First Impressions of the English (6)

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CHAPTER XV.


Cowper; his singular magnanimity of character; argument furnished by his latter religious history against the selfish philosophy—Valley of the Ouse—Approach to Olney—Appearance of the town—Cowper's house; parlour; garden—Pippin tree planted by the poet—Summer-house written within and without—John Tawell—Delightful old woman—Weston—Underwood—Thomas Scott's house—The park of the Throckmortons—Walk described in "The Task"—Wilderness—Ancient Avenue—Alcove; prospect which it commands, as drawn by Cowper—Colonnade—Rustic Bridge—Scene of the "Needless Alarm"—The milk thistle.



OLNEY! Weston-Underwood! Yardley-Chase! the banks of the Ouse, and the park of the Throckmortons!  Classic ground once more—the home and much-loved haunts of a sweet and gentle, yet sublimely heroic nature, that had to struggle on in great unhappiness with the most terrible of all enemies—the obstinate unreasoning despair of a broken mind.  Poor Cowper!  There are few things more affecting in the history of the species than the heaven-inspired magnanimity of this man.  Believing himself doomed to perish everlastingly—for such was the leading delusion of his unhappy malady—he yet made it the grand aim of his enduring labours to show forth the mercy and goodness of a God who, he believed, had no mercy for him, and to indicate to others the true way of salvation—deeming it all the while a way closed against himself.  Such, surety, is not the character or disposition of the men destined to perish.  We are told by his biographers, that the well-known hymn, in which he celebrates the "mysterious way" in which "God works" to "perform his wonders," was written at the close of the happy period which intervened between the first and second attacks of his cruel malady; and that what suggested its composition were the too truly interpreted indications of a relapse.  His mind had been wholly restored to him; he had been singularly happy in his religion; and he had striven earnestly, as in the case of his dying brother, to bring others under its influence.  And now, too surely feeling that his intellect was again on the eve of being darkened, he deemed the providence a frowning one, but believed in faith that there was a "Smiling face" behind it.  In his second recovery, though his intellectual stature was found to have greatly increased—as in some racking maladies the person of the patient becomes taller—he never enjoyed his whole mind.  There was a missing faculty, if faculty I may term it: his well-grounded hope of salvation never returned.  It were presumptuous to attempt interpreting the real scope and object of the afflictive dispensation which Cowper could contemplate with such awe; and yet there does seem a key to it.  There is surely a wondrous sublimity in the lesson which it reads.  The assertors of the selfish theory have dared to regard Christianity itself, in its relation to the human mind, as but one of the higher modifications of the self-aggrandizing sentiment.  May we not venture to refer them to the grief-worn hero of Olney—the sweet poet who first poured the stream of Divine truth into the channels of our literature, after they had been shut against it for more than a hundred years—and ask them whether it be in the power of sophistry to square his motives with the ignoble conclusions of their philosophy?

    Olney stands upon the Oolite, on the northern side of the valley of the Ouse, and I approached it this morning from the south, across the valley.  Let the reader imagine a long green ribbon of flat meadow, laid down in the middle of the landscape like a web on a bleaching green, only not quite so straightly drawn out.  It is a ribbon about half a mile in breadth, and it stretches away lengthwise above and below, far as the eye can reach.  There rises over it on each side a gentle line of acclivity, that here advances upon it in flat promontories, there recedes into shallow bays, and very much resembles the line of a low-lying but exceedingly rich coast; for on both sides, field and wood, cottage and hedge-row, lie thick as the variously tinted worsteds in a piece of German needlework; the flat ribbon in the midst is bare and open, and through it there winds, from side to side, in many a convolution, as its appropriate pattern, a blue sluggish stream, deeply fringed on both banks by an edging of tall bulrushes.  The pleasantly grouped village directly opposite, with the long narrow bridge in front, and the old handsome church and tall spire rising in the midst, is Olney; and that other village on the same side, about two miles further up the stream, with the exceedingly lofty trees rising over it trees so lofty that they overhang the square tower of its church, as a churchyard cypress overhangs a sepulchral monument—is Weston-Underwood.  In the one village Cowper produced "The Task;" in the other he translated "Homer."

    I crossed the bridge, destined, like the "Brigs of Ayr" and the "Bridge of Sighs," long to outlive its stone-and-lime existence; passed the church—John Newton's; saw John Newton's house, a snug building, much garnished with greenery; and then entered Olney proper—the village that was Olney a hundred years ago.  Unlike most of the villages of central England, it is built, not of brick, but chiefly at least of a calcareous yellow stone from the Oolite, which, as it gathers scarce any lichen or moss, looks clean and fresh after the lapse of centuries; and it is not until the eye catches the dates on the peaked gable points, 1682, 1611, 1590, that one can regard the place as no hastily run up town of yesterday, but as a place that had a living in other times.  The main street, which is also the Bedford road, broadens towards the middle of the village into a roomy angle, in shape not very unlike the capacious pocket of a Scotch housewife of the old school; one large elm-tree rises in the centre; and just opposite the elm, among the houses which skirt the base of the angle—i.e., the bottom of the pocket-we see an old-fashioned home, considerably taller than the others, and differently tinted; for it is built of red brick, somewhat ornately bordered with stone.  And this tall brick house was Cowper's home for nineteen years.  It contains the parlour, which has become such a standard paragon of snugness and comfort that it will need no repairs in all the future; and the garden behind is that in which the poet reared his cucumbers and his Ribston pippins, and in which he plied hammer and saw to such excellent purpose, in converting his small greenhouse into a summer sitting-room, and in making lodging houses for his hares.  He dated from that tall house not a few of the most graceful letters in the English language, and matured, from the first crude conceptions to the last finished touches, "Truth," "Hope," "The Progress of Error," "Retirement," and "The Task."  I found the famed parlour vocal with the gabble of an infant-school: carpet and curtains were gone, sofa and bubbling urn; and I saw, instead, but a few deal forms, and about two dozen chubby children, whom all the authority of the thin old woman, their teacher, could not recall to diligence in the presence of the stranger.  The walls were sorely soiled, and the plaster somewhat broken; there was evidence, too, that a partition had been removed, and that the place was roomier by one-half than when Cowper and Mrs. Unwin used to sit down in it to their evening tea.  But at least one interesting feature had remained unchanged.  There is a small porthole, in the plaster, framed by a narrow facing of board; and through this port-hole, cut in the partition for the express purpose, Cowper's hares used to come leaping out to their evening gambols on the carpet.  I found the garden, like the house, much changed.  It had been broken up into two separate properties; and the proprietors having run a wall through the middle of it, one must now seek the pippin-tree which the poet planted, in one little detached bit of garden; and the lath-and-plaster summer-house, which, when the weather was fine, used to form his writing-room, in another.  The Ribston pippin looks an older-like tree, and has more lichen about it, though far from tall for its age, than might be expected of a tree of Cowper's planting; but it is now seventy-nine years since the poet came to Olney, and in less than seventy-nine years young fruit-trees become old ones.  The little summer-house, maugre the fragility of its materials, is in a wonderfully good state of keeping: the old lath still retains the old lime; and all the square inches and finger-breadths of the plaster, inside and out, we find as thickly covered with names as the space in our ancient Scotch copies of the "Solemn League and Covenant."  Cowper would have marvelled to have seen his little summer-house—for little it is—scarce larger than a four-posted bed-stead—written, like the roll described in sacred vision, "within and without."  It has still around it, in its green old age, as when it was younger and less visited, a great profusion of flowering shrubs and hollyhocks; we have seen from its window the back of honest John Newton's house, much enveloped in wood, with the spire of the church rising over; and on either side there are luxuriant orchards, in which the stiffer forms of the fruit-trees are relieved by lines of graceful poplars.  Some of the names on the plaster are not particularly classical.  My conductress pointed to one signature, in especial, which was, she said, an object of great curiosity, and which a "most respectable person"—"just after the execution"—had come a day's journey to see.  It was that of the hapless "John Tawell, Great Birkenstead, Hants," who about two years ago was hung for the murder of his mistress.  It had been added to the less celebrated names, for so the legend bore, on the "21st day of seventh month 1842;" and just beside it some kind friend of the deceased had added, by way of postscript, the significant hieroglyphic of a minute human figure suspended on a gibbet, with the head rather uncomfortably twisted awry.

    I had made several unsuccessful attempts to procure a guide acquainted with the walks of the poet, and had inquired of my conductress (an exceedingly obliging person, I may mention—housekeeper of the gentleman to whom the outermost of the two gardens belongs), as of several others, whether she knew any one at once willing and qualified to accompany me for part of the day in that capacity.  But she could bethink herself of nobody.  Just however, as we stepped out from the garden into the street, there was an old woman in a sad-coloured cloak, and bearing under the cloak a bulky basket, passing by.  "Oh," said the housekeeper, "there is just the person that knows more about Cowper than any one else.  She was put to school, when a little girl, by Mrs. Unwin, and was much about her house at Weston-Underwood.  Gossip, gossip! come hither."  And so I secured the old woman as my guide; and we set out together for Weston and the pleasure-grounds of the Throckmortons.  She was seventy-one, she said; but she walked every day with her basket from Weston-Underwood to Olney—sometimes, indeed, twice in the day—to shop and market for her neighbours.  She had now got a basket of fresh herrings, which were great rarities in these parts, and it behoved her to get them delivered; but she would then be quite free to accompany me to all the walks in which she had seen Squire Cowper a hundred and a hundred times—to the "Peasant's Nest," and the "alcove," and the "avenue," and the "rustic bridge," and the "Wilderness," and "Yardley oak," and, in short, anywhere or everywhere.  I could not have been more in luck: my delightful old woman had a great deal to say; she would have been equally garrulous, I doubt not, had Cowper been a mere country squire, and Mrs. Unwin his housekeeper; but as he chanced to be a great poet, and as his nearer friends had, like the planets of a central sun, become distinctly visible, from their proximity, by the light which he cast, and were evidently to remain so, her gossip about him and them I found vastly agreeable.  The good Squire Cowper! she said—well did she remember him, in his white cap, and his suit of green turned up with black.  She knew the Lady Hesketh too.  A kindly lady was the Lady Hesketh; there are few such ladies now-a-days: she used to put coppers into her little velvet bag every time she went out, to make the children she met happy; and both she and Mrs. Unwin were remarkably kind to the poor.  The road to Weston-Underwood looks down upon the valley of the Ouse.  "Were there not water-lilies in the river in their season?" I asked; "and did not Cowper sometimes walk out along its banks?" "O yes," she replied; "and I remember the dog Beau, too, who brought the lily ashore to him.  Beau was a smart, petted little creature, with silken ears, and had a good deal of red about him."

    My guide brought me to Cowper's Weston residence, a handsome, though, like the Olney domicile, old-fashioned house, still in a state of good repair, with a whitened many-windowed front, and tall steep roof flagged with stone; and I whiled away some twenty minutes or so in the street before it, while my old woman went about dispersing her herrings.  Weston-Underwood, as villages go, must enjoy a rather quiet do-nothing sort of existence, for in all that time not a passenger went by.  The houses—steep-roofed, straw-thatched, stone-built erections, with the casements of their second storeys lost in the eaves—straggle irregularly on both sides of the road, as if each house had an independent will of its own, and was somewhat capricious in the exercise of it.  There is a profusion of well-grown, richly-leaved vines, trailed up against their walls: the season had been unfavourable, and so the grapes, in even the best bunches, scarcely exceeded in size our common red currants; but still they were bona fide vines and grapes, and their presence served to remind one of the villages of sunnier climates.  A few tall walls and old gateway columns mingle with the cottages, and these are all that now remain of the mansion-house of the Throckmortons.  One rather rude-looking cottage, with its upper casement half hid in the thatch, is of some note, as the scene of a long struggle in a strong rugged mind—honest, but not amiable—which led ultimately to the production of several useful folios of solid theology.  In that cottage a proud Socinian curate studied and prayed himself, greatly against his will, into one of the soundest Calvinists of modern times: it was for many years the dwelling-place of Thomas Scott; and his well-known narrative, "The Force of Truth," forms a portion of his history during the time he lived in it.  The road I had just travelled over with the woman was that along which John Newton had come, in the January of 1774, to visit, in one of these cottages, two of Scott's parishioners—a dying man and woman; and the Socinian, who had not visited them, was led to think seriously, for the first time, that he had a duty as a clergyman which he had failed to perform.  It was along the same piece of road, some three years later, that Scott used to steal, when no longer a Socinian, but still wofully afraid of being deemed a Methodist, to hear Newton preach.  There were several heaps of stones lying along the street—the surplus materials of a recent repair—that seemed to have been gathered from the neighbouring fields, but had been derived, in the first instance, from some calcareous grit of the Oolite; and one of these lay opposite the windows of Cowper's mansion.  The first fragment I picked up contained a well-marked Plagiostoma; the second, a characteristic fragment of a Pecten.  I bethought me of Cowper's philippic on the earlier geologists, which, however, the earlier geologists too certainly deserved, for their science was not good, and their theology wretched; and I indulged in, I daresay, something approaching to a smile.  Genius, when in earnest, can do a great deal; but it cannot put down scientific truth, save now and then for a very little time, and would do well never to try.

