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the abject horror or brutal carelessness of others, the last glance upwards to the lights of heaven, the last struggle with the waters, the loneliness of the vessel while steadying to sink, the utter desolation when she has disappeared, leaving only this fragment to convey the tidings to watchful hearts, — all this is witnessed by the refined imagination in the distinctness and power of reality. No omen ever told so much as this; no spirit could utter more.
- Our own spirits are the only authorized revealers of what is passing above and around us, and we need no others. If we subject them to their appropriate influences, we shall learn tidings which we can little anticipate; - tidings more awful than ever ghost disclosed at dead of night; more sweet than ever fairy breathed in forest glade; more true than ever omens suggested, or airy voices confirmed.
Some mourners are even yet unwilling to relinquish the belief that departed spirits may hold communion with survivors. The desire of such intercourse is natural as long as the survivor and the departed are conceived to hold the same relation to each other as formerly, as long as the spirit is imagined to be invested with some of the attributes of mortality. The very supposition of recognising it supposes also some manifestation of identity. If this should be so pervading as to preclude all doubt, all fear, all difficulty of communication; if, moreover, we could choose the time and place, we would almost lay down our own life for the sight of a familiar ghost. We would not choose a time or place itself furnishing associations which need be inferior to none in multitude and power. It would be awful, on a mountain top, to hear a still, small voice distinguishable in the thunder of the avalanche; to see a form rising through the mists which tumble below, or sweeping by on the blast; but here the forms and utterance of nature are sublime; and where the voice of God is put forth, no
other should be heard. Nor should we choose the hour when we are basking on the hill-side, contemplating the blue distance, and stretching our gaze so far into the world of mind that we would rather decline foreign aid till we have ascertained what we can accomplish for ourselves. Nor would we seek that aid in a moment of perplexity and difficulty, when the mind is not sufficiently open and calm for such communion as we should wish to institute. Least of all should we choose the hour of death, when, if ever, the soul should desire to be alone with its Maker. We would invoke a spirit when in our solitary chamber; when the affections are stirring, and the intellect is not preoccupied. We would entreat it to appear, not in stern solemnity, nor surrounded by unintelligible attributes, but however wiser than ourselves, not graver; though purer, not colder. We would seek to know, not so much what the future has in store, as what record of the past is preserved in the affections of a spirit; what is taking place at present in the unseen world, and especially, whether any change is going on in the released soul which shall alter its relation to ourselves in consequence of our prolonged residence here: -Such questions, however, never have been answered; and we may therefore conclude, independently of argument, that they never can be answered in this world; for it is not possible that the sighings, the yearnings, the prayers of the bereaved should have been thus long unheeded.
Happily for us, there are manifestations of the departed which can never be obscured while it is our will to preserve them, - forms presented to the mental eye, voices eloquent to the attentive soul. If together we have watched the changes of nature, and learned the language of truth, our companionship cannot be destroyed by death. The spirit comes, like Uriel, on the slanting sunbeam; but not, like him, retiring as darkness draws on, it walks its nightly round with us under the burning stars. It ascends with the lark when she springs. from her low nest, but returns perpetually to drown with a whisper the din of the crowd, to eclipse with a glance the vain pomp and glory of the world. - This is truly a spiritual, though not a supernatural presence: and no one who has experienced it can doubt that it is better adapted for purposes of consolation and improvement than any creation of the fancy, however beautiful, or any shadows of superstition, however mysterious and sublime.
GODWIN'S THOUGHTS ON MAN.*
NOTHING that a philosopher writes of the subjects of his own philosophy can be uninteresting. Nothing that Godwin can say of Man can fail to excite our sympathy and curiosity, however his present sayings may fall short of the value of his former ones, or of those which we well know he would offer, if, with the rejuvenescence of his own St. Leon, he could issue forth once more into society, with a newly-invigorated intellect and an unsated experience. This work contains sketches of man in his individuality as striking, perhaps, as any ever drawn by the same hand; but they are not, as formerly, fixed in their right place as illustrations of some principle. We have faithful interpretations of some mysteries of human emotion; but they are not, as formerly, brought home as lessons of social virtue. These “ Thoughts on Man” are not so arranged as to afford any reciprocal elucidation, or to tend, individually or collectively, to any perceivable end. There is not
Thoughts on Man, his Nature, Productions, and Discoveries. By William Godwin, Effingham Wilson. 1831.
only a want of arrangement in the plan of the whole and of all its parts, but a want of unity in the philosophy. There is a great charm in variety of development, as long as there is a uniformity in the principles of the philosophy; but a mere assemblage of facts and observations, whether they relate to human nature or any thing else, leaves but an unsatisfactory impression. Whatever may be the pleasures of a coasting excursion where we see the same shore under all its varieties of aspect, — the pebbly beach, the reedy margin, the rocky promontory, the pastures, the glades, the creeks, successively presented, but finally blending themselves into one landscape, - it is a very different thing to be led through the mazes of an Archipelago where we are swept past now a volcano, and then a vine garden, here an abode of civilized men, and there a haunt of goats and monkeys. In the one case, we can return to our starting point, rich with the results of our survey : in the other, we know not at last how far we have been, or what we have gained; and moreover, it requires good management to get home again.
Mr. Godwin's book affords something of an exemplification of the common method of contemplating Humanity. We say
his book this one book; not his former works, nor yet himself. It is a rare thing for any man to take a really comprehensive survey of either the nature or destiny of himself and his race. Pictures present themselves to all who look upon life. Facts force themselves upon the observation. Emotions stir themselves in the heart. Mysteries stimulate the intellect, and passions engross the spirit in various succession. Men see, and feel, and observe ; but, if they reason, it is only partially and temporarily. They, therefore, do not know what life is ; much less do they discern what it may become. They do not see that these pictures are given as the visible representation of facts only that they may generate these emotions, which in their turn can unravel the mysteries of the intellect, which again can reveal the laws by which the most. tempestuous workings of the spirit are actuated and controlled. By a right arrangement of our experiences, they may be made to yield the true philosophy of human life: but how few extract this philosophy! As, in the book before us, we find chapters on Human Innocence and on Phrenology, on Love and Friendship and on the Ballot -- so, in the larger volume of man's experience, we find a strange juxta-position of natural conditions and dubious science, of perdurable affections and temporary expedients. It would be possible, if it were worth while, to work out the contents of this book into a true system on the principles contained in it. Who can doubt whether the same process ought to be instituted with those other records which are impressed by an unerring hand, and can never perish?
The great impediment to a true understanding of the purposes of human life is prevalent ignorance or error respecting the primary laws of sensation and thought; and it is no less evident that we cannot have this true understanding till our mistakes are corrected, than that enormous social evils must exist till this true understanding is obtained.
As long as it is believed that there is an indefinite number, a multitude of original principles, of ultimate facts, in the human constitution, we shall be content to see the artisan unable to understand the work of his own hands, while others of his race, his nation, his kindred, are fathoming the ocean or scaling the firmament. We shall be tempted to refer the ferocity of the murderer and the benignity of the philanthropist to the different principles of their nature; and shall suppose that the inequalities of society, the exaltation of some individuals, and the abasement of others, are to be as permanent as the features of the earth on which they dwell; and that the conflicts of