« PreviousContinue »
in ourespect in eo But whommons To on th
up such a Frankenstein. An Ecclesiastical Parliament of some six hundred members! Who can fail to see, that though this council of six hundred could not make laws, the power of such an assembly for mischief in other ways would be all but endless. The moral force which they would arrogate to themselves, supposing that any semblance of unity could be preserved among them, would be sufficient to disturb the peace of the realm from end to end. If that day shall come, such days as were seen at Marston Moor and Naseby will not probably be far distant.
But if the old form of Convocation is not available, and if a new one is a fancy which no statesman can be expected to entertain, nothing remains, if there is to be a revision of the Liturgy, but to carry out Lord Ebury's resolution, and to appoint a Commission, which shall attempt that piece of service. Here another question comes. How is that Commission to be constituted ? Further, supposing it to have been constituted, and its work done, the result must be submitted to Parliament, and who is to limit discussion there on this grave matter? True, an English House of Commons passed our present Book of Common Prayer. But what a House of Commons might do in this respect in 1662 is one thing, and what a House assembled in our time would be likely to do is something very different.
Still further, in whose favour is the revision to take place? In favour of the Romanizers, who cling to the Prayer Book, and would proscribe the Articles; or in favour of the Protestant party, who cling to the Articles, and would modify the Liturgy? Or shall it be in the interest of Archdeacon Denison and his friends, and of all who from various causes deprecate change of any sort; or in favour of the Rationalists, who would leave scarcely anything unchanged, and continue nothing beyond the smallest residuum either of Articles or of the Common Prayer ? Or, finally, is it to be another attempt at compromise, and are we, at this time of day, to find ourselves lauded again in the common result of attempting to please everybody and of pleasing nobody—all our new and wise labours ending in our old state of endless embroilment ?
So the case really stands, it may be said, and hence the folly of contemplating change of any sort. Our advice is, do nothing ! do nothing! In the face of all the facts presented in this article, in the face of all that has been said as to the necessity of doing something, and of the high authority of the men who have so spoken, in such circumstances can it be a wise thing to say, do nothing? Indeed, in the presence of such facts, and of more like them which will be sure to come, will it be possible to hearken to those who persist in urging that policy? Here is an institution whose formularies have been rigorously constructed with the intention of insuring a strict unity in faith and practice; and here are the diversities of the most diverse kinds, which are everywhere avowed and presented, and that by men who have alike subscribed to the said formularies. What must be the impression made on intelligent and honourable laymen by these sad discrepancies as to the sort of conscience which clergymen bring to their vocation? It may be true that these things have been borne with long. But are there not signs that they cannot be borne with much longer ? Dr. Stanley is very bold. He does not scruple, by means of a wise apologue, to admonish his brethren, that not to part with something may be to lose everything.
We must confess, however, that so far as we can see, this Donothing policy, with all its inconsistencies, its scandals, and its perils, is the policy which is likely to be preferred, at least for the present. In the meanwhile, the harmony pervading the Free Churches of Great Britain will continue to stand out in edifying contrast to the discords pervading our State Church. Diversities there are beyond the pale of the Church of England. But so far as Protestant Dissenters are concerned, they are diversities which involve no compromise, which burden no man's conscience, which disgrace no man's profession. Much of this diversity may be error and folly, but the men are honest. They believe what they profess to believe. They approve what they profess to approve. Where they differ from each other on any weighty matter, they do not attempt to conceal their difference. They avow it openly, and act upon it openly. No apparent want of integrity—the element so essential to the reputation of the Christian name-exposes their character to impeachment or suspicion. Moreover, they can organize and act in relation to their Church objects, and to more public objects, with all the freedom of free men. Our Episcopalian brethren might be in circumstances allowing all this to be said of them, and some day they will be in those circumstances.
At present, two things are clear—first, that the Church of England, stereotyped as she has been from past centuries, bas lost adaptation to England as it is; and the second is, that in the present state of thought, and in the inevitable tendencies of thought in this country, no similar institution can be raised into the place of that which now exists. A National Church should reflect National Thought. But a Church of sufficient latitude to embrace everything must be a Church that could not be said to teach anything. Englishmen, we may be sure, will know nothing of such an institution. On the other hand, to establish
Longfellow's New Poems.
one sect, as at present, to the exclusion of all others, must be to perpetuate a moral wrong under religious pretences. The Church Establishment Question in this country lies between the horns of this dilemma. In these circumstances, John Bull will come to see, though it may be by slow degrees, that what he has imagined to be good in the past, has certainly lost adaptation to the present ; in other words, that the day in which it seemed possible to make the machinery of a National Church work satisfactorily is gone, and that the time has come for dispensing with such expedients altogether.
ART. II.-Tales of a Wayside Inn.