    My old woman had now pretty nearly scattered over the neighbourhood her basket of herrings; but she needed, she said, just to look in upon her grandchildren, to say she was going to the woodlands, lest the poor things should come to think they had lost her; and I accompanied her to the cottage.  It was a humble low-roofed hut, with its earthen floor sunk, as in many of our Scottish cottages, a single step below the level of the lane.  Her grandchildren, little girls of seven and nine years, were busily engaged with their lace bobbins: the younger was working a piece of narrow edging, for her breadth of attainment in the lace department extended as yet over only a few threads; whereas the elder was achieving a little belt of open work, with a pattern in it.  They were orphans, and lived with their poor grandmother, and she was a widow.  We regained the street, and then, passing through a dilapidated gateway, entered the pleasure-grounds—the scene of the walk so enchantingly described in the opening book of "The Task."  But before taking up in detail the minuter features of the place, I must attempt communicating to the reader some conception of it as a whole.

    The road from Olney to Weston-Underwood lies parallel to the valley of the Ouse, at little more than a field's-breadth up the slope.  On its upper side, just where it enters Weston, there lies based upon it (like the parallelogram of a tyro geometrician, raised on a given right line), an old-fashioned rectangular park—that of the Throckmortons—about half a mile in breadth by about three-quarters of a mile in length.  The sides of the enclosure are bordered by a broad belting of very tall and very ancient wood; its grassy area is mottled by numerous trees, scattered irregularly; its surface partakes of the general slope; it is traversed by a green valley, with a small stream trotting along the bottom, that enters it from above, nearly about the middle of the upper side, and that then, cutting it diagonally, passes outwards and downwards towards the Ouse through the lower corner.  About the middle of the park this valley sends out an off shoot valley, or dell rather, towards that upper corner furthest removed from the corner by which it makes its exit; the off-shoot dell has no stream a-bottom, but is a mere grassy depression, dotted with trees.  It serves, however, with the valleys into which it opens, so to break the surface of the park, that the rectangular formality of the lines of boundary almost escapes notice.  Now, the walk described in "The Task" lay along three of the four sides of this parallelogram.  The poet, quitting the Olney road at that lower corner, where the diagonal valley finds egress, struck up along the side of the park, turned at the nearer upper corner, and passed through the belting of wood that runs along the top; turned again at the further upper corner, and, coming down on Weston, joined the Olney road just where it enters the village.  After first quitting the highway, a walk of two furlongs or so brought him abreast of the "Peasant's Nest;" after the first turning a-top, and a walk of some two or three furlongs more, he descended into the diagonal valley, just where it enters the park, crossed the rustic bridge which spans the stream at the bottom, marked the doings of the mole, and then ascended to the level on the other side.  Near the second turning he found the alcove, and saw the trees in the streamless dell, as if "sunk and shortened to their topmost boughs;" then coming down upon Weston, he passed under the "light and graceful arch" of the ancient avenue; reached the "Wilderness" as he was nearing the village; and, emerging from the thicket full upon the houses, saw the "thrasher at his task," through the open door of some one of the barns of the place.  Such is a hard outline, in road-map fashion, of the walk which, in the pages of Cowper, forms such exquisite poetry.  I entered it somewhat unluckily to-day at the wrong end, commencing at the western corner, and passing on along its angles to the corner near Olney, thus reversing the course of Cowper, for my old woman had no acquaintance with "The Task," or the order of its descriptions; but after mustering the various scenes in detail, I felt no difficulty in restoring them to the integrity of the classic arrangement.

    On first entering the park, among the tall forest trees that, viewed from the approach to Olney, seem to overhang the village and its church, one sees a square, formal corner, separated from the opener ground by a sunk dry-stone fence, within which the trees, by no means lofty, are massed as thickly together as saplings in a nursery-bed run wild, or nettles in a neglected burying-ground.  There are what seem sepulchral urns among the thickets of this enclosure; and sepulchral urns they are—raised, however, to commemorate the burial-places, not of men, but of beasts.  Cowper in 1792 wrote an epitaph for a favourite pointer of the Throckmortons; and the family, stirred up by the event, seem from that period to have taken a dog-burying bias, and to have made their Wilderness the cemetery; for this square enclosure in the corner, with its tangled thickets and its green mouldy urns, is the identical Wilderness of "The Task,"


                         Whose well-rolled walks,
With curvature of slow and easy sweep,—
Deception innocent,—give ample space
To narrow bounds.


One wonders at the fortune that assigned to so homely and obscure a corner—a corner which a nursery-gardener could get up to order in a fortnight—so proud and conspicuous a niche in English literature.  We walk on, however, and find the scene next described greatly more worthy of the celebrity conferred on it.  In passing upwards, along the side of the park, we have got into a noble avenue of limes—tall as York Minster, and very considerably longer, for the vista diminishes till the lofty arch seems reduced to a mere doorway; the smooth glossy trunks form stately columns, and the branches, interlacing high overhead, a magnificent roof.


How airy and how light the graceful arch,
Yet awful as the consecrated roof
Re-echoing pious anthems! while beneath
The chequered earth seems restless as a flood
Brushed by the wind.   So sportive is the light
Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance.
Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
And darkening and enlightening, as the leaves
Play wanton, every moment, every spot.


    What exquisite description!  And who, acquainted with Cowper, ever walked in a wood when the sun shone, and the wind ruffled the leaves, without realizing it!  It was too dead a calm to-day to show me the dancing light and shadow where the picture had first been taken: the feathery outline of the foliage lay in diluted black, moveless on the grass, like the foliage of an Indian ink-drawing newly washed in; but all else was present, just as Cowper had described half a century before.  Two minutes' walk, after passing through the avenue, brought me to the upper corner of the park, and "the proud alcove that crowns it"—for the "proud alcove" does still crown it.  But time, and the weather, and rotting damps, seem to be working double tides on the failing pile, and it will not crown it long.  The alcove is a somewhat clumsy erection of wood and plaster, with two squat wooden columns in front, of a hybrid order between the Tuscan and Doric, and a seat within.  A crop of dark-coloured mushrooms, cherished by the damp summer, had shot up along the joints of the decaying floor; the plaster, flawed and much stained, dangled from the ceiling in numerous little bits, suspended, like the sword of old, by single hairs; the broad deal architrave had given way at one end, but the bolt at the other still proved true; and so it hung diagonally athwart the two columns, like the middle bar of a gigantic letter N.  The "characters uncouth" of the "rural carvers" are, however, still legible; and not a few names have since been added.  This upper corner of the park forms its highest ground, and the view is very fine.  The streamless dell—not streamless always, however, for the poet describes the urn of its little Naiad as filled in winter—lies immediately in front, and we see the wood within its hollow recesses, as if "sunk, and shortened to the topmost boughs."  The green undulating surface of the park, still more deeply grooved in the distance by the diagonal valley, and mottled with trees, stretches away beyond to the thick belting of tall wood below.  There is a wide opening, just where the valley opens—a great gap in an immense hedge—that gives access to the further landscape; the decent spire of John Newton's church rises, about, two miles away, as the central object in the vista thus formed; we see in front a few silvery reaches of the Ouse; and a blue uneven line of woods that runs along the horizon closes in the prospect.  The nearer objects within the pale of the park, animate and inanimate—the sheepfold and its sheep, the hay—wains, empty and full, as they pass and repass to and from the hay-field—the distinctive characters of the various trees, and their shortened appearance in the streamless valley—occupy by much the larger part of Cowper's description from the alcove; while the concluding five lines afford a bright though brief glimpse of the remoter prospect, as seen through the opening.  But I must not withhold the description itself—at once so true to nature and so instinct with poetry—familiar as it must prove to the great bulk of my readers:—


                                     Now roves the eye;
And, posted on this speculative height,
Exults in its command.   The sheepfold here
Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.
At first, progressive as a stream, they seek
The middle field; but, scattered by degrees,
Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land.
There from the sunburnt hayfield homeward creeps
The loaded wain; while, lightened of its charge
The wain that meets it passes swiftly by,
The boorish driver leaning o'er his team
Vociferous, and impatient of delay.
Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,
Diversified with trees of every growth,
Alike, yet various.   Here the grey smooth trunks
Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine
Within the twilight of their distant shades;
There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood
Seems sunk, and shortened to its topmost boughs
No tree in all the grove but has its charms,
Though each its hue peculiar; paler some,
And of a warmish grey; the willow such,
And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf,
And ash far stretching his umbrageous arm;
Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still,
Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak.
Some glossy-leaved, and shining in the sun,
The maple, and the beech of oily nuts
Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve
Diffusing odours: nor unnoted pass
The sycamore, capricious in attire,
Now green, now tawny, and ere autumn yet
Have changed the woods, in scarlet honours bright.
O'er these, but far beyond (a spacious map
Of hill and valley interposed between),
The Ouse, dividing the well-watered land,
Now glitters in the sun, and now retires,
As bashful, yet impatient to be seen.


    Quitting the alcove, we skirt the top of the park of the Throckmortons, on a retired grassy walk that runs straight as a tightened cord along the middle of the belting which forms the park's upper boundary—its enclosing hedge, if I may so speak without offence to the dignity of the ancient forest-trees which compose it.  There is a long line of squat broad-stemmed chestnuts on either hand, that fling their interlacing arms athwart the pathway, and bury it, save where here and there the sun breaks in through a gap, in deep shade; but the roof overhead, unlike that of the ancient avenue already described, is not the roof of a lofty nave in the light Florid style, but of a low-browed, thickly-ribbed Saxon crypt, flanked by ponderous columns, of dwarfish stature but gigantic strength.  And this double tier of chestnuts extended along the park-top from corner to corner, is the identical "length of colonnade" eulogized by Cowper in "The Task":—


                           Monument of ancient taste,
Now scorned, but worthy of a better fate.
Our fathers knew the value of a screen
From sultry suns; and, in their shaded walks
And long-protracted bowers, enjoyed at noon
The gloom and coolness of declining day.
Thanks to Benevolus—he spares me yet
These chestnuts ranged in corresponding lines
And, though himself so polished, still reprieves
The obsolete prolixity of shade.


Half-way on we descend into the diagonal valley—"but cautious, lest too fast"—just where it enters the park from the uplands, and find at its bottom the "rustic bridge."  It was rustic when at its best—an arch of some our feet span or so, built of undressed stones, fenced with no parapet, and covered overhead by a green breadth of turf; and it is now both rustic and ruinous to boot, for one-half the arch has fallen in.  The stream is a mere sluggish runnel, much overhung by hawthorn bushes: there are a good many half-grown oaks scattered about in the hollow; while on the other hand the old massy chestnuts top the acclivities.

    Leaving the park at the rustic bridge, by a gap in the fence, my guide and I struck outwards through the valley towards the uplands.  We had left, on crossing the hedge, the scene of the walk in "The Task;" but there is no getting away in this locality from Cowper.  The first field we stepped into "adjoining close to Kilwick's echoing wood," is that described in the "Needless Alarm;" and we were on our way to visit "Yardley oak."  The poet, conscious of his great wealth in the pictorial, was no niggard in description; and so the field, though not very remarkable for anything, has had its picture drawn.


A narrow brook, by rushy banks concealed,
Runs in a bottom, and divides the field;
Oaks intersperse it that had once a head,
But now wear crests of oven-wood instead;
And where the land slopes to its watery bourne,
Wide yawns a gulf beside a ragged thorn;
Bricks line the sides, but shivered long ago,
And horrid brambles intertwine below;
A hollow scooped, I judge, in ancient time,
For baking earth, or burning rock to lime.


The "narrow brook" here is that which, passing downwards into the park, runs underneath the rustic bridge, and flows towards the Ouse through the diagonal valley.  The field itself, which lies on one of the sides of the valley, and presents rather a steep slope to the plough, has still its sprinkling of trees; but the oaks, with the oven-wood crests, have nearly all disappeared; and for the "gulf beside the thorn," I could find but a small oblong, steep-sided pond, half over-shadowed by an ash tree.  Improvement has sadly defaced the little field since it sat for its portrait; for, though never cropped in Squire Cowper's days, as the woman told me, it now lies like the ordinary work-day pieces of ground beyond and beside it, in a state of careful tillage, and smelt rank at the time of a flourishing turnip crop.  "Oh," said the woman, who for the last minute had been poking about the hedge for something which she could not find, "do you know that the Squire was a beautiful drawer?"  "I know that he drew," I replied; "but I do not know that his drawings were fine ones.  I have in Scotland a great book filled with the Squire's letters; and I have learned from it, that ere he set himself to write his long poems, he used to draw 'mountains and valleys, and ducks and dab-chicks,' and that he threatened to charge his friends at the rate of a half-penny a-piece for them."  "Ah," said the woman, "but he drew grandly for all that; and I have just been looking for a kind of thistle that used to grow here—but the farmer has, I find, weeded it all out—that he made many fine pictures of.  I have seen one of them with Lady Hesketh, that her Ladyship thought very precious.  The thistle was a pretty thistle, and I am sorry they are all gone.  It had a deep red flower, set round with long thorns, and the green of the leaves was crossed with bright white streaks."  I inferred from the woman's description that the plant so honoured by Cowper's pencil must have been the "milk thistle," famous in legendary lore for bearing strong trace, on its leaves of glossy green, of the milk of the Virgin Mother, dropped on it in the flight to Egypt.


