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" by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more : and "he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces."* So that he was received up into heaven without having tasted of death ? And beyond this, we are called upon to believe that from heaven many years afterwards he sent a letter to another King of Judah—Jehoram. The narrative of this is supplied in the Chronicles. “And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the
Lord God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of “Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but hast walked “in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of “ Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thy
self; behold, with a great plague will the Lord smite thy people, and thy “children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: and thou shalt have great sickness “by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day “ by day.” This letter was sent at least twelve years after the ascension of the prophet, and hence the conclusion of so many of the learned that there was no such lifting up into heaven. Good old Ephraim sagely admits that “people do not “receive letters from those who are in heaven,” and evidently his belief was in accordance with that of other Churchmen, that Elijah withdrew from the country to dwell at a distance. Some have suggested death in a thunderstorm, death by a flash of lightning, or bis being carried away in a whirlwind; in either of which cases it would be easy for imagination to work the fact into the form in which it now appears. And this seems to be justified by a passage in the book itself. Many of the sons of the prophets who were in view of the ascent, and who had previously learnt that it was to take place, evidently did not believe it. The writer
says, “And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to “meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master : lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath “taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he “said, Ye shall not send. And when they urged him till be was ashamed, he said “Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found “him not. And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said “unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not.” So that they did not believe in the ascension as it is generally conceived, neither can we, and for the simple reason that there was nothing to warrant it. What was there in the life of Flijah to warrant the interference of heaven for his exaltation and honour? Did he transcend the heroes of other nations? In what sense was he either wiser, nobler, purer, or more self-sacrificing ? We search in vain through the records for
anything to justify the lofty language which many employ in speaking of him, for in truth he fell far below those whom we feel bound to hold in honour. If as a Jewish prophet we are to hail him as a marvel, then we can only do so by believing that people to have been low and easily satisfied; but to treat him as one of the world's beroes is utterly impossible, seeing that he lacked all those higher qualities of mind and nobleness in action which justify men in according praise and venera. tion.
* 2 Kings, ii. 7.12.
+ 2 Chron, xxi, 12-15.
1 2 Kings, ii, 15-18.
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PATTIE, 31, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEQRGE
GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET.
OUT OF THE CLOUD;
A TALE; BY P. W. P.
CHAPTER X X.
AN EVENING AT THE RECTORY. GEORGE BARRINGTON had not long returned to Crosswood before, partly through the desire of Lester, and partly through his own inclination, he became a regular visitor at the Rectory; where, through many months, as he declared, the happiest evenings of his life were spent. But a change had come over him. Whether it was through feeling that theological discussions are not exactly in place when only one lady is present—who of course would be shut out from the conversation; or from a desire to avoid giving offence to the deep and honest religious convictions of Lester, or from some other and hidden cause, it would be hard to say ; but it is certain, that, he avoided touching upon the numerous disputable topics which stand prominently forward as characteristic of the popular creed and orthodox teachings. There must have been some powerful motive else he could not have passed them so silently over, for, although unuttered, the objections were none the less uppermost in his mind, and he continued quite as resolute as before in his unbelief. Still it remained unspoken, and the pleasant evenings were whiled away in literary, and, occasionally, in political conversation, in which Ella took no unimportant part. The three were soon as familiar as though they had known each other for years, and through that there came a sense of freedom which was productive of a perfect artlessness and absence of reserve in speaking. Many were the battles fought in that rectory parlour about the works of ancient and modern authors, but especially in relation to the leading living poet and the greatest modern master of the art of prose composition. Ella stood up for Tennyson ; Barrington, strangely enough, declaimed against him, while Lester blew both hot and cold, sometimes praising, and then as loudly blaming. One evening when the three were together in the Rectory, shortly after the publication of " Maud," and while it was still going the round of VOL. VI. NEW SERIES, VOL. II.
criticism, Barrington opened fire upon Ella, by asking if she, having read the Laureate's “
war at any price” nonsense, could still defend her favouritecould she still maintain that he stood in the vanguard of progressive civilisation ?
