and he rolled down a great height. When he recovered, he found that his companion had fallen also, and stood by his side.

"Nay, young man," said the Rabbi, "if thus thou sportest with the gray hairs of age, thy days are numbered. Woe unto him who insults the hoary head!"

The stranger made an excuse, and they journeyed on some little further in silence. The darkness grew less, and the astonished Rabbi, lifting up his eyes, found that they had come to the gates of a city which he had never before seen. Yet he knew all the cities of the land of Egypt, and he had walked but half an hour from his dwelling in Cairo. So he knew not what to think, but followed the man with trembling.

They soon entered the gates of the city, which was lighted up as if there were a festival in every house. The streets were full of revellers, and nothing but a sound of joy could be heard. But when Jochonan looked upon their faces, they were the faces of men pained with in, and he saw, by the marks they bore, that they were Mazikin. He was terrified in his Boul; and, by the light of the torches, he looked also upon the face of his companion, and, behold! he saw upon him too the mark that showed him to be a Demon. The Rabbi feared excessively-almost to fainting; but he thought it better to be silent, and sadly he followed his guide, who brought him to a splendid house, in the most magnificent quarter of the city.

Enter here," said the Demon to Jochonan, for this house is mine. The lady and the child are in the upper chamber;" and, accordgly, the sorrowful Rabbi ascended the stair to find them.

"I do," said he, with a heavy groan; "I know that I am in a city of the Mazikin.”

"Know then, further," said she, and the tears gushed from eyes brighter than the diamond, "know then, further, that no one is ever brought here unless he hath sinned before the Lord. What my sin hath been imports not to thee, and I seek not to know thine. But here thou remainest for ever-lost, even as I am lost." And she wept again.

The Rabbi dashed his turban on the ground, and tearing his hair, exclaimed, "Woe is me! Who art thou, woman, that speakest to me thus?"

"I am a Hebrew woman," said she, "the daughter of a doctor of the laws, in the city of Bagdad; and being brought hither, it matters not how, I am married to a prince among the Mazikin, even him who was sent for thee. And that child, whom thou sawest, is our first-born, and I could not bear the thought that the soul of our innocent babe should perish. I therefore besought my husband to try to bring hither a priest, that the law of Moses (blessed be his memory!) should be done; and thy fame, which has spread to Bagdad, and lands further towards the rising of the sun, made me think of thee. Now my husband, though great among the Mazikin, is more just than the other Demons; and he loves me, whom he hath ruined, with a love of despair. So he said that the name of Jochonan the wise was familiar unto him, and that he knew thou wouldst not be able to refuse. What thou hast done, to give him power over thee, is known to thyself."


"I swear, before Heaven," said the Rabbi, "that I have ever diligently kept the law, and walked steadfastly according to the tradi tions of our fathers from the day of my youth upward. I have wronged no man in word or deed, and I have daily worshipped the Lord: minutely performing all the ceremonies thereto needful."

When Jochonan and the lady were alone, -ho turned in the bed towards him, and said: "Unhappy man that thou art! knowest thon where thou hast been brought?"

D. mons

[ocr errors]

The lady, whose dazzling beauty was shrouded by melancholy beyond hope, lay in bed; the child, in rich raiment, slumbered on the lap of the nurse, by her side.

"I have brought to thee, light of my eyes!", said the Demon, "Rebecca, beloved of my soul! I have brought thee Rabbi Jochonan the wise, for whom thou didst desire. Let him, then, speedily begin his office; I shall fotch all things necessary, for he is in haste to depart."


He smiled bitterly as he said these words, looking at the Rabbi; and left the room, followed by the nurse.

"Nay," said the lady, "all this thou mightest have done, and more, and yet be in the power of the Demons. But time passes, for I hear the foot of my husband mounting the stair. There is one chance of thine escape." "What is that? O lady of beauty!" said the agonized Rabbi.

"Eat not, drink not, nor take fee or reward while here; and as long as thou canst do thus, the Mazikin have no power over thee, dead or alive. Have courage, and persevere."

As she ceased from speaking, her husband entered the room, followed by the nurse, who bore all things requisite for the ministration


the brim.

of the Rabbi. With a heavy heart he per- | in immense urns of the same metal, even over formed his duty, and the child was numbered among the faithful. But when, as usual, at the conclusion of the ceremony, the wine was handed round to be tasted by the child, the mother, and the Rabbi, he refused it, when it came to him, saying:

"Thou hast done me a serviceable act, Rabbi," said the Demon; "take of these what thou pleasest; aye, were it the whole."


"I cannot, my lord," said Jochonan. was adjured by thee to come hither in the name of God; and in that name I came, not for fee or for reward."

"Spare me, my lord, for I have made a vow that I fast this day; and I will eat not, neither will I drink."

