Page images
PDF
EPUB

pose, is produced by the dire effects on the human frame of animal food, co-operating with that baneful habit, the use of water, or of something more pernicious, to allay the thirst which that food occasions. Such indeed are my eager wishes. But to moderate my views, and that I may not prepare disappointments for myself, I will merely anticipate the more humble result, that those parents who feel the sufferings of their children as their own, those mothers in particular whose severe lot it has been to pass night after night in watching over their emaciated little ones, may be induced, by the instances of complete success which I shall offer in the course of this essay, to institute the regimen here recommended to them under the fullest experimental conviction that it will render their children robust and healthy, if any treatment can possibly attain that end, of all objects the most desirable and important.

1

To begin, then, where it becomes us christians to carry our first attention. If the scripture account of Paradise had not been written by divine command for the purpose of acquainting man with his origin, and that of the great material frame around him, but had been a tradition descending to Moses, I should have believed it impossible to contrive a fable better adapted to convey the truths I am about to press on the reader's attention than that sacred novel. Man is created and placed in a garden abounding with fruits and vegetables, with which he is commanded to sustain himself. "Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed: to you it shall be for meat." In the midst of the garden stand two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; that is, of the knowledge of evil, for good Adam possessed already. Of the fruit of one of these trees he is encouraged to partake, of the other he is forbidden. Had this elegant story been an allegory instead of an historical narration, I should have thought it evident that these distinguished trees

A distinction, by-the-bye, in favor of this little globe, for which, together with other distinctions still greater and more incomprehensible, we never can show ourselves sufficiently thankful to the Deity; reflecting as we ought to do, that we constitute a mere point in this ample universe, where there are more, many more planets than all the hairs of the heads of all the men, women, and children, who ever inhabited the earth since its creation.

For the sublimest view ever taken of the universe, turn to the third book of the Paradise Lost, from line 415 to the end, where the reader will see that to the eye of Satan that "firm opacous" substance which inclosed the whole of the fixed stars, with their pendent planets, appeared at a distance but as a globe, beaten by the waves and storms of chaos. Milton's laborious Latin translator, Dobson, seems to have misconceived this stupendous passage. He sometimes wants the clearness of his great original.

represented mysteriously the two kinds of food which Adam and Eve had before them in Paradise, viz. the vegetables and the animals; over which latter dominion was given to man, not surely that he should rob them of all they have, their lives; a permission irreconcileable with a state of perfect innocence; but that he might render them serviceable to himself in cultivating the earth, and in other respects. Of the flesh of animals then, in this view of the supposed fable, our first father was ordered not to eat, and was warned that in failure of his obedience he should « surely die.” But of what sort was this threatened death? Immediate we know it was not. May I venture, without drawing upon myself the charge of presumption, to say that the penalty incurred was premature diseased death: for it is manifest that it could not have been the divine purpose, had no transgression taken place, to constitute mankind at once generative and immortal. Theirs would have been such comparative immortality as the food suited to their anatomy would have secured to them, a protracted and healthy existence. This was curtailed by the fall of Adam, which brought diseases into the world; and it appears sufficiently consistent with this explanation, that one of Adam's sons should be a shepherd tending his flock.

[ocr errors]

It will be necessary here to remark, that what has been said, with all due reverence of the book of Genesis, will seem to hold with what follows on the subject of Prometheus, only to those who admit that the chronology of very remote ages is enveloped in darkness; that some hundreds of years are of no great consequence in the reckoning; that Bishop Warburton's or Mr Bryant's attempts to commix the Pagan fables with the Jewish history, may or may not have been successful; and that the references to the pre-adamitical state of the globe so commonly met with in the scientific writers of Germany, may claim to be received as founded, if we consider the irrefragable nature of arguments brought from the fossil kingdom; arguments which, like Galileo's, shun not the light, but are submitted to the ocular examination of the curious in such subjects.

Another allusion of great antiquity to man's dereliction of his natural diet, appears to have descended to us in the story of Prometheus. Lord Bacon, who remarks elsewhere, that "allegorical poetry is history with its type," gives this account of the fable: The ancients relate that man was the work of Prometheus,

1 Genesis, ch. ii. v. 16, 17. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." The words in Italics would seem to have an allegorical application.

and formed of clay; only the artificer mixed in with the mass particles taken from different animals : and being desirous to improve his workmanship, and endow as well as create the human race, he stole up to heaven with a bundle of birch rods, and kindling them at the chariot of the sun, thence brought down fire to the earth for the service of men. They add, that for this meritorious act Prometheus was repaid with ingratitude by mankind; so that, forming a conspiracy, they accused both him and his invention to Jupiter and the gods; insomuch, that delighted with the action, they not only indulged mankind in the use of fire, but moreover eonferred upon them a most acceptable and desirable present, viz. perpetual youth. But men foolishly overjoyed hereat, laid this present of the gods upon an ass, who, in returning back with it, being extremely thirsty, and coming to a fountain, the ser. pent who was guardian thereof would not suffer him to drink but upon condition of receiving the burden he carried, whatever it should be. The silly ass complied, and thus the perpetual renewal of youth was for a sup of water transferred from men to the race of serpents."

Let those who read my Lord Bacon's elaborate explanation of the fable say, whether it conveys to them any satisfactory information, such as may justify the preservation of that fable for so many centuries. In the absence of which, and under a persuasion that few people will be complacent enough to agree even with so great a man as Lord Bacon, that “ the voyage of Hercules, made in a pitcher, to release Prometheus, bears an allusion to the wisdom of God coming in the frail vessel of the flesh to redeem mankind," I beg permission of the reader to venture with great humility my own conception of the story of Prometheus, who, it is pretty generally admitted, represents the human race. Making allowance for such transposition of the events of the allegory as time might produce after the important truths were forgotten. which this portion of the ancient mythology, was intended to transmit, the drift of the fable appears to be this: Man at his creation was endowed with the gift of perpetual youth; that is, he was not formed to be a sickly suffering creature as now we see him, but to enjoy health, and to sink by slow degrees into the bosom of his parent earth, without disease or pain. Prometheus first taught the use of animal food, and of fire with which to render it more digestible and pleasing to the taste. Jupiter and the rest of the gods, foreseeing the consequences of these inventions, were amused or irritated at the short-sighted devices of the newly formed creature, and left him to experience the sad effects of them. Thirst, the necessary concomitant of a flesh diet, ensued; water was resorted to, and man forfeited the inestimable gift of health

which he had received from heaven: he became diseased, the

partaker of a precarious existence, and no longer descended slowly to his grave. In

support of this interpretation, Pliny tells us, lib. vii. sect. 57. “Ignem e silice Pyrodes, eumdem adservare in ferulâ Prometheus." Pyrodes first struck fire from a flint, Prometheus first preserved it in a stick. I have added the word · first' in this translation, because Pliny is here recording the discoveries which preceded his own age. And at the end of the same section, that author says, “ Animal occidit primus Hyperbius, Martis filius,

, Prometheus bovem.” Hyperbius, the son of Mars, first killed an animal, Prometheus first slew an ox. By these passages we become acquainted with two particulars not unimportant in the present discussion : first, the sense in which the theft of fire from the sun's chariot by Prometheus was understood according to the instruction of Pliny's time; and secondly, that it was the same man, Prometheus, who first preserved fire to human uses, and who likewise set the example of slaughtering an ox; a coincidence on which it will be quite unnecessary to comment. Of the two sacrifices offered by the daring son of Iapetus to the choice of Jupiter, we remember that the fatted bull was reserved, and that the bones and hide alone of the other were consumed on the altar of

the god.

It may be remarked that the Greeks, who seem to have had a

. pretty inordinate and superstitious belief in the efficacy of medicine, included Prometheus among the claimants to what they conceived to be the honor of that invention. Perhaps it was from a feeling, that after having been the first to kill an ox and to instruct mankind in the culinary and other uses of fire, he owed them in common justice an antidote to the effects of his pernicious discoveries.

What might here be added relative to Pandora's baleful casket, will occur so obviously to the reader, that I willingly omit the passage which I had written upon the subject. Should Hope,' which adhered within it, comprehend the author's object in publishing this essay, his labor will not have been in vain.

These innovations appear to have taken place yery remotely, since Prometheus was the grandson of Titan, the brother of Saturn. Many ancient writers look with no favorable eye on the great change which Prometheus achieved in the condition of mankind. Had the Igoumdeus llup popos of Æschylus, or the satiric drama of Epicharmus the Pythagorean, on the subject of that hero,

'In the history of Adam too, Hope accompanied the introduction of diseases among men; but it was Religious llope.

descended to our days, much light would probably have been thrown on his adventurous exploit by these compositions, In Hesiod's poem of Works and Days, Jupiter addresses Prometheus in these words:

Ιαπετιονίδη, παντων περι μηδεα ειδώς,

Χαιρεις πυρ κλέψας, και εμας φρενας ηπεροπευσας ;
Σοιτ' αυτώ μεγα πημα και ανδρασιν εσσομενοισι.
Τοις δ' εγω αντι πυρος δωσω κακον, ω κεν απαντες
Τέρπωνται κατα θυμον, τον κακον αμφαγαπωντες.
OPERA ET DIES, line 54.

You rejoice, O crafty son of Iapetus, that you have stolen fire and deceived Jupiter; but great will thence be the evil both to yourself and to your posterity. To them this gift of fire shall be a gift of woe; in which, while they delight and pride themselves, they shall cherish their own wretchedness. Horace in his 3d ode, says,

"

[blocks in formation]

Hesiod too acquaints us, that before the time of Prometheus, mankind were exempt from all sufferings; that up to that period they enjoyed a vigorous youth; and that death, when at length it came, approached like sleep, and gently closed their eyes.

Desirous as I am of quitting the introductory portion of this volume, I still cannot resist the temptation to say a dozen words on the allegory of Phaeton, the son of Clymene, Prometheus's mother; which fable was invented by the vegetable eaters of old, the Pythagoreans. The etymology of the name of Phaeton, as of that of Prometheus, proves that each was contrived for the occasion. It is evident, that if there ever was a time when the axis of our globe was perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic, not only the days and nights, but the seasons also must have been equal from one pole to another. The productions of the earth being every where spontaneous, man, unimproved and unsophisticated, must have found his sustenance wherever there was land. We should rationally expect, that in those days animals which can no longer exist in the northern regions, crocodiles, elephants,

Prometheus is said to have made man, and justly, for by the operation of his discoveries he made him the creature he now is.

« PreviousContinue »