 
CHAPTER XVI.


Yardley Oak; of immense size and imposing appearance—Cowper's description singularly illustrative of his complete mastery over language—Peasant's nest—The poet's vocation peculiarly one of revolution—The school of Pope; supplanted in its unproductive old age by that of Cowper—Cowper's coadjutors in the work—Economy of literary revolution—The old English yeoman—Quit Olney—Companions in the journey—Incident—Newport Pagnell—Mr. Bull and the French Mystics—Lady of the Fancy—Champion of all England—Pugilism—Anecdote.



HALF an hour's leisurely walking—and, in consideration of my companion's three-score and eleven summers, our walking was exceedingly leisurely—brought us, through field and dingle, and a country that presented, as we ascended, less of an agricultural and more of a pastoral character, to the woods of Yardley Lodge.  We enter through a coppice on a grassy field, and see along the opposite side a thick oak wood, with a solitary brick house the only one in sight, half hidden amid foliage in a corner.  The oak wood has, we find, quite a character of its own.  The greater part of its trees, still in their immature youth, were seedlings within the last forty years: they have no associates that bear in their well-developed proportions, untouched by decay, the stamp of solid mid-aged treehood; but here and there—standing up among them, like the long-lived sons of Noah, in their old age of many centuries, amid a race cut down to the three-score and ten—we find some of the most ancient oaks in the empire—trees that were trees in the days of William the Conqueror.  These are mere hollow trunks, of vast bulk, but stinted foliage, in which the fox shelters and the owl builds—mere struldbrugs of the forest.  The bulkiest and most picturesque among their number we find marked by a white lettered board; it is a hollow pollard of enormous girth, twenty-eight feet five inches in circumference a foot above the soil, with skeleton stumps, bleached white by the winters of many centuries, stretching out for a few inches from amid a ragged drapery of foliage that sticks close to the body of the tree, and bearing on its rough grey bole, wens and warts of astounding magnitude.  The trunk, leaning slightly forward, and wearing all its huger globosities behind, seems some fantastic old-world mammoth, seated kangaroo-fashion on its haunches.  Its foliage this season had caught a tinge of yellow, when the younger trees all around retained their hues of deep green; and, seen in the bold relief which it owed to the circumstance, it reminded me of Æneas's golden branch, glittering bright amid the dark woods of Cumea.  And such is Yardley oak, the subject of one of the finest descriptions in English poetry—one of the most characteristic, too, of the muse of Cowper.  If asked to illustrate that peculiar power which he possessed above all modern poets, of taking the most stubborn and untractable words in the language, and bending them with all ease round his thinking, so as to fit its every indentation and irregularity of outline, as the ship-carpenter adjusts the stubborn planking, grown flexible in his hand, to the exact mould of his vessel, I would at once instance some parts of the description of Yardley oak.  But farewell, noble tree! so old half a century ago, when the poet conferred on thee immortality, that thou dost not seem older now!


Time made thee what thou wast—king of the woods;
And time hath made thee what thou art—a cave
For owls to roost in.   Once thy spreading boughs
O'erhung the champaign; and the numerous flocks
That grazed it stood beneath that ample cope
Uncrowded, yet safe sheltered from the storm.
No flock frequents thee now.   Thou hast outlived
Thy popularity, and art become
(Unless verse rescue thee awhile) a thing
Forgotten as the foliage of thy youth.
While thus through all the stages thou hast pushed
Of treeship—first a seedling hid in grass;
Then twig; then sapling; and, as century rolled
Slow after century, a giant bulk
Of girth enormous, with moss-cushioned root
Upheaved above the soil, and sides emboss'd
With prominent wens globose—till at the last,
The rottenness, which time is charged to inflict
On other mighty ones, found also thee.


    I returned with my guide to the rustic bridge; resumed my walk through the hitherto unexplored half of the chestnut colonnade; turned the corner; and then, passing downwards along the lower side of the park, through neglected thickets—the remains of an extensive nursery run wild—I struck outwards beyond its precincts, and reached a whitened dwelling-house that had been once the "Peasant's Nest."  But nowhere else in the course of my walk had the hand of improvement misimproved so sadly.  For the hill-top cottage,


Environed with a ring of branching elms
That overhung the thatch,


I found a modern hard-cast farm-house, with a square of offices attached, all exceedingly utilitarian, well kept, stiff, and disagreeable.  It was sad enough to find an erection that a journeyman bricklayer could have produced in a single month, substituted for the "peaceful covert " Cowper had so often wished his own, and which he had so frequently and fondly visited.  But those beauties of situation which awakened the admiration, and even half excited the envy, of the poet, improvement could not alter, and so they are now what they ever were.  The diagonal valley to which I have had such frequent occasion to refer is just escaping from the park at its lower corner; the slope, which rises from the runnel to the level, still lies on the one hand within the enclosure, but it has escaped from it on the other, and forms, where it merges into the higher grounds, the hill-top on which the "Nest " stands; and the prospect, no longer bounded by the tall belting of the park, is at once very extensive and singularly beautiful.


Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meads, with cattle sprinkled o'er,
Conducts the eye along its sinuous course,
Delighted.  There, fast-rooted in his bank,
Stand, never overlooked, our favourite elms,
That screen the herdsman's solitary hut;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream,
That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale,
The sloping land recedes into the clouds,
Displaying on its varied side the grace
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tower.
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the listening ear,
Groves, heaths, and smoking villages remote.


Leaving the farm-house, I descended into the valley; passed along a tangled thicket of yew, plane, and hazel, in which I lingered awhile to pick black-berries and nuts, where Cowper may have picked them; came out upon the Olney road by the wicket gate through which he used to quit the highway and strike up to the woodlands; and, after making my old woman particularly happy by a small gratuity, returned to Olney.

    I trust it will not be held that my descriptions of this old-fashioned park, with its colonnade and its avenues—its dells and its dingles—its alcove and its wilderness—have been too minute.  It has an interest as independent of any mere beauty or picturesqueness which it may possess, as the field of Bannock burn or the meadows of Runnimede.  It indicates the fulcrum, if I may so speak, on which the lever of a great original genius first rested, when it upturned from its foundations an effete school of English verse, and gave to the literature of the country a new face.  Its scenery, idealized into poetry, wrought one of the greatest literary revolutions of which the history of letters preserves any record.  The school of Pope, originally of but small compass, had sunk exceedingly low ere the times of Cowper: it had become, like Nebuchadnezzar's tree, a brass-bound stump, that sent forth no leafage of refreshing green, and no blossoms of pleasant smell; and yet for considerably more than half a century it had been the only existing English school.  And when the first volume of "Poems by William Cowper, Esq., of the Inner Temple," issued from the press, there seemed to be no prospect whatever of any other school rising to supplant it.  Several writers of genius had appeared in the period, and had achieved for themselves a standing in literature; nor were they devoid of originality, in both their thinking and the form of it, without which no writer becomes permanently eminent.  But their originality was specific and individual, and terminated with themselves; whereas the school of Pope, whatever its other defects, was of a generic character.  A second Collins, a second Gray, a second Goldsmith, would have been mere timid imitators—mere mock Paganinis, playing each on the one exquisite string of his master, and serving by his happiest efforts but to establish the fidelity of the imitation.  But the poetry of Pope formed an instrument of larger compass and a more extensive gamut, and left the disciples room to achieve for themselves, in running over the notes of their master, a certain amount of originality.  Lyttelton's "Advice to Belinda," and Johnson's "London," exhibit the stamp of very different minds; and the "Pursuits of Literature" is quite another sort of poem from the "Triumphs of Temper;" but they all alike belong to the school of Pope, and bear the impress of the "Moral Essays," the "Satires," or the "Rape of the Lock."  The poetical mind of England had taken an inveterate set; it had grown up into artificial attitudes, like some superannuated posture-maker, and had lost the gait and air natural to it.  Like the painter in the fable, it drew its portraits less from the life than from cherished models and familiar casts approved by the connoisseur; and exhibited nature, when it at all exhibited it, through a dim haze of coloured conventionalities.  And this school, grown rigid and unfeeling in its unproductive old age, it was part of the mission of Cowper to supplant and destroy.  He restored to English literature the wholesome freshness of nature, and sweetened and invigorated its exhausted atmosphere, by letting in upon it the cool breeze and the bright sunshine.  The old park, with its noble trees and sequestered valleys; were to him what the writings of Pope and of Pope's disciples were to his contemporaries: he renewed poetry by doing what the first poets had done.

    It is not uninteresting to mark the plan on which nature delights to operate in producing a renovation of this character in the literature of a country.  Cowper had two vigorous coadjutors in the work of revolution; and all three, though essentially unlike in other respects, resembled one another in the preliminary course through which they were prepared for their proper employment.  Circumstances had conspired to throw them all outside the pale of the existing literature.  Cowper, at the ripe age of thirty-three, when breathing in London the literary atmosphere of the day, amid his friends—the Lloyds, Colmans, and Bonnel Thorntons—was a clever and tasteful imitator, but an imitator merely, both in his prose and his verse.  His prose in "The Connoisseur" is a feeble echo of that of Addison; while in his verse we find unequivocal traces of Prior, of Philips, and of Pope, but scarce any trace whatever of a poet at least not inferior to the best of them—Cowper himself.  Events over which he had no control suddenly removed him outside this atmosphere, and dropped him into a profound retirement, in which for nearly twenty years he did not peruse the works of any English poet.  The chimes of the existing literature had fairly rung themselves out of his head, ere, with a heart grown familiar in the interval with all earnest feeling—an intellect busied with ever-ripening cogitation—an eye and ear conversant, day after day, and year after year, with the face and voice of nature—he struck, as the key-notes of his own noble poetry, a series of exquisitely modulated tones, that had no counterparts in the artificial gamut.  Had his preparatory course been different—had he been kept in the busy and literary world, instead of passing, in his insulated solitude, through the term of second education, which made him what we all know—it seems more than questionable whether Cowper would have ever taken his place in literature as a great original poet. [19]   His two coadjutors in the work of literary revolution were George Crabbe and Robert Burns.  The one, self-taught, and wholly shut out from the world of letters, laid in his vast stores of observation, fresh from nature, in an obscure fishing village on the coast of Suffolk; the other, educated in exactly the same style and degree—Crabbe had a little bad Latin, and Burns a little bad French—and equally secluded from the existing literature, achieved the same important work on the bleak farm of Mossgeil.  And the earlier compositions of these three poets—all of them true backwoodsmen in the republic of letters—clearers of new and untried fields in the rich unopened provinces appeared within five years of each other—Crabbe's first, and Burns's last.  This process of renovating a worn-out literature does certainly seem a curious one.  Circumstances virtually excommunicated three of the great poetic minds of the age, and flung them outside the literary pale; and straightway they became founders of churches of their own, and carried away with them all the people.

    Cowper, however, was better adapted by nature, and more prepared by previous accomplishment, for the work of literary revolution than either Burns or Crabbe.  His poetry—to return to a previous illustration, rather, however, indicated than actually employed—was in the natural what Pope's was in the artificial walk of a generic character; whereas theirs was of a strongly specific cast.  The writers who have followed Crabbe and Burns we at once detect as imitators; whereas the writers to whom Cowper furnished the starting note have attained to the dignity of originals.  He withdrew their attention from the old models—thoroughly common-placed by reproduction—and sent them out into the fields and the woods with greatly enlarged vocabularies, to describe new things in fresh language.  And thus has he exercised an indirect but potent influence on the thinking and mode of description of poets whose writings furnish little or no trace of his peculiar style and manner.  Even in style and manner, however, we discover in his pregnant writings the half-developed germs of after schools.  In his lyrics we find, for instance, the starting notes of not a few of the happiest lyrics of Campbell.  The noble ode "On the Loss of the Royal George," must have been ringing in the ears of the poet who produced the "Battle of the Baltic;" and had the "Castaway" and the "Popular Field" been first given to the world in company with the "Exile of Erin" and the "Soldier's Dream," no critic could have ever suspected that they had emanated from quite another pen.  We may find similar traces in his works of the minor poems of the Lake School.  "The Distressed Travellers, or Labour in Vain;" "The Yearly Distress, or Tithing-Time;" "The Colubriad;" "The Retired Cat;" "The Dog and the Water Lily;" and "The Diverting History of John Gilpin," might have all made their first appearance among the "Lyrical Ballads," and would certainly, have formed high specimens of the work.  But it is not form and manner that the restored literature of England mainly owes to Cowper—it is spirit and life; not so much any particular mode of exhibiting nature, as a revival of the habit of looking at it.

