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described the matchless glories of the scene? | known, it excites no attention; but if we meet Then, as now, the silvery clouds of the Ægean on a desert isle, in the midst of the ocean, sea rolled round her verdant isles, and sported with a mutilated statue pointing to the west, in the azure vault of heaven; but what Gre- with its pedestal covered with hieroglyphics, cian poet has been inspired by the sight? The and worn by the winds, what a subject of Italian lakes spread their waves beneath a meditation is presented to the traveller! Every cloudless sky, and all that is lovely in nature thing is concealed, every thing is hidden in was gathered around them; yet even Eustace the universe. Man himself is the greatest tells us, that a few detached lines is all that is mystery of the whole.
Whence comes the left in regard to them by the Roman poets. spark which we call existence, and in what The Alps themselves,
obscurity is it to be extinguished? The Eter
nal has placed our birth, and our death, under “ The palaces of nature, whose vast walls Have pinnacled in clouds their snowy scalps,
the form of two veiled phantoms, at the two And throned eternity in icy halls
extremities of our career; the one produces Of cold sublimity, where forms and falls The avalanche-the thunderbolts of snow.'
the inconceivable gift of life, which the other
is ever ready to devour. Even these, the most glorious objects which “It is not surprising, then, considering the the eye of man can behold, were regarded by passion of the human mind for the mysterious, the ancients with sentiments only of dismay that the religions of every country should or horror; as a barrier from hostile nations, or have had their impenetrable secrets. God as the dwelling of barbarous tribes. The torch forbid! that I should compare their mysteries of religion had not then lightened the face of to those of the true faith, or the unfathomable nature; they knew not the language which depths of the Sovereign in the heavens, to the she spoke, nor felt that holy spirit, which to changing obscurities of those gods which are the Christian gives the sublimity of these the work of human hands. All that I observe
is, that there is no religion without mysteries, Chateaubriand divides his great work into and that it is they with the sacrifice which every four parts. The first treats of the doctrinal | where constitute the essence of the worship. parts of religion: the second and the third, God is the great secret of nature, the Deity was the relations of that religion with poetry, litera- veiled in Egypt, and the Sphynx was seated at ture, and the arts. The fourth, the ceremonies the entrance of his temples.”—I. 13, 14. of public worship, and the services rendered On the three great sacraments of the Church, to mankind by the clergy, regular and secular. Baptism, Confession, and the Communion, he On the mysteries of faith he commences with makes the following beautiful observations: these fine observations.
“Baptism, the first of the sacraments which “ There is nothing beautiful, sweet, or grand religion confers upon man, clothes him, in the in life, but in its mysteries. The sentiments words of the Apostle, with Jesus Christ. That which agitate us most strongly are enveloped sacrament reveals at once the corruption in in obscurity; modesty, virtuous love, sincere which we were born, the agonizing pains frindship, have all their secrets, with which the which attended our birth, and the tribulations world must not be made acquainted. Hearts which follow us into the world; it tells us that which love understand each other by a word; our faults will descend upon our children, and half of each is at all times open to the other. that we are all jointly responsible; a terrible Innocence itself is but a holy ignorance, and truth, which, if duly considered, would alone the most ineffable of mysteries. Infancy is suffice to render the reign of virtue universal only happy, because it as yet knows nothing; in the world. age miserable, because it has nothing more to “Behold the infant in the midst of the waters learn. Happily for it, when the mysteries of of the Jordan; the man of the wilderness pours life are ending, those of immortality commence. the purifying stream on his head; the river of
“If it is thus with the sentiments, it is as the Patriarchs, the camels on its banks, the suredly not less so with the virtues; the most Temple of Jerusalem, the cedars of Lebanon, angelic are those which, emanating directly seem to regard with interest the mighty specfrom the Deity, such as charity, love to with tacle. Behold in mortal life that infant near draw themselves from all regards, as if fear- the sacred fountain ; a family filled with thankful to betray their celestial origin.
fulness surround it; renounce in its name the “If we turn to the understanding, we shall sins of the world; bestow on it with joy the find that the pleasures of thought also have a name of its grandfather, which seems thus to certain connection with the mysterious. To become immortal, in its perpetual renovawhat sciences do we unceasingly return? Totion by the fruits of love from generation those which always leave something still to to generation. Even now the father is imbe discovered, and fix our regards on a per- patient to take his infant in his arms, to respective which is never to terminate. If we place it in its mother's bosom, who listens bewander in the desert, a sort of instinct leads hind the curtains to all the thrilling sounds of us to shun the plains where the eye embraces the sacred ceremony. The whole family sur. at once the whole circumference of nature; to round the maternal bed ; tears of joy, mingled plunge into forests, those forests the cradle of with the transports of religion, fall from every religion, whose shades and solitudes are filled eye; the new name of the infant, the old name with the recollections of prodigies, where the of its ancestor, is repeated by every mouth, ravens and the doves nourished the prophets and every one mingling the recollections of and fathers of the church. If we visit a modern the past with the joys of the present, thinks monument, whose origin or destination is that he sees the venerable grandfather revive
in the new-born which has taken his name. spects, perhaps, a bigoted, Catholic; yet there Such is the domestic spectacle which through- is hardly a word here, or in any other part of out all the Christian world the sacrament of his writings on religion, to which a Christian Baptism presents; but religion, ever mingling in any country may not subscribe, and which lessons of duty with scenes of joy, shows us is not calculated in all ages and places to forthe son of kings clothed in purple, renouncing ward the great work of the purification and the grandeur of the world, at the same fountain improvement of the human heart. Travellers where the child of the poor in rags abjures have often observed, that in a certain rank in the pomps by which he will in all probability all countries manners are the same; naturalists never be tempted.
