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Equally familiar with those of the desert and of the cultivated plain, he has had his susceptibility alike open in both to the impressions which arise to a pious observer from their contemplation.
“ There is a law in nature relative to the cries of animals, which has not been sufficiently observed, and deserves to be so. The different sounds of the inhabitants of the desert are calculated according to the grandeur or the sweetness of the scene where they arise, and the hour of the day when they are heard. The roaring of the lion, loud, rough, and tremendous, is in unison with the desert scenes in which it is heard ; while the lowing of the oxen diffuses a pleasing calm through our valleys. The goat has something trembling and savage in its cry, like the rocks and ravines from which it loves to suspend itself. The war-horse imitates the notes of the trumpet that animates him to the charge, and, as if he felt that he was not made for degrading employments, he is silent under the spur of the labourer, and neighs under the rein of the warrior. The night, by turns charming or sombre, is enlivened by the nightingale or saddened by the owl; the one sings for the zephyrs, the groves, the moon, the soul of lovers—the other for the winds, the forests, the darkness, and the dead. Finally, all the animals which live on others have a peculiar cry by which they may be distinguished by the creatures which are destined to be their prey."—Vol. i. 156.
The making of birds' nests is one of the most common objects of observation. Listen to the reflections of genius and poetry on this beautiful subject.
** The admirable wisdom of Providence is nowhere more conspicuous than in the nests of birds. It is impossible to contemplate, without emotion, the Divine goodness, which thus gives industry to the weak and foresight to the thoughtless.
“No sooner have the trees put forth their leaves, than a thousand little workmen commence their labours. Some bring long pieces of straw into the hole of an old wall, others affix their edifice to the
windows of a church ; these steal a hair from the mane of a horse; those bear away, with wings trembling beneath its weight, the fragment of wool which a lamb has left entangled in the briers. A thousand palaces at once arise, and
every palace is a nest: within every nest is soon to be seen a charming metamorphosis ; first, a beautiful egg, then a little one covered with down. The little nestling soon feels his wings begin to grow; his mother teaches him to raise himself on his bed of repose. Soon he takes courage enough to approach the edge of the nest, and casts a first look on the works of nature. Terrified and enchanted at the sight, he precipitates himself amidst his brothers and sisters, who have never as yet seen that spectacle ; but, recalled a second time from his couch, the young king of the air, who still has the crown of infancy on his head, ventures to contemplate the boundless heavens, the waring summit of the pine-trees, and the vast labyrinth of foliage which lies beneath his feet. And, at the moment that the forests are rejoicing at the sight of their new inmate, an aged bird, who feels himself abandoned by his wings, quietly rests beside a stream: there, resigned and solitary, he tranquilly awaits death, on the banks of the same river where he sang his first loves, and whose trees still bear his nest and his melodious offspring."Vol. i. 158.
The subject of the migration of the feathered tribes furnishes this attentive observer of nature with many beautiful images. We have room only for the following extract :
“ In the first ages of the world, it was by the flowering of plants, the fall of the leaves, the departure and the arrival of birds, that the labourers and the shepherds regulated their labours. Thence has sprung the art of divination among certain people: they imagined that the birds which were sure to precede certain changes of the season or atmosphere, could not but be inspired by the Deity. The ancient naturalists, and the poets, to whom we are indebted for the few remains of simplicity which still linger amongst us, show us how marvellous was that manner of counting by the changes of nature, and what a charm it spread over the whole of existence. God is a profound secret. Man, created in his image, is equally incomprehensible. It was, therefore, an ineffable harmony to see the periods of his existence regulated by measures of time as harmonious as himself.
* Beneath the tents of Jacob or of Boaz, the arrival of a bird put everything in movement; the Patriarch made the circuit of the camp at the head of his followers, armed with scythes. If the report was spread that the young of the swallows had been seen wheeling about, the whole people joyfully commenced their barvest. These beautiful signs, while they directed the labours of the present, had the advantage of foretelling the vicissitudes of the approaching season. If the geese and swans arrived in abundance, it was known that the winter would be severe; did the redbreast begin to build its nest in January, the shepherds hoped in April for the roses of May. The marriage of a virgin on the margin of a fountain was represented by the first opening of the bud of the rose; and the death of the aged, who usually drop off in autumn, by the falling of leaves, or the maturity of the harvests. While the philosopher, abridging or elongating the year, extended the winter over the verdure of spring, the peasant felt no alarm that the astronomer, who came to him from heaven, would be wrong in his calculations. He knew that the nightingale would not take the season of hoarfrost for that of flowers, or make the groves resound at the winter solstice with the songs of summer. Thus the cares, the joys, the pleasures, of the rural life were determined, not by the uncertain calendar of the learned, but by the infallible signs of Him who traced his path to the sun. That sovereign Regulator wished Himself that the rites of His worship should be determined by the epochs fixed by His works; and in those days of innocence, according to the seasons and the labours they required, it was the voice of the zephyr or the tempest, of the eagle or the dove, which called the worshipper to the temple of his Creator.”—Vol. i. 171.
