Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

'Here we come again to the hopeless task of palliating evil — blowing with a fan against the blast of a whirlwind. We may so procure to ourselves the highest moral good, in the consciousness of having done our best to relieve the sufferings of others; but when we think how little good we have imparted — how easily and instantaneously the immense flood of evil may annihilate it — the light that dawned in our hearts is darkened, and we sink beneath the feeling of our inefficiency. Not in the train, should be the place of him who aims at the accomplishment of great and real good, but in the van, as a herald of peace between the contending forces. Evil must be prevented in its causes, not palliated in its effects.'

Here he raised himself up, with the air of an inspired prophet, and while his eye glowed, and his features were as if radiant with inward brightness, he gave utterance, in a voice of fittest intonation, to his pure and high emotions.

'True, we were born to act, but still more were we born to think and feel. Only from the bright and holy fountain of certain thought and elevated feeling, flows the stream of just and beneficent action. Flowing ever the same, from a perennial spring, it diffuses life and beauty along its borders. But action, proceeding from other source, is like the wasting flood that bursts in the midnight darkness, and blindly sweeps away the wrecks of the valley, to accumulate them in the unwholesome marsh. We have a higher nature within us, governed by its own peculiar laws, fixed and immutable as the laws that control the spheres. If these laws are not counteracted by the lower principles of our being, if in harmonious accordance all our better powers move on in their proper orbit, then there results inward calm and strength, outward dignity and power. The ruling principles here prevail — Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. And although these have each its peculiar character, and are directed to peculiar corresponding points in our own being, yet they proceed from one common source — emphatically the One. Hence they are throughout harmonious, and no mind is brought to a due celestial temper, in which they are not equally combined and active. As well might wings rise without dome, or dome without wings, to form a complete edifice, as a mind exist in perfect panoply, without the sense of good, or the feeling of beauty; and however intense either might be, without that full perception of the true, that embraces and thus forms a whole, action would only deviate into error. But I speak according to the manner of men, for the three are in fact immutable and inseparable. If not equally combined into a symmetric whole, then a counterfeit has assumed their sacred names, and under the garb of sanctity, an impostor walks forth. Are these merely abstract words, or living, applicable realities? Has not the world been long deceived by these counterfeits, which, under the sacred names of Philosophy, Religion, and Poetry, have claimed the admiration, or controlled the conduct, of society, and that to extremest evil, rejecting each the other, as false or inane? But the Philosophy that scouts the good, or despises the fair, is not the herald of the true: it is but a charlatan, that retails the poor dogmas of a temporary expediency, not the sage that propounds laws of eternal duration. Nor is the religion that discards the light of Reason, the holy light that irradiates the divine temple, as goodness is the altaT-fire that warms it, and beauty the incense clouds that embellish it, or that rejects the gentle and lovely, as too soft for its sternness — is such Religion other than a hypocrite that under a solemn mask conceals darkness and deformity. Poetry, in which beauty is not wedded to the good and the true, is but a dangerous and deceitful syren. In the stillness of the night, listen not to its enticing but effeminate strains, as they float over smooth, silvery waters, or through flowery thickets, or groves of gloom! Look up to the open sky, and the unchanging stars, and through them to the one great light that shines in the zenith of all, and you will hear a music, sweeter even than that of the spheres, as evolving from the Power that rules the spheres, proclaiming in tones of fullest and completest harmony, the one great principle of our intellectual and moral existence: Philosophy, Religion and Poetry sit enthroned, as a Spiritual Trinity, in the shrine of man's highest nature. The perfect vision of all-embracing Truth, the vital feeling of all-blessing Good, and the living sense of all-gracing Beauty, they form, united, the Divinity of Pure Reason.'

[graphic]

Suddenly he retired, and left me uncertain whether he had read Richter, or been struck by lunar influence.

'MY GOD DIRECTS THE STORM.'

The Spirit of the Tempest shook

His wing of raven hue
Above the sea, and hollow winds

Howled o'er the waters blue.

Uprose the mountain billows high,

And swept a stormy path; Darkness and Terror mingled there

Their ministry of wrath.

A lonely hark, by bounding seas

Tost wildly to and fro,
Dashed o'er the billows foaming brow

To fearful depths below.

Crash echoed crash! — the quivering spoi

Broke o'er the leaning side,
And left the bark a shattered wreck,

The stormy waves to ride.

The sturdy seamen struggled hard

To hold the yielding helm,
And keep the ship's prow to the surge,

That threatened too'erwhelm.

And when the plunging ruin spurned

Their impotent control,
They flew to drown their gloomy fears

In the accursed bowl.

Upon the raging ocean then.

Helpless was left the bark
To the wild mercy of the waves,

Amid the tempest dark.

Upon the deck, alone, there stood, A man of courage high;
Baltimore, January, 1836.

A hero, from whose bosom fear
Had never drawn a sigh.

With folded arms, erect he stood,
His countenance was mild,—

And, calmly gazing on the scene.
He bowed his head and smiled.

A wild shriek from the cabin rose, —
Up rushed his beauteous bride;

With locks dishevelled, and in tears,
•She trembled at his side.

'O why, my love, upon thy lip'
She cried, 'doth play that smile, When all is gloom and terror here,
And I must weep the while T

No word the warrior spake, —but he

Drew from beneath his vest
A poniard bright, and placed its point

Against her heaving breast.

She started not, nor shrieked in dread,

As she had shrieked before;
But stood astonished, and surveyed

His tranquil features o'er.

'Now why,' he asked,' dost thou not start?

May not thy blood be spilt T

With sweet composure she replied,'My husband holds Hie hiltf

Dost wonder, then, that I am calm,
That fear shakes not my form?

I ne'er can tremble while I know
13/y God directs the storm f

ASTROLOGY.

There exists in every bosom a natural thirst for a knowledge of the future. We appear to be placed just in that grade of creation, where, though excluded from the attribute of prescience, we still burn with its desire. The Fortune-teller, the Gipsy, the Priest, and the Oracle, are all instances of the strength of this feeling — a strength so predominant, that the mind has too often delighted in giving credence to that which sprung only from the aspirations of the heart. Man has sought every where for the sybil leaves of the future — in the dark recesses of the cave — the whispering of the wind, through the foliage of the oak — the frantic words of an excited woman — the still quivering heart of the animal, and in the portentous phenomena of the skies.

Of all the systems of Vaticination, Judicial Astrology was the most flattering to vanity, most fascinating to intelligence, and most beautiful in its origin. It possessed but few attractions for the vulgar. A shrivelled, superannuated old woman peering into a crystal — the augur, watching omens and prodigies with solemn gravity — the Haruspex consulting the entrails of the victim — were oracles sufficient for their taste and credulity.

But the stars became the arbiters of fate to those with souls which rose above the ordinary associations of life — which loved to turn to the 'poetry of heaven,' and 'claim kindred with it' — which felt that

'Os homini sublime dedil, crelum que tueri
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.'

To such, the hope that those distant orbs presided over their destiny, became a strong and confirmed reality, flattered by an apparent sisterhood with science, and strengthened by the spirit of enthusiasm.

But the astrologer, beside these qualities of feeling and intelligence, must also have possessed both the will and the power of devoting himself to deep seclusion, and severe application. A course of long, assiduous, and untiring study, was the only method of acquiring a knowledge of the history of the earth and the heavens. Days spent in retirement, and nights in sleepless vigils, afforded even too brief a period for gathering the lore of centuries, which he must master before his eye could clearly discern the future. He must frown upon the allurements of the world, surrender its social pleasures, and hie away to his lone tower, and there commune with the sages of past ages, and the celestial bodies whose motions and influences they recorded. In time, the face of man became strange. Solitude grew sweet, for there he was in companionship with the patriarchs of his science, or with the sublimest works of God. When fatigued, the music of the spheres solaced him; when desponding, Hope pointed to the splendid prize accessible only to unwearied industry; and when successful, he had the proud consciousness of possessing the key of fate. To him, the heavens assumed a new appearance, and were arrayed in more lovely apparel: the firmament became an arch, gemmed with the prophets of the world, and each star was a ' Pharos hung in air" — a beacon light of the future.

Such were the life and character of the Astrologer. When we reflect on the mysterious sympathies—the soaring ambition which gave them birth — the enthusiasm which was imparted and strengthened by the excitement of an exclusive devotion to one science, and by its sublime studies, — we may obtain some explanation why Astrology was so fascinating to its professors, and so capable of abstracting them from the common feelings and pursuits of mankind.

