The form of the story was too stringent to allow such tendencies any latitude; but they appear, from time to time, sufficiently to produce serious confusion. With these recent assistances, therefore, we propose to say something of the nature of this extraordinary book, a book of which it is to say little to call it unequaled of its kind, and which will one day, perhaps, when it is allowed to stand on its own merits, be seen towering up alone, far away above all the poetry of the world. How it found its way into the canon, smiting as it does through and through the most deeply seated Jewish prejudices, is the chief difficulty about it now; to be explained only by a traditional acceptance among the sacred books, dating back from the old times of the national greatness, when the minds of the people were hewn in a larger type than was to be found among the Pharisees of the great synagogite. But its authorship, its date, and its history are alike a mystery to us; it existed at the time when the canon was composed; and this is all that we know beyond what we can gather out of the language and contents of the poem itself.

The conjectures which have been formed upon the date of this book are so various that they show of themselves on how slight a foundation the best of them must rest. The language is no guide, for although unquestionably of Hebrew origin, the poem bears no analogy to any of the other books in the Bible; while of its external history nothing is known at all, except that it was received into the canon at the time of the great synagogue. Ewald decides, with some confidence, that it belongs to the great prophetic period, and that the writer was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Ewald is a high authority in these matters, and this opinion is the one which we believe is now commonly received among biblical scholars. In the absence of proof, however (and the reasons which he brings forward are really no more than conjectures), these opposite considerations may be of moment. It is only natural that at first thought we should ascribe the grandest poem in a literature to the time at which the poetry of the nation to which it belongs was generally at its best; but, on reflection, the time when the poetry of prophecy is the richest, is not likely to be favorable to compositions of another kind. The prophets wrote in an era of decrepitude, dissolution, sin, and shame, when the glory of Israel was falling round them into ruin, and their mission, glowing as they were with the ancient spirit, was to rebuke, to warn, to threaten, and to promise. Finding themselves too late to save, and only, like

Cassandra, despised and disregarded, their voices rise up singing the swan song of a dying people, now falling away in the wild wailing of despondency over the shameful and desperate present, now swelling in triumphant hope that God will not leave them forever, and in his own time will take his chosen to himself again. But such a period is an ill occasion for searching into the broad problems of human destiny; the present is all-important and all-absorbing; and such a book as that of Job could have arisen only out of an isolation of mind, and life, and interest, which we cannot conceive of as possible under such conditions.

The more it is studied, the more the conclusion forces itself upon us that, let the writer have lived when he would, in his struggle with the central falsehood of his own people's creed, he must have divorced himself from them outwardly as well as inwardly; that he traveled away into the world, and lived long, perhaps all his matured life, in exile. Everything about the book speaks of a person who had broken free from the narrow littleness of "the peculiar people." The language, as we said, is full of strange words. The hero of the poem is of a strange land and parentage, a Gentile certainly, not a Jew. The life, the manners, the customs, are of all varieties and places: Egypt, with its river and its pyramids, is there; the description of mining points to Phoenicia; the settled life in cities, the nomad Arabs, the wandering caravans, the heat of the tropics, and the ice of the north, all are foreign to Canaan, speaking of foreign things and foreign people. No mention, or hint of mention, is there throughout the poem of Jewish traditions or Jewish certainties. We look to find the three friends vindicate themselves, as they so well might have done, by appeals to the fertile annals of Israel, to the Flood, to the cities of the plain, to the plagues of Egypt, or the thunders of Sinai. But of all this there is not a word; they are passed by as if they had no existence; and instead of them, when witnesses are required for the power of God, we have strange un-Hebrew stories of the Eastern astronomic mythology, the old wars of the giants, the imprisoned Orion, the wounded dragon, "the sweet influences of the seven stars," and the glittering fragments of the sea-snake Rahab trailing across the northern sky. Again, God is not the God of Israel, but the father of mankind; we hear nothing of a chosen people, nothing of a special revelation, nothing of peculiar privileges; and in the court of heaven

*See Ewald on Job ix. 13, and xxvi. 14.


there is a Satan, not the prince of this world and the enemy of God, but the angel of judgment, the accusing spirit whose mission was to walk to and fro over the earth, and carry up to heaven an account of the sins of mankind. We cannot believe that thoughts of this kind arose out of Jerusalem in the days of Josiah. The scenes, the names, and the incidents are all contrived as if to baffle curiosity,

as if, in the very form of the poem, to teach us that it is no story of a single thing which happened once, but that it belongs to humanity itself, and is the drama of the trial of man, with Almighty God and the angels as the spectators of it.

No reader can have failed to have been struck with the simplicity of the opening. Still, calm, and most majestic, it tells us everything which is necessary to be known in the fewest possible words. The history of Job was probably a tradition in the East; his name, like that of Priam in Greece, the symbol of fallen greatness, and his misfortunes the problem of philosophers. In keeping with the current belief, he is described as a model of excellence, the most perfect and upright man upon the earth, " and the same was the greatest man in all the east." So far, greatness and goodness had gone hand in hand together, as the popular theory required. The details of his character are brought out in the progress of the 66 He was poem. the father of the oppressed, and of those who had none to help them." When he sat as a judge in the market-places, "righteousness clothed him " there, and "his justice was a robe and a diadem." He "broke the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth"; and, humble in the midst of his power, he "did not despise the cause of his man-servant, or his maid-servant, when they contended with him," knowing that "He who had made him had made them," and one had fashioned them both in the womb." Above all, he was the friend of the poor; "the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon him," and he "made the widow's heart to sing for joy."

