« הקודםהמשך »
If there are many of these pieces which may seem to carry in them something too youthful and trivial, I entreat my friends to remember, it is a collection of such compositions of this kind from my early years as I have found among my papers: and if I had never published them myself, I fear it would have been done some time or other by persons into whose hands they might have been dispersed ; and then the many mingled blunders, which always arise from frequent transcriptions, would have utterly disgusted the reader, as well as brought a double disgrace upon the writer.
It is impossible for the nicest and most correct pen to avoid the offence of those readers who carry an excess of delicacy always about them, much less do I expect it here: Nor is it within the power of any man who writes, to escape the censure of those whose minds are so full of vile and uncleanly images, that they will impose their own dishonest and impare ideas upon words of the most distant and innocent sound. Every low and malicious wit may turn even sacred language to wicked and abominable purposes, and clap a set of perverse ideas on the purest diction. Where neither a David nor a Paul, neither prophets nor evangelists, are safe, no human writer should expect an exemption ; but the crime is still in him that construes, and not in him that writes. if Oleo finds an ill savour in every place where he comes, I suspect that he has some foul ulcer about him ; and when I hear Flavinus tell me, on a snowy day, that the ground looks yellow, I may venture to pronouuce that Flavinus has the jaundice.
As for the characters which are found here in some of the Essays, I profess solemnly there is not one of the vicious or foolish kind that is designed to represent any particular person. I never thought it proper to have mankind treated in that manner, unless upon some very peculiar and extraordinary occasions, and then I would leave the unpleasing work to other hands. It has been the aim and design of my life, in my hours of leisure, as well as my seasons of business, to do what ser. vice I could to my fellow-creatures without giving offence. I would not willingly create needless pain or uneasiness to the most despicable figure amongst mankind. There are vexations enough distributed among the beings of my species, without my adding to the heap : And yet I confess I have often attempted to bit the sore part in general; but it is with this sincere intent, that the wise and thoughtful, whosoever they are, may feel their disease and be healed. --My readers may be assured therefore, that though the vices and the follies which are here displayed may appear to be as just and sincere a representation as if they were all borrowed from life, yet there are not features enough to describe any person living. When a reflecting glass shews the deformities of a face so plain as to point to the person, he will sooner be tempted to break the glass, than to reform his blemishes : But if I can find any error of my own happily described in some general character, I am then awakened to reform it in silence, without the public notice of the world, and the moral writer attains his noblest end.
My particular friends, to whom I have sent any of these pieces, will generally be pleased to read them in print, and addressed to a feigned name, rather than their own : This I found the safest way to avoid offence on all hands, and therefore I have not mentioned one proper name here, but what was in print before.
In the disposition of these pieces, I pretend to no order, but only aimed to diversify every sheet of the collection with verse and prose. In a nosegay, or a flower-piece, no man expects an exact regularity of situation among the parts that compose it: It is sufficient if the colours and fragrance entertain the senses with a grateful confusion.
I presume nobody will expect in such a book an entrance into deep arguments upon difficult subjects of any kind whatsoever. The design is to please and profit every gentle reader, without giving pain and fatigue to the mind. If any thing here written may induce strangers to take up so good an opinion of the writer as to peruse any of his other works, it is his hearty desire and prayer, that they may find abundant compensation in their own improvements in knowledge, virtue or piety, and may thereby grow fitter for the heavenly world ; to which portant and happy end all our labours here on earth should conspire, and even our amusements, wher" ther we read or write. Amen. --NSWINGTON, MARCH 25, 1734.
RELIQUIÆ JUVENILES :
IN PROSE AND VERSE,
Written chiefly in younger years.
Et jucunda simul & idonea dicere Vita-Hor.
1.-Searching after God. SINCE
find in ourselves that we think and reason, we fear and hope, and by an act of our will we can put this body of ours into various forms of motion, we may boldly pronounce that we are, and that We live ; for we are conscious of active power, and life, and being. But where is the band that made us, and that gave us this life and power? We know that we did not make ourselves in time past, because we cannot promise ourselves a minute of time to come : We feel no power within to preserve ourselves a moment, nor to rescue or withhold this being or this life of ours from the sudden demands of death.