[blocks in formation]

The Demon took a torch in his hand, and led the Rabbi through winding passages of his palace to the door of a lofty chamber, which he opened with a key that he took from a niche in the wall. On entering the room Jochonan aw that it was of solid silver, floor, ceiling, walls, even to the threshold and the doorposts And the curiously-carved roof and borders of the ceiling shone in the torch-light as if they were the fanciful work of frost. In the midst were heaps of silver money, piled up

"Follow me," said the Prince of the Mazikin; and Jochonan did so into an inner chamber.

It was of gold, as the other was of silver. Its golden roof was supported by pillars and pilasters of gold, resting upon a golden floor. The treasures of the kings of the earth would not purchase one of the four-and-twenty vessels of golden coins which were disposed in six rows along the room. No wonder! for they were filled by the constant labours of the Demons of the mine. The heart of Jochonan was moved by avarice when he saw them shining in yellow light, like the autumnal sun, as they reflected the beams of the torch. But God enabled him to persevere.

"These are thine," said the Demon; 66 one of the vessels which thou beholdest would make thee richest of the sons of men-and I give thee them all."

But Jochonan refused again; and the Prince of the Mazikin opened the door of a third chamber, which was called the Hall of Diamonds. When the Rabbi entered he screamed aloud, and put his hands over his eyes, for the lustre of the jewels dazzled him, as if he had looked upon the noonday sun. In vases of agate were heaped diamonds beyond numeration, the smallest of which was larger than a pigeon's egg. On alabaster tables lay amethysts, topazes, rubies, beryls, and all other precious stones, wrought by the hands of skilful artists, beyond power of computation. The room was lighted by a carbuncle, which from the end of the hall poured its ever-living light, brighter than the rays of noontide, but cooler than the gentle radiance of the dewy moon. This was a sore trial on the Rabbi; but he was strengthened from above, and he refused again.

"Thou knowest me then, I perceive, O Jochonan, son of Ben-David," said the Prince of the Mazikin; "I am a Demon who would tempt thee to destruction. As thou hast withstood so far, I tempt thee no more. Thou hast done a service which, though I value it not, is acceptable in the sight of her whose love is dearer to me than the light of life. Sad has been that love to thee, my Rebecca! Why

should I do that which would make thy cureless grief more grievous? You have yet another chamber to see," said he to Jochonan, who had closed his eyes, and was praying fervently to the Lord, beating his breast.

Far different from the other chambers, the one into which the Rabbi was next introduced was a mean and paltry apartment without furniture. On its filthy walls hung innumerable bunches of rusty keys of all sizes, disposed without order. Among them, to the astonishment of Jochonan, hung the keys of his own house, those which he had put to hide when he came on this miserable journey, and he gazed upon them intently.

"What dost thou see," said the Demon, "that makes thee look so eagerly? Can he who has refused silver, and gold, and diamonds, be moved by a paltry bunch of rusty iron?"

"They are mine own, my lord," said the Rabbi, "them will I take if they be offered me."

"Take them, then," said the Demon, putting them into his hand;" "thou mayst depart. But, Rabbi, open not thy house only when thou returnest to Cairo, but thy heart also. That thou didst not open it before was that which gave me power over thee. It was well that thou didst one act of charity in coming with me without reward, for it has been thy salvation. Be no more Rabbi Jochonan the miser."

The Rabbi bowed to the ground, and blessed the Lord for his escape. "But how," said he, "am I to return, for I know not the way?"

"Close thine eyes," said the Demon. He did so, and, in the space of a moment, heard the voice of the Prince of the Mazikin ordering him to open them again. And behold, ¦ when he opened them, he stood in the centre of his own chamber, in his house at Cairo, with the keys in his hand.


When he recovered from his surprise, and had offered thanksgivings to God, he opened his house and his heart also. He gave alms to the poor, he cheered the heart of the widow, and lightened the destitution of the orphan. His hospitable board was open to the stranger, and his purse was at the service of all who needed to share it. His life was a perpetual act of benevolence, and the blessings showered upon him by all were returned bountifully upon him by the hand of God.

But people wondered, and said, "Is not this the man who was called Rabbi Jochonan the miser? What hath made the change?" became a saying in Cairo. When it

came to the ears of the Rabbi he called his friends together, and he avowed his former love of gold, and the danger to which it had exposed him, relating all which has been above told, in the hall of the new palace that he built by the side of the river, on the left hand, as thou goest down the course of the great stream. And wise men, who were scribes, wrote it down from his mouth, for the memory of mankind, that they might profit thereby. And a venerable man, with a beard of snow, who had read it in these books, and at whose feet I sat, that I might learn the wisdom of the old time, told it to me. And I write it in the tongue of England, the merry and the free, on the tenth day of the month Nisan, in the year according to the lesser supputation, five hundred ninety and seven, that thou mayst learn good thereof. If not, the fault be upon thee.


