Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

sentations, from the nature of the case, be not pardonable, as supposing the reader will make the proper allowances and reservations, I will not undertake positively to say; yet I would suggest that every thing within the skill of the poet to counteract the effect should be brought forward. It is due to Milton to observe, that he has done much in the latter way, although, in one species of representation, his design is not fully answered. Satan is made at times to defend himself with such amazing art, and to offer such plausible reasons for his conduct, without an adequate counterbalancing representation, that the depraved mind of man, which takes at least as much pains to find excuses for its wickedness as to admit the force of considerations against it, would easily take sides with the foe of God and man. One would think that the following words were put into the mouth of that evil agent almost on purpose to have them appear, as every sneer does, irrefutable. Satan, after his success in circumventing man, says to his comrades ;

"Him by fraud I have seduc'd From his Creator; and (the more to in

crease

Your wonder) with an apple! He thereat
Offended (worth your laughter!) hath

giv'n up
Both his beloved man, and all his world,
To sin, and death, a prey; and so to us."

The cause of scepticism, it may be feared, is often aided by such perhaps inadvertent touches.

4. Our moral associations and feelings must be considered as in some danger of being injured, from the grossness and materialism which enter into some of the poet's representations of spiritual subjects. It is to be remarked that the Scriptures, in aid of our weak conceptions, sometimes employ on these subjects a language similar to that used by the poet. But representations of this nature are there mostly made in the way of comparison;

and besides are very concise. They are merely slight touches, or circumstantial strokes, and do not form the ground-work of the picture. In Paradise Lost the description is extended. The comparison constitutes the entire representation. The scene, in every part, is invested with the attributes of materiality. The pure spiritual world of the Bible becomes the palpable world of our senses, though more delicately touched. Hence we seem to be conveyed into a sort of unaccustomed region of mere fancied existence. This is so much the case, that the temporary suspicion of Andrew Marvell, expressed in the following lines, is not without foundation.

"Heaven, hell, earth, chaos, all! the

argument

Held me awhile misdoubting his intent; That he would ruin (for I saw him strong)

The sacred truths, to fable and old:

song!"

Who but must feel, that the sacred truths of the Bible worked up into a story, told in the language, and after the manner, of men, with tions, as to scenery, plot, incidents, the necessary extended representacharacters, speeches, and the like, of fable and old song, especially would, more or less, wear the garb when the representations of certain high and mysterious subjects must be looked upon not only as inadequate in themselves, but as unlike to the reality? These subjects, or rather the truths connected with them, would, in this case, appear with an unlikelihood and a weakness which they by no means inherently possess. The mighty results, particularly concerning man's redemption, must have been connected with some previous supernatural agency: but what created intellect can suitably conceive and trace its various steps? In what manner are we to imagine angels as holding intercourse with one another? What is the form of communication between them and the Deity? And what

is the process by which the Three Persons in the Godhead, consulting from eternity, take their appropriate parts in the works of creation and redemption? We almost shudder at the temerity of any mortal, who, entering into this pure spiritual world, shall mark it with earthly stains, or present it to us in the darkness and materi. ality of his own native abode. The poet here would be too apt to mix heaven with earth, spirit with body, God with nature, and to bring every thing down to the form and measure of created objects. That power of the mind by which he "gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name," would be rather incautiously and perversely employed, in giving to eternal realities the evanescent form of illusion.

Whatever refinement the subject receives from the inimitable touches of Milton's pencil, yet it seems to be something short of spirit, that constitutes in some portions, the character of his spiritual world. Perhaps this best agrees with the poet's own doctrine concerning body and spirit, as laid down in the fifth book.

"One first matter all, Endued with various forms, various de

[blocks in formation]

stances, the representation is carried. How far the poet here offends, it is left to the reader to decide. To some minds it would undoubtedly be desirable, that the taint and corruption of earth should, as far as possible, be removed from these pure and spiritual beings. In the attempt to describe the Supreme Being, and to rehearse dialogues between the Father and Son, the poet has been considered as failing in poetical effect. If from this we deduct a little on the score of the debasing, influence of unnecessary earthly associations; and if we make the same deduction, on the same account, in regard to certain representations of heaven and the state of things there, of the employment and circumstances of angels, and of a few other things occasionally appearing in the work; nothing, it is believed, would be lost as to desirable moral influence. I would not however proscribe the following noble description of the Deity, since it so nearly imitates the modesty of Scripture.

