« EdellinenJatka »
charge of the duties of the nfinistry, his influence among his people, and his religious character.
The success of a Christian pastor depends almost as much on the manner as the matter of his instruction. In this respect Mr. W. was peculiarly happy, especially with the lower classes of the people, who were much engaged by the atfectionate cordiality and the sinple earnestness of his deportment towards them. In his conversations with the plain farmer or humble laborer, he usually laid his hands upon their shoulder, or caught them by the arm ; and while he was insinuating his arguments, or enforcing his appeals with all the variety of simple illustrations which a prolific fancy could supply, he fastened an anxious eye upon the countenance of the person he was addressing, as if eagerly awaiting some gleam of intelligence, to show that he was understood and felt.
The solemnity, the tenderness, the energy of his manner, could not fail to impress upon their minds, at least, that his zeal for their souls was disinterested and sincere.
The state of gross demoralization in which a large portion of the lower classes in liis parish was sunk, rendered it necessary for him sometimes to adopt a style of preaching not the most consonant to his own feelings. His natural turn of mind would have led him to dwell most upon the loftier motives, the more tender appeals, the geniler topics of persuasion with which the gospel abounds; but the dull and stubborn natures which he had to encounter, frequently required “the terrors of the Lord” to be placed before them; the vices he had to overthrow, called for the strongest weapon he could wield. He often, indeed, sought to win such souls upto Christ by the attractive beauties and the benign spirit of the gospel; but, alas!
“Leviathan is not so tamed.” Among the people whom he had to address, he found drunkenness and impurity, and their base kindred vices, lamentably prevalent; and therefore he felt it necessary to stigmatise such practices in the plainest terms: he could not find approach to minds of so coarse an order, without frequently arraying against them the most awful denunciations of Divine Justice. p. 111, 112.
On his return from Scotland, the writer met him at a friend's house within a few miles of bis own residence; and, on the following Sunday, accompanied him through the principal part of his parish to the church ; and never can be forget the scene he witnessed as they drove together along the road, and through the village. It must give a more lively idea of his character and conduct as a parish clergyman than any labored delineation, or than a mere detail of particular facts. As he quickly passed by, all the poor people and children ran out to their cabindoors to welcome him, with looks and expressions of the most ardent affection, and with all that wild devotion of gratitude so characteristic of the Irish peasantry. Many fell upon their knees invoking blessings upon him; and long after they were out of hearing, they remained in the same atitude, showing by their gestures that they were still offering up prayers for him; and some even follow. ed the carriage à long distance, making the most anxious inquiries about his health. p. 117.
It was hoped that timely relaxation from duty, and a change in his mode of living to what he had been originally accustomed, and suitable to the present de. licate state of his health, might avert the fatal disease with which he was threatened. The habits of his life, while he resided on his cure, were in every respect calculated to confirm his constitutional tendency to consumption. He seldom thought of providing a regular meal; and his humble cottage exhibited every appearance of the neglect of the ordinary comforts of life. A few strag. gling rush-bottomed chairs, piled up with his books, a small rickety table before the fire-place, covered with parish memoranda, and two trunks containing all his papers -serving at the same time to cover the broken parts of the floor.--constituted all the furniture of his sitting-room. The mouldy wails of the closet in which he slept were hanging with loose folds of damp paper; and between this
sretched cell and his parlour was the kitchen, which was occupied by the disbedded soldier, his wife, and their pumerous brood of children, who had inigraled with him from his first quarters, and seemed now in full possession of the whole concern, entertaining him merely as a lodger, and usurping the entire disposal of his small plot of ground, as the absolute lords of the soil. p. 118, 119.
On the day before his dissolution, the medical gentleman who attended him, felt it his duty to apprize him of his immediate danger, and expressed himself thes : * Your mind, sir, seems to be so raised above this world, that I need not frar to communicate to you my candid opinion of your state." “ Yes, sir," replied be, "I trust I have been learning to live above the world :" and he then made some impressive observations on the ground of his own hopes; and having afterwards heard that they had a favorable effect, he entered more fully into the subject with him on his next visit, and continued speaking for an hour, in such a convincing, affecting, and solemn strain, (and this at a time when he seemed incapable of uttering a single sentence,) that the physician, on retiring to the adjoining room, threw himself on the sofa, in tears, exclaiming, " There is something super-human about that man: it is astonishing to see such a mind in a body so wasted ; such mental vigor in a poor franie dropping into the grave!"
p. 134. The pieces of Mr. W.'s prose and poetry which are interspersed throughout the volume, are, some of them at least, too meritorious to be passed over without notice. Considered as the productions of a young man, they may justly demand our admiration. Indeed, a few of them would be esteemed very happy efforts for any man. This is particularly the case with his poetry. The longest prose composition which is presented, is the fragments of a speech which he delivered before the Historical Society of the University. In this piece, with its elevated style and truly ingenious thoughts, he shows how keenly alive he was to the romance of poetry, and the charms of elegant literature, on which he has here copiously descanted. The miscellaneous thoughts, &c. in the appendix to the volume, show a maturity of judgment and observation, which we should hardly expect to find in juvenile efforts. Who does not perceive the truth, and feel the energy of the following paragraph ?
God has not permitted the world to despise a true christian : they may pass him by with a haughty and supercilious coldness: they may deride him with a taunting and sarcastic irony; but the spirit of the proudest man that ever lived, will bend before the grandeur of a cliristian's humility. You are at once awed, and you recoil upon your own conscience when you meet with one whose feel. ings are purified by the gospel. The light of a christian's soul, when it shines into the dark den of a worldly heart, starules and alarms the gloomy passions that are brooding within. Is this contempt? No: but all the virulence which is excited by the christian graces can be resolved into envy-the feelings of devils when they think on the pure happiness of angels : and to complete their confusion, wbat is at that moment the feeling in the christian's heart? Pity, most unfeigned pity. p. 23.
Among his earlier poems, one on the subject of Jugurtha in prison, we notice as distinguished for correctness, and a manly exhibition of thought, with not a little of the true fire of poetry.
The following passage may serve as a specimen of this production.
Look here, thou caitiff, if thou canst, and see
The Ode on the burial of Sir John Moore has been greatly celebrated. It proved its author capable of attaining the highest palm of the muse, though he seemed to have little ambition of securing “ the shadowy prize of poetic reputation.” That prize, however, was awarded him, though it had been unsought, since the short poem in question has taken a rank not inferior to that of Byron's Ode to Napoleon, or Campbell's Hohenlinden. Indeed, Byron himself generously pronounced it,“ little inferior to the best which the present prolific age has brought forth.” The third stanza in particular he considered perfect.
No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet, nor in shroud we wound him;
With his martial cloak around him.” Were it our purpose, however, minutely to criticise this production, we should say it was defective, in not giving a distinct utterance to some moral or religious truth. The interment of a human being, might very properly have supplied an allusion to the uncertainty of life, the eternal world, the condition of the dead, the sublime doctrine of the resurrection, or some similar topics, and by this means have even enhanced the effect of the poetry.
In a poem on patriotism are some fine passages in which we are pleased equally with the strength of the coloring, and the beauty of the sentiment. To this virtue, which, however, the scriptures do not acknowledge as such in the sense in which it is customarily used among men, he assigns a high original and an honorable abode on earth.
Thou art not mortal, thou didst come from Heav'n,
His descriptive poem entitled, Farewell to Lough Bray, reminds us, by its rich grouping of objects, of our own Percival. It was the fancy of a genuine bard which contrived at the close of this short piece, such a picture as the following.
Haply some glorious spirits here await
(If blessed spirits tire in such employ) Vol. IV.
The slumbering phantoms lay them down to rest
Of the sew poems that Mr. W. left, only two or three are religious, or on religious subjects; and these, (one of which is a prize poem on the death of Abel,) are among his earlier efforts. According to his biographer, he seemed to shrink from such themes as too lofty for his genius—too pure and too awful for what he humbly thought his insufficient powers. Indeed, it was his own expressed opinion, in respect to one of the lighter forms of poetry, that owing to the aversion which the great mass of society feel to the spontaneous language of a religious mind, “a song intended to make religion popular should not be entirely of a religious cast, that it should take in as wide a range as any other song, should appeal to every passion and feeling of our nature not in itself sinful should employ all the scenery, imagery, and circumstances of the songs of this world, while religion should be indirectly introduced, or delicately insinuated.” This he truly considered as a most difficult undertaking. And he refers to the Alexander Selkirk of Cowper, as the only piece that occurred to him as at all exemplifying his meaning. We do not introduce the sentiment above expressed, with a view either to deny or admit its correctness, but only to show, why with a heart so alive to religion, he wrote very little religious poetry. Should it be received as true in regard to songs designed to make religion popular, it has not entirely the same application to other forms of poetry; though it is quite possible that the design of poetic composition on the subject of religion, is less oftener answered than is supposed to be the case, by unsuitably making it to speak as if it were a body of divinity. Readers do not resort to religious poetry with a view to learn theology ;—that is much better acquired from plain didactic discourses in prose.
From the specimens of poetic talent which appear in the work before us, we judge that few poets of the age have given greater promise of excellence-a promise which would doubtless have been fulfilled, had life been continued to him, or his situation admitted the cultivation of the art. Such of his poetic remains as we have noticed, are distinguished for easy versification, lively thoughts, and a rich classical diction, amounting in some instances, to the fine polish and elaborate elegance of Pope. If the ode on the burial of Sir John Moore be taken as the standard of his lyrical powers, he would have equalled, if not surpassed, his most celebrated contemporaries.
In the latter part of the book are the published sermons of Mr. W., fifteen in number. They are the most valuable portion of the volume. Here the spirituality of his mind and the fervor of