I hae naebody now-I hae naebody now
To meet me upon the green,
Wi' her light locks waving o'er her brow,
And joy in her deep blue een;

Wi' the saft sweet kiss, an' the happy smile,
An' the dance o' the lightsome fay,
An' the wee bit tale o' news the while

That had happen'd when I was away.

I hae naebody now-I hae naebody now
To clasp to my bosom at even;
O'er her calm sleep to breathe the vow,

An' pray for a blessing from Heaven; An' the wild embrace, an' the gleesome face, In the morning that met mine eye: Where are they now? where are they now? In the cauld, cauld grave they lie.

There's naebody kens-there's naebody kens,
An' O may they never prove,
That sharpest degree of agony

For the child of their earthly love!
To see a flower in its vernal hour

By slow degrees decay;

Then softly aneath in the arms of death Breathe its sweet soul away.

O dinna break my poor auld heart,
Nor at thy loss repine;

For the unseen hand that threw the dart
Was sent from her Father and thine.
Yes I maun mourn, an' I WILL mourn,

Even till my latest day;

For though my darling can never return, I shall follow her soon away.



Let us take off our hats and march with reverent steps, for we are about to enter into a library-that intellectual heaven wherein are assembled all those master-spirits of the world who have achieved immortality; those mental giants who have undergone their apotheosis, and from the shelves of this literary temple still hold silent communion with their mortal votaries. Here, as in one focus, are concentrated the rays of all the great luminaries, since Cadmus, the inventor of letters, discovered the noble art of arresting so subtle, volatile, and invisible a thing as Thought, and imparted to it an existence more durable than that of brass and marble. This was, indeed, the triumph of mind over matter; the lighting up of a new un; the formation of a moral world only inferior to the Almighty fiat that produced Creation. But for this miraculous process of eternizing knowledge, the reasoning faculty would have been bestowed upon man in vain: it would have perished with the evanescent frame in which it was embodied; human experience would not extend beyond individual life; the wisdom of each generation would be lost to its successor, and the world could never have emerged from the darkness of barbarism. Books have been the great civilizers of men. The earliest literature of every country has been probably agricultural; for subsistence is the most pressing want of every new community: abundance, when obtained, would have to be secured from the attacks of less industrious savages; hence the necessity for the arts of war, for eloquence, hymns of battle, and funeral orations. Plenty and security soon introduce luxury and refinement; leisure is found for writing and reading; literature becomes ornamental as well as useful; and poets are valued, not only for the delight they afford, but for their exclusive power of conferring a celebrity more durable than all the fame that can be achieved by medals, statues, monuments, and pyramids, or even by the foundation of cities, dynasties, and empires.

This battered, soiled, and dog's-eared Homer, sq fraught with scholastic reminiscences, is the most sublime illustration of the preservative power of poetry that the world has yet produced. Nearly three thousand years have clapsed since the body of the author reverted to dust, and here is his mind, his thoughts, his very words, handed down to us entire, although the language in which he wrote has

for many ages become silent upon the earth. When the Chian bard wandered through the world reciting his unwritten verses, which then existed only as a sound, Thebes with its hundred gates flourished in all its stupendous magnificence, and the leathern ladies and gentlemen who grin at us from glass cases, under the denomination of mummies, were walking about its streets, dancing in its halls, or perhaps prostrating themselves in its temples before that identical Apis, or Ox-deity, whose thigh-bone was rummaged out of the sarcophagus in the Great Pyramid, and transported to England by Captain Fitzclarence. Three hundred years rolled away after the Iliad was composed, before the she-wolf destined to nourish Romulus and Remus prowled amid the wilderness of the seven hills whereon the marble palaces of Rome were subsequently to be founded. But why instance mortals and cities that have sprung up and crumbled into dust, since an immortal has been called into existence in the intervening period? Cupid, the god of love, is nowhere mentioned in the works of Homer, though his mother plays so distinguished a part in the poem, and so many situations occur where he would infallibly have been introduced, had he been then enrolled in the celestial ranks. It is obvious, therefore, that he was the production of later mythologists; but, alas! the deity and his religion, the nations that worshipped him and the cities where his temples were reared, are all swept away in one common ruin. Mortals and immortals, creeds and systems, nations and em. pires,-all are annihilated together. Even their heaven is no more. Hyænas assemble upon Mount Olympus instead of deities: Parnassus is a desolate waste, and the silence of that wilderness, once covered with laurel groves and gorgeous fanes, whence Apollo gave out his oracles, is now only broken by the occasional crumbling of some fragment, from the rocky summit of the two-forked hill, scaring the wolf from his den and the eagle from her cliff.