"Fountain of light! thyself invisible Amidst the glorious brightness where thou sitt'st,

Thron'd inaccessible, but when thou shad'st

The full blaze of thy beams, and through

a cloud

Drawn round about thee like a radiant

Dark with excessive bright thy skirts shrine,

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Particular miscellaneous criticism, especially on the excellencies of Paradise Lost, might be indefinitely extended. The remarks hazarded in this essay have been reduced to general heads, both as precision and advancement towards an object were in view. Less therefore has perhaps been illustrated, in regard to single perfections and blemishes, than might have been illustrated, had the attempt been made in a more desultory and unfettered manner. But whatever are the valuable moral qualities of the poem, and whatever are its defects as to religious influence, they might have been more fully developed if there were any uncertainty whether the attentive reader would fail either to perceive, or to feel them. As enough has been said to answer the purpose in view, if not to task the indulgence of the reader, it is observed, in conclusion, that although Paradise Lost as a religious poem has faults which we are by no means required to pass over without notice; yet its general character is that of excellence, and, I may say, of evangelical excellence. Its defects, as will have been seen, are far from being of such a general or radical nature, as wholly to neutralize its valuable qualities-an effect which takes place in many books-although there is a degree of unfavourable operation. The most constant and the most powerful impressions which Paradise Lost is calculated to make, are however evidently in aid of true religion. We sometimes meet with a representation which seems exceptionable, or an influence which we may deem it our duty to repress; but we find more that tends to manly seriousness, to sublime devotion, and to strict practical piety.

REMARKS DURING A JOURNEY
THROUGH NORTH AMERICA.

(Continued from p. 153.)

THE present is a most favourable season for investing money in this country; and a judicious capitalist, who would take time to look about him, and watch opportunities, might lay out his money to great advantage. The depreciation of real estate throughout the Union is perfectly astonishing, and sales are occasionally forced at sacrifices almost incredible. You will have seen in the American newspapers, the various plans before Congress and the recommendation in the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury, for remitting part of the price, and extending the time of payment, to those purchasers of the public lands whose instalments are not yet paid up. This proposed relief will probably prevent the Alabama settlers from executing the intentions, which in my letters from thence I mentioned having been so generally expressed to me, of relinquishing their purchases, and forfeiting the instalments already paid.

In Richmond, where the disastrous results of the Bank mania have been pre-eminently conspicuous, and where real estate has fallen 50 to 75 per cent. there have been several instances in which property having been sold payable in three or four instalments, has, after the payment of all the previous instalments, been re-transferred to the seller to discharge the last. It is estimated that more than one half of the city and its immediate vicinity is mortgaged to the banks.

In Baltimore, about one third is similarly situated, and property there is only prevented from exhibiting a depreciation nearly equal to that of Richmond, by the policy adopted by the banks of holding it, in the expectation that its gradual advance will pay them a better interest for their money than could be obtained from investments or discounts, if they were to force a

sale. A house and store were pointed out to me in Baltimore, in the principal commercial street, which about 1816 were let for 2000 dollars per annum, but are now let at only 600. This is an extreme case; but taking the city generally, it would probably be correct to estimate the decline in rents at from 40 to 50 per cent. Real estate has fallen from 33 to 50 per cent; the interruption to the intercourse between the United States and the West Indies, having raised the calamities of this town to a level with the general distress-a distress in which it might otherwise have participated less deeply than some of its neighbours, from having been visited less severely with those worse than Egyptian plagues, bank discounts of accommodation notes, renewable ad infinitum.

Labour here, as in all Slave States, falls almost exclusively on the slaves; and the porterage of the town, the loading and discharging of ships, &c. are performed by those who are either hired out by their masters by the week, or allowed, on paying their masters a certain sum, generally about two dollars per week, to find work for themselves and retain the surplus.

Allowing for the different effects of a system of this kind and a system of free labour, and fully aware how slowly, though certain ly, the price of labour follows the price of provisions, I was surprized to find that while the latter has fallen two thirds, the former has declined less than a fourth. This is owing partly to the circumstance of the owners of the Coloured labourers being able to hold out on any particular occasion against an attempt to reduce their wages; an attempt which can seldom be effectually resisted by persons whose daily labour must obtain their daily bread; partly to conscientious scruples, which deter many holders of hereditary or domestic slaves from trafficking in human flesh, and others from buying their fellowCHRIST, OBSERY, No. 245.

creatures to hire them out like cattle; but principally to such an irregularity of demand as renders it impossible to adjust the supply to its casual fluctuations, and induces a necessity of including in the remuneration for the hours employed some compensation for those lost in waiting for employment.

Slaves, who in Norfolk are now worth on an average from 300 to 400 dollars each, receive from the merchant who engages their services, seventy-five cents per day, and their food. These are enormous wages where turkeys, weighing five or six pounds, will sell for 1s. 9d. sterling, and wild ducks at 2s. per couple; and where flour is four dollars per barrel, Indian corn, their favourite food, forty cents per bushel, and beef and mutton five to' eight cents per pound. As sailors, the masters can obtain for their slaves ten dollars per month: and there are many families in Norfolk, especially many widows and orphans, whose property consists entirely of hereditary slaves whom they hire out as the only means of obtaining an income.

New York, Dec. 24, 1820. I wrote to you two long letters from Norfolk, which have not yet found a conveyance; and on the 22d I addressed to your care a long letter to

with an account of our visit to Norfolk and return to Baltimore. We left that city on the 18th, at three o'clock in the morning, in an open stage waggon, having decided to return to Philadelphia through York and Lancaster, instead of the old steamboat route, as it would occupy no more time. The morning was bitterly cold; and as the roads were a sheet of ice, and our horses unprepared, we advanced only three miles an hour, for several hours, when we arrived at a German's, where we procured breakfast and fresh horses.

The face of the country, the thirty miles we continued in Maryland, presents, like almost every 2 P

other part of that State which I have seen, a beautiful specimen of hill and dale, of which from one third to one-half is woodland, young vigorous trees of second growth, so nearly of the same size, and so regularly disposed, that they perpetually suggest the idea that they have been planted by the hand of man. I know no part of England which would give you a precise idea of Maryland hill and dale. Sometimes the scenery reminded me of the forest lands near Loughborough; but the undulations are bolder, and succeed each other in interesting variety, as far as the horizon: sometimes of Derbyshire-Ashbourne for instancebut the hills are less frequently broken by abrupt and precipitous cliffs, or the dales contracted into deep romantic valleys. About thirty miles from Baltimore, we entered York county, in the State of Pennsylvania. For the first few miles the houses were of hewn log and plaster, like those of Maryland; afterwards of stone and brick. As we advanced, the face of the country, still beautiful, principally hill and dale, began to exhibit a much higher state of cultivation, and the houses assumed a more comfortable and prosperous appearance. We now obtained a sight of the fine barns for which the Germans are celebrated, and of which we had heard much. The land was worth from 10 to 50 dollars per acre, in farms of from fifty to two hundred acres, occupied almost exclusively by German proprietors. The instances of land being rented were rare; and in those cases the landlord usually received half the gross produce for rent. I was told, (and although I do not vouch for the entire accuracy of all the "on dits" I send you on subjects like this, I seldom give them unless I have had an opportunity of cross examination,) that the less opulent farmers in this neighbourhood expend scarcely any money in articles of consump

tion, either vesting their property in land or hoarding it in a safe place, They are stated to make their own cotton and woollen clothes, their stockings, shirts, and sheetings, exchanging wool with the hatter for hats, leather with the tanner for shoes, substituting rye for coffee, (now partially employed even in some of the cities, where it is sold in the shops,) using no tea, aud very little sugar, which little they procure in exchange for the produce of their fine orchards. The best informed of them teach their children in the evenings; and sometimes they agree to board a schoolmaster. at their houses gratuitously, and in succession, thus enabling him to reduce his terms to a mere trifle. They are said to be sociable, and very sensible of the comfort and independence of their condition.

Our driver on this part of the road had emigrated from Maccles field, in Cheshire, where he drove a chaise, and knew many of our friends there. For some time he drove the Lancaster mail from Preston. He came out, he said, in his "uniformal dress of an English coachman," with a broad hat, long great coat, woollen cord breeches, and jockey boots; ail which he has discarded for uncharacteristic, shabby, yet pretending, blue coat, black waistcoat, and blue pantaloons. He procured employment in two days; and his gains have averaged for the last two years 26 dollars per month, with part of his board. I told him that I hoped, when he made his bargain, he did not count upon any money from the passengers: he said, "Oh no!

[ocr errors]

Please to remember the coachman' would not do here; it would be degrading to ask; although genteel people sometimes press me to take something, which I do not refuse." After this hint, I did not hesitate to follow the natural impulse I felt to give an old Lancaster driver some refreshment. As he seemed a very decent, sensible man, I asked him various ques

« ZurückWeiter »