It is evident yet farther, that we did not give ourselves these wondrous properties and powers which we possess; for though we are sensible of many deficiencies and imperfections, yet neither the most perfect nor most defective amongst us can add to our present self the least new power or property.
While we are all surrounded with wants which we cannot supply, and exposed to death, which we cannot avoid, it is a ridiculous pretence to be our own makers.
We conclude then with assurance, that we are the work of some more powerful and superior hand ; but how we came first into being, we know not : The manner of our original existence is hid from us in darkness : We are neither conscious of our creation, nor of the power which created us. He made us, but he hid himself from our eyes and our ears, and all the searches of sense. He has sent us to dwell in this visible world, amidst an endless variety of images, figures and colours, which force thenselves upon our senses; but he for ever disclaims all image, colour and figure himself. He hath set us who are inferior spirits, this task in these regions of mortal flesh, to search and feel after bim, if haply we may find the supreme, the infinite and eternal VOL. IX.
Spirit. We are near a-kin to him, even his own offspring, but we see not our Father's face. ; nor can all the powers of our nature come at the knowledge of him that made us, but by the labourg and inferences of our reason. We toil and work backward to find our Creator : from our present existence we trace out his eternity; and through the chain of a thousaud visible effects, we search out the first, the invisible and almighty cause.
For the most part indeed, we are so amused and ingrossed by the things of sense, that we forget our Maker, and are thoughtless of him that gave us being : or if we seek and follow after bim, it is on a cold scent, and with lazy enquiries ; and when we fancy we perceive something of him, it is at a distance, and in a dusky twilight. We espy some faint beams, some glimmerings of his glory breaking through the works of his hands ; but he himself stands behind the veil, and does not shew himself in open liglit to the sons and daughters of mortality. Happy creatures, if we could make our way so near him as to behold the lovely and adorable beauties of his nature ; if we could place our souls so directly under his kindest influence, as to feel ourselves adore bin in the most profound humility, and love him with most sublime affection! My God, I love and I adore :
Divide, ye clouds and let me see But souls that love would know thee The pow'r that gives me leave to be. Wilt thou for ever hide, and stand
Or art thou all diffus'd abroad Behind the labours of thy hand; Thro' boundless space, a present God, Thy hand unseen sustains the poles Unseen, unheard, yet never near! On which this huge creation rolls: What shall I do to find thee here! The starry arch proclaims thy pow's, Is there not some mysterious art Thy pencil glows in every flow'r; To feel thy presence at my heart? In thousand shapes and colours rise To hear thy whispers soft and kind, Thy painted wonders to our eyes; In holy silence of the mind ? While beasts and birds with lab'ring | Then rest my thoughts; no longer roam throats,
In quest of joy, for henv'n's at home. Teach us a God in thousand notes. The meanest pin in nature's frame, But, oh, thy beams of warmest love! Marks out some letter of thy name. Sure they were made for worlds above : Where sense can reach or fancy rove, How shall my soul her pow'rs extend, From hill to hill, from field to grove, Beyond where tine and nature end, Across the wares, around the sky, To reach those heights, thy best abode; There's not a spot, or deep, or high, And meet they kindest smiles, my God! Where the Creator has not trod,
What shall I do? I wait thy call; And left the footstep of a God.
Pronounce the word, my life, my all.
Oh for a wing to bear me far But are his footsteps all that we, Beyond the golden morning star! Poor grov'ling worins, must know or Fain would I trace th’immortal way,
That leads to courts of endless day, Thou Maker of my vital frame,
Where the Creator stands confess'd, Unveil thy face, pronounce thy name, In his own fairest glorics dress'd. Shine to my sight, and let the ear
Some shining spirit help me rise, Which thou hast form'd, thy language Conje waft a stranger thro' the skies; hear.