    I had selected as my inn at Olney a quiet old house, kept by a quiet old man, who, faithful to bygone greatness, continued to sell his ale under the somewhat faded countenance of the late Duke of York.  On my return, I found him smoking a pipe, in his clean, tile-paved kitchen, with a man nearly as old as himself, but exceeding vigorous for his years—a fresh-coloured, square-shouldered, deep-chested, English-looking man, with good sense and frank good humour broadly impressed on every feature.  The warm day and the long walk had rendered me exceedingly thirsty: I had been drinking, as I came along, at every runnel; and I now asked the landlord whether he could not get me something to slake my drought less heady than his ale.  "Oh," said his companion, taking from his pocket half-a-dozen fine jargonelle pears, and sweeping them towards me across the old oak table, "these are the things for your thirst."  I thanked him, and picked out of the heap a single pear.  "Oh," he exclaimed, in the same tone of refreshing frankness, "take all, take all; they are all of my own rearing; I have abundance more on my trees at home."  With so propitious a beginning, we were soon engaged in conversation.  He was, as I afterwards learned from my host, a very worthy man, Mr. Hales of Pemberton, the last, or nearly the last, of the race of old English yeomen in this part of the country.  His ancestors had held their small property of a few fields for centuries, and he continued to hold it still.  He well remembered Cowper, he told me; Newton had left Olney before his day, some sixty-five or sixty-six years ago; but of Thomas Scott he had some slight recollection.  The connexion of these men with the locality had exerted, he said, a marked influence on the theologic opinions and beliefs of the people , and there were few places in England, in consequence, in which the Puseyite doctrines had made less way.  The old parishioners of Newton and Scott, and the town's-folk and neighbours of Cowper, had felt, of course, an interest in their writings; and so there were more copies of the "Poems," and the "Cardiphonia," and the "Force of Truth," and the "Essays," scattered over the place, than over perhaps any other locality in England.  And so the truth was at least known in Olney and its neighbourhood, whatever use might be made of it.  I inquired whether he had ever heard of one Moses Brown, who had been curate in Olney exactly a hundred years before—a good man, a poet, and a friend of James Hervey, and whose poems, descriptive and devotional, though not equal by a great deal to those of Cowper, had passed through several editions in their day?  Mr. Hales had barely heard that such a man there had been, and had some recollection of an aged woman, one of his daughters.  I parted from the old frank yeoman, glad I should have seen so fine a specimen of a class fast hastening to extinction.  The reader will remember that Gulliver, in the island of the sorcerers, when the illustrious dead were called up to hold converse with him, had the curiosity to summon, among the rest, a few English yeomen of the old stamp—"once so famous," says the satirist, "for the simplicity of their manners, diet, and dress—for justice in their dealings—for their true spirit of liberty and love of their country."  And I deemed myself somewhat in luck in having found a representative of the class still in the land of the living, considerably more than a century after Swift had deemed it necessary to study his specimens among the dead.

    After exhausting the more interesting walks of the place, I quitted Olney next morning for the railway, by an omnibus that plies daily between Bedford and Wolverton.  There were two gentlemen in the vehicle.  The one dressed very neatly in black, with a white neck-cloth, and somewhat prim-looking beaver hat, I at once set down as a Dissenting minister; the other, of a rather more secular cast, but of staid and sober aspect, might, I inferred, be one of his deacons or elders.  They were engaged, as I entered, in discussing some theological question, which they dropped, however, as we drove on through the street, and evinced a curiosity to know where Newton and Thomas Scott had lived.  I pointed out to them the house of Cowper, and the house and church of Newton; and, in crossing the famous bridge over the Ouse, directed their attention to the distant village of Weston-Underwood, in which Scott had officiated for many years as a curate.  And so I got fairly into their good graces, and had my share assigned me in the conversation.  They discussed Newton and Scott, and characterized as sound and excellent the "Commentary" of the one, and the "Letters" of the other; but the labours of Cowper, whose rarer genius, and intellect of finer texture, seemed removed beyond the legitimate range of their appreciation, they regarded apparently as of less mark and importance.  I deemed them no inadequate representatives of a worthy section of the English people, and of an obvious power in the country—a power always honestly and almost always well directed, but rather in obedience to the instincts of a wise religion than the promptings of a nicely-discriminating intelligence.  The more secular-looking traveller of the two, on ascertaining that I had come from Edinburgh, and was a citizen of the place, inquired whether I was not a parishioner of Dr. Chalmers—the one Scotchman, by the way, with whose name I found every Englishman of any intelligence in some degree acquainted; and next, whether I was not a member of the Free Church.  The Disruption both gentlemen regarded as a great and altogether extraordinary event.  They knew almost nothing of the controversy which had led to it; but there was no mistaking the simple fact of which it was an embodiment, namely, that from four to five hundred ministers of the Established Church had resigned their livings on a point of principle.  To this effect, at least, the iron tongue of rumour had struck with no uncertain sound; and the tones were of a kind suited not to lower the aspirations of the religious sentiment, nor to cast a shade of suspicion on its reality as a principle of conduct.

    In the middle of a weary ascent immediately over the old yeoman's hamlet of Pemberton, the horse that dragged us fairly stood still; and so we had to get out and walk; and though we paced over the ground quite leisurely enough, both vehicle and driver were left far behind ere we got to the top of the hill.  We paused, and paused, and sauntered on for a few hundred yards at a time, and then paused again and again; and still no omnibus.  At length the driver came puffing up behind us afoot, on the way to Newport Pagnell, he said, for another "hanimal," for his "poor hoss" had foundered on that "cussed hill."  My fellow-traveller, the presumed deacon, proved considerably more communicative than his companion the minister.  He had, I found, notwithstanding his gravity, some town-bred smartness about him, and was just a little conceited withal—or, I should perhaps rather say, was not quite devoid of what constitutes the great innate impression of the true Englishman—an impression of his own superiority, simply in virtue of his country, over all and sundry who speak his language with an accent not native to the sail.  But I never yet quarrelled with a feeling at once so comfortable, and so harmless, and which the Scotch—though in a form less personal as it regards the individual entertaining it, and with an eye more to Scotland in the average—cherish as strongly; and so the Englishman and I agreed during our walk excellently well.  He had unluckily left his hat in the vehicle, bringing with him instead, what served as his coach-cap, a pinched Glengary bonnet, which, it must be confessed, looked nearly as much out of place on his head as Captain Knockdunder's cocked hat, trimmed with gold lace, when mounted high over philabeg and plaid, on the head of the redoubted Captain.  And on nearing the village of Skirvington, he seemed to feel that the bonnet was not the sort of head-dress in which a demure Englishman looked most himself.  "It might do well enough for a Scotchman like me," he said, "but not so well for him."  I wore, by chance, a tolerably good hat, and proposed making a temporary exchange, until we should have passed the village; but fate declared itself against the transaction.  The Englishman's bonnet would have lain, we found, like a coronet upon a cushion on the Scotch head; and the Scotch hat, on the other hand, threatened to swallow up the Englishman.  I found myself in error in deeming him an acquaintance of our fellow-traveller the minister: he did not even know his name, and was exceedingly anxious to find it out—quite fidgety on the point; for he was, he said, a profoundly able man, and, he was certain, a person of note.  At the inn at Newport Pagnell, however, he succeeded, I know not how, in ferreting the name out, and whispered into my ear as we went, that he was assured he was in the right in deeming our companion somebody: the gentleman in black beside us was no other than Dr.—.  But the Doctor's name was wholly unfamiliar to me, and I have since forgotten it.

    Newport Pagnell!  I had but just one association with the place, besides the one formed as I had passed through its streets two evenings before, on the night of riot and clamour: it had been for many years the home of worthy, witty, bluff William Bull—the honest Independent minister who used so regularly to visit poor Cowper in his affliction, ere Cowper had yet become famous, and whom the affectionate poet learned so cordially to love.  How strangely true genius does brighten up whatever object it falls upon!  It is, to borrow from Sir Walter's illustration, the playful sunbeam that, capriciously selecting some little bit of glass or earthenware in the middle of a ploughed field, renders it visible across half a county, by the light which it pours upon it.  An old astronomer, ere the heavens had been filled up with their fantastic signs—crabs, and fish, scorpions, bulls and rams, and young ladies, and locks of young ladies' hair—could give a favourite toy or pet companion a place in the sky; but it is only the true poet who possesses an analogous power now.  He can fix whatever bauble his fancy rests upon high in the literary heavens; and no true poet ever exercised the peculiar privilege of his order more sportively than Cowper.  He has fixed Mr. Bull's tobacco-box and his pipe amid the signs, and elicited many a smile by setting the honest man a-smoking high up in the moon.  But even to the moon his affection followed him, as may be seen from the characteristic passage, glittering, as is Cowper's wont, with an embroidery of playful humour, inwrought into a sad-coloured ground-work of melancholy, in which he apostrophizes the worthy minister in his new lodgment.  "Mon aimable and trés-cher ami,—It is not in the power of chaises or chariots to carry you where my affections will not follow you.  If I heard that you were gone to finish your days in the moon, I should not love you the less, but should contemplate the place of your  abode as often as it appeared in the heavens, and say, 'Farewell, my friend, for ever!  Lost, but not forgotten!  Live happy in thy lantern, and smoke the remainder of thy pipes in peace!  Thou art rid of earth, at least of all its cares, and so far can I rejoice in thy removal; and as to the cares that are to be found in the moon, I am resolved to suppose them lighter than those below—heavier they can hardly be.' "

    Cowper's translation of the better devotional poems of Madame Guyon were made at the request of Mr. Bull, who, though himself a Calvinist, was yet so great an admirer of the mystic Frenchwoman—undoubtedly sincere, though not always judicious, in her devotional aspirations—that he travelled on one occasion twenty miles to see her picture.  He urged him, too, during that portion of partial convalescence in which his greater poetical works were produced, again to betake himself to the composition of original hymns; but it was the hour of the power of darkness, and this second request served but to distress the mind of the suffering poet.  He had "no objection," he said, "to giving the graces of the foreigner an English dress," but "insuperable ones to affected exhibitions of what he did not feel."  "Ask possibilities," he adds, "and they shall be performed; but ask no hymns from a man suffering from despair, as I do.  I could not sing the Lord's song were it to save my life, banished as I am, not to a strange land, but to a remoteness from His presence, in comparison with which the distance from east to west is no distance—is vicinity and cohesion."  Alas, poor Cowper!—sorely smitten by the archers, and ever carrying about with him the rankling arrow in the wound.  It is not improbable that one of the peculiar doctrines of the Mystics, though it could scarce have approved itself to his judgment, may have yet exercised a soothing influence on the leading delusion of his unhappy malady; and that he may have been all the more an admirer of the writings of Madame Guyon—for a great admirer he was—in consequence of her pointed and frequent allusion to it.  It was held by the class of Christians to which she belonged—among the rest by Fénelon—that it would be altogether proper, and not impossible, for the soul to acquiesce in even its own destruction, were it to be God's will that it should be destroyed.  We find the idea brought strongly out in one of the poems translated by Cowper; but it is in vain now to inquire respecting the mood of strangely mingled thought and feeling—of thought, solid and sane, and of acute feeling, quickened by madness—in which he must have given to it its first embodiment in English verse.


Yet He leaves me,—cruel fate!
Leaves me in my lost estate.
Have I sinn'd?   Oh, say wherein;
Tell me, and forgive my sin!
King and Lord, whom I adore,
Shall I see thy face no more?
Be not angry; I resign
Henceforth all my will to thine:
I consent that thou depart,
Though thine absence breaks my heart.
Go then, and for ever too;
All is right that Thou wilt do.


    A mile beyond Shirvington, when we had almost resigned ourselves to the hardship of walking over all the ground which we had bargained for being carried over, we were overtaken by the omnibus drawn by the "fresh hoss."  It stopped for a few seconds as we entered Newport Pagnell, to pick up a passenger; and a tall, robust, hard-featured female, of some five-and-forty or so, stepped in.  Had we heard," she asked, when adjusting herself with no little bustle in a corner of the conveyance—"had we heard how the great fight had gone?" "No!"—my two companions had not so much as heard that a great fight there had been.  "O dear!" exclaimed the robust female, "not heard that Bendigo challenged Caunt for the championship! ay, and he has beaten him too.  Three hundred guineas a-side!" "Bad work, I am afraid," said the gentleman in black.  "Yes," exclaimed the robust female; "bad work, foul work; give 'em fair play, and Bendigo is no match for Caunt.  Hard stiff fellow, though!  But there he is!"  We looked out in the direction indicated, and saw the champion of all England standing at a public-house door, with a large white patch over one eye, and a deep purple streak under the other.  He reminded me exceedingly of Bill Sikes, in the illustrations by Cruickshank of Oliver Twist.  For two mortal hours had he stood up, under the broiling sun of the previous day, to knock down, and be knocked down in turn, all in a lather of blood and sweat, and surrounded by a ring of the greatest scoundrels in the kingdom.  And the ninety-third round had determined him the best man of two, and the champion of all England.  I felt convinced, however, like the old king in the ballad, that England holds


              within its realme
Five hundred as good as hee.


