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RELIGION OF THE POETS.
with any ten times as many in the whole
Bible, and would not exchange the noble BURNS.
enthusiasm witd which they inspire me THE ravages which sentimentalism com for all that this world has to offer." Now
mits, and the various aspects which it all this is full of promise ;-this enthusiassumes, are beyond what can easily be asm would be hailed by not a few as contold; as well attempt
stituting pure religion; and yet we know
that he who wrote these sentences lived “ To count the sea's abundant progeny;"
to outrage the truth which he professed but in the end, they all leave man precise to admire. It was mere emotion ; there ly where they found him, or rather they was no work of grace, no guidance of that thicken the folds of that vail which blinds | Spirit who leads into all truth; and the him, and renders his ruin more certain. whole was therefore the gleam of a meOf the effects of this phase of religion, we teor, not the shining of the sun. The cannot quote a better illustration than that melancholy which dictated such sentiments, which the life of the poet Burns supplies. I inspired many of his verses in future years; He was trained by godly parents; and fa- and one cannot hear the wail of so noble miliarized at once with the word, and the a mind, as it closes one stanza with the service of God. Many things occur in words, his writings to show that he was familiar
“But a' the pride of spring's return, with the vital doctrines of revelation, and Can yield me nocht but sorrow;". knew what should have been their bearing on the life of man. When he would give
and another, exclaimingsolemnity, for example, to certain of his “When yon green leaves fade frae the trees, vows, he would inscribe on the blank leaf
Around my grave they 'll wither,” of a Bible the words, “ Ye shall not swear without detecting the impotency of the by my name falsely ; I am the Lord :" mere sentiment of religion, when the powand add, as if to augment the strength of er and demonstration of the Spirit do not the obligation, “ Thou shalt not forswear give direction and force to the truth. thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord Gifts the most noble, and genius the most thine oaths.” Truth in one of its forms transcendant, only render man a more able was thus ascendant in his mind; and were self-tormentor, when grace does not illuthis all that we know of the history of his minate and guide him. In sober truth, soul, we might conclude that revelation they are as unavailing as the Jup, the had acquired its rightful authority there,- Dyan, the Tup, and the Yoga of certain that in the noble mind of that wondrous Hindoo ascetics. man, grace had added its influence to the But these are only the beginnings of gifts which dignified his nature.
our proof regarding the insufficiency of It is requisite, however, to study his mere sentiment. The same gifted man, character more minutely; and, in doing endowed as he was with remarkable verso, we find how frail is every barrier-satility and power, was the victim of a whether it be natural conscience, or ra sorrow which refused to be soothed. Amid tionalism, or sentiment and poetry-against the blaze of his reputation he wrote :the passions which tyrannize in the heart “ I have a hundred times wished that one of unrenewed man. While Burns was yet could resign life, as an officer resigns a an obscure youth, and years before he commission, for I would not take in any shone forth to amaze and dazzle so many, poor ignorant wretch, by selling out. Latehe wrote to his father as follows :-“I am ly I was a sixpenny private, and a miseraquite transported at the thought that ere ble soldier enough,—now I march to the long, perhaps very soon, I shall bid adieu campaign a starving cadet, a little more to all the pains, and uneasiness, and dis- conspicuously wretched.” And again, as quietudes of this weary life ; for I assure if he would open up the very fountains of you, I am heartily tired of it; and if I do his chagrin, or display the extent of the not very much deceive myself, I could con moral distemper, which continued unhealtentedly and gladly resign it.” He pro- ed in his mind, he says :-“When I must ceeds to say, “ It is for this reason, I am escape into a corner, lest the rattling more pleased with the last three verses of equipage of some gaping blockhead should the seventh chapter of the Revelation, than | mangle me in the mire, I am tempted to
exclaim, What merit has he had, or what and cheer him? Had he got no hold of demerit have I had, in some state of pre- the truth which conducts the soul, amid existence, that he is ushered into this state a thousand perils and trials, to serenity of being with the scepter of rule and the and repose? He had a godly father, and key of riches in his puny fist; while I am his early training was in the best school kicked into the world, the sport of folly, of religion. Had that no effect on his or the victim of pride ?" Now, the man conduct and history? Beyond all conwho recorded these bitter and distemper- troversy it had; but it was chiefly to deeped complaints was the author of the fol- en his wretchedness and give a keener lowing exquisite lines :
poignancy to his sorrow. He was one of • Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,
those who could admire the drapery of reHow guiltless blood for guilty man was shed: ligion, while he neglected itself. Like How He, who bore in heaven the second name, Sir Walter Scott, and many more, he was Had not on earth whereon to lay his head;
shrewd and quick to detect the hypocritiHow his first followers and servants sped, The precepts sage they wrote to many a land;
cal pretence to godliness, but he had no How he who lone in Patmos banishèd,
discernment of the intrinsic power of Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand, truth ; and hence, he was tortured to agoAnd heard great Bab’lon's doom pronounced by ny amid trials, even till he sometimes Heaven's command."
wished for death. Had he been utterly Or these,
ignorant of religion, conscience might have "But, when in life we're tempest-driven,
been more easily appeased ; but, knowing And conscience but a canker,
it as he did to a certain extent, yet setting A correspondence fix'd in heaven
it often utterly at defiance, he just heaped Is sure a noble anchor."
woes upon himself by his own right hand. Now the instructive point here is, that The fearful gift of genius, like the fatal while this gifted man could scatter gems gift of beauty, may thus help on man's around him like the brilliants emitted by misery, unless it be controlled by the wisthe creations of Eastern fable, he was dom which comes from above; and even himself “poor, and wretched, and mis- Dr. Currie was obliged at last to write of erable,"—the sport of passion,-a thing the man whom he loved and admired,driven of the wind, and tossed. And “ His temper now became more irritable why? Was there no anchorage for such and gloomy. He fled from himself into a soul ?—nothing to teach that troubled society, often of the lowest kind. And in mind, that, as all things are guided by such company, that part of the convivial Him who is love, all things are overruled scene in which wine increases sensibility for good to them that love him? Had he and excites benevolence, was hurried over never learned, or was there one at hand to reach the succeeding part, over which to whisper, that it is possible for man, in- uncontrolled passion generally presided. stead of indulging such violent outbreaks He who suffers the pollution of inebriation, against the ways of God, to say, “I have how shall he escape other pollution ?" learned in all circumstances in which I Yet Burns had a God whom he often am, to be therewith content ?" Was there professed to revere.
He wrote new verno power in the words, “ Thy will be done sions of some of the Psalms, he is the on earth as it is done in heaven ?" Alas author of some poetical prayers, as well for man, when poetry, or genius, or senti- as of poems, which one can scarcely read mentalism, however exquisite, is the only without tears; and from these we may guide of his soul in trouble! In this gift- | ascertain what was the religion of Burns. ed man's life we read with the clearness And at the very most it was the religion of a revelation of the impotence of genius, of emotion or the imagination. The hoor any natural gift, to restrain the pas- liness of God formed no element in it ; sions, or promote the real happiness of and because that was left out, it was a man. Power, whether intellectual or imag- kind of pantheistic figment which was inative, only enables man to go more sig- worshiped, and not the true Jehovah. nally astray, when it is not under the con- The wondrous Alp-clouds which are sometrol of a pure conscience and sanctified times seen at sunset fringed with gold by
his light are brilliant, no doubt, and gorBut, amid all his gloom and despondency, geous, but they are not the sun himself ; had Burns no internal guide to enlighten and, like manner, the ideal creations of
men's minds, poetically attractive as they We have another view of the religion may be, are not the living and true God, of Burns presented in the following exthough they are often substituted for him; | tract :-"Now that I talk of authors, how and there is profoundest wisdom in the do you like Cowper? Is not the ‘Task' saying, that “ those imaginations about the a glorious poem? The religion of the Godhead which make up a religion of poet- | ·Task,' bating a few scraps of Calvinistic ry, are not enough for a religion of peace.' divinity, is the religion of God and of -Chalmers. And it is curious to observe nature,—the religion that exalts, that enhow Burns had worn away the idea of nobles man.” Now, had we no record of God till it became evanescent and unin- Burns's life, we might here conclude that, fluential. By his own confession, " the though anti-Calvinistic, he was devout in daring path Spinoza trod” was trod for a his piety, and pure in his life, like Cowseason by him; and his views of the Great per, whom he eulogized; but how comOne, were such as could not restrain a pletely must all moral perception have single passion, nor stand against a single been dulled, when such admiration could temptation.
be lavished upon a poet who was at so In one of his dedications he prays to many points the very antithesis of Burns ! the “Great Fountain of honor, the Mon-And again we say, How naturally does arch of the Universe," and that was his such a state of mind lead man to exclaim substitute for the great I AM. In a pray- | in the end, as Burns once did, “ Canst er on the prospect of death, he says, thou minister to a mind diseased? Canst
thou speak peace and rest to a soul tossed “If I have wander'd in those paths Of life I ought to shun;
on a sea of troubles, without one friendly As something loudly in my breast star to guide her course, and dreading the Remonstrates, I have done;
next surge may overwhelm her ? Canst “ Thou know'st that thou hast formed me
thou give to a frame tremblingly alive to With passions wild and strong,
the tortures of suspense, the stability and And list’ning to their witching voice
hardihood of the rock that braves the Has often led me wrong."
blast? If thou canst not do the least of In other words, the Creator of all—the these, why wouldst thou disturb me in my
miseries with thy inquiries after me ?" very Being whom the author of that
Such, then, is an exhibition of the naprayer, in the next stanza, calls “ All Good ”—was the origin of Burns's trans
tive impotency of mere sentiment. The gressions, for he was the creator of Burns's
poetry of religion : its drapery—its mu“passions wild and strong.'
sic—its grand cernmonials, or its primi
It is thus that the Eternal is accused by his crea
tive simplicity—its gorgeous edifices—its tures; it is thus that blame is shifted
ancestral associations, may all be admired; from the criminal to the judge. The ro
but none of these can charm man into homance of religion : its “ big ha' Bible"
liness, or so change his heart as to guide its patriarchal priest—the simple melody
to righteousness, and peace, and joy in the of the songs of Zion,-all these Burns
Holy Ghost. The first biographer, and could admire, because there is poetry in
most charitable friend of Burns, was but He whom the believer knows,
obliged to record that up to a period diswas not his resting-place. O, let it be
tant only a few months from his death, he said in pity !-Need we wonder, though
could proceed from a sick-room to “dine he who did so had to write,—“Regret!
at a tavern, return home about three Remorse! Shame! ye three hell-hounds,
o'clock in a very cold morning, benumbed that ever dodge my steps, and bay at my
and intoxicated, and by that process he heels, spare me! spare me!" Let the
hastened or developed the disease which following stanza be calmly considered,
laid him in his grave.” His conduct, in
deed, has drawn forth the highest censures and then say what is the verdict which truth brings in ?
of men who were neither prudes nor Pu
ritans.* The mere poetry of religion was "I saw thy pulse's maddening play, substituted for the truth, and the result was Misled by Fancy's meteor ray,
moral confusion, and many an evil work. Wild send thee Pleasure's devious way,
By passion driven ;
• See " Edinburgh Review” for January, Was light from heaven.”
1809, on Lord Jeffry's Contributions, Vol. III.
[For the National Magazine.]
THE BELL OF ST. REGIS.
BY REV. MARK TRAFTON.
Broad and stately the St. Lawrence
Rolls its billows to the Feeling in its onward motion
Thy strong pulse, Niagara : On its bosom nations' navies
Float, in peerless majesty. On its swelling current rolling,
Through dark, towering Northern hills; Taking to its bosom kindly
Thousands of their laughing rills: Glorious river ! floating on thee,
How the heart with rapture thrills !
There a bay of beauty lies;
With the blue of northern skies;
Like the light in beauty's eyes. Here the village of St. Regis
Circles round the bending bay ; Where the Indian mother watches
Her young dusky charge at play; And the buskin'd hunters gather,
From the chase at close of day. Bright the eddying current breaking,
Sparkles on the whiten'd shore ; Now it drops like molten silver
From the Indian's flashing oar;
Comes Niagara's sullen roar.
O'er the waters, calm and blue,
Gliding on, the bark canoe : There love's magic spell is binding
Fast in one fond hearts and true.
Where the grassy bank retires;
Here had lit the council fires;
Which sweet thoughts of peace inspires. A friar from France had call'd them
Near two hundred years ago, To listen to a message sent
From the dreaded Manitou;
To the oily words that flow.
Who sends them the waving corn;
To shame and scoffing born; Of the garden's bloody agony
The scourge, and cross, and thorn, Why swells the savage bosom?
Has the scared old warrior fears ? Why course those tears down dusky cheeks
From eyes unused to tears ? "T is pity stirs the stoic soul,
By the tragic tale he hears.
And now all tongues are raising
Praise to the virgin one;
A temple for her Son :
In many a battle won.
Rings out the hour of prayer;
And watch'd the beaver's haunts,
A bell from La Belle France : But what it was, is mystery
Like the visions of a trance. In Paris gay 't was purchased,
And baptized in Notre-Dame, Then shipp'd on board the Grand Monarque
To cross the rolling main : And they waited till the leaves were sere;
But they waited all in vain.
A British cruiser bore
With all her treasured store;
On stern New-England's shore.
The chase the hunter leaves,
The heart of childhood grieves :
Of the first-born son bereaves.
To Deerfield's valley, where
The Puritans to prayer ! “ St. Francis! that a Christian bell
Such sacrilege should bear!"
At the ghostly father's call;
The bell to save from thrall:
Till the pale-faced robbers fall. “Holy virgin ! sleep the faithful
While the boasting infidel Perform their sacrilegious rites
With the tones of a Christian bell ! While it pines in iron bonds away
From the souls it loves so well. “ At the solemn hour of midnight,
As I wander forth alone, Then come its bitter wailing
On the wintry tempests borne. Ah! my soul is sad within me,
For my minstrel lost I mourn. “Why lingers then the warrior ?
Why sleeps the fearless brave? Would ye rest, had the pale foeman
of your first-born made a slave ? In vain shall be your hunting
Till the captive bell you save.”.
Wild rose the startling warwhoop
But long the way and weary, From a thousand painted braves ;
While the bell's full weight they bore; And round the mystic war-dance whirls So with prayers and hymns 't was buried Like the whirlpool's troubled waves ;
On Champlain's ice-bound shore: Now, wo betide the pale-face!
There slept the rescued captive, For blood the war-club laves.
Until spring return'd once more. The mystic rites are ended,
But tales of stirring wonder And the banded warriors go,
Were spread the tribes among ; Through dark and tangled forests,
The bell had recognized its friends, Through storms of sleet and snow;
And loud its silver tongue Fell hate is burning in each heart,
Had cheer'd them, when the battle raged, They seek the pale-faced foe.
And the victor's praise had sung. Not for the love of conquest,
So marvelous its mystic powers, Nor thirst for gather'd spoil ;
No spirit, black from hell, No proud ambition moves the soul
But shrinks away in pale affright, To undergo such toil;
When speaks the Christian bell. But to bring a captive angel
The miracles its power had wrought Back to a Christian soil.
No friar's tongue could tell. On through the dreary deserts,
When spring return'd in beauty, Through sinking bog and fen;
With bird and blossom rare, Midst howling wintry tempests,
Then march'd a band of stalwart men, Press on these fearless men:
The wonder home to bear; The ghostly leader cheers the march
And the priest with holy water goes, With many a chanted hymn.
To guard the treasure there, Quiet and still the sleepers
Twilight was falling softly, That night in Deerfield lie;
On river, bay, and lawn; No watch is set, no danger fear'd,
The wondering tribe, in musings deep, No dream that foe was nigh;
Were to the forest drawn; But wildly shriek'd the wintry wind,
They had waited for their friends' return, As swept it swiftly by.
Since morning's earliest dawn. So sweetly sleeps the infant
But list! above the murmur In the mother's close embrace;
Of the distant cascade's roar An angel's call is in its ear,
Comes breathing through the perfumed woods For smiles are on its face;
Strains never heard before; And soundly sleeps the weary sire
No tones like these had echo woke No fears his fancies trace.
Upon their pebbled shore, A yell burst on their slumbers
Now rose the victors' shoutingTis the redman's warwhoop wild;
But with it, on them fell The gleaming hatchet cleft the skull
Tones clear and sweet, such as till then Of the mother and her child ;
Ņe'er caused their hearts to swell; The sleeping sire woke to see
When sudden, from all tongues was heard, His home a burning pile.
“ The Bell ; it is the Bell ! The hissing flames are spreading,
Down the St. Lawrence floating, And fast the death shots fell;
When the sun has westward rollid, While high the din of conflict rose,
St. Regis' graceful spire is seen, For dear each life they sell ;
Like a shaft of burnish'd gold: When wild and startling rose the tones As the vesper's notes are blending Of the St. Regis bell!
With the billows' murmuring swell, “ The virgin calls to vengeance !"
How sweetly o'er the waters float The ghostly leader cries;
Thy tones, St. Regis BELL! “Let the doom'd heretics now find No mercy in your eyes;
There is a perennial nobleness and even Now on her altar here we lay
sacredness in work. Were he ever so A bloody sacrifice."
benighted, forgetful of his high calling, The victor's shout was blending
there is always hope in a man that actualWith those strange, mysterious tones ;
ly and earnestly works ; in idleness alone But richer in the savage ear Rose mingled shrieks and groans,
is there perpetual despair. Doubt, desire, As fast the surging flames inwrapt
sorrow, remorse, indignation, despair itself, Those peaceful valley homes.
all these, like hell dogs, lie beleaguering Now bound upon their shoulders
the soul of the poor day-worker as of Is borne the wondrous bell;
every man; but he bends himself with As back through drifting snows they march, free valor against his task, and all these
With the scalp-song's echoing swell : But Deerfield groan'd for years beneath
are stilled—all these shrink murmuring The woes which on it fell.
far off into their caves.- Thomas Carlyle.