Bless'd Jesus, meet me on the road, Where is thy residence ? Oh, why First offspring of th' eternal God, Dost thou avoid my searching eye,
Thy hand shall lead a younger son, My longing sense? Thou great un- Cisthe me with restures yet unknown, known,
And place me near my Father's throne. Say, do the clouds conceal thy throne : )
II.-- Roman Idolatry. It has been an old temptation to mankind, alınost ever since human nature was made, that we desire to find out something just like God. Hence arose a great part of the idolatry of ancient ages, and of almost all the heathen world : Hence the skilful and impious labours of the statuary and the painter : hence all the gaudy glittering images, and all the monstrous shapes that possess and inhabit the temples of the gentiles. They were all designed to represent the shining glories, or the active powers of divinity. The fruitful brain of the poet and the priest have yet farther multiplied the images of godhead, to make it appear like something which we cannot feel, hear, or see. But “ to whom shall we liken God; with wbat likeness will ye compare me? saith the Holy One of Israel ;" Is. xl. 18, 25. He is, and will be for ever, the Great Inimitable, and the Infinite Unknown
And yet this folly has not spent itself all in the heathen world. The Jewish nation was often fond of idols, and they would more than once have the figure of divinity among them; though the wilderness of Sinai, in the days of Moses, and the tents of Dan and Bethel in Jeroboam's reign, can bear witness that it looked much more like a calf than a God. Israel too often fell in with the rest of the nations, and “ changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and to four-footed beasts, and creeping things."
The christian world indeed has much clearer light, and nobler discoveries of the invisible nature of God ; and yet bow has the Roinislı church fallen into gross idolatry in this respect, and with profane attempt they have painted all the blessed Trinity! Whatsoever pretence they inay derive from the human nature of the Son of God, or from the dove-like appearance of the Holy Spirit, to draw the figures of a dove or a man, as a memorial of those sacred condescensions ; yet I know no sufficient warrant they can have to fly in the very face of divine prohibition, and to paint and carve the figure of God the Father like an old man, when he never appeared among men in any bodily forms ; and our Lord Jesus himself says of him, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape ;" Joho v. 37.
But this popish church descends yet to meaner idolatry; and because Chrisi, who is God manifest in the flesh, represents him. self in a metaphor, as the bread of life, to support and nourish our souls, therefore they turn their Saviour into a real piece of bread : They make a God of dough, and they devour and they worship the work of the baker. O sottish religion, and stupid professors! Could we ever have imagined, that such an absurd superstition, that gives the lie grossly to sense and reason at once, should ever find room in tbe belief of man, in spite of all his sen
sible and bis rational potvers ? Could one have imagined, I say, that such a glaring falsehood, that shocks at once our intellectual and our animal faculties, should be lodged and fostered in the bosbm and beart of the sons of Adam But experience here exceeds imagination. What a shameful reproach and scandal it is to human nature, that a faith with so much nonsense in it, slould overspread whole nations, and triumph over the largest part of the knowing and refined world! But every dawning day-light is a witness of these national idolatries, these scandals to mankind and all their intellectual glory. Every sun that sets or rises in some part or other of the earth, beholds multi
tudes of fools and philosophers, ploughmen and princes, ackpowledging the breaden God, bending the knee to the wafercake, and bowing towards the sacred repository of the kneaded idol..
It was the first ambition and iniquity of man to affect a forbidden likeness to God; there is insolence added to the ambition, when we bring down God to our level, and make him a mad, like ourselves : But when we sink the Deity beneath our own nature, wben we wake a mere animal or vegetable of him, and turn him into a bit of senseless paste, the madness of this impiety bust for ever want a naine.
III.-To DORIO. The First Lyric Hour. THERE is a line or two that seem to carry in them I know not what softness and beauty, in the beginning of that ode of Casimire, where he describes his first attempts on the harp, and his commencing a lyric poem.
“ Albis dormiit in rosis,
“ Primæ cui potui vigil
“ Curæ dum vacuus puer
“ Ex illo mibi posteri
“ Florent sole dies, &c." I have tried to imitate these lines, but I cannot form them into English lyrics: I have released myself from the fetters of rhyme, yet I cannot gain 'my own approbation. I have given my thoughts a further loose, and spread the sense abroad, but I fear there is something of the spirit evaporates ; and though the elegant idea perhaps does not entirely escape, yet I could wish for a happier expression of it. Such as it is, receive it Dorio, with your usual candour, correct the deficiencies, and restore the elegance of the Polish poet, to these six or seven lines wherein I have attempted an imitation.