And yet here is the poem of Homer fresh and youthful as when it first emanated from his brain; nay, it is probably in the very infancy of its existence, only in the outset of its career, and the generations whom it has delighted are as nothing compared to those whom it is destined to charm in its future progress to eternity. Contrast this majestic and immortal fate with that of the evanescent dust and clay, the poor perishing frame whose organization gave it birth; and what an additional argument does it afford, that the soul capable of such sublime efforts cannot be in




as well as to one built by Nehemiah. Ptolemy Philadelphus had a collection of 700,000 volumes destroyed by Cæsar's soldiers; and the Alexandrian Library, burned by the Caliph What laborious days, what watchings by the Omar, contained 400,000 manuscripts. What midnight lamp, what rackings of the brain, a combustion of congregated brains!-the what hopes and fears, what long lives of labor-, quintessence of ages-the wisdom of a worldious study, are here sublimized into print, and all simultaneously converted into smoke and condensed into the narrow compass of these ashes! This, as Cowley would have said, is to surrounding shelves! What an epitome of the put out the fire of genius by that of the torch; past world, and how capricious the fate by to extinguish the light of reason in that of its which some of them have been preserved, while own funeral pyre; to make matter once more others of greater value have perished! The triumph over mind. Possibly, however, our monks of the middle ages, being the great loss is rather imaginary than real, greater in medium of conservation, and outraged nature quantity than in quality. Men's intellects, inciting them to avenge the mortification of like their frames, continue pretty much the the body by the pruriousness of the mind, the same in all ages, and the human faculty, amatory poets have not only come down to us limited in its sphere of action, and operating tolerably entire, but they "have added fat pollu- always upon the same materials, soon arrives tions of their own," passing off their lascivious at an impassable acme which leaves us nothing elegies as the production of Cornelius Gallus, to do but to ring the changes upon antiquity. or anonymously sending forth into the world Half our epic poems are modifications of Homer, still more licentious and gross erotics. Some though none are equal to that primitive model: of the richest treasures of antiquity have been our Ovidian elegies, our Pindaries, and our redeemed from the dust and cobwebs of mon- Anacreontics, all resemble their first parents astical libraries, lumber-rooms, sacristies, and in features as well as in name. Fertilizing our cellars; others have been excavated in iron minds with the brains of our predecessors, we i chests, or disinterred from beneath ponderous, raise new crops of the old grain, and pass away tomes of controversial divinity, or copied from, to manure the intellectual field for future the backs of homilies and sermons, with which, harvests of the same description. Destruction in the scarcity of parchment, they had been and reproduction is the system of the moral as over-written. If some of our multitudinous well as of the physical world. writers would compile a circumstantial account of the resurrection of every classical author, and a minute narrative of the discovery of every celebrated piece of ancient sculpture, what an interesting volume might be formed!

Numerous as they are, what are the books preserved in comparison with those that we have lost? The dead races of mankind scarcely outnumber the existing generation more prodigiously than do the books that have perished, exceed those that remain to us. Men are naturally scribblers, and there has probably prevailed, in all ages since the invention of letters, a much more extensive literature than is dreamed of in our philosophy. Osymandias, the ancient King of Egypt, if Herodotus may be credited, built a library in his palace, over the door of which was the well-known inscription-"Physic for the Soul." Job wishes that his adversary had written a book, probably for the consolation of cutting it up in some Quarterly or Jerusalem Review; the expression, at all events, indicates a greater activity "in the Row" than we are apt to ascribe to those pri mitive times. Allusion is also made in the Scriptures to the library of the Kings of Persia,

An anonymous book loses half its interest; it is the voice of the invisible, an echo from the clouds, the shadow of an unknown substance, an abstraction devoid of all humanity. One likes to hunt out an author, if he be dead. in obituaries and biographical dictionaries; to chase him from his birth; to be in at his death, and learn what other offspring of his brain survive him. Even an assumed name is better than none; though it is clearly a nominal fraud, a desertion from our own to enlist into another identity. It may be doubted whether we have any natural right thus to leap down the throat, as it were, of an imaginary personage, and pass off a counterfeit of our own creation for genuine coinage. But the strongest semi-vitality, or zoophyte state of existence, is that of the writers of ephemerides, who squeeze the whole bulk of their individuality into the narrow compass of a single consonant or vowel; who have an alphabious being as Mr. A., a liquid celebrity under the initial of L., or attain an immortality of zig-zag under the signature of Z. How fantastical to be personally known as an impersonal, to be literally a man of letters, to have all our virtues and talents in




tended to revert to the earth with its miserable tegument of flesh. That which could produce immortality may well aspire to its enjoy

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »