صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

dreams as higher half-shadows of reality And wherewith will you replace to us those dreams, which bear us away from under the tumult of the waterfall into the still heights of childhood, where the stream of life yet ran silent in its little plain, and flowed towards its abysses, a mirror of the Heaven?

"I was lying once, on a summer-evening, in the sunshine; and I fell asleep. Methought I awoke in the churchyard. The down-rolling wheels of the steeple-clock, which was striking eleven, had awoke me. In the emptied nightheaven I looked for the Sun; for I thought an eclipse was veiling him with the Moon. All the Graves were open, and the iron doors of the charnel-house were swinging to and fro by invisible hands. On the walls, flitted shadows, which proceeded from no one, and other shadows stretched upwards in the pale air. In the open coffins none now lay sleeping, but the children. Over the whole heaven hung, in large folds, a gray sultry mist, which a giant shadow like vapour was drawing down, nearer, closer, and hotter. Above me I heard the distant fall of avalanches; under me the first step of a boundless earthquake. The Church wavered up and down with two interminable Dissonances, which struggled with each other in it; endeavouring in vain to mingle in unison. At times, a gray glimmer hovered along the windows, and under it the lead and iron fell down molten. The net of the mist, and the tottering Earth brought me into that hideous Temple; at the door of which, in two poison-bushes, two glittering Basilisks lay brooding. I passed through unknown Shadows, on whom ancient centuries were impressed.All the Shadows were standing round the empty Altar; and in all, not the heart, but the breast quivered and pulsed. One dead man only, who had just been buried there, still lay on his coffin without quivering breast; and on his smiling countenance, stood a happy dream. But at the entrance of one Living, he awoke, and smiled no longer; he lifted his heavy eyelids, but within was no eye; and in his beating breast there lay, instead of heart, a wound. He held up his hands, and folded them to pray; but the arms lengthened out, and dissolved; and the hands, still folded together, fell away. Above, on the Church-dome stood the dial-plate of Eternity whereon no number appeared, and which was its own index: but a black finger pointed thereon, and the Dead sought to see the time by it.

of Creation hung without a Sun that made it, over the Abyss, and trickled down. And when I looked up to the immeasurable world for the Divine Eye, it glared on me with an empty, black, bottomless Eye-socket; and Eternity lay upon Chaos, eating it and ruminating it. Cry on, ye Dissonances; cry away the Shadows, for He is not!'

"The pale-grown Shadows flitted away, as white vapour which frost has formed with the warm breath disappears; and all was void. O, then came, fearful for the heart, the dead Children who had been awakened in the Churchyard, into the temple, and cast themselves before the high Form on the Altar, and said, 'Jesus, have we no Father?' And he answered, with streaming tears, 'We are all orphans, I and you; we are without Father!' "Then shrieked the Dissonances still louder, the quivering walls of the Temple parted asunder; and the Temple and the Children sank down, and the whole Earth and the Sun sank after it, and the whole Universe sank with its immensity before us; and above, on the summit of immeasurable Nature, stood Christ, and gazed down into the Universe chequered with its thousand Suns, as into the Mine bored out of the Eternal Night, in which the Suns run like mine-lamps, and the Galaxies like silver veins.

"And as he saw the grinding press of Worlds, the torch-dance of celestial wildfires, and the coral-banks of beating hearts; and as he saw how world after world shook off its glimmering souls upon the Sea of Death, as a water-bubble scatters swimming lights on the waves, then majestic as the Highest of the Finite, he raised his eyes towards the Nothingness, and towards the void Immensity, and said: 'Dead, dumb Nothingness! Cold, everlasting Necessity! Frantic Chance! Know ye what this is that lies beneath you? When will ye crush the Universe in pieces, and me? Chance, knowest thou what thou doest, when with thy hurricanes thou walkest through that snow-powder of Stars, and extinguishest Sun after Sun, and that sparkling dew of heavenly light goes out, as thou passest over it? How is each so solitary in this wide grave of the All! I am alone with myself! O Father, O Father! where is thy infinite bosom that I might rest on it? Ah, if each soul is its own father and creator, why can it not be its own destroyer too?

