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But the solar theory, while thus powerless for good, is prolific in real and very positive evil. If it could be established, or applied as its advocates propose, it would materialise, and by materialising destroy, all the noblest kinds of poetry—all literature, indeed, properly so called. The higher forms of literature are essentially the reflex and representation of human life and character. While the wondering and devout contemplation of external nature is natural religion, and the exact study of it science, human nature is the main subject of literature and philosophy. The proper study of mankind is man. This is the haunt and main region of the poet's song, as well as of all higher forms of imaginative prose. The essence of the drama, for example, whether in prose or verse, is, as the name implies, action—the action of beings endowed with intellect and will, and the more interesting kinds of dramatic action involve of necessity an element of moral conflict. The soul of all tragedy is the life-deep collision of rival passions, interests, aims, and pursuits. In all really tragic representations man is exhibited in conflict either with himself or his fellows, with circumstance or fate, with opposing human wills, or the higher powers of the moral and spiritual sphere. What rouses alternately the emotions of pity and dread, of awe and admiration, is the spectacle of a nature like our own, buffeting the sea of adverse events, almost overwhelmed by surging calamity, or hurried perhaps into sudden crime, yet struggling to the last, and meeting with dignified, resigned, or desperate constancy the inevitable doom. In a word, what we admire in the heroic muse, epic or tragic, is great characters, grand actions, and the endless, the unforeseen, but commanding play of motive, impulse, and resolve, that prompt and develope both. On the other hand, physical phenomena, it need hardly be said, are wholly destitute of these elements of interest. They represent the workingof blind and fatal forces,altogether different in nature and operation from those of a moral world. In the working of physical laws there is no trace of character, motive, or even action, strictly so called, but only of forces and their results, which under the same circumstances are always uniform, fixed, and necessary. The notion of dramatising a law of nature is absurd and self-contradictory. It is impossible to treat the parallelogram of forces in an imaginative or original manner, though amusing attempts have sometimes been made to carry over into morals the convenient machinery and cogent reasoning of mechanics. The result, of course, is simply to materialise ethics, without in any way moralising nature. distinctively human and moral elements evaporate in such an
attempt, yet this is the goal towards which the reasoning of the comparative mythologists irresistibly tends. Mr. Cox holds that some of the finest representations of human character and action ever given to the world are merely perverted and disguised descriptions of natural phenomena. He virtually maintains that in the whole realm of ancient literature and art—in the whole moral universe, indeed, we find nothing but material elements in masquerade. No doubt physical appearances and forces have a secondary and not unimportant share as stage and accessories in the great moral drama which literature and history are eternally unfolding. But they are not that drama itself, as Mr. Cox supposes, and his meteorological explanation of Aryan literature is no better than the play of Hamlet, or any other play, with the characters omitted, and nothing but the stage and
The comparative theory thus completely inverts the true relation between the moral and material in our experience. While our activity is materially conditioned, still the human and the personal must ever be of primary moment to man. Our own most intimate experience, our joys and sorrows, convictions and beliefs, desires and aspirations, must ever be of greater interest to us than the flight of clouds, the sweep of winds, or lapse of waters. And the animated record of human suffering and endurance, effort and achievement, even in the earlier stages of civilisation, would fire the imagination and stir the heart far more profoundly than obscure and metaphorical descriptions of atmospherical phenomena. What, for example, would be the value of the Iliad to us; what would have been its significance to the Greeks, or for that matter to Homer himself, if the transformation Mr. Cox insists on could be effected; if Achilles and Agamemnon, Hector and Paris, were converted into sunbeams and shadows, and the rival hosts of Greeks and Trojans dissolved into mists and breezes persuing each other everlastingly over an imaginary plain? The transformation cannot of course be really effected, but the point to be enforced is the intrinsic preposterousness of the attempt.
No doubt physical phenomena may be figuratively employed to illustrate human experience. The conflict between good and evil, freedom and fate, is the basis of all tragedy, and it may be called metaphorically the conflict between light and darkness; but this does not personify light and darkness, or affect in any way the profoundly moral element which is the essence of the tragedy. In Edipus we have the realities of regal pride, impatience, and disdain, of agonising horror and suspense, of conscious guilt and of swift overwhelming grief, remorse, and humiliation. But, according to Mr. Cox, these moral realities are only the metaphorical clothing, the fancy costume, of material elements, physical realities alone being primary, fundamental, and operative throughout the drama. Edipus, Laius, and Jocasta are natural phenomena, being respectively the day, the darkness, and the dawn. What is or can be meant by saying that the leading personages of a noble drama are not moral agents, but physical facts ? Did such a conception ever enter the mind of the author, or of the critics and readers that for two thousand years have delighted in his work? And in what possible sense can
Edipus and Jocasta be called mere physical facts ? Light and darkness, heat and cold, motion and rest, are no doubt facts. So also are pain and pleasure, good and evil, right and wrong. But they are facts essentially distinct, and the theory that virtually identifies them is self-convicted of confusion and absurdity. Any theory, in fact, that would resolve all the higher moral phenomena of the Aryan, or any other race, into material elements, must be not only insufficient, but radically false and delusive. And the comparative theory, in its present state, is little better than an ingenious speculation, usurping the name of science; a hasty generalisation, founded on a few facts, stretched beyond all legitimate bounds, until it becomes alike unmeaning and untrue.