There had been sad doings in the neighbourhood—not a little thieving in the houses, several robberies on the highway, and much pocket-picking among the crowds; in short, as the reporter of a sporting paper, "The Era," who seemed to have got bitten somehow, summed up his notice of the fight, "had the crowds brought together been transported en masse to Botany Bay, they would have breathed forth such a moral pestilence as would have infected the atmosphere of the place."  Pugilism has been described as one of the manifestations of English character and manners.  I suspect, however, that in the present day it manifests nothing higher than the unmitigated blackguardism of England's lowest and most disreputable men.  Regarding the English ladies who take an interest in it, I must of course venture nothing untender; indeed, I saw but a single specimen of the class, and that for but twenty minutes or so, for the robust female left us at the first stage.

    A pugilist, notwithstanding his pugilism, may be, I doubt not, a brave fellow; the bottom he displays is, in most instances, the identical quality which, in the desperate tug of war, so distinguishes, over all the other troops of Europe, the British soldier.  But the "science of defence" can have in itself no tendency either to strengthen native courage, or to supply the want of it.  It must take its place rather among those artificial means of inspiring confidence, that, like the bladders of the swimmer, serve but to induce a state of prostration and helplessness when they unexpectedly give way, and can be but an indifferent preparation for meeting full in front the bayonet-point that breaks in upon its guards, or the whizzing bullet that beats them down.  I have been told by an aged relative, now deceased, who saw much service, that in the first great naval battler in which he was engaged, and the first great storm he experienced, there were two men—one in each instance—whose cowardice was palpable and apparent to the whole crew, and who agreed so far in character, that each was the champion pugilist and bully of his vessel.  The dastard in the engagement—that of Camperdown—was detected coiling up his craven bulk in a place of concealment, out of reach of the shot; the dastard in the storm was rendered, by the extremeness of his terror, unfit for duty.  The vessel in which my relative sailed at the time—the same relative who afterwards picked up the curious shell amidst the whistling of the bullets in Egypt—was one of those old-fashioned, iron-fastened ships of the line, that, previous to the breaking out of the first revolutionary war, had been lying in dock for years, and that, carefully kept, so far at least as externals were concerned, looked extremely well when first sent to sea, but proved miserable weather-boats amid the straining of a gale, when their stiff rusty bolting began to slacken and work out.  The gale, in this especial instance, proved a very tremendous one; and the old Magnificent went scudding before it, far into the Northern Ocean, under bare poles.  She began to open in the joints and seams like a piece of basket-work; and though the pumps were plied incessantly by half-hour relays, the water rose fast within the hold, and she threatened to settle down.  My relative was stationed in the well-room during one of the night-watches, just as the tempest had reached its crisis, to take note of the state of the leakage; and a man came round every quarter of an hour to receive his report.  The water, dimly visible by the lantern of horn, rose fast along the gauge, covering, inch after inch, four feet and a half—four feet nine—five feet—five feet three—five feet and a half: the customary quarter of an hour had long elapsed, yet no one appeared to report; and the solitary watcher, wondering at the delay, raised the little hatch directly above head, and stepped out upon the orlop, to represent the state of matters below.  Directly over the opening, a picture of cold, yellow terror, petrifying into stone, stood the cowed bruiser, with a lantern dangling idly from his finger-points.  "What make you here?" asked my relative.  "Come to report."  "Report! is that reporting?"  "Oh!!—how many feet water?"  "Five and a half."  "Five feet and a half!" exclaimed the unnerved bully, striking his hands together, and letting his lantern fall into the open hatch—"Five feet and a half!  Gracious heaven! it's all over with us!"  Nothing, I have oftener than once heard my relative remark, so strongly impressed him during the terrors of the gale, as the dread-impressed features and fear-modulated tones of that unhappy man.


 
CHAPTER XVII.


Cowper and the geologists—Geology in the poet's days in a state of great immaturity—Case different now—Folly of committing the Bible to a false science—Galileo—Geologists at one in all their more important deductions; vast antiquity of the earth one of these—State of the question—Illustration—Presumed thickness of the fossiliferous strata—Peculiar order of their organic contents; of their fossil fish in particular, as ascertained by Agassix—The geologic races of animals entirely different from those which sheltered with Noah in the ark—Alleged discrepancy between geologic fact and the Mosaic record not real—Inference based on the opening verses of the book of Genesis-Parallel passage adduced to prove the inference unsound—The supposition that fossils may have been created such examined; unworthy of the Divine wisdom; contrary to the principles which regulate human belief; subversive of the grand argument founded on design—The profounder theologians of the day not antigeologists—Geologic fact in reality of a kind fitted to perform important work in the two theologies, natural and revealed; subversive of the "infinite-series" argument of the atheist; subversive, too, of the objection drawn by infidelity from an astronomical analogy—Counter-objection—Illustration.



IT may have been merely the effect of an engrossing study long prosecuted, but so it was, that of all I had witnessed amid the scenes rendered classic by the muse of Cowper, nothing more permanently impressed me than a few broken fossils of the Oolite which I had picked up immediately opposite the poet's windows.  There had they lain, as carelessly indifferent to the strictures in "The Task," as the sun in the central heavens, two centuries before, to the denunciations of the Inquisition.  Geology, however, in the days of Cowper, had not attained to the dignity of a science.  It lacked solid footing as it journeyed amid the wastes of Chaos; and now tipped, as with its toe-points, a "crude consistence" of ill-understood facts, and now rose aloft into an atmosphere of obscure conjecture, on a " tumultuous cloud" of ill-digested theory.  In a science in this unformed, rudimental stage, whether it deal with the stars of heaven or the strata of the earth, the old anarchy of infidelity is sure always to effect a transitory lodgment; and beside him stand his auxiliaries,


                        Rumour, and Chance,
And Tumult, and Confusion, all embroiled,
And Discord with a thousand various mouths.


And so it is in no degree derogatory to the excellent sense of Cowper that he should have striven to bring Revelation in direct antithetical collision with the inferences of the geologists.

    There exists, however, no such apology for the Dean Cockburns and London "Records" of the present day.  Geology, though still a youthful science, is no longer an immature one: it has got firm footing on a continent of fact: and the man who labours to set the doctrines of Revelation in array against its legitimate deductions, is employed, whatever maybe his own estimate of his vocation, not on the side of religious truth, but of scepticism and infidelity.  His actual work, however excellent his proposed object, is identically that of all the shrewder infidels—the Humes, Volneys, Voltaires, and Bolingbrokes—who have compassed sea and land, and pressed every element into their service, in attempting to show that the facts and doctrines of the Bible traverse those great fixed laws which regulate human belief.  No scientific question was ever yet settled dogmatically, or ever will.  If the question be one in the science of numbers, it must be settled arithmetically; if in the science of geometry, it must be settled mathematically; if in the science of chemistry, it must be settled experimentally.  The Church of Rome strove hard, in the days of Galileo, to settle an astronomical question theologically, and did its utmost to commit the Bible to the belief that the earth occupies a central position in the system, and that the sun performs a daily revolution around it; but the astronomical question, maugre the Inquisition, refused to be settled other than astronomically.  And all now believe that the central position is occupied, not by the earth, but by the sun; and that it is the lesser body that moves round the larger, not the larger that moves round the lesser.  What would have been the result, had Rome, backed by the Franciscan, succeeded in pledging the verity of Scripture to a false astronomy?  The astronomical facts of the case would have, of course, remain unchanged.  The severe truth of geometry would have lent its demonstrative aid to establish their real character.  All the higher minds would have become convinced for themselves, and the great bulk of the lower at second hand, that the Scripture pledge had been given, not to scientific truth, but to scientific error; and the Bible, to the extent to which it stood committed, would be justly regarded as occupying no higher a level than the Shaster or Koran.  Infidelity never yet succeeded in placing Revelation in a position so essentially false as that in which it was placed by Rome, to the extent of Rome's ability, in the case of Galileo.

    Now, ultimately at least, as men have yielded to astronomy the right of decision in all astronomical questions, must they resign to geology the settlement of all geological ones.  I do not merely speak of what ought, but of what assuredly must and will be.  The successive geologic systems and formations, with all their organic contents, are as real existences as the sun itself; and it is quite as possible to demonstrate their true place and position, relative and absolute.  And so long as certain fixed laws control and regulate human belief, certain inevitable deductions must and will continue to be based on the facts which these systems and formations furnish.  Geologists of the higher order differ among themselves, on certain minutiæ of their science, to nearly as great an extent as the Episcopalian differs in matters ecclesiastical from the Presbyterian, or the Baptist or Independent from both.  But their differences militate no more against the great conclusions in which they all agree, than the theological differences of the Protestant Churches against the credibility of those leading truths of Christianity on which all true Churches are united.  And one of these great conclusions respects the in calculably vast antiquity of the earth on which we dwell.  It seems scarce possible to over-estimate the force and weight of the evidence already expiscated on this point; and almost every new discovery adds to its cogency and amount.  That sectional thickness of the earth's crust in which, mile beneath mile, the sedimentary strata are divided into many-coloured and variously composed systems and formations, and which abounds from top to bottom in organic remains, forms but the mere pages of the register.  And it is rather the nature and order of the entries with which these pages are crowded, than the amazing greatness of their number, or the enormous extent of the space which they occupy (rather more than five miles)—though both have, of course, weight—that compel belief in the remoteness of the period to which the record extends.  Let me attempt elucidating the point by a simple illustration.

    In a well-kept English register, continuous from a distant antiquity to the present time, there are many marks demonstrative of the remoteness of the era to which it reaches, besides the bulk and number of the volumes which compose it, and the multitude of the entries which they contain.  In an earlier volume we find the ancient Saxon character united to that somewhat meagre yet not inexpressive language in which Alfred wrote and conversed.  In a succeeding volume, the Saxon, both in word and letter, gives place to Norman French.  The Norman French yields, in turn, in a yet succeeding one, to a massive black-letter character, and an antique combination of both tongues, which we term the genuine Old English.  And then, in after volumes, the Old English gradually modernizes and improves, till we recognise it as no longer old: we see, too, the heavy black-letter succeeded by the lighter Italian hand, at first doggedly stiff and upright, but anon bent elegantly forward along the line.  And in these various successions of character and language we recognise the marks of a genuine antiquity.  Nor, in passing from these—the mere externals of the register—to the register itself, are the evidences less conclusive.  In reading upwards we find the existing families of the district preceded by families now extinct, and these, in turn, by families which had become extinct at earlier and still earlier periods.  Names disappear—titles alter—the boundaries of lands vary as the proprietors change—smaller estates are now absorbed by larger, and now larger divide into smaller.  There are traces not a few of customs long abrogated and manners become obsolete; and we see paroxysms of local revolution indicated by a marked grouping of events of corresponding character, that assume peculiar force and significancy when we collate the record with the general history of the kingdom.  Could it be possible, I ask, to believe, regarding such a many-volumed register—with all its various styles, characters, and languages—its histories of the rise and fall of families, and its records of conquests, settlements, and revolutions—that it had been all hastily written at a heat on a Saturday night, some three or four weeks ago, without any intention to deceive on the part of the writer—nay, without any intention even of making a register at all?  The mere bulk and number of the volumes would militate sadly against any such supposition; but the peculiar character and order of their contents would militate against it more powerfully still.

    Now, the geologic register far excels any human record, in the number and significancy of the marks of a strictly analogous cast which demonstrate its vast antiquity.  As we ascend higher, and yet higher, the characters of the document strangely alter.  In the Tertiary ages we find an evident approximation to the existing style.  An entire change takes place as we enter the Secondary period.  A change equally marked characterizes the Palæozoic eras.  Up till the commencement of the Cretaceous system, two great orders of fish—the Ctenoid and Cycloid—fish furnished with horny scales and bony skeletons—comprise, as they now do, the great bulk of the finny inhabitants of the waters.  But immediately beyond the Cretaceous group these two orders wholly disappear, and the Ganoid and Placoid orders—fish that wear an armature of bone outside, and whose skeletons are chiefly cartillaginous—take their places.  Up till the period of the Magnesian Lime-stone, the homocercal or two-lobed type of fish-tail greatly preponderates, as at the present time; but in all the older formations—those of the immensely extended Palæozoic period—not a single tail of this comparatively modern type is to be found, and the heterocercal or one-sided tail obtains exclusively.  Down till the deposition of the Chalk has taken place, all the true woods are coniferæ of the Pine or Araucarian families.  After the Chalk has been deposited, hardwood trees, of the dicotyledonous order, are largely introduced.  Down till the times of the Magnesian Limestone, plants of an inferior order—ferns, stigmaria, clubmosses, and calamites—attain to a size so gigantic that they rival the true denizens of the forest; whereas with the dawn of the Secondary period we find the immaturities of the vegetable kingdom reduced to a bulk and size that consort better with the palpable inferiority of their rank in creation.  And not only are the styles and characters of the several periods of the geologic register thus various, but, as in the English register of my illustration, the record of the rise and fall of septs and families is singularly distinct.  The dynasties of the crustacean, the fish, the reptile, and the mammiferous quadruped, succeed each other in an order as definite as the four great empires in the "Ancient History" of Rollin.  Nor are the periods when single families arose and sank less carefully noted.  The trilobite family came into existence with the first beginnings of the Palæozoic division, and ceased at its close.  The belemnite family began and became extinct with the Secondary formations.  The ammonite and gryphite, in all their many species, did not outlive the deposition of the Chalk.  There is one definite period—the close of the Palaeozoic era—at which the Brachiopoda, singularly numerous throughout many previous formations, and consisting of many great families, suddenly, with the exception of a single genus, drop off and disappear.  There is another definite period—the close of the Secondary era—at which the Cephalopoda, with nearly as few exceptions, disappear as suddenly.  At this latter period, too, the Enaliosaurians, so long the monster tyrants of the ocean, cease for ever, and the Cetacea take their places: the be-paddled reptiles go off the stage, and the be-paddled mammalia come on.  But perhaps the most striking series of facts of this nature in the whole range of geological literature, is that embodied in the table affixed by Agassiz to his great work on fossil fish.

