Page images
[ocr errors]

et imprimis religionis hostes fallant, dummodo veritatis commodis et utilitati inserviant."

The same antithesis might be carried on with the elements of their several intellectual powers. Milton, austere, condensed, imaginative, supporting his truth by direct enunciation of lofty moral sentiment and by distinct visual representations, and in the same spirit overwhelming what he deemed falsehood by moral denunciation and a succession of pictures appalling or repulsive. In his prose, so many metaphors, so many allegorical miniatures. Taylor, eminently discursive, accumulative, and (to use one of his own words) agglomerative ; still more rich in images than Milton himself, but images of fancy, and presented to the common and passive eye, rather than to the eye of the imagination. Whether supporting or assailing, he makes his way either by argument or by appeals to the affections, unsurpassed even by the schoolmen in subtlety, agility, and logical wit, and unrivalled by the most rhetorical of the fathers in the copiousness and vividness of his expressions and illustrations. Here words that convey feelings, and words that flash images, and words of abstract notion, flow together, and whirl and rush onward like a stream, at once rapid and full of eddies; and yet still interfused here and there we see a tongue or islet of smooth water, with some picture in it of earth or sky, landscape or living group of quiet beauty.

Differing then so widely and almost contrariantly, wherein did these great men agree? wherein did they resemble each other? In genius, in learning, in unfeigned piety, in blameless purity of life, and in benevolent aspirations and purposes for the moral and temporal improvement of their fellow-creatures! Both of them wrote a Latin Accidence, to render education



more easy and less painful to children; both of them composed hymns and psalms proportioned to the capacity of common congregations; both, nearly at the same time, set the glorious example of publicly recommending and supporting general toleration, and the liberty both of the pulpit and the press! In the writings of neither shall we find a single sentence, like those meek deliverances to God's mercy, with which Laud accompanied his votes for the mutilations and loathsome dungeoning of Leighton and others !—nowhere such a pious prayer as we find in Bishop Hall's memoranda of his own life, concerning the subtle and witty atheist that so grievously perplexed and gravelled him at Sir Robert Drury's till he prayed to the Lord to remove him, and behold ! his prayers were heard : for shortly afterward this Philistine-combatant went to London, and there perished of the plague in great misery! In short, nowhere shall we find the least approach, in the lives and writings of John Milton or Jeremy Taylor, to that guarded gentleness, to that sighing reluctance, with which the holy brethren of the Inquisition deliver over a condemned heretic to the civil magistrate, recommending him to mercy, and hoping that the magistrate will treat the erring brother with all possible mildness !—the magistrate who too well knows what would be his own fate if he dared offend them by acting on their recommendation.

The opportunity of diverting the reader from myself to characters more worthy of his attention, has led me far beyond my first intention; but it is not unimportant to expose the false zeal which has occasioned these attacks on our elder patriots. It has been too much the fashion first to personify the Church of England, and then to speak of different individuals, who in different ages have been rulers in that church, as if in some strange way they constituted its personal identity. Why should a clergyman of the present day feel interested in the defence of Laud or Sheldon ? Surely it is sufficient for the warmest partisan of our establishment that he can assert with truth,—when our Church persecuted, it was on mistaken principles held in common by all Christendom; and at all events, far less culpable was this intolerance in the Bishops, who were maintaining the existing laws, than the persecuting spirit afterwards shown by their successful opponents, who had no such excuse, and who should have been taught mercy by their own sufferings, and wisdom by the utter failure of the experiment in their own case. We can say that our Church, apostolical in its faith, primitive in its ceremonies, unequalled in its liturgical forms; that our Church, which has kindled and displayed more bright and burning lights of genius and learning than all other protestant churches since the reformation, was (with the single exception of the times of Laud and Sheldon ) least intolerant, when all Christians unhappily deemed a species of intolerance their religious duty; that Bishops of our church were among the first that contended against this error; and finally, that since the Reformation, when tolerance became a fashion, the Church of England in a tolerating age, has shown herself eminently tolerant, and far more so, both in spirit and in fact, than many of her most bitter opponents, who profess to deem toleration itself an insult on the rights of mankind! As to myself, who not only know the Church-Establishment to be tolerant, but who see in it the greatest, if not the sole safe bulwark of toleration, I feel no necessity of defending or palliating oppressions under the two Charleses, in order to exclaim with a full and fervent heart, Esto perpetua !




The Scene a desolated Tract in La Vendée. FAMINE is discovered lying I on the ground;

to her enter FIRE and SLAUGHTER.

Fam. SISTERS ! sisters ! who sent you here?
Slau. [to Fire]. I will whisper it in her ear.

Fire. No! no ! no !
Spirits hear what spirits tell :
'Twill make a holiday in Hell.

No! no! no !
Myself I named him once below,
And all the souls, that damned be,
Leapt up at once in anarchy,
Clapp'd their hands and danced for glee.
They no longer heeded me;
But laugh'd to hear Hell's burning rafters
Unwillingly re-echo laughters !

No! no ! no !
Spirits hear what spirits tell :
'Twill make a holiday in Hell !


* First printed in the Morning Post, January 8, 1798. Reprinted in the second volume of the Annual Anthology, Bristol, 1800.

+ Depopulated-1798. # Stretched-ib. $ I will name him in your ear.


Fam. Whisper it, sister ! so and so !
In a dark hint, soft and slow.*

Slau. Letters four do form his name—
And who sent you?

The same! the same !
Slau. He came by stealth, and unlock'd my den,
And I have drunk | the blood since then
Of thrice three hundred thousand men.

Both. Who bade you do 't?

The same ! the same !
Letters four do form his name.
He let me loose, and cried Halloo !
To him alone the praise is due.

Fam. Thanks, sister, thanks ! the men have bled,
Their wives and their children faint for bread.
I stood in a swampy field of battle;
With bones and skulls I made a rattle,
To frighten the wolf and the carrion-crow
And the homeless dog—but they would not go.
So off I flew : for how could I bear
To see them gorge their dainty fare?
I heard a groan and a peevish squall,
And through the chink of a cottage-wall-
Can you guess what I saw there?

Both. Whisper it, sister ! in our ear.


* Then sound it not, yet let me know ;

Darkly hint it-soft and low l-1798. of Four letters form his name—ib. (And so throughout the poem as it appeared in the Morning Post.)

* Spill'd—1798. & Thrice ten hundred-It.

« PreviousContinue »