« PreviousContinue »
But shadows, clouds, and darkness, rest upon it!
(Laying his hand on his sword.
THE BENEFICENCE OF THE CREATOR.
Nor are the riches of divine beneficence to be seen merely (no, nor chiefly) in the luxuriance and splendid colours, and noble forms of the inanimate and animal kingdoms. Must we look only to the gorgeous flowers, and luscious fruits, to the stately trees and spicy shrubs of torrid climates, or to the gems and ores bowelled in the mountains—or must we think only of the gay and busy myriads that fill the air, and earth, and water—when we would admire and adore the bounty and power of the Creator? Oh no! for the Creator is Creator of man; and notwithstanding all the disgraces and corruptions that have come in, the praise of God is still to be gathered from the lot of humanity, and from the special circumstances of the several communities of the human family.
Let no unfair or sinister inference be drawn, as if we would palliate great evils or great crimes, when we commence this our commendation of the divine benignity toward man, from the hut of the slave in our colonies. Our indignation against the usurpations of men, must not carry us so far as to do a wrong to the providence of Him who filleth the world with his bounty. Man must indeed do much before he quite defeats the benevolence of God. Hearts that crouch and tremble in one hour, are free and
in another; mild affections take their rights, spite of the oppressor; an easy oblivion hides the injuries that have been endured; the common goods of animal life are tasted. Infancy has its joys, thoughtless of the bonds it is born to; childhood has its prattle and pastimes, as jocund under the meridian of Jamaica as under that of Benin.
And if the enthralled portion of the negro race should not be thought of as quite shut out from the goods of life, certainly the free hordes of its native continent have a share in them. How many times over might the length and breadth of the British Islands be measured along the bold sweeps of the Niger, the Senegal, and the thousand lesser streams, that, in their long paths of sultry luxuriance, make glad those torrid regions! Throughout those wide expanses -untrodden by the traveller and yet unknown to the assiduous geographer—and in thousands of green
seclusions, the morning sun awakens merriment: the fervour of noon, not inimical as we think, but genial and invigorating to dark skins, sheds into dark bosoms a relish of life, such as our chilly days and artificial modes quite deny us the knowledge of. The evening, too, and the tender moonlight, not only look peaceful, but are peaceful, in glens and glades, where our map-makers have written “unknown deserts."
The lamp-heated burrow—shall we call it tomb of the living?—which inhumes an arctic family three-fourths of the year, contains perhaps ordinarily more comfort, more amuse
ment, and more plenty than the hut or cottage (sport of wind and rain) of the peasant of a temperate climate. Then the muffled lord of the wilderness of frost, fully caparisoned, and tight in his sledge, and whirling like a sprite over hill and dale, enjoys without dismay, the clear, deep intensity of the stern sky. And even he has his summer-brief days of enchantment, during which all powers of nature, as if conscious they had slumbered too long, are at work with visible haste in loading the earth with flowers and fruits.
From the arctic snow-belt, we ascend the pasture tablelands of Asia, and look too over the grassy steppes of eastern Europe: how pure and invigorating are the gales of these lofty and boundless slopes, verdant expanses, spread out to the sun above the level of the clouds! The Tartar, hot and restless—the Mogul, placid and inert—both follow the rambling path which nature herself, by the breadth and freedom of her style in these ample regions, marks out for them. Rid of the cares that infest a more artificial mode of life, and scornful of the restrictions that attach to the tenure of a single spot, he drives his wain and his herd from side to side of the vast space, as if lord, not of a field, nor even of a province, but of a continent. Say not that this pastoral life is a faulty and wasteful mode of existence, and that it is a necessary cause of ferocity—say it not, lest God's own appointment, who fixes the bounds of nations and measures out their inheritances, should hastily be blamed.
From the nation of herdsmen we pass over to the nation of horsemen, and from the wilderness of grass to the wilderness of sand. Shall the scrupulosity of any deny us leave to admire, in this instance, the adaptation of the race to the country, or of the country to the race? If we discern and commend the structure and the instincts of the camel“ship of the desert” —
!--as the creature by whose aid those terrible regions are habitable, may, we not also recognise in the physical character and temper of the driver of the camel,
corresponding, proofs of specific design? It is there, we venture to say, that the most elevated style of piety might be fostered. It is there, that with two objects only on which the eye may fix, and both of them terribly magnificent —the clear abyss of heaven, with its fountain of fire, and the boundless breadth of undulating sand—that the soul, abstracted from the cares of artificial life, is thrown upon its inner sentiments, and made to feed upon its own substance. Arabia, the hope of patriarchal piety-Arabia, birth-place of the knowledge of the stars, and birth-place too of the most splendid creations of fancy-Arabia, the cradle of enterprise and empire, wants nothing but that her fainting sons should have their “eyes opened” by some messenger of the Lord, to descry that “well of water”-spring of true wisdomwhich long ago burst up in the wilderness of the world.
THE CRUSADER'S RETURN.
Rest, pilgrim rest!—thou’rt from the Syrian land,
Thou’rt faint!—stay, rest thee from thy toils at last;
He was a child when thus the bower he wove,
If I could hear that laughing voice again-
The dark, clear, lightning eye!-on heaven and earth
His sunny childhood melted from my sight,