Setting these characteristics of his daily life by the side of his unaffected piety, as it is described in the first chapter, we have a picture of the best man who could then be conceived; not a hard ascetic, living in haughty or cowardly isolation, but a warm figure of flesh and blood, a man full of all human loveliness, and to whom God himself bears the emphatic testimony, that "there was none like him upon the earth, a perfect and upright man, who feared God and eschewed evil."

[ocr errors]



SIR ARTHUR HELPS was born in England in 1818, and died in 1875. He has written two dramatic poems of more than average merit, but is best known by his essays, in which department of literature he occupies a unique and very honorable place. His most popular books are Friends in Council and Companions of my Solitude. In these volumes are reported the conversations of a company of friends, who discuss questions of various kinds, -ethical, social, and literary. English literature contains nothing in the shape of colloquial essays that approaches these in merit. The individuality of the interlocutors is carefully preserved, and the reader acquires a personal interest in each hardly subordinate to the general effect of the wisdom which they interchange. The thought of these essays is effective not only by its intrinsic vigor and its wonderful affinity for the mind of average intelligence, but by the inimitable grace and almost insidious gentleness of its expression. No writer is more remote from dogmatism than Mr. Helps; but his opinions bear unmistakable marks of maturity and fixedness. His felicity of illustration is hardly surpassed, and the tender human sympathy which warms all his writings brings him very near to his readers. Mr. Helps was not a powerful original thinker; but he had the art of presenting the best thought in the most impressive and persuasive shape, in an almost unequaled degree, and of calling out or reanimating ideas which have been latent in the minds of his readers. There are no essays in the language, save perhaps those of Macaulay, that are at once so delightful and so instructive as Mr. Helps's. The subtile and sweet influence of Mr. Helps's writings is cordially acknowledged by Mr. Ruskin, and other authoritative critics have united in praise of the serene beauty of his style and the stimulating and suggestive potency of his philosophy. He was the author of two novels, or rather essays in the form of novels, Realmah and Casimir Maremma, and had lately produced an historical novel of Russian life called Ivan de Biron. For many years Mr. Helps held an office in the personal service of Queen Victoria, and a short time before his death he received the honor of knighthood.


VASCO NUÑEZ* resolved, therefore, to be the discoverer of that sea and of those rich lands to which Comagre's son had pointed, when, after rebuking the Spaniards for their "brabbling" about the division of the gold, he turned his face towards the south. In the peril which so closely impended over Vasco Nuñez there was no use in waiting for reinforcements from Spain: when those reinforcements should come, his dismissal would come too. Accordingly, early in September, 1513, he set out on his renowned expedition for finding "the other sea," accompanied by a hundred and ninety men well armed,

* VASCO NUÑEZ DE BALBOA. A celebrated Spanish navigator and discoverer, born about 1475. Dissensions having arisen between the partisans of an expedition which had landed on the Isthmus of Panama in 1510, of which Balboa was a member, he was chosen leader of the expedition, and, having obtained reinforcements from Columbus at Hispaniola, he proceeded to explore the Isthmus of Darien, and on the 29th of September, 1513, discovered from the summit of a mountain the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Like Columbus he was traduced by jealous rivals, and was finally executed on a charge of treasonable designs in 1517. (See Irving's Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus.)

and by dogs, which were of more avail than men, and by Indian slaves to carry the burdens.

Following Poncha's guide, Vasco Nuñez and his men commenced the ascent of the mountains, until he entered the country of an Indian chief called Quarequa, whom they found fully prepared to resist them. The brave Indian advanced at the head of his troops, intending to make a vigorous attack; but they could not withstand the discharge of the fire-arms. Indeed, they believed the Spaniards to have thunder and lightning in their hands,- not an unreasonable fancy, — and, flying in the utmost terror from the place of battle, a total rout ensued. The rout was a bloody one, and is described by an author, who gained his information from those who were present at it, as a scene to remind one of the shambles. The king and his principal men were slain, to the number of six hundred.

Speaking of these people, Peter Martyr makes mention of the sweetness of their language, saying that all the words in it might be written in Latin letters, as was also to be remarked in that of the inhabitants of Hispaniola. This writer also mentions, and there is reason for thinking that he was correctly informed, that there was a region, not two days' journey from Quarequa's territory, in which Vasco Nuñez found a race of black men, who were conjectured to have come from Africa, and to have been shipwrecked on this coast. Leaving several of his men, who were ill, or over-weary, in Quarequa's chief town, and taking with him guides from this country, the Spanish commander pursued his way up the most lofty sierras there, until, on the 25th of September, 1513, he came near the top of a mountain from whence the South Sea was visible. The distance from Poncha's chief town to this point was forty leagues, reckoned then six days' journey; but Vasco Nuñez and his men took twenty-five days to accomplish it, as they suffered much from the roughness of the ways and from the want of provisions.

A little before Vasco Nuñez reached the height, Quarequa's Indians informed him of his near approach to the sea. It was a sight in beholding which for the first time any man would wish to be alone. Vasco Nuñez bade his men sit down while he ascended, and then, in solitude, looked down upon the vast Pacific, - the first man of the Old World, so far as we know, who had done so. Falling on his knees, he gave thanks to God for the favor shown to him, in his being permitted to discover the sea of the South. Then with his

« VorigeDoorgaan »