By HENRY WADSWORTH
THOUGH we have not grown indifferent to poetry, we have grown indifferent, we suspect, to criticism of poetry. We do not care to dissect a metaphor, or discuss the structure of a poem. If it pleases, well ; if it displeases, let it be instantly forgotten : we are not anxious to find reasons why it pleases, and still less are we disposed to waste our time over the causes of our displeasure. We generally content ourselves with some compendious judgment; it is good or bad, thoughtful or common-place, lively or insipid. We have a conviction that minds of a certain culture-due allowance being made for peculiarities of temperament-will come to much the same conclusion on any poem offered to their perusal ; and we know that the poetry which pleases only a cultivated class can, by no dint of reasoning, be made acceptable to the comparatively uneducated classes. Sometimes we hear an excellent remark or a subtle analysis, but criticism, for the most part, resolves itself into brief judgments more or less dogmatically asserted, into mere outcries, in short, of pleasure or pain, exclamations of delight or indignant protestations. Books that treat of the art of criticism are quietly ignored. Who now reads. Blair's Lectures' or 'Campbell's Rhetoric'? We are under the impression that such books never now descend from the shelves of the many libraries they still help to fill, and, by their imposing exterior, doubtless to adorn. We suspect that they are no sooner printed than they are clad in their stiff, glittering uniforms, and set to do duty on parade, and that they never, throughout the term of their existence, descend into the arena of our actual strifes. We are careless of an art of criticism, or of such, at least, as they taught.
which is intenth the excepti There are
It is well if poetry itself be not put upon its trial. From time to time it is apparently necessary to come to the rescue, and utter certain grave truths in its defence. Its palmy place in literature is often disputed. There are some who do not scruple to say that, with the exception of the veritable song—the verse which is intended to be set to music, or which may be read in musical cadence (a composition which must be of the briefest) there is no reason whatever in our rhymes and metres. They see no ground for perpetuating the peculiar form of composition which distinguishes poetry from prose. What is substantially good in a poem, it is confessed, may be transfused into prose: why then retain a form of writing which leads to a perpetual reiteration of the same truths or commonplaces, simply because there is some degree of skill required in uttering them in this artificial manner ?
Any one who, after a long and exclusive attention to the graver studies of science or theology, has opened by chance a volume of ordinary poetry, might be excused if he felt a momentary surprise at the honour still paid, or the toleration still accorded, to the race of versifiers. If he should not repeat over the heroic stanzas before him the well-known contemptuous expression, • What does it all prove ?' he might at least ask whether what was said in this elaborate manner had not been a thousand times said before, and whether it could not have been said as well in simple prose.
"When will you poets learn that what
Is said, is said ? How long,
The same eternal song?'.
A celebrated comparative anatomist evidently looks upon the lyric poet, passionately repeating the same loves and hates, as a species of monomaniac ; harmless, it may be, but, at best, a few degrees removed from some form of insanity. And all men earnest in the search for knowledge may feel a momentary contempt for a literature which comes before them mainly as an art of saying, and which professes nothing higher than to express old truths beautifully and passionately. If you had a new truth to tell, they would say, you would throw aside your metre and your metaphor ; and do you think that metre and metaphor are sufficient to reconcile us to eternal platitudes of thought? The poet is transfixed on the horns of a cruel dilemma. If he has anything worth telling us, why not use the clearest and most direct form of speech? If he has nothing of the kind to tell us, why speak or write at all ?
Literature of the Emotions.
But this feeling of contempt or depreciation will not, in a reflective mind, be more than momentary. The utterance of familiar truths beautifully and passionately gives not only to many men an exquisite pleasure, but plays an important part in. our moral and religious culture. A literature of the beautiful and the emotional could not be eclipsed without severest loss.. We do not ourselves say that verse never deals with new truths, or that the poet is never the harbinger of an advanced mode of thinking, but we will admit that his province is rather to en-. kindle and exalt the mind than to extend the circle of its knowledge. He always seizes upon what goes, we say, to the heart.. If he narrates a history, as he does in an epic poem, it is not for its mere historical truth that he cares to sing it forth. The moment it ceases to inspire him with admiration, with some passion of love or wonder, that moment he leaves it to the chronicler to record or dismiss as he thinks fit. If he treats a philosophic truth, as in these later times he not unfrequently does, it is not. as a reasoner or debater, solicitous to demonstrate his thesis ;, but there is some result of many reasonings which has fired his own brain, and he is resolved that others shall share in his enthusiasm. Under his hand, under his breath, the dry truth bursts. into flame; it has become a passion also as well as a truth.
Well, this literature of the emotions,' we repeat, plays an important part in the education of a people. Take plummetline, and go forth to sound the depths of the human conscience : you will find the lead rings at last on a feeling, an affection, direct or sympathetic. How vain to preach love to others, to men who have not already the sentiment of love! What is. even the sentiment of justice to those who have no sympathy with the wrongs and sufferings of others ? To the man who has no heart to appeal to, the moralist may harangue for ever: he will make no impression. He will gain a verbal assent to a. verbal proposition; the most stolid creature has craft enough to perceive that such verbal assent is expected, and will do him credit; but the real morality which has been taught has never been even understood. The higher moral truths are literally unintelligible to those who are devoid of sympathy and benevolence. If you limit your teaching to such a law as this, 'Thou 'shalt not steal,' and show the penalty that will follow the violation of this law, you may be intelligible enough to the most cold and selfish of mortals. The appeal is made to his self-interest. He has only to reflect, if he has any possession or property of his own, that it would be very disagreeable that others should steal from him, in order to see the propriety of such a law. If he has no property of his own he might fail even
dels who sentiment o sufferings pelist may has verbal amate enough
sitimpression. Woralist mari, To the no symp