“Defend him ? yes,” said Ella," and may I not challenge all his enemies to produce lines from the whole range of modern poetry, which for truth, beauty, and music, will equal many of those to be found in the muchdenounced Maud ? "
Granted! Yes, Miss Lester, you may without fear of a fall issue your challenge; but it is through that fact I am compelled to speak angrily of your favourite. It is because he is capable of achieving the highest, that I am irritated by his comparative weaknesses. He writes as no otber man can do, he possesses powers of the loftiest order, and yet his poems are not destined to become the household words of mankind; they will not live long, nor largely benefit his own generation. They have the advantages of grace, polish, and musical refinement, still they lack nearly all those robust and man-like qualities which give breadth and strength to the compositions of Shakspere. You will call me a Goth for it, I know, still I would rather have one Shakspere, one Milton, or even one Wordsworth, than a million Tennysons."
I, too,” answered Ella, “prefer the elder to the younger poet; but may it not be that each is a perfect master in his own field of labour? The dramatist dealt mainly with man and woman in action, or with what they call the objective; whereas the Laureate chiefly deals with them in meditation, with their subjective side ; are they not the two sides of one coin, each being as complete and full of meaning as the other ?
“I believe not,” interposed Lester. “ And in truth it is scarcely fair to the elder to suggest that he presents but one side of the whole, for Shakspere was as metaphysical as any, but be succeeded so admirably in combining his abstract thinking with the realities of life, that although bearing his readers up into the unknown and highest realms of thought, he still permits their feet to touch the earth. Then, too, all his metaphysical reasonings, all his abstract passages are based upon universal modes and courses of thought, which causes them to find an echo in every breast. He never travels away from the earth astride of rays from an electrical light, to reach a table-land of fog; but, starting from the universally real, he ascends into the ideal regions, so as the better to survey and estimate what cannot be so well, when closely, seen. I always feel a kind of idle pleasure in reading Tennyson-it is much the same as that kind of undefined pleasure felt by youth when it lies without thought by the gurgling stream in summer-time-but he neither clears my vision nor imparts strength. As Dickens pounces upon an oddity, a wart, or some other subordinate peculiarity, and works upon it, hammering it out until that which was but occasionally visible, becomes the complete mark and sign of the man, so does Tennyson fasten upon a mere mood of the mind, and working it out with great skill, he succeeds in presenting us with a complete portrait-a portrait of the mental man, set in a frame too costly for the subject. The lines and language are too good for their theme. I cannot but feel, that had he lavished half as much golden thought, had he bestowed but a title of the pains upon characters worthy of being seen and studied, he would have made the world his debtor to an extent not reached by any poet of modern times. But he has chosen otherwise, and I quite agree with Barrington in the belief that, although many of his lines will live,
his poetry as a whole will speedily die. Even Cowper will outlive him, and Burns will continue to be idolised when the name and present fame of your favourite will have passed away from the memory of mankind.”
Ella entertained a profound respect for the decisions of her brother, but this did such violence to her own estimate of the Laureate, as to render it utterly impossible that she could defer to it. She now ventured not only upon dissenting from his opinion, but also upon arguing out and assigning reasons for her conviction, in doing which, she cited various passages from The Princess, one of her favourite poems.
Both the gentlemen had read that strange medley, and had been dissatisfied with the discordant materials therein heaped together; they were delighted by the freshness and descriptive beauty which flashes out in so many parts, but could not bring themselves to speak approvingly of the total want of naturalness in the incidents. The fact was, that neither of them had read the work with that degree of attention which should be bestowed upon the productions of a good poet, or they could not have failed to perceive, that beneath the seeming diversity there is an under-current of thought which blends the whole into perfect unity. Ella had read and re-read the poem, until her mind had become equally familiar with its external beauties, and its internal excellencies.
Barrington suggested, that although abounding in beauties, it was a mocking satire upon woman, alike untrue to nature, and unworthy the pen of a priest of nature.
No,” interposed Ella," it is not a satire; there are playful strokes, there are humorous sallies in it, but no right-minded woman ever feels offended by them. As a whole, the poem is a noble defence of our sex from the unfair assaults of its enemies, and the mistaken representations of its friends. It is a lesson and a defence, and I want nothing beyond the fine description of his mother given by the Prince, or indeed the entire passage in which it recurs, to convince me that no satire upon woman was intended by the author."