    This singularly interesting document—which, like the annual balance-sheet of a great mercantile house or banking company, that comprises in its comparatively few lines of figures the result of every arithmetical calculation made by the firm during the twelvemonth—condenses, in a single page, the results of the naturalist's observations in his own peculiar department for many years.  It marks at what periods the great families of the extinct fishes began, and when they ceased, and at what periods those great families arose which continue to exist in the present state of things.  The facts are exceedingly curious.  Some of the families are, we find, of comparatively brief standing, and occupy but small space in the record; others sweep across well-nigh the whole geological scale.  Some come into existence with the beginning of a system, and cease at its close; others continue to exist throughout almost all the systems together.  The salmon and herring families, though the species were different, lived in the ages of the Chalk, and ever since, throughout the periods of the Tertiary; while the cod and haddock family pertains, on the contrary, to but the existing scene of things.  The Cephalaspides—that family to which the Pterichthys and Coccosteus belong—were restricted to a single system, the Old Red Sandstone; nor had its contemporaries the Dipterians—that family to which the Osteolepis and Diplopterus belong—a longer term; whereas the Coelacanthes—the family of the Holoptychius, Glyptolepis, and Asterolepis—while it began as early, passed down to the times of the Chalk; and the Cestracions—even a more ancient family still—continue to have their living representatives.  It is held by the Dean of York, that the fact of the Noachian Deluge may be made satisfactorily to account for all the geologic phenomena.  Alas!  No cataclysm, however great or general, could have produced diversities of style, each restricted to a determinate period, and which become more broadly apparent, the more carefully we collate the geologic register as it exists in one country with the same register as it exists in another.  No cataclysm could have arranged an infinitude of entries in exact chronological order, or assigned to the tribes and families which it destroyed and interred, distinct consecutive periods and formations.  It is but common sense to hold that the Deluge could not have produced an ancient church-yard—such as the Greyfriars of Edinburgh—with its series of tombstones in all their successive styles—Gothic, Elizabethan, Roman, and Grecian—complete for many centuries.  It could not have been the author of the old English register of my illustration.  Geologists affirm regarding the Flood, merely to the effect that it could not have written Hume's History of England, nor even composed and set into type Mr. Burke's British Peerage.

    Such are a few of the difficulties with which the anti-geologist has to contend.  That leading fact of the Deluge—the ark—taken in connexion with the leading geologic fact that the organic remains of the various systems, from the Lower Silurian to the Chalk inclusive, are the remains of extinct races and tribes, forms a difficulty of another kind.  The fact of the ark satisfactorily shows, that man in his present state has been contemporary with but one creation.  The preservation by sevens and by pairs of the identical races amid which he first started into existence, superseded the necessity of a creation after the Flood; and so it is the same tribes of animals, wild and domestic, which share with him in his place of habitation now, that surrounded him in Paradise.  But the Palæozoic, Secondary, and older Tertiary animals, are of races and tribes altogether diverse.  We find among them not even a single species which sheltered in the ark.  The races contemporary with man were preserved to bear him company in his pilgrimage, and to minister to his necessities; but those strange races, buried, in many instances, whole miles beneath the surface, and never seen save embedded in rock and transformed into stone, could not have been his contemporaries.  They belong, as their place and appearance demonstrate, to periods long anterior.  Nor can it be rationally held, that of those anterior periods revelation should have given us any history. T hey lie palpably beyond the scope of the sacred record.  On what principle, seeing it is silent on the contemporary creations of Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, ought it to have spoken on the consecutive creations of the Silurian, Carboniferous, and Oolitic periods?  Why should it promulgate the truths of geology, seeing that those of astronomy it has withheld?  Man everywhere has entertained the expectation of a book, heaven-inspired, that should teach him what God is, and what God demands of him.  The sacred books of all the false religions, from those of Zoroaster and the Brahmins to those of Mahomet and the Mormons, are just so many evidences that the expectation exists.  And the Bible is its fulfilment.  But man has entertained no such expectation of a revelation from God of the truths of science; nor is it according to the economy of Providence—the economy manifested in the slow and gradual development of the species—that any such expectation should be realized.  The "Principia" of Newton is an uninspired volume; and only the natural faculties were engaged in the discovery of James Watt.

    But it is not urged, it may be said, that the Scriptures reveal geologic truth as such; it is merely urged that geologists must not traverse Scripture statements respecting the age of the earth, as revealed for purely religious purposes by God to Moses.  But did God reveal the earth's age to Moses? Not directly, surely, or else men equally sound in the faith would not be found lengthening or shortening the brief period which intervenes between Adam and Abraham, just as they adopt the Hebrew or Septuagint chronology, by nearly a thousand years.  Here, however, it may be said that we are in doubt regarding the real chronology, not because God has not indirectly revealed it, but because man, in either the Hebrew or Samaritan record, has vitiated the revelation.  Most true: still, however, the doubt is doubt.  But did God reveal the earth's age, either directly or otherwise?  Let us examine the narrative.  "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."  Now, let it be admitted, for the argument's sake, that the earth existed in the dark and void state described here only six days, of twenty-four hours each, before the creation of man; and that the going forth of the Spirit and the breaking out of the light, on this occasion, were events immediately introductory to the creation to which we ourselves belong.  And what then?  It is evident from the continuity of the narrative in the passage, say the anti-geologists, that there could have been no creations on this earth prior to the present one.  Nay, not so: for aught that appears in the narrative, there might have been many.  Between the creation of the matter of which the earth is composed, as enunciated in the first verse, and the earth's void and chaotic state, as described in the second, a thousand creations might have intervened.  As may be demonstrated from even the writings of Moses himself the continuity of a narrative furnishes no evidence whatever that the facts which it records were continuous.

    Take, for instance, the following passage:—"There went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.  And the woman conceived and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.  And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink." [20]  The narrative here is quite as continuous as in the first three verses of Genesis.  In the order of the relation, the marriage of the parents is as directly followed in the one case by the birth of a son, as the creation of matter is followed in the other by the first beginnings of the existing state of things.  The reader has as slight grounds to infer in the one case, that between the marriage of the parents and the birth of the child, the births of several other children of the family had taken place, as to infer in the other, that between the creation of matter and the subsisting creation there had taken place several other creations.  And if the continuity of the narrative would not justify the inference in the one case, just as little can it justify it in the other.  We know, however, from succeeding portions of Scripture, that the father and mother of this child had several other children born to them in the period that intervened between their marriage and his birth.  They had a son named Aaron, who had been born at least two years previous; and a daughter, Miriam, who was old enough at the time to keep sedulous watch over the little ark of bulrushes, and to suggest to Pharaoh's daughter that it might be well for her to go and call one of the Hebrew women to be nurse to the child.  It was essential, in the course of Scripture narrative, that we should be introduced to personages so famous as Aaron and Miriam, and who were destined to enact parts so important in the history of the Church; and so we have been introduced to them.  And had it been as necessary for the purposes of revelation that reference should have been made to the intervening creations in the one case, as to the intervening births in the other, we should doubtless have heard of them too.  But, as has been already said, it was not so necessary; it was not necessary at all.  The ferns and lepidodendra of the Coal Measures are as little connected with the truths which influence our spiritual state, as the vegetable productions of Mercury or of Pallas; the birds and reptiles of the Oolite, as the unknown animals that inhabit the plains or disport in the rivers of Saturn or Uranus.  And so revelation is as silent on the geological phenomena as on the contemporary creations—on the periods and order of systems and formations, as on the relative positions of the earth and sun, or the places and magnitudes of the planets.

    But organic remains may, it is urged, have been created such; and the special miracle through which the gourd of Jonah, though it must have seemed months old, sprang up in a single night, and the general miracle through which the trees of Paradise must have appeared, even on the first evening of their creation, half a century old, have been adduced to show that the globe, notwithstanding its marks of extreme antiquity, may have been produced with all these marks stamped upon it, as if in the mint. " The very day when the ocean dashed its first waves on the shore," says Chateaubriand, " it bathed, let us not doubt, rocks already worn by the breakers, and beaches strewn with the wrecks of shells." " For aught that appears in the bowels of the earth," said the " Record" newspaper, some two years ago, in adopting this peculiar view, as expressed by a worthy Presbyterian minister, " the world might have been called into existence yesterday." Let us just try whether, as creatures to whom God has given reason, and who cannot acquire facts -without drawing inferences, we can believe the assertion; and ascertain how much this curious principle of explaining geologic fact actually involves.

    "The earth, for anything that appears to the contrary, may have been made yesterday!"  We stand in the middle of an ancient burying-ground in a northern district.  The monuments of the dead, lichened and grey, rise thick around us; and there are fragments of mouldering bones lying scattered amid the loose dust that rests under them, in dark recesses impervious to the rain and the sunshine.  We dig into the soil below: here is a human skull, and there numerous other well-known bones of the human skeleton—vertebræ, ribs, arm and leg bones, with the bones of the breast and pelvis.  Still, as we dig, the bony mass accumulates;—we disinter portions, not of one, but of many skeletons, some comparatively fresh, some in a state of great decay; and with the bones there mingle fragments of coffins, with the wasted tinsel-mounting in some instances still attached, and the rusted nails still sticking in the joints.  We continue to dig, and, at a depth to which the sexton almost never penetrates, we find a stratum of pure sea-sand, and then a stratum of the sea-shells common on the neighbouring coast—in especial, oyster, mussel, and cockle shells.  It may be mentioned, in the passing, that the churchyard to which I refer, though at some little distance from the sea, is situated on one of the raised beaches of the north of Scotland; and hence the shells.  We dig a little further, and reach a thick bed of sandstone, which we penetrate, and beneath which we find a bed of impure lime, richly charged with the remains of fish of strangely antique forms.  "The earth, for anything that appears to the contrary, might have been made yesterday!"  Do appearances such as these warrant the inference?  Do these human skeletons, in all their various stages of decay, appear as if they had been made yesterday?  Was that bit of coffin, with the soiled tinsel on the one side, and the corroded nail sticking out of the other, made yesterday?  Was yonder skull, instead of having ever formed part of a human head, created yesterday, exactly the repulsive-looking sort of thing we see it?  Indisputably not.  Such is the nature of the human mind—such the laws that regulate and control human belief—that in the very existence of that churchyard, we do and must recognise positive proof that the world was not made yesterday.

    But can we stop in our process of inference at the mouldering remains of the churchyard?  Can we hold that the skull was not created a mere skull, and yet hold that the oyster, mussel, and cockle shells beneath are not the remains of molluscous animals, but things originally created in exactly their present state, as empty shells?  The supposition is altogether absurd.  Such is the constitution of our minds, that we must as certainly hold yonder oyster-shell to have once formed part of a mollusc, as we hold yonder skull to have once formed part of a man.  And if we cannot stop at the skeleton, how stop at the shells?  Why not pass on to the fish?  The evidence of design is quite as irresistible in them as in the human or the molluscous remains above.  We can still see the scales which covered them occupying their proper places, with all their nicely-designed bars, hooks, and nails of attachment: the fins which propelled them through the water, with the multitudinous pseudo joints, formed to impart to the rays the proper elasticity, lie widely spread on the stone; the sharp-pointed teeth, constructed, like those of fish generally, rather for the purpose of holding fast slippery substances than of mastication, still bristle in their jaws; nay, the very plates, spines, and scales of the fish on which they had fed, still lie undigested in their abdomens.  We cannot stop short at the shells: if the human skull was not created a mere skull, nor the shell a mere dead shell, then the fossil fish could not have been created a mere fossil.  There is no broken link in the chain at which to take our stand; and yet having once recognised the fishes as such—having recognised them as the remains of animals, and not as stones that exist in their original state—we stand committed to all the organisms of the geological scale.

