments, and kick them about with as little apology as if they were my children and servants. What makes me so easy in the matter is, that I use the above argument-though, in my opinion, a strong one-ex abundanti; it is one string more than I want to my bow; so I can afford to lose it, even if I lose it unjustly. But, by quite another line of argument, and dispensing with this altogether, I mean to make you believe, reader, whether you like it or not.

little essay of Cicero's. To be paradoxical, therefore, is not necessarily to be unphilosophic; and that being so, it might seem as though Mr. Gilfillan had laid me under no obligation to dissent from him; but used popularly, as naturally Mr. Gilfillan meant to use it in that situation, the word certainly throws a reproach of extravagance upon any thought, argument, or speculation, to which it is imputed.

Now it is important for the reader to understand I once threw together a few thoughts upon this that the very first thing which ever fixed my obscure question of the Essenes, which thoughts sceptical eye upon the whole fable of the Essenes, were published at the time in a celebrated jour- as commonly received amongst Christian churches, nal, and my reason for referring to them here was the intolerable extravagance of the received is in connexion with a single inappropriate ex- story. The outrageousness-the mere Cyclopian pression since applied to that paper. In a short enormity of its paradox-this, and nothing else, it article on myself in his "Gallery of Literary was that first extorted from me, on a July day, Portraits" Mr. Gilfillan spoke of that little dis-one long shiver of horror at the credulity, the quisition in terms beyond its merit, and I thank him for his kind opinion. But as to one word, not affecting myself but the subject, I find it a duty of sincerity to dissent from him, He

bottomless credulity, that could have swallowed such a legend of delirium. Why, Pliny, my excellent sir, you were a gentleman mixing with men of the highest circles-you were yourself

1

a man of fine and brilliant intellect-a jealous inquirer and, in extent of science, beyond your contemporaries-how came you, then, to lend an ear, so learned as yours, to two such knaves as your Jewish authorities? For, doubtless, it was they, viz., Josephus and Philo-Judæus, that poisoned the Plinian ear. Others from Alexandria would join the cabal, but these vagabonds were the ringleaders. Now there were three reasons for specially distrusting such men, two known equally well to Pliny and me, one separately to myself. Jews had by that time earned the reputation, in Roman literature, of being credulous by preference amongst the children of earth. That was one reason; a second was, that all men tainted with intense nationality, and especially if not the gay, amiable, nationality of Frenchmen, but a gloomy unsocial nationality, are liable to suspicion as liars. So much was known to Pliny; and a third thing which was not, I could have told him, viz., that Josephus was the greatest knave in that generation. A learned man in Ireland is at this moment bringing out a new translation of Josephus, which has, indeed, long been wanted; for "wicked Will Whiston"* was a very moderate Grecian-a miserable antiquarian—a coarse writer of English-and, at that time of day, in the absence of the main German and English researches on the many questions (chronological or historical) in Syro-Judaic and Egyptian antiquities, had it not within his physical possibilities to adorn the Sparta which chance had assigned him. From what I hear, the history will benefit by this new labour of editorial cul

ture; the only thing to be feared is, that the historian, the bad Josephus, will not be meritoriously scourged. I, lictor, colliga manus. One

"Wicked Will Whiston."-In this age, when Swift is so little read, it may be requisite to explain that Swift it was who fastened this epithet of wicked to Will Whiston; and the humour of it lay in the very incongruity of the epithet; for Whiston, thus sketched as a profligate, was worn to the bone by the anxieties of scrupulousness: he was anything but wicked, being pedantic, crazy, and fantastical in virtue after a fashion of his own. He ruined his wife and family, he ruined himself and all that trusted in him, by crotchets that he never could explain to any rational man; and by one thing that he never explained to himself, which a hundred years after I explained very clearly, viz., that all his heresies in religion, all his crazes in ecclesiastical antiquities, in casuistical morals, and even as to the discovery of the longitude, had their rise, not (as his friends thought) in too much conscientiousness and too much learning, but in too little rhubarb and magnesia. In his autobiography he has described his own craziness of stomach in a way to move the gravest reader's laughter, and the sternest reader's pity. Everbody, in fact, that knew his case and history, stared at him, derided him, pitied him, and, in some degree, respected him. For he was a man of eternal self-sacrifice, and that is always venerable; he was a man of primitive unworldly sincerity, and that is always lovely; yet both the one and the other were associated with so many oddities and absurdities, as compelled the most equitable judge at times to join in the general laughter. He and Humphry Ditton, who both held official stations as mathematicians, and were both honoured with the acquaintance of Sir Isaac Newton, had both been candidates for the Parliamentary prize as discoverers of the longitude, and, naturally, both were found wrong which furnishes the immediate theme for Swift's savage ridicule:

"The longitude mist on

By wicked Will Whiston;
And not better hit on
By good Master Ditton."

aspect of Josephus and his character occurs to
me as interesting, viz., when placed in collision
with the character so different, and the position
partially the same, of St. Paul. In both, when
suddenly detained for inspection at an early stage
of their career, we have a bigot of the most in-
tractable quality; and in both the bigotry ex-
pressed its ferocity exclusively upon the Chris-
tians, as the newborn heretics that troubled the
unity of the national church.
Thus far the par-
ties agree; and they agree also in being as learn-
ed as the limited affinities in their native studies
to exotic learning would allow. But from that
point, up to which the resemblance in position, in
education, in temper, is so close, how entirely
opposed! Both erring profoundly; yet the one not
only in his errors, but by his errors showing him-
self most single-minded, conscientious, fervent,
devout; a holy bigot; as incapable of anything
mercenary then, of anything insidious, or of com-
promise with any mode of self-interest, as after the
rectification of his views he was incapable of com-
promise with profounder shapes of error. The
other, a time-serving knave, sold to adulation and
servile ministeries; a pimp; a liar; or ready for
any worse office, if worse is named on earth.
Never on any human stage was so dramatically
realised, as by Josephus in Rome, the delineation
of the poet:

"A fingering meddling slave; One that would peep and botanise Upon his mother's grave."

Yes, this master in Israel, this leader of Sanhe

drims, went as to a puppet-show, sat the long day through to see a sight. What sight? Jugglers, was it? buffoons? tumblers? dancing dogs? or a reed shaken by the wind? Oh, no! Simply to see his ruined country carried captive in effigy through the city of her conqueror-to see the sword of the Maccabees hung up as a Roman trophy-to see the mysteries of the glorious temple dragged from secrecy before the grooms and gladiators of Rome. Then when this was finished, a woe that would once have caused Hebrew corpses to stir in their graves, he goes home to find his atrium made glorious with the monuments of a thousand years that had descended through the princes of Hebrew tribes; and to find his luxury, his palace, and his haram, charged as a perpetual tax upon the groans of his brave unsurrendering countrymen, that had been sold as slaves into marble quarries: they worked extra hours, that the only traitor to Jerusalem might revel in honour.

When first I read the account of the Essenes in

Josephus, I leaned back in my seat, and apostrophised the writer thus :-"Joe, listen to me; you've been telling us a fairy tale; and, for my part, I've no objection to a fairy tale in any situation; because, if one can make no use of it oneself, one always knows a child that will be thankful for it. But this tale, Mr. Joseph, happens also to be a lie; secondly, a fraudulent lie; thirdly, a malicious lie." It was a fiction of hatred against Christianity. For I shall startle

the reader a little when I inform him that, if there were a syllable of truth in the main statement of Josephus, then at one blow goes to wreck the whole edifice of Christianity. Nothing but blindness and insensibility of heart to the true internal evidence of Christianity could ever have hidden this from men. Religious sycophants who affect the profoundest admiration, but in their hearts feel none at all, for what they profess to regard as the beauty of the moral revelations made in the New Testament, are easily cheated, and often have been cheated, by the grossest plagiarisms from Christianity offered to them as the pure natural growths of paganism. I would engage to write a Greek version somewhat varied and garbled of the Sermon on the Mount, were it hidden in Pompeii, unearthed, and published as a fragment from a posthumous work of a Stoic, with the certain result that very few people indeed should detect in it any signs of forgery. There are several cases of that nature actually unsuspected at this hour, which my deep cynicism and detestation of human hypocrisy yet anticipates a banquet of gratification in one day exposing. Oh, the millions of deaf hearts, deaf to everything really impassioned in music, that pretend to admire Mozart! Oh, the worlds of hypocrites who cant about the divinity of Scriptural morality, and yet would never see any lustre at all in the most resplendent of Christian jewels, provided the pagan thief had a little disguised their setting. The thing has been tried long before the case of the Essenes; and it takes more than a scholar to detect the imposture. A philosopher, who must also be a scholar, is wanted. The eye that suspects and watches, is needed. Dark seas were those over which the ark of Christianity tilted for the first four centuries; evil men and enemies were cruising, and an Alexandrian Pharos is required to throw back a light broad enough to search and sweep the guilty secrets of those times. The Church of Rome has always thrown a backward telescopic glance of question and uneasy suspicion upon these ridiculous Essenes, and has repeatedly come to the right practical conclusion-that they were, and must have been, Christians under some mask or other; but the failure of Rome has been in carrying the Ariadne's thread through the whole labyrinth from centre to circumference. Rome has given the ultimate solution rightly, but has not (in geometrical language) raised the construction of the problem with its conditions and steps of evolution. Shall I tell you, reader, in a brief rememberable form what was the crime of the hound Josephus, through this fable of the Essenes in relation to Christ? It was the very same crime as that of the hound Lauder in relation to Milton. Lauder, about the middle of the last century, bearing deadly malice to the memory of Milton, conceived the idea of charging the great poet with plagiarism. He would greatly have preferred denying the value in toto of the "Paradise Lost." But, as this was hopeless, the next best course was to say-Well, let it be as grand as you please, it is none of Milton's. And,

to prepare the way for this, he proceeded to trans late into Latin (but with plausible variations in the expression or arrangement) some of the most memorable passages in the poem. By this means he had, as it were, melted down or broken up the golden sacramental plate, and might now apply it to his own felonious purposes. The false swindling travesty of the Miltonic passage he produced as the undoubted original, professing to have found it in some rare or obscure author, not easily within reach, and then saying-Judge (I beseech you) for yourself, whether Milton were indebted to this passage or not. Now, reader, a falsehood is a falsehood, though uttered under circumstances of hurry and sudden trepidation; but certainly it becomes, though not more a falsehood, yet more criminally, and hatefully a falsehood, when prepared from afar and elaborately supported by fraud, and dovetailing into fraud, and having no palliation from pressure and haste. A man is a knave who falsely, but in the panic of turning all suspicion from himself, charges you or me with having appropriated another man's jewel. But how much more odiously is he a knave, if with no such motive of screening him. self, if out of pure devilish malice to us, he has contrived in preparation for his own lie to conceal the jewel about our persons! This was what the wretch Lauder tried hard to do for Milton. This was what the wretch Josephus tried hard to do for Christ. Josephus grew up to be a mature man, about thirty-five years old, during that earliest stage of Christianity, when the divine morality of its founder was producing its first profound impression, through the advantage of a dim religious one, still brooding over the East, from the mysterious death of that founder. I wish that the reader would attend to a thing which I am going to say. In 1839-40 and 41, it was found by our force in Affghanistan that, in a degree much beyond any of the Hindoo races, the Affghan Sirdars and officers of rank were profoundly struck by the beauty of the Evangelists; especially in five or six passages, amongst which were the Lord's Prayer, and the Sermon on the Mount, with one or two Parables. The reason of this was, that the Affghans, though more simple and unpolished than the Hindoos, were also in a far more natural condition of moral feeling; being Mahometans, they were much more advanced in their conceptions of Deity; and they had never been polluted by the fearful distractions of the Hindoo polytheism. Now, I am far from insinuating that the Romans of that first Christian era were no further advanced in culture than the Affghans. Yet still I affirm that, in many features, both moral and intellectual, these two martial races resembled each other. Both were slow and tenacious (that is adhesive) in their feelings. Both had a tendency to dulness, but for that very reason to the sublime. Mercurial races are never sublime. There were two channels through whom the Palestine of Christ's day communicated with the world outside, viz., the Romans of the Roman armies, and the Greek colonists. Syria, under the Syro-Macedonian dynasty; Palestine,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »