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The agitated air;
The very light came cooled through silvering panes
One other passage, which recalls that almost divine strain of Milton, where Comus, enchanted with the lady's song, says :—
"How'sweetly did it float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night,
Southey tells us,—
"With the wide eye of wonder, Thalaba
Again he hears the low sweet voice,
Our limits do not permit us to give, as we would like to do, passages illustrative of each struggle and conquest. We do not know that Southey intended this to be, what we imagine it, a Christian Poem; for he has not said so formally, although it is claimed by one of the most graceful of our modern writers, as one of the great Sacred Poems of the language. In opposition to this idea, it might be argued, that too much is made out of a mere romance, and that any religious teaching it embodies, is of the vaguest and most general character, and that that cannot be called a Christian Poem which does not distinctly, and in terms, recognize Christ as the One great
Avenger and Sacrifice ;-no character being a Christian character, which is not clearly and openly built upon Him and His Offering for Sin.
This, to a certain degree, is true; and taking Thalaba, as we have done, as the embodiment of the Christian character given us in the New Testament, we claim that that character, of necessity, recognizes Christ, just as certainly as the existence of a superstructure proves or involves the existence of an understructure or foundation on which it rests. Can we gaze in admiration upon some magnificent monument, the work of men's hands, which has withstood the ravages of time, and been the admiration of thousands, and imagine it reared upon a shifting quicksand? or if, of necessity, according to the established laws of architecture, a building of certain form and dimensions, called imperatively for foundations of certain material and stability, would we, upon beholding such a building, exactly conforming to the proposed model, call aloud for shovel and pickaxe, and dig deep into the bowels of the earth, to bare visibly to the eye the solid masonry and the everlasting granite, before believing that it had foundations? or does not the exact conformity of the superstructure to the proposed model, prove the underlying structure? Now Mahometanism, the Oriental Religion and dress under which Southey has chosen to veil the true character of his hero, appears to have in common with the Christian Religion, one foundation, namely, that there is but One God;-and if that were so, the building reared by the two architects on this one foundation, should be the same. But when it is considered that the structure reared by the one, Mahomet, is altogether sensual, free scope being allowed to its votaries for the gratification of every carnal desire, while the Religion of Jesus is rigid in its avoidance of all that can lead to evil, self-denying, and even, in the comparison, ascetic, and that Thalaba conforms to the latter and not to the former model, it must be conceded, that although not in terms expressed, Southey intended to portray the character of the Christian, as built upon the foundation of God in Christ; and not in Mahometanism, upon the lie, so identified
in that system with the truth, as to make it of none effect, that "God is God, and Mahomet is his Prophet."
It is, therefore, to our mind, evident, that the Eastern dress, in which Southey has draped his hero, does but add grace, without in the least hiding the perfectness of proportion which unmistakeably proclaims the Christian; and that, in so far as Thalaba is depicted, the Christian, with all Christian graces and virtues, fulfilling all that Christ taught and declared, in so far, Christ is recognized and acknowledged. We know, that he who reads Thalaba only as a beautiful romance, ignoring its underlying meaning, does but half enjoy it. It is, to him, like a parable or an allegory to the unlearned, who cannot comprehend its meaning; who, having ears, hear not. We feel that it is not possible to rise from the perusal of Thalaba, without a higher appreciation of Man, and his capacities. The contrary is the effect produced by Milton; perhaps just the right effect, from the differing subjects,―The Fall and the Restoration.
In Milton, from the superabundance of imagery, Angelic beings, and even Satan himself, engrossing the whole interest, Man becomes a mere secondary object, so weak, so helpless, so unable to resist temptation, that he sinks in our estimation; and the words of the Psalmist rise spontaneously,—"What is man, that Thou art mindful of him ;" while from Thalaba the effect is different. Every human sympathy is enlisted in behalf of that grandest spectacle in the universe,-a human soul struggling, not only with inbred corruption, but with all the banded powers of Hell! resisting temptations, subduing evil passions and tempers, overcoming sin, conquering self; the low, the carnal, becoming absorbed in the inner, the higher, the spiritual nature, until the earthly becomes altogether heavenly, the human altogether divine.
ART. III.-OUR CHURCH HYMNODY.
(1.) Hymns suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church, and other occasions of Public Worship; appended to the Book of Common Prayer.
(2.) A Collection of Hymns, reported to the General Convention of 1865, by the Committee of Hymns and Psalms. Philadelphia: 8vo., pp. 36.
(3.) Additional Hymns, set forth by the House of Bishops, at the request of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies in General Convention, October, 1865; to be used in the Congregations of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: 1866. 12mo., pp. 70.
(4) Specimen of a Church Hymnal, Humbly offered for the consideration of those interested. By a Member of the General Convention. Baltimore: 1866. 18mo., pp. 59.
THERE seems to be much interest in the Church, at the present time, upon the question of Hymns. It is exhibited in the public Councils, and felt, more or less, by the minds of the thinking members. This springs, first, from a discontent with many of the Hymns in our present Collection, as failing to meet the requirements of correct Theology, or true taste; or, second, from a desire for a larger liberty in selection, joined with a fondness for many Hymns besides those in customary use; or, third, from a longing after other vehicles to express religious feelings or impressions, which in our day have been excited or restored.
That there are powerful reasons why the Church, by her supreme authority, should exercise supervision of such Hymns. as are to be sung in her Common Worship, will, perhaps, appear in what we are now to offer to our readers. She never can rule, of course, the selection of those in private use; and it is questionable whether she can ever influence strongly the 17*
principles of individuals in such selection; for there are higher authorities than she, in all matters of taste. But there seems no weighty reason why the Hymns which are to be sung in public, and which manifestly have great power, analogous to the Prayers which are said in public, in determining opinions, and inspiring feelings, and generating impulses, should not, as the rest of her Worship, require her solemn approval.
Of all religious composition, we had almost said, of all composition, that of the Hymn is the most difficult. Poets of high order, who have been likewise devout men, have rarely attempted it. Their standard of perfection has been so high, that, though often feeling the impulse to such composition, they have shrunk from the execution. They, of all men, have, doubtless, felt the inadequacy of their own words, and judged their own efforts by the severest criticism. Poets of an inferior order have attempted it more largely; yet but few of their efforts have sunk into the Christian mind in general, and carried their immortality with them. Here and there, over the history of the Church, her Hymns are scattered, like stars in the sky, faintest when gathered most numerously, brightest when most isolated. It is only now and then in the life of the Church, as in the life of the individual Christian poet, that the conditions are supplied for the production, in large quantity, of truly noble Hymns, which shall win the imprimatur of the ages. Not only must the imagination be kindled, not only must the judgment be severe, but the heart must be warmed, and the life must be answerable; for this poetic production is to be judged, not only by the poetic taste, but by the cold eye of theology, and by the common Christian heart.
Nevertheless, Hymns which meet these requirements have, since the Apostolic days, been produced in abundance. Could they only be winnowed from the general mass, they would be found numerous enough for all present wants, and would be a standard of excellence that would powerfully influence all cotemporary or future efforts at such composition. Let us endeavor to display, if we can, our ideal of a Christian Hymn.
A Hymn, in a narrow definition, is a rhythmical expression