Let no one exclaim, What have these descriptions to do with the spirit of Christianity ? Gray thought otherwise when he wrote the sublime lines on visiting the Grande Chartreuse ; Buchanan thought otherwise, when, in his exquisite Ode to May, he supposed the first zephyrs of spring to blow over the Islands of the Just. The work of Chateaubriand, it is to be recollected, is not merely an exposition of the doctrines, spirit, or precepts of Christianity; it is intended expressly to allure, by the charms which it exbibits, the man of the world, an unbelieving and volatile generation, to the feelings of devotion ; it is meant to combine all that is delightful or lovely in the works of nature, with all that is sublime or elevating in the revelations of religion. In his eloquent pages, therefore, we find united the Natural Theology of Paley, the Contemplations of Taylor, and the Analogy of Butler; and if the theologians will look in vain for the weighty arguments by which the English divines have established the foundation of their faith, men of ordinary education will find even more to entrance and subdue their minds.
Among the proofs of the immortality of the soul, our author, with all others who have thought upon the subject, classes the obvious disproportion between the desires and capacity of the soul, and the limits of its acquisitions and enjoyments in this world. In the following passage, this argument is placed in its just colours :
"If it is impossible to deny that the hope of man continues to the edge of the grave; if it be true that the advantages of this world, so far from satisfying our wishes, tend only to augment the want which the soul experiences, and dig deeper the abyss which it contains within itself, we must conclude that there is something beyond the limits of time. Vincula hujus mundi,' says St Augustin, 'asperitatem habent veram, jucunditatem falsam, certum dolorem, incertam voluptatem, durum laborem, timidam quietem, rem plenam miseriæ, spem beatitudinis inanem. Far from lamenting that the desire for felicity has been planted in this world, and its ultimate gratification only in another, let us discern in that only an additional proof of the goodness of God. Since sooner or later we must quit this world, Providence has placed beyond its limits a charm, which is felt as an attraction to diminish the terrors of the tomb; as a kind mother, when wishing to make her infant cross a barrier, places some agreeable object on the other side."--Vol. i. 210.
" Finally, there is another proof of the immortality of the soul, which has not been sufficiently insisted on, and that is the universal veneration of mankind for the tomb. There, by an invincible charm, life is attached to death; there the human race declares itself superior to the rest of creation, and proclaims aloud its lofty destinies. What animal regards its coffin, or disquiets itself about the ashes of its fathers ? Which one has any regard for the bones of its father, or even knows its father, after the first necessities of infancy are passed ? Whence comes, then, the allpowerful idea which we entertain of death? Do a few grains of dust merit 80 much consideration ? No ; without doubt we respect the bones of our fathers
, because an inward voice tells us that all is not lost with them; and that is the voice which has everywhere consecrated the funeral service throughout the world; all are equally persuaded that the sleep is not eternal, even in the tomb, and that death itself is but a glorious transfiguration."-Vol. i. 217.
To the objection, that if the idea of God is innate, it must appear in children without any education, which is not generally the case, Chateaubriand replies :
God being a spirit, and it being impossible that he should be understood but by a spirit, an infant, in whom the powers of thought are not as
yet developed, cannot form a proper conception of the Supreme Being. We must not expect from the heart its noblest function, when the marvellous fabric is as yet in the hands of its Creator.
“ Besides, there seems reason to believe that a child has at least a sort of instinct of its Creator ; witness only its little reveries, its disquietudes, its fears in the night, its disposition to raise its eyes to heaven. An infant joins together its little hands, and repeats after its mother a prayer to the good God. Why does that little angel lisp with so much love and purity the name of the Supreme Being, if it has no inward consciousness of His existence in its heart ? “ Behold that new-born infant, which the nurse still carries in her
What has it done to give so much joy to that old man, to that man in the prime of life, to that woman? Two or three syllables half-formed, which no one rightly understands, and instantly three reasonable creatures are transported with delight, from the grandfather, to whom all that life contains is known, to the young mother, to whom the greater part of it is as yet unrevealed. Who has put that power into the word of man? How does it happen that the sound of a human voice subjugates so instantaneously the human heart? What subjugates you is something allied to a mystery, which depends on causes more elevated than the interest, how strong soever, which you take in that infant; something tells you that these inarticulate words are the first openings of an immortal soul.” – Vol. i. 224.
