« PreviousContinue »
ligion walked in silver slippers, when the sun shone, and when the people applauded. Indeed, he might have easily found all the kindred of By-ends among the public men of his time. He might have found among the peers, my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, and my Lord Fair-speech; in the House of Commons, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Anything, and Mr. Facing-both-ways; nor would the parson of the parish, Mr. Two-tongues,' have been wanting. The town of Bedford probably contained more than one politician, who, after contriving to raise an estate by seeking the Lord during the reign of the saints, contrived to keep what he had got by persecuting the saints during the reign of the strumpets; and more than one priest who, during repeated changes in the discipline and doctrines of the church, had remained constant to nothing but his benefice.
One of the most remarkable passages in the Pilgrim's Progress, is that in which the proceedings against Faithful are described. It is impossible to doubt that Bunyan intented to satirize the mode in which state trials were conducted under Charles the Second. The license given to the witnesses for the prosecution, the shameless partiality and ferocious insolence of the judge, the precipitancy and the blind rancor of the jury, remind us of those odious mummeries which, from the Restoration to the Revolution, were merely forms preliminary to hanging, drawing, and quartering. Lord Hategood performs the office of counsel for the prisoners as well as Scroggs himself could have performed it.
• JUDGE. Thou runagate, heretic, and traitor, hast thou heard what these honest gentlemen have witnessed against thee ?
• Faithful, May I speak a few words in my own defence ?
"JUDGE. Sirrah, sirrah! thou deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place; yet, that all men may
see our gentleness to thee, let us hear what thou, vile runagate, hast to say No person
who knows the state trials can be at a loss for parallel cases. Indeed, write what Bunyan would, the baseness and cruelty of the lawyers of those times 'sinned up to it still,' and even went beyond it. The imaginary trial of Faithful before a jury composed of personified vices, was just and merciful, when compared with the real trial of Lady Alice Lisle before that tribunal where all the vices sat in the person of Jefferies.
The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as a study to every person who wishes to obtain a wide command over the English language. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people. There is not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of theology, which would puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed several pages which do not contain a single word of more than two syllables. Yet no writer has said more exactly what he meant to say. For magnificence, for pathos, for vehement exhortation, for subtle disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working men, was perfectly sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we would so readily stake the fame of the old unpolluted English language ; no book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed.
Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. To our refined forefathers, we suppose, Lord Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse, and the Duke of Buckinghamshire's Essay on Poetry, appeared to be compositions infinitely superior to the allegory of the preaching tinker. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say, that, though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim's Progress.
A POEM WHICH OBTAINED THE CHANCELLOR'S MEDAL AT THE
CAMBRIDGE COMMENCEMENT, JULY, 1819.
OA! land to Memory and to Freedom dear,
* See Eustace's description of the Tomb of Virgil, on the Neapolitan coast.
And sweep with magic hand the slumbering strings,
How rich that climate's sweets, how wild its storms,
Then mirth and music through Pompeii rung ; Then verdant wreaths on all her portals hung; Her sons with solemn rite and jocund lay, Hailed the glad splendors of that festal day. With fillets bound the hoary priests advance, And rosy virgins braid the choral dance. The rugged warrior here unbends awhile His iron front, and deigns a transient smile: There, frantic with delight, the ruddy boy Scarce treads on earth, and bounds and laughs with joy. From every crowded altar perfumes rise In billowy clouds of fragrance to the skies. The milk-white monarch of the herd they lead, With gilded horns, at yonder shrine to bleed; And while the victim crops the broidered plain, And frisks and gambols towards the destined fane, They little deem that like himself they stray To death, unconscious, o'er a flowery way; Heedless, like him, the impending stroke await, And sport and wanton on the brink of fate.
What 'vails it that where yonder heights aspire, With ashes piled, and scathed with rills of fire,