ART. III.- Aus den Memoiren eines Russischen Dekabristen :
Beiträge zur Geschichte des St. Petersburger Militäraufstandes vom 14. (26.) December 1825 und seiner Theilnehmer.
Leipzig: 1869. THI The Russian newspapers of last year recorded the death at
Petrowsk, in Siberia, in March 1869, of one John Gorbaczewski, formerly of Little Russia, but now only known as one of the last of the Dekabrists. That term is unfamiliar to the present generation, and the events which gave rise to it are still imperfectly known. The word is derived from Dekaber, the Russian word for December, and it denotes those persons who suffered death or captivity—more cruel than death itselffor the part they took in the military conspiracy which broke out in St. Petersburgh in December 1825, on the accession of the Emperor Nicholas to the throne. Gorbaczewski, it seems, had made himself popular and useful in Siberia, and when, after thirty years, the small remnant of that band of martyrs were permitted by the Emperor Alexander II. to return to their homes, he preferred to remain in the wild scenes of his banishment.
The author of the volume before us is another of these unhappy exiles. But he, at least, was allowed, after an exile of fourteen years, to return to his family and his abode in the Baltic provinces of Russia; he has resumed the habits of civilised life, and he has recently given to the world one of the most interesting and affecting narratives we ever remember to have perused. The causes of the conspiracy and the incidents of that memorable day, when the Russian army held in its grasp the rising fortunes of its future master, have never been related with greater clearness and precision. As we follow the victims of that misguided hour through the trials they had to endure, the story assumes a character of the deepest pathos ; and if it were not for the truth-telling simplicity which marks every line of it, we could hardly conceive it possible that our own time should have seen men pass through such an ordeal. Few, indeed, did pass through it. Of 121 persons who were condemned to various punishments on charges arising out of this conspiracy, only fourteen were alive when these pages were published in Germany last year; and of these only three had actually taken an active part in the revolt. The judge and the prisoner, the Emperor and the slave, the unrelenting persecutor and the unyielding victim, have alike gone to their last account; and the author of these pages may almost say, in the words of Job's messenger, 'I alone remain
, • to tell thee!' He has not thought proper to place his name on the title-page. But from direct internal evidence we learn that we are indebted for the work to Baron Andrew Rosen, of the well-known Esthonian family, and that he held in 1825 the rank of a lieutenant in the Finnish Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard. The authenticity of the narrative is therefore above all suspicion, and we must add, that the temperate and forgiving spirit in which it is written does the highest honour to the character and taste of the writer.
The formation of secret societies in Russia, under the form of masonic or literary associations, had become a passion among the young officers who returned in 1815 from their victorious campaigns in the West of Europe. The mystic rites and the secrecy of such companies appear to have a peculiar charm for certain races of men, and they were the more sought after as they were forbidden. In 1816 a more positive political direction was given to these meetings by Colonel A. N. Murawjew,
of the staff of the Imperial Guards, assisted by one of his cousins and by Prince Trubetzkoy. The brothers Matthew and Sergius Murawjew-Apostol, and Jakuschkin, a captain in the Semenow Guard regiment, took an active part in these schemes. A still more definite shape was given to them by Colonel Paul Pestel in the following year; and the statutes of the Order known as the Green Book' appear to have originated with him. It is not easy to trace the precise object of the conspirators. Some contemplated the murder of the reigning Emperor and the proclamation of a Republic; others repudiated these objects as contrary to God and religion. Pestel himself had framed a constitution, which was eventually discovered buried in snow and earth. At this time, however, he had succeeded in organising the whole association into two great divisions, the one at St. Petersburgh, the other in Southern Russia.
A rising was to have taken place in 1823 at the great reviews at Bobrinsk in that year; and again in 1824 at Bielaja Zerkow; but in both instances the reviews were postponed. Such was the state of the army when the death of Alexander in November, 1825, set fire to the train, and plunged a host of gallant, enthusiastic, but utterly misdirected young men into a sea of perils and sufferings. It cannot be doubted,' says Baron Rosen,' that however ill the movement of 1825 may have been • conducted, the very flower of the Imperial Guards, and of * the intelligence of the army, took part in it.' These young officers had brought back with them from France wild, though generous, dreams for the regeneration of their country. Alexander himself had shared in them, until he was alarmed by the warnings of Metternich and the agitation of Germany. The example of these young men exercised an influence more powerful than the restraint of discipline or the fear of death; and in spite of their errors and their failure, they were the first who offered up their lives to urge forward the civilisation of their country.
The news of the death of Alexander at Taganrog reached St. Petersburgh on the 27th November. That same evening the troops were called out, formed, and ordered to shout for the Emperor Constantine. The oath was taken throughout the empire to that prince without hesitation; though at that moment it was known to Nicholas, and to many besides, that a Will of Alexander's was in existence, which placed the younger brother on the throne, and that Constantine had already by anticipation renounced the succession. Had the existence of that Will been made known at once, and the oath of allegiance to Nicholas proposed to the troops, probably no insurrection