Abbildungen der Seite


Disturbs the solemn silence of the pile:--
One feeling holds all bosoms,-youth and age ;-
Youth—in whose heart hope gazed exultingly
Upon the future, with a prophet's eye;
Age-sick of earth, whose blood had ceased to throb
At man's delights, or man's calamities ;-
The same strong feeling holds all bosoms here !"-pp. 12, 13.

“Spirit of the Departed, smile on him!
He sleeps,—and thou art with him in his dreams! -
Fair, as when first he gazed upon thy charms ;-
Kind, as when first his tale of love was breathed ;-
And dear, as when, with joy that fathers feel,
He blessed the mother of his unborn child !
His dream is of the days of early love,-
And of his lovely bride :-of her, whose soul
Was lofty, and claimed kindred with the great ;
Whose heart was gentle ; whose strong inind was fixed
On thoughts beseeming her high destiny;
Whose spirit held communion bright with heaven;
And thus along the walks of daily life
Shed such a mild and tender light, as clouds,
That float around the sun to catch his rays,
Diffuse o'er earth, in evening's loveliest hues.

Such is his happy dream.”—pp. 17, 18. We earnestly intreat the heads of the University not to encourage, and the young poets not to adopt, the fat and prosaic expressions, which some of our living poets have introduced as instances of simplicity. We allude to such lines as these :

Weep, for the wrath of God is over us !”

Yes, there are spirits, whom the cold heart knows not !”
“I see the lovely objects of my vision
Swinging before me, dully, dizzily!”
“Peace dwelleth in the silence of the grave.”

“ Oh God, in trouble we do call on thee!”
This is not the style of Milton, in the first books of Paradise
Lost, of Thomson, of Akenside, of Glover, and other models of
English blank verse.



No. IV. (Continued from No. xxxiv. p. 3 10.] To animadvert upon involuntary error, or bring before the public mistakes, which are necessarily attended by no bad effects sufficiently important to attract the public notice, must ever be regarded as an action not only unnecessary, but proceeding from a malignant disposition. The case is far otherwise when those in error will not be at the pains to obtain information, and yet affect to lead public opinion, and promulgate dogmas destructive of science, and subversive of that learning which has for its object the discovery of truth.

It becomes a duty to expose error when thus rendered mischievous in its consequences; and the delicacy, that would screen the promulgators of false doctrines from public cenșure, is in itself highly reprehensible. In the preceding essays it has been the endeavour of the writer to show, that the ancient philosophy is not sufficiently prized, because those who undertake to guide public opinion, and instruct the rising generation, have not taken the pains necessary to become acquainted with its doctrines, por even its first principles; and Mr. Dugald Stuart actually apologises for Dr. Reid, who undertook to analyse and explain what he confesses he did not understand, by saying, that “he could not be expected to take pains in learning what he despised.How came the Doctor to despise what he did not understand ? What would he have said to those ignorant of the truths which it was the duty of his life to preach, had they told him, “ we will take no pains to understand your doctrine because we despise it?” If the ignorant may urge their contempt of what is to them unknown. as a reason for refusing to study or receive instruction, their ignorance must be lasting, and ages of darkness must revolve in long succession : we must arrive at a state of barbarism scarcely elevated above that of the beasts which perish, while many of our natural faculties and instincts remain inferior to theirs. Should mankind ever arrive at this state of ultimate degradation, the memory of better ages, and the science of men not undeserving of the epithet of god-like, will be lost; as none are so completely satisfied with their own acquirements as the most profoundly ignorant; for the man must have made some progress in knowledge, who is sensible of his defects, and that he really stands in need of farther information.

The Irish farmer mentioned by Mr. Burke, who wished his son to be a scholar, but upon looking at a Greek book, exclaimed, that he would not have his boy bothered with ugly-looking pot-hooks with



out any meaning in them at all, acted just as consistently as those who condenin the logic and philosophy of antiquity because at tirst they do not comprehend that, of which we can only acquire the knowledge by years of patient study. If every one of the arts of hfe must be studied and practised assiduously by those who would acquire and excel in these arts, how shall we expect to become masters of a science, of all others the most sublime, without using the common means by which in this state of existence we must acquire knowledge? It is true that mankind may devote themselves to the pursuit of unworthy objects, but the vanity of the pursuit becomes apparent during its progress, and most apparent to those who have proceeded the farthest; but there is not one instance upon record to show that the study of ancient philosophy has a tendency to lessen its authority in the eyes of the student, or to make it appear in any other light, than as what it really is, the most elevated of all the objects of human contemplation.

And it deserves notice, that those who affect to despise this philosophy, as at first view obscure, trifling, and unintelligible to them, yet admit that it is dangerous to devote much time to the study; for, say they, men are but too apt to become enthusiasts in scholastic learning, and so much attached to what is ancient, as to regard with comparative contempt' what is modern. Thus Mr. Dugald Stuart refers his readers to the example of the most learned Scotchman of the last century, Monboddo, and warns them against a close study of ancient philosophy, lest, like him, they should come to prefer the models of antiquity to the productions and science of the present day. He admits that this accomplished scholar was a man of good natural parts, intelligent, and devoted to study; and as it is granted that he possessed all these requisites for the investigation of truth and acquisition of knowledge, how shall we account for the fact, that his acquaintance with ancient philosophy rendered him less competent to judge of its real merits ; so that at length, after many years of patient study, he declared himself the enthusiastic admirer of what his contemporaries, who would not take the trouble to accompany him in his progress, pronounced to be frivolous and altogether unworthy of regard? We believe that, in other sciences, long continued study, and also a warm attachment to that study, are necessary to enable us to attain our object: an astronomer, a physician, or a geometer, while the faculties of the mind remain unimpaired, is supposed with reason to be making continual improvement while he applies himself to his favorite pursuit; but with regard to philosophy, properly so called, those who take the pains to study it are said to lose their time; and if they express their attachment to the object of their study, they are held as visionaries,

[ocr errors]

They, who so hastily conclude against the utility and reasonableness of ancient philosophy, do not appear to understand the real scope and intention of the logical works of Aristotle, or the purpose to which he applies the rules in them laid down in his philosophical works. His whole writings, composing the organon, are written to enable us to answer the question, “what is truth?and all his subsequent reasonings he so conducts, that the application of the syllogism shall prove them just.

The great object of ancient philosophy was the investigation of truth as it regards what is immutable; an investigation which terminates in the contemplation of the Deity, the Creator of all that exists and the all-wise Disposer of every event. That the notions entertained of the Deity, by those who cultivated this sublime philosophy, were highly elevated, has already been shown in the preceding essay, in ch a definition of the almighty ruler of the universe is given in the words of Aristotle, which appears to be as well suited to the sublime, and to us incomprehensible, object of our adoration, as the imperfection of our nature and our language will admit. This definition is formed of attributes of the Deity discoverable by his works, and describes the divine nature as almighty, eternal, unchangeable, the Creator and all-wise Governor of all things and the contemplation of this supreme being necessarily terminates the investigations of philosophy.

Seneca bas well said, that the philosophy, which regards the divine nature, is as much superior to that which has for its object the investigation of the phænomena of mere matter with wbich our senses are conversant, as philosophy, generally speaking, is superior to other arts or subjects of human study. This philosophy (says he) is more elevated, and takes a bolder flight; it has not been content with what is seen with bodily eyes; it contemplates what nature has placed beyond our view, something more grand and beautiful, and that is the Divine nature. He goes on What is it upon which I ought to congratulate myself that I make one of the number of the living? Is it that I act as the mere strainer of food and drink; that I should employ myself in stuffing this body, which would speedily perish without constant supplies, and act as the mere servant of a sick man? That I should live in the fear of death, to which we are all born ? Take away this inestimable good, (metaphysical philosophy) and life is no longer of such importance that I should labor to preserve it. How contemptible unless he rise above human affairs !”

By the study of the first philosophy "we come at length to have an idea of God. What is God ? the mind of the universe. What is God? all that you see, and all that you do not see.”



is man,


The sense of the author, it is believed, is expressed, but the translation is not close, and it may be satisfactory to the reader to have his own words.

“Quantum inter philosophiam interest, Lucili, virorum optime, et ceteras artes, tantum interesse existimo, in ipsa philosophia, inter illam partem quæ ad homines, et hanc quæ ad Deos spectat. Altior est hæc et animosior ; multum permisit sibi; non fuit oculis contenta. Majus esse quiddam suspicata est, ac pulchrius, quod

. extra conspectum natura posuisset. Denique tantum inter duas interest, quantum inter Deum et hominem. Altera docet quid in terris agendum sit : altera quid agatur in cælo. Altera errores nostros discutit, et lumen admovet quo discernantur ambigna vitæ : altera multo hanc supra caliginem, in qua volutamur, excedit; et e tenebris ereptos illo perducit unde lucet. : Quid enim erat cur in numero viventium me positum esse gauderem? Ut hoc corpus caussarium ac fuidum, periturumque nisi subinde impleatur, farcirem, et viverem ægri minister ? ut mortem rimerem cui omnes nascimur ? Detrahe hoc inestimabile bonum, non est vita tanti, ut sudem, ut æstuem. . O! quam contenta res est homo, nisi supra humana surrexerit. Illic demum discit quod diu quæsivit, illic incipit Deum nosse. Quid est Deus ? mens universi. Quid est Deus ? quod vides totum, et quod non vides totum.”

The study of that philosophy which Seneca here speaks of as the most excellent of all human pursuits, he recommends to his friend Lucilius, in one of his Epistles, in language beautiful, and with arguments the most persuasive.

“ Perge, Lucili, et propera ne id tibi accidat, quod mihi, ut senex discas : imo ideo magis propera, quoniam id nunc aggressus es quod perdiscere vix senex possis. Quantum, inquis, proficiam ? Quantum tentaveris. Quid expectas ? Nulli sapere casu obtigit. Pecunia veniet ultro, honor offeretur, gratia ac dignitas fortasse ingerentur tibi: virtus in te non incidet; ne levi quidem opera, aut parvo labore cognoscitur : sed est tanti laborare, omnia boua semel occupaturo. Unum enim est bonum quod honestum. ....

Quid in homine proprium? Ratio. Hæc recta et consummata, felicitatem hominis implevit; si hanc perfecit, laudabilis est, et tinem naturæ suæ attigit.”

Cicero devoted much of his time to the study of the ancient philosophy, and bears testimony in the warmest terms to its unrivalled excellence. His admiration of the talents, the learning and general character of Aristotle, has been already noticed; but he also expresses himself in the most animated language concerning the sect of which Aristotle was the chief. In his fifth book de

« ZurückWeiter »