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Greek. Ταύτα ορθώς μεν εκείνος είπε προς τους μεθ' εαυτόν στρατηγους, οίς παροδον επί τάς ύστερον πράξεις έδωκεν εξελάσας τον βάρβαρον, και την Ελλάδα ελευθερώσας"
וּסְרַתּוּ אִמּוֹ: מַה־בְּרִי וּמַה־בַּר־בִּטְנִי וּמֶה בַּר־נְדָרֶי: אַל־תִּתֵּן לַנָּשִׁים חִילְךְ וּדְרָכֶיךָ לַמְחוֹת מְלָכִין: אַל לַמְלָכִים לְמוֹאָל אַל לַמִּלָכִים שְׁתוֹ־יָיִן וּלְרָוֹזְנִים אֵר שֵׁכָר: פֶּן־יִשְׁתֶּה וְיִשְׁכַּח מְחְפָּק וְיִשַׁנָּה דִּין כָּל־בְּנִי־עָנִי;:
אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר מָלַךְ בְּטֶרֶם כָּל יְצִיר נִבְרָא: לְעֵת נַעֲשָׂה בְּחֶפְצו ל כָּאֲזַי מֶלֶךְ שְׁמוֹ נִקְרָא: וְאַחֲרֵי כִּכְלוֹת הַכּל לְבַדּוֹ יִמְלוֹךְ נוֹרָא : וְהוּא הָיָה וְהוּא הוֶה וְהוּא יִהְיֶה בְּתִפְאָרָה :
Biblical and General Literature, Theological Discussion, the History
of Theological Opinions, etc.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1840, by William R.
Peters, in the Clerk's Office of the Southern District New-York.
SECOND SERIES, NO, V.-WHOLE NO, XXXVII.
THE PROPER CHARACTER AND FUNCTIONS OF ANERICAN
By Rev. Leonard Bacon, Pastor of the First Church, New-Haven, Conn.
The subject proposed for this article may seem at first like one of the common-places of magazine essays and anniversary orations. Yet I am persuaded that the views which have suggested themselves to me in thinking of this theme, if not new, are at least worthy of a renewed consideration.
Ever since I can remember, American literature has been inquired after, and inquired about, in all quarters. It has been debated whether there is any such ihing, and if so, what are its merits—whether any such thing is likely to be, and if so, what it will be. The first of these questions is a question not of fact, nor even of speculation, but only of words. We have no national epic, no body of national dramatic poetry; and in this view of the matter, surely, we have no American literature. But we have books of American production, and these books have readers, and the number of such books and their readers is continually increasing; and in this sense there can be no dispute that American literature has already begun to exist. Thus far, however, it cannot be denied that the books written in this country, with some few distinguished exceptions, should be SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. I.
considered rather as American contributions to the common literature of the English language, than as constituting even the germ of such a body of letters as shall reflect the national spirit and re-act for salutary ends upon the national mind.
I have announced then, without intending it, what I conceive to be the proper character and functions of American literature. In all its forms of history, philosophy, poetry, eloquence, its peculiar character must be that it breathes and manifests the national spirit; and its one great function must be to re-act for salutary ends, upon the national mind from which it emanates. It must be essentially shaped and informed by the peculiar spirit of the American people, or it will always be a failure, a faint and cheap imitation of foreign models. However voluminous, however elaborate or elegant, may be the literature produced by writers born upon our soil
, if it be not American in its tone and spirit, in the cast of its ideas and sentiments, it will always be to the American people as essentially foreign as translations from the French or German are to the people of Great Britain. Being thus deficient in the life and power of an original literature sprung from the soil, and intertwined with all the associations and habits of the people, it can have no sway over the heart of the people ; it will have no aim; it will perform no part in history. And on the other hand, whenever literature in this country becomes conscious of the dignity of its function, and grapples in earnest with the national mind to lead it, to elevate it, to control it for worthy ends, it will immediately and without an effort, adapt itself to the people ; it will reflect of course, I do not say the opinions, but the intellectual habits, the sentiments, the peculiar character of those to whom it addresses itself.
This view let us attempt to develop. What is, and is to be, the peculiar national character with which American literature must harmonize, and upon which it ought to act, purifying and elevating the national mind ?
The character of a people, so far as it depends on other than geographical causes, such as climate, soil, sea-coast, rivers, mountains, and extent of territory,-is determined mostly by its origin, its history, its political organization, and its religious doctrines and institutions. These various influences are not only blended in the result, but are continually acting upon each other. The origin of a people, the blood of which it springs, affects all its history, more surely and