Feeling insecure upon the ground he was then treading, Barrington recurred to Maud, and suggested, that, considered as a whole, it was a sad closing up of all hope for the future. "What,” asked he, can we expect after that?”
It happened that Lester had not yet read it, and confessing his idleness, he asked for information as to its plot and
scope. Barrington answered that, “the hero of the work breaks ground by relating how his father was 'found dead' some time before in a 'dreadful hollow' behind a little wood near at hand. Whether he died by his own hand or by that of another is left in doubt; although the former is most probable, and is to be accounted for by the failure of a great speculation in which he had engaged. There was a neighbour who had profited so largely by the same affair, as to have become lord of the estate upon which this hero, son of the former owner-intensely hating the present proprietor—now lives in diminished splendour, yet in a condition of gentlemanly ease. But he is not very gentlemanly either in mind or manners. He is one of those suspicious, morbid-minded men who look with a jaundiced eye upon all things which do not harmonise with their conception of right. And that conception, if realised, would make the world to be a perfect heil. Such men complain that they are not happy but miserable, and speak as though it were the bounden duty of their companions to labour their best to render them happy. We
have no right to slay these grumblers, still they do but encumber the ground; and we have no more right to make them the heroes of a poeru, bringing in all their miserable chafings, than we have to hold up the costermonger as a hero, and to furnish his views of life and duty. Byron accomplished quite enough in that style, but what he did was done well. This hero in Maud, rants through many lines about the evils of society; he hates the adulteration of food, the druggist who ‘pestles a poisoned poison ;' the doctor who cheats the sick of a few more gasps; the baker who deals out alum and plaster ; the rude brute who tramples upon his wife; and the mammonite mother who kills her child for a fee. Being intensely selfish and evil, he hates all evil things, not because they are such, but because they interfere with his enjoyment. He preaches a higher morality from his stomach, and, like another Crown Court Doctor, he holds forth against money-getting, but all the while he hates those who have it for the fact that it exalts them above himself. I felt while reading this portion, an intense desire to choke the hero. But to crown bis invective, he holds forth against peace as the curse of the age. War, with all its horrors, is to be hailed as a blessed spirit charged with power to redeem the lost, and to rouse us once more to nobler ambitions. Thus, like Job of old, but without his nobleness, he sits down to curse all men and all things; he does not find them convenient for his endeavours to compensate for that fact by dooming them to everlasting destruction."
“ But," asked Lester, “ do you mean to say that Tennyson approves of such miserable nonsense ? I cannot conceive how it could be possible for him to endorse opinions of that sort; he is a man whose mind and hands are clean, and it would be against nature to believe that he could bring himself so low as to approve of such impurity."
“ I take the facts as I find them," answered Barrington, "and there can be no mistake about it that the spirit of the whole poem is warlike, anticommercial, and in favour of the old families. A new family is gall and wormwood unto him, and he who preaches of peace is denounced as
* This broad-brimm'd hawker of holy things,
Even in dreams to the chink of his pence.' That, perhaps, is too severe," observed Lester, “ still I cannot get rid of the idea that the peace-at-any-price' men are in error. In my pulpit I preach of the blessings of peace, not forgetting the results of war when waged in resistance either against a person or a people who desire to do unjustly. But to propose war as a general remedy for corruption, is as unjust as slavery itself, which proceeds upon the theory that we are to seek our own good at the cost of other people. If we have grown corrupt at home, some means of curing the disease must be found besides that of inflicting a curse upon our neighbours. But I will read the poem, for I cannot bring myself to believe that Tennyson would propose anything so monstrous."
“That, however," continued Barrington," is not the worst of it. The poet now proceeds to bring Maud, the daughter of the hated owner of the estate, upon the scene, and this he accomplishes in language whose beauty and power are not to be denied. The hero had resolved upon seeing but equally upon avoiding to love her; the natural resolve of an egotist. He sees and loves her, and her voice exerts an irresistible power over him. She, too, soon loves in return, and, with a decent sort of being, affairs would glide on easily enough-making allowance for her wealth, and his comparative poverty