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IGDRASIL; OR, THE TREE OF EXISTENCE: By James Challen, Author of the Cave of Machpelah, and other Poems. Phila., Lindsay & Blakiston, 1859, pp. 170.
The word Igdrasil, or as often spelled, Yggdrasil, signifies literally the bearer of terror, or perhaps of the terrible one, namely Odin, who himself, according to the northern mythology, grew on the Tree Igdrasil. Mr. Challen gives a beautiful passage descriptive of this Tree, on which the poem is founded, from Carlisle at the beginning of his book. The following from the Westminster Review of Oct. 1854, though not so poetical, is in some respects more full. "To the mind of our ancient fathers, the Universe, with its permanence and changefulness, the mutual dependency of all things, and the connection of the nearest with the most distant, suggested itself under the image of a TREE. the tree Yggdrasie; the World-Tree, the tree of Time and of Existence! From the dark, cold regions of subterranean Nilfheim (Mistcountry) where metals grew and rivers gather, where life comes and whither it returns-Yggdrasil, passing through Midgard (Men's yard) the dwellingplace of man, ascends into the blissful realms of Asgard, (God's yard) the seat of the gods; daily they assemble under it to hold council and pronounce judgment. It has three roots, watered by three sacred wells; one of these is Mimir's well, the well of knowledge; Mimir himself is a most ancient giant, older than Odin himself, grown knowing by long experience; what changes has he not seen? Thus the tree Yggdrasil grows, nourished by three wells sustaining and gladdening all life. But, alas, its sides are open to decay; the serpent Neidhogr (gnawing envy, nibbles at its base;) four stags (Daim and Dualinn, death and procrastination, are the names of two of them) feed upon its buds, and a restless squirrel, Ratatoskur (busybody) is ever on the move, causing mischief between the serpent below and the white eagle, which perhees high up amongst the branches, seeing many things: More harm suffers Yggdrasil than is known unto men; the deer feed above, it grows hollow at the trunk, Neidhogr gnaws it below-is the language of the younger Edda. Evidently the majestic Tree, with its depth and height. sheltering all things, is doomed and cannot last forever. But as yet the three Norna, the fates, Urt, Werdandi, Skuld, the Past, the Present, the Future, sit watchful, watering its roots, prolonging its existence."
Such is the interesting myth upon which Mr. Challen has founded his Poem of Igdrasil. We need but reflect earnestly on its deep significance, to see that it furnishes in large and various measure the elements of poetry.
We have read this poem twice, and on the second reading we both understood and liked it better. This is, in our judgment, rather in favor of the Poem than otherwise-a sign that it bears acquaintance. Its divisions are a Prelude, eight Parts, and a conclusion, or Epilogue. The Prelude is a chorus of Silence, Night, Space and Light, preceding all organized existence. The first part is an Angel's song, descriptive of the mystical Tree Igdrasil. The whole of this song is beautiful. The second part represents the passing away of the old mythology in the light of the new Igdrasil," which refers, though somewhat obscurely, to our Saviour. The fall and its consequences on life are also portrayed, closing up with consolations founded on the assurance of immortal life. In the third part we have a picture of the heroic sufferings of the age of martyrdom and the corruptions of the church, the overthrow of evil in her bosom, and God's care for his saints. The fourth part portrays superstitition, its follies, and evil results. The fifth pictures the scrabble for gold. The sixth is a representation of the fading and falling of the leaves and buds of the tree of life, and is, in our opinion, the best part of the Poem:
Though severed and tossed,
Mighty harvests are there,
Be silent, O heart!
But the morn will awake,
And the glad earth will shake
With a rapturous song.
Which the heavess will prolong.
The seventh part pictures love. before and in the marriage state-all glorified in Christ. Here are some fine passages:
The eighth part portrays the decline of life, old age and death; but the dawn also of a life to come. The conclusion is on Life and Immortality.
The poem contains many fine passages; and the reader is often brought to a pause by striking originalities. Here are some specimens:
Like the salt that licks the shore,
Speaking of the stars, Mr. Challen says:
Their liquid light
Was like phospher bright,
Or the eye of an iron steed at night.
In regard to the mechanical execution of the work, we must say, that we know nothing to excel it. It is printed on thick tinted paper, with clean type; and the eye laughs with pleasure as it moves over the page. After reading this beautiful book, we have almost resolved never to patronize authors in small type. Lindsay & Blakiston have a well-established reputation for neat publishing; but in this they have even exceeded themselves. May they be rewarded by large sales.
AFRICAN BIBLE PICTURES; OR, SCRIPTURE SCENES AND CUSTOMS IN AFRICA.
By Rev. M. Officer, Missionary to Africa. Phila., published by the Lutheran Board of Publication, No. 42 North 9th street. 1859, pp. 69.
The plan of this little book is well conceived. The author has two objects in view; first to give information in regard to scenery, society, manners and customs in Africa; and then also from these to draw illustrations of passages of the sacred scriptures. Both these sides of the plan are well carried out in the book. The modest author gives evidence of his earnest piety and good practical sense on every page. A good book for Sabbath Schools.
WHAT Would Pennsylvania be without its Susquehanna? Have you ever made an effort to imagine it? How much of the State would be lost with its noble river. It belongs to the identity of the State. It has a central significance, and a controling influence. It could not be the same State without it. We could as well spare the grand Allegheny mountains as the noble Susquehanna. It is possible that some crude soul may pick up this number of the Guardian, who will say, "We could spare both the mountains and the river." We shall only answer, shame on you! You think, if the mountains were away there might be more good ground for farms, and the bed of the river would afford fine space for potato patches. All true. And then, how nice it would be to be an ox on one of those farms, or a swine to root in one of those potato patches! In that state and case no mountains would be needed to furnish the soul with the sublime, and no graceful winding river to delight with its varied presentations of the beautiful
Sure we are that none of our readers are of that sordid kind who would rather pick potatoes on the bed which this river covers than ejoy the rich treasures of the beautiful which line along its banks and are reflected in its clear waters. As for others who may read our article we have not time to give them a drubbing. "One cannot strike at every fly!" We proceed, then, to deliver some thoughts which we have had in regard to our beautiful mid-Pennsylvania river.
It is a saying trite but true, that "there are as good fish in the sea a ever were caught." This holds true also of the beauties of nature. We hear much of the grand and beautiful scenery of the Hudson. Is it not because that river is navigable, and thus an opportunity of seeing the natural beauties of its shores has been afforded to the public? Moreover, view from the deck of a steamer, it is seen under the best possible advantage. Our noble river, owing to its broad rocky bed, is not navigable. Till a few years past, the only facilities for travel along in
banks were stage-coach and canal boat. Thus it has been to a great extent a world unknown. Those who travelled along it were generally on business bent; and there was now and then one who had the will and the taste to scan its charms, yet the greatest number have had utilitarian rather than æsthetical eyes. It never has had the facilities of travel along its course necessary to draw to it those who have the means, the leisure, and the taste to travel for the express purpose of examining and enjoying the beauties of nature.
The few whom we have met, who had travelled along the Hudson and were also acquainted with the scenery of the Susquehanna, have been very decided in saying that our noble river is not a whit behind the Hudson, in regard to scenery, and the reputation of the Yankee river rests as much upon the fact of its being well known as it does on its own merits. Let any one acquainted with the Susquehanna, imagine for a moment what sights it would present to the eye were it possible to course along its middle on deck of a steamer!
Something of this effect has heretofore been afforded to such as passed along its canal on the deck of a packet boat. Few who have ever passed along it in this way, we venture to say, have ever lost the images of beauty which its scenery has impressed upon their minds and memories. Our own first acquaintance with it, in the mountaineous part of its course, was in the fall of 1843. Never shall we forget the feelings with which we floated in through the Blue Mountain Gap above Harrisburg on a serene afternoon of golden autumn. We felt ourselves chained and eharmed on deck of the boat. Hour after hour we sat and watched, with intense delight, the changes of aspect in the scenery along the banks, "ever charming, ever new," till in the dim twilight, and the still mellower light of the moon and stars, the whole scene gradually became such as we fancy dream-land to be. As the eye became less efficient in receiving distinct impressions,, the imagination only became more active in glorifying each feature of that charming scenery. Since then we have often enjoyed the pleasure of looking upon it, and find that instead of losing any of its charms by familiarity it bears acquaintance, revealing new objects of interest at every review.
Though not very crooked, yet as you pass along its graceful windings, the prominent features of scenery are ever changing their relative positions, and thus a new picture is ever before you. Now, in the distance a beautiful mountain seems to lie direct across the river, while nearer jutting bluffs ard cone-shaped knobs, are relieved against the remote well-defined slopes. Now, a charming valley opens out to its banks, studded with farms, whilst the eye, looking up along it for many miles, sees it guarded on either side by mountains, often broken into various shapes, and forming smaller valleys, which communicate again with others, forming channels for small streams, all of which hurrying and laughing along, bear their tribute of waters into the noble Susquehanna.
The river abounds in islands, covered with trees; and on many of them you see farms, with their houses, barns, orchards, and gardens. These islands, curving to a point at either end, and swelling in the middle, sit with swan-like gracefulness in the waters, and often in groups of different sizes, beside and beyond each other. Round the edges you see those beautiful cone-like trees, which perhaps you have only seen repre
sented in the paintings of the masters. If it should be your good fortune ever to enjoy the rare pleasure of beholding these paradisaic islands in the moon-light hour, being in the sentimental state, you would find yourself thinking of the one among many, and instinctively repeating the lines of Moore:
How sweetly does the moonbeam smile
Were wafted off to seas unknown,
And we might live, love, die alone!
Where the bright eyes of angels only
A paradise so pure and lonely!
It would be worth your while to stop and visit one of these islands; especially one that is not inhabited. Here you find nature in its original condition, untouched by the hands of man, undisturbed by domestic animals. We lately enjoyed the pleasure of a visit to one of these islands. The difference between nature here and elsewhere is far beyond what we could have imagined, or can now describe.
We enter into Nature's holy place,
Her inner chamber, and behold her face
Irrepressed and unmolested the forms of nature here unfold their possibilities in the wildest profusion and the most unbounded freedom. You would not guess that there is any civilization near, were it not that in a bank of sediment, here and there deported by high water, you find radishes, turnips, a stray stack of corn, a pumpkin vine, and other garden vegetables and farm fruits, the seeds of which have come onthe waters. Then how hushed the scene! Only faintly from the distant shore come sounds familiar to an ear used to the busy world's peculiar noises. Even the song of birds and the chirp of insects, dissociated from all the accompaniments of civilized life, seem to afford to the ear a higher and an unusual harmony. Never shall the images left on memory by this visit be erased!
Pleasant were many scenes, but most to me
By hand of art, where Nature sowed herself,
And reaped her crops; whose garment were the clouds,
Whose minstrels, brooks; whose lamps, the moon and stars;
The Susquehanna excels especially in is autumn scenery. Naturalists from foreign lands, traveling in America, have expressed themselves that in general the eastern slope of the Alleghenies, south to the Lehigh, Lebanon, Cumberland and Great Virginia Vallies, furnishes the finest Autumn scenery in the world. Lying on a southern slope to the sun, protected by the mountains on the north and west, and lying in a midway climate between the north and south, the foliage is neither frozen