« ZurückWeiter »
Heaven (the hyades, or five stars about the horizon, at midnight at that time) run low, and it is time we close the five parts of knowledge; we are unwilling to spin out our waking thoughts into the phantoms of sleep, which often continue precogitations, making cables of cobwebs, and wildernesses of handsome groves. To keep our eyes open longer, were to act our antipodes! The huntsmen are up in Arabia; and they have already passed their first sleep in Persia." Think you, that there ever was such a reason given before for going to bed at midnight; to wit, that if we did not, we should be acting the part of our antipodes! And then, “THE HUNTSMEN ARE UP IN ARABIA, "-—what life, what fancy! Does the whimsical knight give us thus, the essence of gunpowder tea, and call it an opiate* ?”
* Sir Thomas Brown has it, “ The huntsmen are up in America," but Mr. Coleridge prefers reading Arabia. I do not think his account of the Urn-Burial very happy. Sir Thomas can be said to be “ wholly in his subject," only because he is wholly out of it. There is not a word in the Hydriotaphia about “a thigh-bone, or a skull, or a bit of mouldered coffin, or a tomb-stone, or a ghost, or a windingsheet, or an echo," nor is “a silver nail or a gilt anno domini the gayest thing you shall meet with." You do not meet with them at all in the text; nor is it possible, either from the nature of the subject, or of Sir T. Brown's mind, that you should! He chose the subject of Urn-Burial, because it was "one of no mark or likelihood," totally free from the ro
Jeremy Taylor was a writer as different from Sir Thomas Brown as it was possible for one writer to be from another. He was a dignitary of the church, and except in matters of casuistry and controverted points, could not be supposed to enter upon speculative doubts, or give a loose to a sort of dogmatical scepticism. He had less thought, less "stuff of the conscience," less “ to give us pause,” in his impetuous oratory, but he had equal fancy-not the same vastness and profundity, but more richness and beauty, more warmth and tenderness. He is as rapid, as flowing, and endless, as the other is stately, abrupt, and concentrated. The eloquence of the one is like a river, that of the other is more like an aqueduct. The one is as sanguine, as the other is saturnine in the temper of his mind. Jeremy Taylor took obvious and admitted truths for granted, and illustrated them with an inexhaustible display of new and enchanting imagery. Sir Thomas Brown talks in mantic prettinesses and pleasing poetical common-places with which Mr. Coleridge has adorned it, and because, being • without form and void,” it gave unliinited scope to his highraised and shadowy imagination. The motto of this author's compositions might be--" De apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio." He created his own materials: or to speak of him in his own language, “ he saw nature in the elements of its chaos, and discerned his favourite notions in the great obscurity of nothing!"
sum-totals: Jeremy Taylor enumerates all the particulars of a subject. He gives every aspect it will bear, and never cloys with sameness. His characteristic is enthusiastic and delightful amplification. Sir Thomas Brown gives the beginning and end of things, that you may judge of their place and magnitude : Jeremy Taylor describes their qualities and texture, and enters into all the items of the debtor and creditor account between life and death, grace and nature, faith and good works. He puts his heart into his fancy. He does not pretend to annihilate the passions and pursuits of mankind in the pride of philosophic indifference, but treats them as serious and momentous things, warring with conscience and the soul's health, or furnishing the means of grace and hopes of glory. In his writings, the frail stalk of human life reclines on the bosom of eternity. His Holy Living and Dying is a divine pastoral. He writes to the faithful followers of Christ, as the shepherd pipes to his flock. He introduces touching and heartfelt appeals to familiar life ; condescends to men of low estate ; and his pious page blushes with modesty and beauty. His style is prismatic. It unfolds the colours of the rainbow; it floats like the bubble through the air; it is like innumerable dew-drops that glitter on the face of morning, and tremble as they glitter. He does not dig his way underground, but slides upon ice, borne on the winged car of fancy. The dancing light he throws upon objects is like an Aurora Borealis, playing betwixt heaven and earth
" Where pure Niemi's faery banks arise,
And fringed with roses Tenglio rolls its stream."
His exhortations to piety and virtue are a gay memento mori. He mixes up death's-heads and aramanthine flowers; makes life a procession to the grave, but crowns it with gaudy garlands, and “rains sacrificial roses” on its path. In a word, his writings are more like fine poetry than any other prose whatever; they are a choral song in praise of virtue, and a hymn to the Spirit of the Universe. I shall give a few passages, to shew how feeble and inefficient this praise is.
The Holy Dying begins in this manner:
“A man is a bubble. He is born in vanity and sin; he comes into the world like morning mushrooms, soon thrusting up their heads into the air, and conversing with their kindred of the same production, and as soon they turn into dust and forgetfulness; some of them without any other interest in the affairs of the world, but that they made their parents a little glad, and very sorrowful. Others ride longer in the storm; it may be until seven years of vanity be expired, and then peradventure the sun shines hot upon their heads, and they fall into the shades below, into the cover of death and darkness of the grave to hide them. But if the bubble stands the shock of a bigger drop, and outlives the chances of a child, of a careless nurse, of drowning in a pail of water, of being over-laid by a sleepy servant, or such little accidents, then the young man dances like a bubble empty and gay, and shines like a dove's neck, or the image of a rainbow, which hath no substance, and whose very imagery and colours are phantastical; and so he dances out the gaiety of his youth, and is all the while in a storm, and endures, only because he is not knocked on the head by a drop of bigger raiv, or crushed by the pressure of a load of indigested meat, or quenched by the disorder of an ill-placed humour; and to preserve a man alive in the midst of so many chances and hostilities, is as great a miracle as to create him; to preserve him from rushing into nothing, and at first to draw bim up from nothing, were equally the issues of an Almighty power."
Another instance of the same rich continuity of feeling and transparent brilliancy in working out an idea, is to be found in his description of the dawn and progress of reason.
"Some are called at age at fourteen, some at one and twenty, some never; but all men late enough; for the life of a man comes upon him slowly and insensibly. But as when the sun approaches towards the gates of the morning, he first opens a little eye of heaven, and sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and calls up the lark 10 mattins, and by and by gilds the fringes of a cloud, and peeps over the eastern hills, thrusting out his golden horns, like those which decked the brows of Moses, when he was forced to wear a veil, because himself had seen the face of God; and still, while a man tells the story, the sun gets up higher, till he shews a fair face and a full light, and then he shines