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and not requiring such close thought, and minute analysis, and clear illustration.
If we take the great and solemn truth of the depravity of the human heart, rightly explained, allowing to men in their natural state, warm social affections, and not asserting that every one is just as bad, in every particular, as he can be, nor affirming that there are no degrees in iniquity; but maintaining that mankind are not naturally actuated by the emotion of supreme love to God, and impartial love to men, and that therefore all their thoughts, words, and actions, until they experience a moral change, are selfish and therefore sinful If we take this doctrine, and choose from among the multitude two men of acute minds and equal natural talents; one of whom receives it as true, while the other rejects it as false; we shall find that in discussing any question of right and wrong, either in political or civil government, he who recognizes the doctrine as true, will exhibit the greater degree of intellectual power, and the more commanding eloquence. His theory will correspond with facts. He can take up illustrations of the principles he advances from every page in the long history of man, and from the occurrences of common life around him, during each day of his existence. He can thus commend himself to every man's conscience. As he declares his sentiments to his fellowmen, either in writing or in words, their own experience and observation will go along with him ; nature will bear witness for him, and echo back his words of wisdom from every corner of her secret places.
Analyze, with this principle in view, the treatise of Burke on the French revolution; or the speech of Sheridan in the British parliament, in behalf of the Begums of India; or that of the earl of Chatham, in favor of the colonies of America ; and it will be found, if we mistake not, that the cause which imparts to these compositions much of their power over mankind, is their general accordance with moral facts, which the consciences and experience of all men testify to be true. Each of them implies the depraved moral character of man, and the necessity of a strong influence over his moral faculties, to make him what he ought to be. If we consult the orators of our own country, we shall find that the same principle is developed. The great cause which gives to them their force, consists not so much in their noble bursts of feeling, and noble sentiments of patriotism, as in the strong
lines of moral truth which are interwoven with the warp and woof of their texture. A perusal of the speech of a living orator, delivered in the senate of our country, on a resolution concerning the public lands, will present an interesting illustration of this. In the whole of his lucid exposition of the constitution, there may be traced a striking recognition of the great principles of the law of God, promoting, as it does, the greatest good of each part of the moral system, by a noble and impartial attention to the general welfare of the whole. It occurred to us very forcibly while we read it, that the moral influence of New England preaching might there be seen, instilling, imperceptibly, but effectually, the principles of the moral government of God into the mental habits of her children.
We may betake ourselves even to heathen history, and choose from Sallust, or Tacitus, or Livy, the speeches of the mighty of other days; and it will be found that the productions which are calculated to live the longest, and which excite the highest degree of interest and admiration in all succeeding generations, are those in which we find the greatest amount of moral truth expressed or implied. This causes them to accord with facts which are developed in all ages of the world; and we can therefore conceive of no possible combinations of things in the history of man, where there will not be a niche in the temple of fame to be occupied by them. They will always, as now, be presenting sentiments to be cited and pondered on, as proverbs of wisdom, by thinking men, because they commend themselves to the consciences of men-they show "the work of the law written in their hearts"-they are the echoes of truths which the voice of nature hath spoken, trumpet-tongued, from the works of God, and they harmonize, throughout all time, with the lessons which are delivered in His word.
Thus, as we analyze the greatest literary productions of past or present times, we find that a correct moral theory is essential to the permanent effects of the intellect of man. This alone, as it is expressed or implied, can cause the productions of his genius to live, for this alone causes them to harmonize with facts. It is only the righteous, or those who have recorded the principles of the righteous, who shall be had in everlasting remembrance. The name of the wicked shall rot. It is at once interesting and instructing to observe, as we look over those productions of the human understand
ing which have survived the lapse of ages, how the principles of truth, like the “ disjecta membra” of poetry, found amid the analyzed productions of every true son of the muses, are seen scattered amid all these efforts of mind, as the salt whose savor has preserved them from destruction, amid the mass of universal decay. Shakspeare lives, and will never die while our language is spoken, because his writings, more than any others, perhaps, which have ever been composed by uninspired men, strike principles of human nature which are every where developed, and acknowledged to be true. Burns will live long, for the same reason. As it has been sublimely written of one of them, “the stream of time, which is continually wearing away the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes, without injury, by the adamant of these." Cowper shall also live-long may he live !—for he has cast into the stream of his numbers the salt of moral, as well as natural truth. Milton shall flourish by his side, for the same reason. These men came forth like the Roman warriors after victory, bearing in their hands the “ spolia opima” of genius, and suspending them, as imperishable mementos of their prowess, on the column of eternal truth.
The practical bearing of these principles, in their effect upon style in writing or speaking, is, we conceive, of great importance. Modified as style may be, and undoubtedly is, by other peculiar characteristics of mind, still we are confident that a correct moral theory, either expressed or implied, can have no slight influence in forming it. That man can surely never express himself clearly, strongly, and concisely, whose moral principles are not founded upon facts. He will be conscious of a weakness, which is afraid and unable to penetrate the depths of things. He will “ linger, shivering on the brink” of the great ocean of thought, and therefore his style of writing or speaking what few meditations he may have managed to scoop up from the shore, must be comparatively feeble. This is one great reason why an incorrect, imperfect religious theory, in a country, is ever followed, sooner or later, by a deterioration in strong and noble writing. The weakness which is afraid to follow on where truth leads, into regions however mysterious, is a weakness which always whimpers ere long, in a kind of morbid, unmanly sentimentalism, produced by a conviction of its own imbecility and want of moral courage. This is a strong reason for desiring that the literature of a country, especially of our own, should be in the hands of religious truth. We owe a duty to the taste of our countrymen, in this respect, which it becomes us most diligently to perform, so far as we have any ability; and which, if performed sedulously and carefully, will be sure to produce a literature noble and lasting, but above all, purifying in its effects upon the people.
Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique, translated from the Spanish; with an Introductory Essay on the Moral and De
; votional Poetry of Spain. By Henry W. Longfellow, Professor of Mod. Lang. and Lit. in Bowdoin College. Boston : Allen & Ticknor, 1833. pp. 89.
The principal poem in this little volume is the one composed by Don Jorge Manrique, on occasion of the death of his father, Rodrigo Manrique. This poet flourished in the last half of the fifteenth century. He followed, like most of the other distinguished Spanish poets, the profession of arms, and served in the Moorish wars, under his father's banners. He was mortally wounded in a skirmish, in the year 1499. Mariana, in his history of Spain, speaks of him as a youth of estimable qualities, who died young, and was thus cut off from exercising and exhibiting to the world his many virtues, and the light of his genius, which was already known to fame.' We quote a few stanzas from his ode.
“I will not here invoke the throng
"Did we but use it as we ought,
This world would school each wandering thought
"Monarchs, the powerful and the strong,
Famous in history and in song
Saw, by the stern decrees of fate,
Their kingdoms lost, and desolate
Who is the champion ?-who the strong?