There is a subject on which human genius can hardly dare to touch,—the future felicity of the just. Our author thus treats this delicate subject :
“The purest of sentiments in this world is admiration ; but every earthly admiration is mingled with weakness, either in the object it admires or in that admiring. Imagine, then, a perfect being, which perceives at once all that is, and has, and will be ; suppose that soul exempt from envy and all the weaknesses of life, incorruptible, indefatigable, unalterable; conceive it contemplating, without ceasing, the Most High, discovering incessantly new perfections; feeling existence only from the renewed sentiment of that admiration ; conceive God as the sovereign beauty, the universal principle of love ; figure all the attachments of earth blending in that abyss of feeling, without ceasing to love the objects of affection on this earth ; imagine, finally, that the inmate of heaven has the conviction that this felicity is never to end, and you will have an idea, feeble and imperfect indeed, of the felicity of the just. They are plunged in this abyss of delight, as in an ocean from which they cannot emerge : they wish nothing; they have everything, though desiring nothing--an eternal youth, a felicity without end; a glory divine is expressed in their countenances ; a sweet, noble, and majestic joy; it is a sublime feeling of truth and virtue which transports them; at every instant they experience the same rapture as a mother who regains a beloved child whom she believed lost; and that exquisite joy, too fleeting on earth, is there prolonged through the ages of eternity."-Vol. i. 241.
We intended to have gone through, in this paper, the whole Génie du Christianisme, and we have only concluded the first volume, so prolific of beauty are its pages. We make no apology for the length of the quotations, which have so much extended the limits of this article ; any observations would be inexcusable which should abridge passages of such transcendent beauty.
The Itinéraire de Paris à Jerusalem is an account of the author's journey in 1806, from Paris to Greece, Constantinople, Palestine, Egypt, and Carthage.
This work is not so much a book of travels, as memoirs of the feelings and impressions of the author during a journey over the shores of the Mediterranean ; the cradle, as Dr Johnson observed, of all that dignifies and has blest human nature, of our laws, our religion, and our civilisation. It may readily be anticipated that the observations of such a man, in such scenes, must contain much that is interesting and delightful : our readers may prepare themselves for a high gratification ; it is seldom that they have such an intellectual feast laid before them. We have translated the passages, both because there is no English version with which we are acquainted of this work, and because the translations which usually appear of French authors are executed in so slovenly a style.
On his first night amidst the ruins of Sparta, our author gives the following interesting account :
After supper Joseph brought me my saddle, which usually serves for my pillow. I wrapped myself in my cloak, and slept on the banks of the Eurotas under a laurel. The night was so clear and serene, that the Milky Way formed a resplendent arch, reflected in the waters of the river, and by the light of which I could read. I slept with my eyes turned towards the heavens, and with the constellation of the Swan of Leda directly above my head. Even at this distance of time I recollect the pleasure I experienced in sleeping thus in the woods of America, and still more in awakening in the middle of the night. I there heard the sound of the wind rustling through those profound solitudes, the cry of the stag and the deer, the fall of a distant cataract ; while the fire at my feet, half-extinguished, reddened from below the foliage of the forest. I even experienced a pleasure from the voice of the Iroquois, when he uttered his cry in the midst of the untrodden woods, and by the light of the stars, amidst the silence of nature, proclaimed bis unfettered freedom. Emotions such as these please at twenty years of age, because life is then so full of vigour that it suffices, as it were, for itself; and because there is something in early youth which incessantly urges towards the mysterious and the unknown; ipsi sibi somnia fingunto; but in a more mature age the mind reverts to more imperishable emotions; it inclines, most of all, to the recollections and the examples of history. I would still sleep willingly on the banks of the Eurotas and the Jordan, if the shades of the three hundred Spartans, or of the twelve sons of Jacob, were to visit my dreams; but I would no longer set out to visit lands which have never been explored by the plough. I now feel the desire for those old deserts which shroud the walls of Babylon or the legions of Pharsalia ; fields of which the furrows are engraven on human thought, aud where I may find man as I am, the blood, the tears, and the labours of man."-Vol. i. 86, 87.
From Laconia our author directed his steps by the