    But we limit the Divine power, it may be said.  Could not the Omnipotent First Cause have created all the fossils of the earth, vegetable and animal, in their fossil state?  Yes, certainly; the act of their creation, regarded simply as an act of power, does not and cannot transcend His infinite ability.  He could have created all the burying-grounds of the earth, with all their broken and wasted contents, brute and human.  He could have created all the mummies of Mexico and of Egypt as such, and all the skeletons of the catacombs of Paris.  It would manifest, however, but little reverence for his character to compliment his infinite power at the expense of his infinite wisdom.  It would be doing no honour to his name to regard Him as a creator of dead skeletons, mummies, and churchyards.  Nay, we could not recognise Him as such, without giving to the winds all those principles of common reason which in his goodness He has imparted to us for our guidance in the ordinary affairs of life.  In this, as in that higher sense adduced by our Saviour, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."  In the celebrated case of Eugene Aram, the skeleton of his victim, the murdered Clark, was found in a cave; but how, asked the criminal, in his singularly ingenious and eloquent defence, could that skeleton be known to be Clark's?  The cave, he argued, had once been a hermitage; and in times past hermitages had been places not only of religions retirement, but of burial also.  "And it has scarce or ever been heard of," he continued, "but that every cell now known contains or contained those relics of humanity—some mutilated, some entire.  Give me leave to remind the court that here sat solitary sanctity, and here the hermit mid the anchorite hoped that repose for their bones when dead, they here enjoyed when living.  Every place conceals such remains.  In fields, on hills, on highway sides, on wastes, on commons, lie frequent and unsuspected bones.  But must some of the living be made answerable for all the bones that earth has concealed and chance exposed?"  Such were the reasonings, on this count, of Eugene Aram; and it behoved the jury that sat upon him in judgment to bestow upon them their careful consideration.  But how very different might not his line of argument have been, had the conclusions of the anti-geologist squared with the principles of human belief!  If the fossil exuviæ of a fish, or the fossil skeleton of a reptile, may have never belonged to either a reptile or a fish, then the skeleton of a man may have never belonged to a man.  No more could be argued, Aram might have said, from the finding of a human skeleton in the floor of a cave, than from the finding of a pebble or a piece of rock in the floor of a cave.  So far from being justified in inferring from it that a murder had been perpetrated, a jury could not have so much as inferred from it that a human creature had existed.

    Is the anti-geologist, I would fain ask, prepared to give up the great argument founded on design, as asserted and illustrated by all the master-minds who have written on the Evidences?  Is he resolved, in the vain hope of bearing down the geologist, to make a full surrender to the infidel?  Let us mark how Paley's well-known illustration of the watch found on the moor would apply in this controversy.  From the design exhibited in the construction of the watch, the existence of a designer is inferred; whereas, from a stone found on the same moor, in which no such marks of design are apparent, the Archdeacon urges that no such inference regarding the existence of a designer could be drawn.  But what would be thought of the man who could assert that the watch, with all its seeming design, was not a watch but a stone; and that, notwithstanding its spring, its wheels, and its index, it had never been intended to measure time?  What could be said of a sturdily avowed belief in a design not designed, and not the work of a designer—in a watch furnished with all the parts of a Watch, that is, notwithstanding, a mere stone, and occupies just its proper place when lying among the other stones of a moor?  What could be said of such a belief, paraded not simply as a belief, but actually as of the nature of reasoning, and fitted to bear weight in controversy?  And yet such is the position of the anti-geologist, who sees in the earth, with all its fossils, no evidence that it might not have been created yesterday.  For obvious it is, that in whatever has been designed, fitness of parts bears reference to the purposed object which the design subserves, and that if there be no purposed object, there can exist no fitness of parts in relation to it, and in reality no design.  The analogy drawn in the case from the miracle of creation is no analogy at all.  It is not contrary to the laws which control human belief, that the first races of every succeeding creation should have been called into existence in a state of full development; nay, it is in palpable and harmonious accordance with these laws.  It is necessary that the animal which had no parents to care or provide for it should come into existence in a state of maturity sufficient to enable it to care and provide for itself; it is equally necessary that the contemporary vegetable, its food, should be created in a condition that fitted it for being food.  Had the first man and first woman been created mere infants, they would, humanly speaking, have shared the fate of the "babes in the wood."  Had the productions of the vegetable kingdom been created in an analogous state of immaturity, "the horse," to borrow from an old proverb, "would have died when the grass was growing."  But it is contrary to the laws which control human belief, that the all-wise Creator should be a maker of churchyards, full of the broken debris of carcases—of skeletons never purposed to compose the frame work of animals—of watches never intended to do aught than perform the part of stones. [21]

    I confess it grieves me more than if Puseyism were the offender, to see a paper such as the London "Record"—the organ of no inconsiderable section of the Evangelical Episcopacy of England—committing itself to the anti-geologists on this question.  At the meeting of the British Association which held at York in 1844, the puerilities of Dean Cockburn were happily met with and exposed by the Rev. Mr. Sedgwick; and it was on that occasion that the "Record," after pronouncing it no slight satire on this accomplished man of science, that one of the members present should have eulogized his "boldness as a clergyman," adopted the assertion—can it be called belief?—that for aught which appears to the contrary, "the world might have been made yesterday."  Attempts to support the true in religion by the untrue in science, manifest, I am afraid, exceedingly little wisdom.  False witnesses, when engaged in just causes, serve but to injure them; and certainly neither by anti-geologists nor at the Old Bailey should "kissing the book" be made a preliminary to supporting the untrue.  I do not find that the truly great theologians of the day manifest any uneasy jealousy of geological discovery.  Geologists, expatiating in their proper province, have found nothing antagonistic in the massive intellect and iron logic of Dr. Cunningham of Edinburgh, nor in the quick comprehensiveness and elastic vigour of Dr. Candlish.  Chalmers has already given his deliverance on this science—need it be said after what manner?—and in a recent Number of the "North British Review" may be found the decision regarding it of a kindred spirit, the author of the "Natural History of Enthusiasm."  "The reader," says this distinguished man, in adverting to certain influential causes that in the present day widely affect theologic opinion and the devotional feeling, "will know that we here refer to that indirect modification of religious notions and sentiments, that results insensibly from the spread and consolidation of the modern sister sciences, Astronomy and Geology, which, immeasurably enlarging as they do our conceptions of the universe in its two elements of space and time, expel a congeries of narrow errors, heretofore regarded as unquestionable truths, and open before us at once a Chart and a History of the Dominions of Infinite Power and Wisdom.  We shall hasten to exclude the supposition," he continues, "that, in thus mentioning the relation of the modern sciences to Christianity, we are thinking of anything so small and incidental as are the alleged discrepancies between the terms of Biblical history, in certain instances, and the positive evidence of science.  All such discordances, whether real or apparent, will find the proper means of adjustment readily and finally in due time.  We have no anxieties on the subject.  Men 'easily shaken in mind' will rid themselves of the atoms of faith which perhaps they once possessed, by the means of difficulties' such as these.  But it is not from cause, so superficial that serious danger to the faith of a people is to be apprehended."  The passages which follow this very significant one are eminently beautiful and instructive; but enough is here given to indicate the judgment of the writer on the point at issue.

    There is, I doubt not, a day coming, when writers on the evidences of the two Theologies, Natural and Revealed, will be content to borrow largely from the facts of the geologist.  Who among living men may anticipate the thinking of future generations, or indicate in what direction new avenues into the regions of thought shall yet be opened up by the key of unborn genius!  The births of the human intellect, like those which take place in the human family, await their predestined time.  There are, however, two distinct theologic vistas, on the geologic field, that seem to open up of themselves.  Infidelity has toiled hard to obviate the necessity of a First Great Cause, by the fiction of an Infinite Series; and Metaphysic Theology has laboured hard, in turn, to prove the fiction untenable and absurd.  But metaphysicians, though specially assisted in the work by such men as Bentley and Robert Hall, have not been successful.  They have, indeed, shown that an infinite series is, from many points of view, wholly inconceivable, but they have not shown that it is impossible; and its inconceivability merely attaches to it in its character as an infinity contemplated entire.  Exactly the same degree of inconceivability attaches to "the years of the Eternal," if we attempt comprehending the eternity of Deity otherwise than in the progressive mode which Locke so surely demonstrates to be the only possible one: we can but take our stand at some definite period, and realize the possibility of measuring backwards, along the course of His existence for ever and ever, and have at every succeeding stage an undiminished infinitude of work before us.  Metaphysic Theology furnishes no real argument against the "Infinite Series" of the atheist.  But Geology supplies the wanting link, and laughs at the idle fiction of a race of men without beginning.  Infinite series of human creatures!  Why, man is but of yesterday.  The fish enjoyed life during many creations—the bird and reptile during not a few—the marsupial quadruped ever since the times of the Oolite—the sagacious elephant in at least the latter ages of the Tertiary.  But man belongs to the present creation, and to it exclusively.  He came into being late on the Saturday evening.  He has come, as the great and moral instincts of his nature so surely demonstrate, to prepare for the sacred to-morrow.  In the chariot of God's providence, as seen by the prophet in vision, there are wheels within wheels—a complex duality of type and symbol; and there may possibly exist a similar complexity of arrangement—a similar duality of typical plan—in the divine institution of the Sabbath.  Its place, as the seventh day, may bear reference, not only to that special subordinate week in which the existing scene of things was called into being, but also to that great geologic week, within which is comprised the entire scheme of creation.

    The second theological vista into the geologic field opens up a still more striking prospect.  There is a sad oppressiveness in that sense of human littleness which the great truths of astronomy have so direct a tendency to inspire.  Man feels himself lost amid the sublime magnitudes of creation—a mere atom in the midst of infinity; and trembles lest the scheme of revelation should be found too large a manifestation of the Divine care for so tiny an ephemera.  Now, I am much mistaken, if the truths of Geology have not a direct tendency to restore him to his true place.  When engaged some time since in perusing one of the sublimest philosophic poems of modern times—the "Astronomical Discourses" of Dr. Chalmers—there occurred to me a new argument that might be employed against the infidel objection which the work was expressly written to remove.  The infidel points to the planets; and, reasoning from an analogy which, on other than geologic data, the Christian cannot challenge, asks whether it be not more than probable that each of these is, like our own earth, not only a scene of creation, but also a home of rational, accountable creatures.  And then follows the objection, as fully stated by Dr. Chalmers:—"Does not the largeness of that field which astronomy lays open to the view of modern science, throw a suspicion over the truth of the gospel history? and how shall we reconcile the greatness of that wonderful movement which was made in heaven for the redemption of fallen man, with the comparative meanness and obscurity of our species?"  Geology, when the Doctor wrote, was in a state of comparative infancy.  It has since been largely developed, and we have been introduced, in consequence, to the knowledge of some five or six different creations, of which this globe was the successive scene ere the present creation was called into being.  At the time the "Astronomical Discourses" were published, the infidel could base his analogy on his knowledge of but one creation—that to which we ourselves belong; whereas we can now base our analogy on the knowledge of at least six creations, the various productions of which we can handle, examine, and compare.  And how, it may be asked, does this immense extent of basis affect the objection with which Dr. Chalmers has grappled so vigorously?  It annihilates it completely.  You argue—may not the geologist say to the infidel?—that yonder planet, because apparently a scene of creation like our own, is also a home of accountable creatures like ourselves.  But the extended analogy furnished by geologic science is full against you.  Exactly so might it have been argued regarding our own earth during the early creation represented by the Lower Silurian system, and yet the master-existence of that extended period was a crustacean.  Exactly so might it have been argued regarding the earth during the term of the creation represented by the Old Red Sandstone, and yet the master-existence of that not less extended period was a fish.  During the creation represented by the Carboniferous period, with all its rank vegetation and green reflected light, the master existence was a fish still.  During the creation of the Oolite, the master-existence was a reptile, a bird, or a marsupial animal.  During the creation of the Cretaceous period there was no further advance.  During the creation of the Tertiary formations, the master-existence was a mammiferous quadruped.  It was not until the creation to which we ourselves belong was called into existence, that a rational being, born to anticipate a hereafter, was ushered upon the scene.  Suppositions such as yours would have been false in at least five out of six instances; and if in five out of six consecutive creations there existed no accountable agent, what shadow of reason can there be for holding that a different arrangement obtains in five out of six contemporary creations?  Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, may have all their plants and animals; and yet they may be as devoid of rational, accountable creatures, as were the creations of the Silurian, Old Red Sandstone, Carboniferous, Oolitic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary periods.  They may be merely some of the "many mansions" prepared in the "Father's house" for the immortal creature of kingly destiny, made in the Father's own image, to whom this little world forms but the cradle and the nursery.

    But the effect of this extended geologic basis may be neutralized, the infidel may urge, by extending it yet a little further.  Why, he may ask, since we draw our analogies regarding what obtains in the other planets from what obtains in our own—why not conclude that each one of them has also had its geologic eras and revolutions—its Silurian, Old Red Sandstone, Carboniferous, Oolitic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary periods; and that now, contemporary with the creation of which man constitutes the master existence, they have all their fully-matured creations headed by rationality?  Why not carry the analogy thus far?  Simply, it may be unhesitatingly urged in reply, because to carry it so far would be to carry it beyond the legitimate bounds of analogy; and because analogy pursued but a single step beyond the limits of its proper province, is sure always to land the pursuer in error.  Analogy is not identity.  It is safe when it deals with generals; very unsafe when it grapples with particulars.

    Analogy, I repeat, is not identity.  Let me attempt illustrating the fact in its bearing on this question.  We find reason to conclude, as Isaac Taylor well expresses it, that "the planetary stuff is all one and the same."  And we know to a certainty, that human nature, wherever it exists in the present state of things, "is all one and the same" also.  But when reasoning analogically regarding either, we can but calculate on generals, not particulars.  Man being all over the world a constructive, house-making animal, and, withal, fond of ornament, one would be quite safe in arguing analogically, from an acquaintance with Europe alone, that wherever there is a civilized nation, architecture must exist as an art.  But analogy is not identity; and he would be egregiously in error who should conclude that nations, civilized or semi-civilized, such as the Chinese, Hindoos, or ancient Mexicans, possess not only an ornate architecture, but an architecture divided into two great schools; and that the one school has its Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, and the other school its Saxon, Norman, and Florid styles.  In like manner, man's nature being everywhere the same, it may be safely inferred that man will everywhere be an admirer of female beauty.  But analogy is not identity; and it would be a sad mistake to argue, just as one chanced to be resident in Africa or England, that man everywhere admired black skins and flat noses, or a fair complexion and features approximating to the Grecian type.  And instances of a resembling character may be multiplied without end.  Analogy, so sagacious a guide in its own legitimate field, is utterly blind and senseless in the precincts that lie beyond it: it is nicely correct in its generals—perversely erroneous in its particulars; and no sooner does it quit its proper province, the general, for the particular, than there start up around it a multitude of solid objections, sternly to challenge it as a trespasser on grounds not its own.  How infer, we may well ask the infidel—admitting, for the argument's sake, that all the planets come under the law of geologic revolution—how infer that they have all, or any of them save our own earth, arrived at the stage of stability and ripeness essential to a fully developed creation, with a reasoning creature as its master-existence?  Look at the immense mass of Jupiter, and at that mysterious mantle of cloud, barred and streaked in the direction of his trade winds, that for ever conceals his face.  May not that dense robe of cloud be the ever-ascending steam of a globe that, in consequence of its vast bulk, has not sufficiently cooled down to be a scene of life at all?  Even the analogue of our Silurian creation may not yet have begun in Jupiter.  Look, again, at Mercury, where it bathes in a flood of light—enveloped within the sun's halo, like some forlorn smelters sweltering beside his furnace-mouth.  A similar state of things may obtain on the surface of that planet, from a different though not less adequate cause.  But it is unnecessary to deal further with an analogy so palpably overstrained, and whose aggressive place and position in a province not its own so many unanswerable objections start up to elucidate and fix.

    The subject, however, is one which it would be difficult to exhaust.  The Christian has nothing to fear, the infidel nothing to hope, from the great truths of Geology.  It is assuredly not through any enlargement of man's little apprehension of the Infinite and the Eternal that man's faith in the scheme of salvation by a Redeemer need be shaken.  We are incalculably more in danger from one unsubdued passion of our lower nature, even the weakest and the least, than from all that the astronomer has yet discovered in the depths of heaven or the geologist in the bowels of the earth.  If one's heart be right, it is surely a good, not an evil, that one's view should be expanded; and Geology is simply an expansion of view in the direction of the eternity that hath gone by.

    It is not less, but more sublime, to take one's stand on the summit of a lofty mountain, and thence survey the great ocean over many broad regions—over plains, and forests, and undulating tracts of hills, and blue promontories, and far-seen islands—than to look forth on the same vast expanse from the level champaign, a single field's-breadth from the shore.  It can indeed be in part conceived from either point how truly sublime an object that ocean is—how the voyager may sail over it day after day, and yet see no land rise on the dim horizon—how its numberless waves roll, and its great currents ceaselessly flow, and its restless tides ever rise and fall—how the lights of heaven are mirrored on its solitary surface, solitary though the navies of a world be there—and how, where plummet-line never sounded, and where life and light alike cease, it reposes with marble-like density, and more than Egyptian blackness, on the regions of a night on which there dawns no morning.  But the larger view inspires the profounder feeling.  The emotion is less overpowering, the conception less vivid, when from the humble flat we see but a band of water rising, to where the sky rests, over a narrow selvedge of land, than when, far beyond an ample breadth of foreground, and along an extended line of coast, and streaked with promontories and mottled with islands, and then spreading on and away in an ample plain of diluted blue, to the far horizon, we see the great ocean in its true character, wide and vast as human ken can descry.  And such is the sublime prospect presented to the geologist as he turns him towards the shoreless ocean of the upper eternity.  The more theologian views that boundless expanse from a flat, and there lies in front of him but the narrow strip of the existing creation—a green selvedge of a field's-breadth, fretted thick by the tombs of dead men; while to the eye purged and strengthened by the euphrasy of science, the many vast regions of other creations—promontory beyond promontory—island beyond island—stretch out in sublime succession—into that boundless ocean of eternity, whose sunless, irreduceable area their vast extent fails to lessen by a single handbreadth—that awful, inconceivable eternity—God's past lifetime in its relation to God's finite creatures—with relation to the Infinite I AM Himself, the indivisible element of the eternal now.  And there are thoughts which arise in connexion with the ampler prospect, and analogies, its legitimate produce, that have assuredly no tendency to confine man's aspirations, or cramp his cogitative energies, within the narrow precincts of mediocre unbelief.  What mean the peculiar place and standing of our species in the great geologic week?  There are tombs everywhere; each succeeding region, as the eye glances upwards towards the infinite abyss, is roughened with graves; the pages on which the history of the past is written are all tombstones; the inscriptions epitaphs: we read the characters of the departed inhabitants in their sepulchral remains.  And all these unreasoning creatures of the bygone periods—these humbler pieces of workmanship produced early in the week—died, as became their natures, without intelligence or hope.  They perished ignorant of the past, and unanticipative of the future—knowing not of the days that had gone before, nor reeking of the days that were to come after.  But not such the character of the last born of God's creatures—the babe that came into being late on the Saturday evening, and that now whines and murmurs away its time of extreme infancy during the sober hours of preparation for the morrow.  Already have the quick eyes of the child looked abroad upon all the past, and already has it noted why the passing time should be a time of sedulous diligence and expectancy.  The work-day week draws fast to its close, and to-morrow is the Sabbath!



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NOTES.

 
19.    Cowper himself seems to have been thoroughly aware that his long seclusion from the world of letters told in his favour.  "I reckon it among my principal advantages as a composer of verses," we find him saying, in one of his letters to the younger Unwin, "that I have not read an English poet these thirteen years, and but one these twenty years.  Imitation even of the best models is my aversion.  It is servile and mechanical—a trick that has enabled many to usurp the name of author who could not have written at all, if they had not written upon the pattern of some one indeed original.  But when the ear and taste have been much accustomed to the manner of others, it is almost impossible to avoid it; and we imitate in spite of ourselves, just in proportion as we admire."—(Correspondence, 1781.)
 
20.    I owe this passage, in its bearing on the opening narrative in Genesis, to the Rev. Alexander Stewart of Cromarty—for fifteen years my parish minister, and one of decidedly the most original-minded men and most accomplished theologians his country has ever produced.  And he, I may add, like all careful students of Scripture of the higher calibre, can see no irreconcilable difference between Bible truth and the great facts of the geologist.
 
21.    In the pages of no writer is the argument drawn from the miracle of creation—if argument it may be termed—at once so ingeniously asserted and so exquisitely adorned, as in the pages of Chateaubriand.  The passage is comparatively little known in this country, and so I quote it entire from the translation of a friend:—

    "We approach the last objection concerning the modern origin of the globe.  'The earth,' it is said, 'is an old nurse, whose decrepitude everything announces.  Examine its fossils, its marbles, its granites, and you will decipher its innumerable years, marked by circle, by stratum, or by branch, like those of the serpent by his rattles, the horse by his teeth, or the stag by his horns,'

    "This difficulty has been a hundred times solved by this answer—'God should have created, and without question has created, the world, with all the marks of antiquity and completeness which we now see.'

    "Indeed, it is probable that the Author of nature at first planted old forests and young shoots—that animals were produced, some full of days, others adorned with all the graces of infancy.  Oaks, as they pierced the fruitful soil, would bear at once the forsaken nest of the crow and the young posterity of the dove; the caterpillar was chrysalis and butterfly; the insect, fed on the herb, suspended its golden egg amid the forests, or trembled in the wavy air; the bee which had lived but a single morning, reckoned its ambrosia by generations of flowers, we must believe that the sheep was not without its young, the fawn without its little ones, that the thickets hid nightingales, astonished with their own first music, in warming the fleeting hopes of their first loves.  If the world had not been at once young and old, the grand, the serious, the moral, would disappear from nature; for these sentiments belong essentially to the antique.  Every scene would have lost its wonders.  The ruined rock could not have hung over the abyss; the woods, despoiled of every chance appearance, would not have displayed that touching disorder of trees bending over their roots, and of trunks leaning over the courses of the rivers.  Inspired thoughts, venerable sounds, magic voices, the sacred gloom of forests, would vanish with the vaults which served them for retreats; and the solitudes of heaven and earth would remain naked and disenchanted, in losing those columns of oak which unite them.  The very day when the ocean dashed its first waves on the shores, it bathed—let us not doubt—rocks already worn by the breakers, beaches strewn with the wrecks of shells, and headlands which sustained against the assaults of the waters the crumbling shores of earth.  Without this inherent old age, there would have been neither pomp nor majesty in the work of the Eternal; and, what could not possibly be, nature in its innocence would have been less beautiful than it is to-day amid its corruption.  An insipid infancy of plants, animals, and elements, would have crowned a world without poetry.  But God was not so tasteless a designer of the bowers of Eden as infidels pretend.  The man king was himself born thirty years old, in order to accord in his majesty with the ancient grandeur of his new kingdom; and his companion reckoned sixteen springs which she had not lived, that she might harmonize with flowers, birds, innocence, love, and all the youthful part of the creation."

    This is unquestionably fine writing, and it contains a considerable amount of general truth.  But not a particle of the true does it contain in connexion with the one point which the writer sets himself to establish.  There exists, as has been shown, a reason, palpable in the nature of things, why creation, in even its earliest dawn, should not have exhibited an insipid infancy of plants and animals; the animals, otherwise, could not have survived, and thus the great end of creation would have been defeated.  But though there exists an obvious reason for the creation of the full-grown and the mature, there exists no reason whatever for the creation of the ruined and the broken.  It is a very indifferent argument to allege, that the poetic sentiment demanded the production of fractured shells on the shores, or of deserted crows' nests in the trees.  If sentiment demanded the creation of broken shells that had never belonged to molluscous animals, how much more imperatively must it have demanded the creation of broken human skeletons that had never belonged to men! or, if it rendered necessary the creation of deserted crows' nests, how much more urgent the necessity for the creation of deserted palaces and temples, sublime in their solitude, or of desolate cities partially buried in the sand, of the desert!  There is a vast deal more of poetry in the ancient sepulchres of Thebes and of Luxor, with their silent millions of the embalmed dead, than in the comminuted shells of sea-beaches; and in Palmyra and the Pyramids, than in deserted crows' nests.  Nor would the creation of the one class of productions be in any degree less probable, or less according to the principles of human belief, than the other.  And mark the inevitable effects on human conduct!  The man who honestly held with Chateaubriand in this passage, and was consistent in following out to their legitimate consequences the tenets which it embodies, could not sit as a juryman in either a coroner's inquest or a trial for murder, conducted on circumstantial evidence.  If he held that an old crow's nest might have been called into existence as such, how could he avoid holding that an ancient human dwelling might not have been called into existence as such?  If he held that a broken patella or whelk-shell might have been created a broken shell, how could he avoid holding that a human skull, fractured like that of the murdered Clark, might not have been created a broken skull?  To him Paley's watch, picked up on a moor, could not appear as other than merely a curious stone, charged with no evidence, in the peculiarity of its construction, that it had been intended to measure time.  The entire passage is eminently characteristic of that magnificent work of imagination, "The Genius of Christianity," in which Chateaubriand set himself to reconvert to Romanism the infidelity of France.  He over attempts dealing by the reasoning faculty in his countrymen, as the Philistines of old dealt by the Jewish champion: instead of meeting it in the open field and with the legitimate weapons, he sends forth the exquisitely beautiful Delilah of his fancy to cajole and set it asleep, and then bind it as with green withes.

 


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