"Is this beside me yet a Man? Unhappy one! Your little life is the sigh of Nature, or only its echo; a convex-mirror throws its rays into that dust-cloud of dead men's ashes, down on the Earth, and thus you, cloud-formed wavering phantoms, arise.-Look down into the Abyss, over which clouds of ashes are moving; mists full of Worlds reek up from the Sea of Death; the Future is a mounting mist, and the Present is a falling one.-Knowest thou thy Earth again?'

"Christ continued: I went through the Worlds, I mounted into the Suns, and flew with the Galaxies through the wastes of Hea- "Here Christ looked down, and his eye filled ven; but there is no God! I descended as far with tears, and he said: 'Ah, I was once there; as Being casts its shadow, and looked down I was still happy then; I had still my Infinite into the Abyss and cried, Father, where art Father, and looked up cheerfully from the thou But I heard only the everlasting storm mountains, into the immeasurable Heaven, which no one guides, and the gleaming Rainbow | and pressed my mangled breast on his healing

"Now sank from aloft a noble, high Form, with a look of uneffaceable sorrow, down to the Altar, and all the Dead cried out, 'Christ! is there no God?' He answered There is none! The whole Shadow of each then shuddered, not the breast alone; and one after the other, all, in this shuddering, shook into pieces.

[ocr errors]

form, and said even in the bitterness of death: | we must here for the present close our lucuFather, take thy son from this bleeding hull, brations on Jean Paul. To delineate, with and lift him to thy heart!-Ah, ye too happy any correctness, the specific features of such inhabitants of Earth, ye still believe in Him. a genius, and of its operations and results in Perhaps even now your Sun is going down, the great variety of provinces where it dwelt and ye kneel amid blossoms, and brightness, and worked, were a long task; for which, perand tears, and lift trustful hands, and cry with haps, some groundwork may have been laid joy-streaming eyes, to the opened Heaven: here, and which, as occasion serves, it will be "Me too thou knowest, Omnipotent, and all my pleasant for us to resume. wounds; and at death thou receivest me, and closest them all!" Unhappy creatures, at death they will not be closed! Ah, when the sorrow-laden lays himself, with galled back, into the Earth, to sleep till a fairer Morning full of Truth, full of Virtue and Joy, he awakens in a stormy Chaos, in the everlasting Midnight, -and there comes no Morning, and no soft healing hand, and no Infinite Father!-Mortal, beside me! if thou still livest, pray to Him; else hast thou lost him for ever!"

Probably enough, our readers, in considering these strange matters, will too often bethink them of that "Episode concerning Paul's Costume;" and conclude that, as in living, so in writing, he was a Mannerist, and man of continual Affectations. We will not quarrel with them on this point; we must not venture among the intricacies it would lead us into. At the same time, we hope, many will agree with us in honouring Richter, such as he was; and "in spite of his hundred real, and his ten thousand seeming faults," discern under this wondrous guise the spirit of a true Poet and Philosopher. A Poet, and among the highest of his time, we must reckon him, though he wrote no verses; a Philosopher, though he promulgated no systems: for on the whole, that "Divine Idea of the World" stood in clear ethereal light before his mind; he recognised the Invisible, even under the mean forms of these days, and with a high, strong, not uninspired heart, strove to represent it in the Visible, and published tidings of it to his fellow men. This one virtue, the foundation of all other virtues, and which a long study more "My soul wept for joy that I could still pray and more clearly reveals to us in Jean Paul, to God; and the joy, and the weeping, and the will cover far greater sins than his were. It faith on him were my prayer. And as I arose, raises him into quite another sphere than that the Sun was glowing deep behind the full pur- of the thousand elegant sweet-singers, and pled corn-ears, and casting meekly the gleam cause-and-effect philosophers, in his own counof its twilight-red on the little Moon, which try, or in this; the million Novel-manufactu was rising in the East without an Aurora; rers, Sketchers, practical Discoursers, and so and between the sky and the earth, a gay forth, not once reckoned in. Such a man we transient air-people was stretching out its can safely recommend to universal study; and short wings and living, as I did, before the In- for those who, in the actual state of matters, finite Father; and from all Nature around me may the most blame him, repeat the old max. flowed peaceful tones as from distant evening-im: "What is extraordinary try to look at bells." with your own eyes." Without commenting on this singular piece,