Its origin, like that of astronomy, is enveloped in darkness. In China, which can justly lay claim to the most ancient astronomical observations, at an early period it came under the protection and supervision of the State. In Rome, Egypt, and Greece, it was a familiar study; but Chaldea seems to have been its birth-place, and her astronomers its sages. Thence it was rapidly diffused among the adjoining nations, generally receiving unhesitating belief; but occasionally meeting with strong expressions of disapprobation from such minds as Tacitus and Cicero.*

Seleucus cast the horoscope of Otho, and foretold that he would succeed to the empire, t The prophecy was fulfilled, and Astrology became popular. But even prior to this period the astrologers had been inmates of the imperial palace, and friends and counsellors of its lords. It is related that Tiberius determined to test the wisdom of Thrasyllus, and after having learned his future fortune, to keep the secret, by precipitating him from a rock into the sea. Thrasyllus predicted empire. Tiberius then asked him to examine his own genital hour, and to discover, if he could, what event was about to occur. The wily astrologer, having received intimation of the reward intended by his noble master, looked into the position and the relations of the stars, started back, suddenly became pale, and answered tremblingly to Tiberius, that some calamity was just impending over his own head, and that he was then exercising his art for the last time. Tiberius, thus convinced of his prophetic ability, embraced him, and ever after made him his bosom friend.\ In Greece, also, it had its advocates, and Ptolemy composed an explanatory treatise on the subject $— but it received no general countenance, till after the time of Alexander. Rooted thus in antiquity, it came down to modern times, extending its way wherever science and superstition could establish their dominion; and from its being closely connected with the study of Astronomy, retaining its power even to our own day.

The principles of the art were ingenious. Each sign of the zodiac possessed its attribute. The most important of these was the horoscope, or the one just rising above the horizon, at the hour of birth, or at the time of a prediction. The planets were either propitious, malignant, or mixed, and their aspects happy or unhappy. Saturn portended calamity and sadness, and beautiful Venus || joy and good fortune. In their ephemerides, they noted the daily appearance of the heavens, and claimed, by comparing these observations with history, the power of foretelling the precise circumstances which would happen during the life of any individual. Some of these ephemerides they asserted to be many thousand years old, and to contain records of the situation of the stars at the period of every important occurrence.

* Tac. Lib. 16: 'Contemnamus Babylonios et eos,' etc. Cic. 1. de. Divin. 'Nee Bnbylonios teutaris numeros.' Hor. Ode 11. Lib. 1. t ' Fore ut imperium adsciseretur.' Tac. Lib. 1. 22. t Tac. Annal. Lib. 6.

S It appears to be a question whether this work is not a forgery.
II Juvenal. Sat. 6. 5G8—GOO.

Nor were these their only claims to notice. The action of the moon on the human body when diseased, its influence on the insane, and that of the sun on animal and vegetable life, betokened a mysterious sympathetic connection. Why then should not the other heavenly bodies produce similar effects? As science advanced, and other facts were added, the disposition to generalize farther assisted this belief; and we find even the immortal Kepler, in 1606, expressing this opinion: 'I maintain that the colors, and aspects, and conjunctions of the planets, are impressed on the natures or faculties of sublunary things; and when they occur, that these are excited as well in forming as in moving the body over whose motion they preside.' * It is pleasing to turn from this failing of a great man, to the sarcasm of Galileo, where he denominates astrologers ' Nativity-casters, who believe that God, when he created the heavens, had no thought beyond what they themselves can conceive.'

Such were the pretensions of Astrology, and such the character of its advocates. Janus-like, they assumed to stand between the past and the future, and to 'read the fate of men and empires.' 'Nullo non avido futura de se seicndi? says Pliny; and this was the master chord of the heart, upon which they skilfully played, and secured riches and followers. What wonder that multitudes should crowd to their retreats? — the lover to learn whether his mistress would be true — the warrior to hear of his next battle — the politician the result of his schemes, — and the rebel the success of his struggles? And when there, how every surrounding object added awe and admiration to their previous emotions! A modern poet has drawn a beautiful picture of one of these scenes— an astrologer's tower:

'All about me

'Twas pale and dusky night, with many shadows

Fantastically cast. Here six or seven Colossal statues, and all kings stood round me In a half circle. Each one m his hand A sceptre bore, and on his head a star;And in the tower no other light was there But from these stars: all seemed to come from them.
'These are the planets,' said that low old man:
'They govern worldly fate, and for that cause Are imaged here as kings. The farthest from you, Spiteful and cold, — an old man melancholy, With bent and yellow forehead, he is Saturn:He opposite, the king with the red light, An armed man for the battle, that is Mars;And both these bring but little luck to man.' But at his side a lovely lady stood;The star upon her head was soft and bright, — And that was Venus, the bright star of joy. On the left hand, lo! Mercury, with wings, Quite in the middle glittered silver bright;A cheerful man, and with a monarch's mien — And this was Jupiter — * * *

And at his side I saw the sun and moon.'

It would have been strange, indeed, if the understanding had stood firm against this united appeal to our foibles, our sympathies, and our aspirations — an appeal made, too, by the seductive voice of pretended science.

* Principles of Astrology, 160f>. Vol. vii. 18

« AnteriorContinuar »