"And as I fell down, and looked into the sparkling Universe, I saw the upborne Rings of the Giant-Serpent, the Serpent of Eternity, which had coiled itself round the All of Worlds, -and the Rings sank down, and encircled the All doubly; and then it wound itself, innumerable ways, round Nature, and swept the Worlds from their places, and crashing, squeezed the Temple of Immensity together, into the Church of a Burying-ground, and all grew strait, dark, fearful,-and an immeasurably extended Hammer was to strike the last hour of Time, and shiver the Universe asunder,




CLIO was figured by the ancients as the eldest daughter of Memory, and chief of the Muses; which dignity, whether we regard the essential qualities of her art, or its practice and acceptance among men, we shall still find to have been fitly bestowed. History, as it lies at the root of all science, is also the first distinct product of man's spiritual nature; his earliest expression of what can be called Thought. It is a looking both before and after; as, indeed, the coming Time already waits, unseen, yet definitely shaped, predetermined,

and inevitable, in the Time come: and only by the combination of both is the meaning of either completed. The Sibylline Books, though old, are not the oldest. Some nations have prophecy, some have not: but, of all mankind, there is no tribe so rude that it has not attempted History, though several have not arithmetic enough to count Five. History has been written with quipo-threads, with feather pictures, with wampum-belts; still oftener with earth-mounds and monumental stoneheaps, whether as pyramid or cairn; for the


Celt and the Copt, the Red man as well as the White, lives between two eternities, and, warring against Oblivion, he would fain unite himself in clear, conscious relation, as in dim unconscious relation he is already united, with the whole Future and the whole Past.

A talent for History may be said to be born with us, as our chief inheritance. In a certain sense all men are historians. Is not every memory written quite full with Annals, wherein joy and mourning, conquest and loss, manifoldly alternate; and, with or without philosophy, the whole fortunes of one little inward kingdom, and all its politics, foreign and domestic, stand ineffaceably recorded? Our very speech is curiously historical. Most men, you may observe, speak only to narrate; not in imparting what they have thought, which indeed were often a very small matter, but in exhibiting what they have undergone or seen, which is a quite unlimited one, do talkers dilate. Cut us off from Narrative, how would the stream of conversation, even among the wisest, languish into detached handfuls, and among the foolish utterly evaporate! Thus, as we do nothing but enact History, we say little but recite it; nay, rather, in that widest sense, our whole spiritual life is built thereon. For, strictly considered, what is all Knowledge too but recorded Experience, and a product of History; of which, therefore, Reasoning and Belief, no less than Action and Passion, are essential materials?

Under a limited, and the only practicable shape, History proper, that part of History which treats of remarkable action, has, in all modern as well as ancient times, ranked among the highest arts, and perhaps never stood higher than in these times of ours. For whereas, of old, the charm of History lay chiefly in gratifying our common appetite for the wonderful, for the unknown; and her office was but as that of a Minstrel and Story-teller, she has now farther become a Schoolmistress, and professes to instruct in gratifying. Whether, with the stateliness of that venerable character, she may not have taken up something of its austerity and frigidity; whether, in the logical terseness of a Hume or Robertson, the graceful ease and gay pictorial heartiness of a Herodotus or Froissart may not be wanting, is not the question for us here. Enough that all learners, all inquiring minds of every order, are gathered round her footstool, and reverently pondering her lessons, as the true basis of Wisdom. Poetry, Divinity, Politics, Physics, have each their adherents and adversaries; each little guild supporting a defensive and offensive war for its own special domain; while the domain of History is as a Free Emporium, where all these belligerents peaceably meet and furnish themselves; and Sentimentalist and Utilitarian, Skeptic and Theologian, with one voice advise us: Examine History, for it is "Philosophy teaching by Experience." Far be it from us to disparage such teaching, the very attempt at which must be precious. Neither shall we too rigidly inquire, how much it has hitherto profited? Whether most of what little practical wisdom men have, has come from study of professed History, or from

other less boasted sources, whereby, as matters now stand, a Marlborough may become great in the world's business, with no History save what he derives from Shakspeare's Plays? Nay, whether in that same teaching by Experience, historical Philosophy has yet properly deciphered the first element of all science in this kind? What is the aim and significance of that wondrous changeful life it investigates and paints? Whence the course of man's destinies in this Earth originated, and whither they are tending? Or, indeed, if they have any course and tendency, are really guided forward by an unseen mysterious Wisdom, or only circle in blind mazes without recognisable guidance? Which questions, altogether fundamental, one might think, in any Philosophy of History, have, since the era when Monkish Annalists were wont to answer them by the long-ago extinguished light of their Missal and Breviary, been by most philosophi cal Historians only glanced at dubiously, and from afar; by many, not so much as glanced at. The truth is, two difficulties, never wholly surmountable, lie in the way. Before philosophy can teach by Experience, the Philosophy has to be in readiness, the Experience must be gathered and intelligibly recorded. Now, overlooking the former consideration, and with regard only to the latter, let any one who has examined the current of human affairs-and how intricate, perplexed, unfathomable, even when seen into with our own eyes, are their thousand-fold, blending movements-say whether the true representing of it is easy or impossible. Social Life is the aggregate of all the individual men's Lives who constitute society; History is the essence of innumerable Biographies. But if one Biography, nay, our own Biography, study and recapitulate it as we may, remains in so many points unintelligible to us, how much more must these million, the very facts of which, to say nothing of the purport of them, we know not, and cannot know!

Neither will it adequately avail us to assert that the general inward condition of Life is the same in all ages; and that only the re markable deviations from the common endowment, and common lot, and the more important variations which the outward figure of Life has from time to time undergone, deserve memory and record. The inward condition of life, it may rather be affirmed, the conscious or half-conscious aim of mankind, so far as men are not mere digesting machines, is the same in no two ages; neither are the more important outward variations easy to fix on, or always well capable of representation. Which was the greater innovator, which was the more important personage in man's history, he who first led armies over the Alps, and gained the victories of Cannæ and Thra symene; or the nameless boor who first hammered out for himself an iron spade? When the oak tree is felled, the whole forest echoes with it; but a hundred acorns are planted silently by some unnoticed breeze. Battles and wartumults, which for the time din every ear, and with joy or terror intoxicate every heart, pass away like tavern-brawls; and, except some

few Marathons and Morgartens, are remem- tion, but only some more or less plausible bered by accident, not by desert. Laws them-scheme and theory of the Transaction, or the selves, political Constitutions, are not our Life, harmonized result of many such schemes, but only the house wherein our life is led: each varying from the other, and all varying nay, they are but the bare walls of the house; from Truth, that we can ever hope to behold. all whose essential furniture, the inventions and traditions, and daily habits that regulate and support our existence, are the work not of Dracos and Hampdens, but of Phoenician mariners, of Italian masons and Saxon metallurgists, of philosophers, alchemists, prophets, and all the long forgotten train of artists and artisans; who from the first have been jointly teaching us how to think and how to act, how to rule over spiritual and over physical Nature. Well may we say that of our History the more important part is lost without recovery, and, as thanksgivings were once wont to be offered for unrecognised mercies,-look with reverence into the dark untenanted places of the past, where, in formless oblivion, our chief benefactors, with all their sedulous endeavours, but not with the fruit of these, lie entombed.

Nay, were our faculty of insight into passing things never so complete, there is still a fatal discrepancy between our manner of observing these, and their manner of occurring. The most gifted man can observe, still more can record, only the series of his own impressions: his observation, therefore, to say nothing of its other imperfections, must be successive, while the things done were often simultaneous; the things done were not a series, but a group. It is not in acted, as it is in written History: actual events are nowise so simply related to each other as parent and offspring are; every single event is the offspring not of one, but of all other events prior or contemporaneous, and will in its turn combine with all others to give birth to new: it is an ever-living, everworking Chaos of Being, wherein shape after shape bodies itself forth from innumerable elements. And this Chaos, boundless as the habitation and duration of man, unfathomable as the soul and destiny of man, is what the historian will depict, and scientifically gauge, we may say, by threading it with single lines of a few ells in length! For as all Action is, by its nature, to be figured as extended in breadth, and in depth, as well as in length; that is to say, is based on Passion and Mystery, if we investigate its origin; and spreads abroad on all hands, modifying and modified; as well as advances towards completion, so,— all Narrative is, by its nature, of only one dimension; only travels forward towards one, or towards successive points: Narrative is lincar, Action is solid. Alas, for our "chains," or chainlets, of "causes and effects," which we so assiduously track through certain hand

So imperfect is that same Experience, by which Philosophy is to teach. Nay, even with regard to those occurrences that do stand recorded, that, at their origin, have seemed worthy of record, and the summary of which constitutes what we now call History, is not our understanding of them altogether incomplete; it is even possible to represent them as they were? The old story of Sir Walter Raleigh's looking from his prison window, on some street tumult, which afterwards three witnesses reported in three different ways, himself differing from them all, is still a true lesson for us. Consider how it is that historical documents and records originate; even honest records, where the reporters were unbiassed by personal regard; a case which, where nothing more were wanted, must ever be among the rarest. The real leading fea-breadths of years and square miles, when the tures of an historical transaction, those move- whole is a broad, deep, Immensity, and each ments that essentially characterize it, and atom is "chained" and complected with all! alone deserve to be recorded, are nowise the Truly, if History is Philosophy teaching by foremost to be noted. At first, among the Experience, the writer fitted to compose hisvarious witnesses, who are also parties inte- tory is hitherto an unknown man. The Experested, there is only vague wonder, and fear or rience itself would require All-knowledge to hope, and the noise of Rumour's thousand record it, were the All-wisdom needful for tongues; till, after a season, the conflict of such Philosophy as would interpret it, to be testimonies has subsided into some general had for asking. Better were it that mere issue; and then it is settled, by a majority of earthly Historians should lower such pretenvotes, that such and such a "Crossing of the sions, more suitable for Omniscience than for Rubicon," an "Impeachment of Stafford," a human science; and aiming only at some pic"Convocation of the Notables," are epochs ture of the things acted, which picture itself in the world's history, cardinal points on will at best be a poor approximation, leave which grand world-revolutions have hinged. the inscrutable purport of them an acknowSuppose, however, that the majority of votes ledged secret; or, at most, in reverent Faith, was all wrong; that the real cardinal points far different from that teaching of Philosophy, lay far deeper, and had been passed over un- pause over the mysterious vestiges of Him, noticed, because no Seer, but only mere On- whose path is in the great deep of Time, whom lookers, chanced to be there! Our clock History indeed reveals, but only all History, strikes when there is a change from hour to and in Eternity will clearly reveal. hour; but no hammer in the Horologe of Time peals through the universe, when there is a change from Era to Era. Men understand not what is among their hands: as calmness is the characteristic of strength, so the weightiest causes may be the most silent.

Such considerations truly were of small profit, did they, instead of teaching us vigilance and reverent humility in our inquiries into History, abate our esteem for them, or dis courage us from unweariedly prosecuting them, Let us search more and more into the Past; ie!

It is, in no case, the real historical Transac-all men explore it as the true fountain of

knowledge; by whose light alone, consciously or unconsciously employed, can the Present and the Future be interpreted or guessed at. For though the whole meaning lies far beyond our ken; yet in that complex Manuscript, covered over with formless, inextricably entangled, unknown characters,-nay, which is a Palympsest, and had once prophetic writing, still dimly legible there,-some letters, some words, may be deciphered; and if no complete Philosophy, here and there an intelligible precept, available in practice, be gathered; well understanding, in the mean while, that it is only a little portion we have deciphered, that much still remains to be interpreted; that history is a real prophetic Manuscript, and can be fully interpreted by no man.

from which, if taken for the real Book, more error than insight is to be derived.

Doubtless, also, it is with a growing feeling of the infinite nature of history, that in these times, the old principle, Division of Labour, has been so widely applied to it. The political Historian, once almost the sole cultivator of History, has now found various associates, who strive to elucidate other phases of human Life; of which, as hinted above, the political conditions it is passed under, are but one; and though the primary, perhaps not the most important, of the many outward arrangements. Of this historian himself, moreover, in his own special department, new and higher things are now beginning to be expected. From of old, it was too often to be reproachfully observed of him, that he dwelt with disproportionate fondness in Senate-houses, in Battle-fields, nay, even in King's Antechambers; forgetting, that far away from such scenes, the mighty tide of Thought, and Action, was still rolling on its wondrous course, in gloom and brightness: and in its thousand remote valleys, a whole world of Existence, with or without an earthly sun of Happiness to warm it, with or without a heavenly sun of Holiness to purify and sanctify it, was blossoming and fading, whether the "famous victory" were won or lost. The time seems coming when much of this must be amended; and he who sees no world but that of courts and camps; and writes only how soldiers were drilled and shot, and how this ministerial conjurer out-conjured that other, and then guided, or at least held, something which he called the rudder of government, but which was rather the spigot of Taxation, wherewith, in place of steering, he could tap, and the more cunningly the nearer the lees,-will pass for a more or less instructive Gazetteer, but will no longer be called an His

But the Artist in History may be distinguished from the Artisan in History; for here, as in all other provinces, there are Artists and Artisans; men who labour mechanically in a department, without eye for the Whole, not feeling that there is a Whole; and men who inform and ennoble the humblest department with an Idea of the Whole, and habitually know that only in the Whole is the Partial to be truly discerned. The proceedings, and the duties of these two, in regard to History, must be altogether different. Not, indeed, that each has not a real worth, in his several degree. The simple Husbandman can till his field, and by knowledge he has gained of its soil, sow it with the fit grain, though the deep rocks and central fires are unknown to him: his little crop hangs under and over the firmament of stars, and sails through whole untracked celestial spaces, between Aries and Libra; nevertheless, it ripens for him in due season, and he gathers it safe into his barn. As a husbandman he is blameless in disregarding those higher wonders; but as a Thinker, and faithful inquirer into nature, he were wrong. So, like-torian. wise, is it with the Historian, who examines some special aspect of history, and from this or that combination of circumstances, political, moral, economical, and the issues it has led to, infers that such and such properties belong to human society, and that the like circumstance will produce the like issues; which inference, if other trials confirm it, must be held true and practically valuable. He is wrong only, and an artisan, when he fancies that these properties, discovered or discoverable, exhaust the matter, and sees not at every step that it is inexhaustible.

However, that class of cause-and-effect speculators, with whom no wonder would remain wonderful, but all things in Heaven and Earth must be "computed and accounted for;" and even the Unknown, the Infinite, in man's life, had, under the words Enthusiasm, Superstition, Spirit of the Ag, and so forth, obtained, as it were, an algebraical symbol, and given value, have now well-nigh played their part in European culture; and may be considered, as in most countries, even in England itself, where they linger the latest, verging towards extinction. He who reads the inscrutable Book of Nature, as if it were a Merchant's Ledger, is justly suspected of having never seen that Book, but only some school Synopsis thereof;

However, the Political Historian, were his work performed with all conceivable perfection, can accomplish but a part, and still leaves room for numerous fellow-labourers. Foremost among these comes the Ecclesiastical Historian; endeavouring with catholic or sectarian view, to trace the progress of the Church, of that portion of the social establishment, which respects our religious condition, as the other portion does our civil, or rather, in the long run, our economical condition. Rightly conducted, this department were undoubtedly the more important of the two; inasmuch as it concerns us more to understand how man's moral well-being had been and might be promoted, than to understand in the like sort his physical well-being; which latter is ultimately the aim of all political arrangements. For the physically happiest is simply the safest, the strongest; and in all conditions of Government, Power (whether of wealth as in these days, or of arms and adherents as in old days) is the only outward emblem and purchase-money of Good. True Good, however, unless we reckon Pleasure synonymous with it, is said to be rarely, or rather never, offered for sale in the market where that even passes current. So that, for man's true advantage, not the outward condition of his life, but the inward and

« السابقةمتابعة »