know, that at a certain elevation above the “ Confession follows baptism; and the sea in all latitudes, we meet with the same Church, with that wisdom which it alone vegetable productions; and philosophers have possesses, fixed the era of its commencement often remarked, that in the highest class of inat that period when first the idea of crime can tellects, opinions on almost every subject in enter the infant mind, that is at seven years of all ages and places are the same. A similar age. All men, including the philosophers, uniformity may be observed in the principles how different soever their opinions may be on of the greatest writers of the world on religion: other subjects, have regarded the sacrament and while the inferior followers of their difof penitence as one of the strongest barriers ferent tenets branch out into endless divisions, against crime, and a chef-d'ouvre of wisdom. and indulge in sectarian rancour, in the more What innumerable restitutions and repara- lofty regions of intellect the principles are tions, says Rousseau, has confession caused to substantially the same, and the objects of all be made in Catholic countries! According to identical. So small a proportion do all the Voltaire, • Confession is an admirable inven- disputed points in theology bear to the great tion, a bridle to crime, discovered in the most objects of religion, love to God, charity to man, remote antiquity, for confession was recognised and the subjugation of human passion. in the celebration of all the ancient mysteries. On the subject of marriage, and the reasons We have adopted and sanctified that wise for its indissolubility, our author presents us custom, and its effects have always been found with the following beautiful observations :to be admirable in inclining hearts, ulcerated “ Habit and a long life together are more by hatred, to forgiveness.'
necessary to happiness, and even to love, than “But for that salutary institution, the guilty is generally imagined. No one is happy with would give way to despair. In what bosom the object of his attachment until he has passed would he discharge the weight of his heart? many days, and above all, many days of misIn that of a friendWho can trust the friend-fortune, with her. The married pair must ships of the world? Shall he take the deserts know each other to the bottom of their souls; for a confident? Alas! the deserts are ever the mysterious veil which covered the two filled to the ear of crime with those trumpets spouses in the primitive church, must be which the parricide Nero heard round the raised in its inmost folds, how.closely soever tomb of his mother. When men and nature it may be kept drawn to the rest of the world. are unpitiable, it is indeed consolatory to find What! on account of a fit of caprice, or a Deity inclined to pardon; but it belongs only a burst of passion, am I to be exposed to the to the Christian religion to have made twin fear of losing my wife and my children, and to sisters of Innocence and Repentance.
renounce the hope of passing my declining “In fine, the Communion presents instruc- days with them? Let no one imagine that tive ceremony; it teaches morality, for we fear will make me become a better husband. must be pure to approach it'; it is the offering No; we do not attach ourselves to a possesof the fruits of the earth to the Creator, and it sion of which we are not secure; we do not recalls the sublime and touching history of love a property which we are in danger of the Son of Man. Blended with the recollection losing. of Easter, and of the first covenant of God with 6 We must not give to Hymen the wings of man, the origin of the communion is lost in Love, nor make of a sacred reality a fleeting the obscurity of an infant world; it is related phantom. One thing is alone sufficient to de to our first ideas of religion and society, and stroy your happiness in such transient unions ; recalls the pristine equality of the human you will constantly compare one to the other, race; in fine, it perpetuates the recollection of the wife you have lost to the one you have our primeval fall, of our redemption, and re- gained; and do not deceive yourself, the balance acceptance by God.”-I. 30–46.
will always incline to the past, for so God has These and similar passages, not merely in constructed the human heart. This distraction this work, which professes to be of a popular of a sentiment which should be indivisible cast, but in others of the highest class of will empoison all your joys. When you Catholic divinity, suggest an idea which, the caress your new infant, you will think of the raoré we extend our reading, the more we shall smiles of the one you have lost; when you find to be just, viz., that in the greater and press your wife to your bosom, your heart will purer writers on religion, of whatever church tell you that she is not the first. Every thing or age, the leading doctrines are nearly the in man tends to unity; he is no longer happy same, and that the differences which divide when he is divided, and, like God, who made their followers, and distract the world, are him in his image, his soul seeks incessantly to seldom, on any material or important points, concentrate into one point the past, the preto be met with in writers of a superior caste. sent, and the future. Chateaubriand is a faithful, and in some re- “ The wife of a Christian is not a simple mortal: she is a mysterious angelic being: have always been directed, because they con the flesh of the flesh, the blood of the blood of sider it as the source of all other crime. her husband. Man, in uniting himself to her, Whether this is a just view may, perhaps, be does nothing but regain part of the substance doubted, to the extent at least that they carry which he has lost. His soul as well as his it; but there can be but ene opinion as to the body are incomplete without his wife: he has eloquence of the apology which Chateaubriand strength, she has beauty; he combats the makes for this selection. enemy and labours the fields, but he under- “In the virtues preferred by Christianity, stands nothing of domestic life; his companion we perceive the same knowledge of human is awanting to prepare his repast and sweeten nature. Before the coming of Christ, the soul his existence. He has his crosses, and the of man was a chaos'; but no sooner was the partner of his couch is there to soften them: word heard, than all the elements arranged his days may be sad and troubled, but in the themselves in the moral world, as at the same chaste arms of his wife he finds comfort and divine inspiration they had produced the marrepose. · Without woman man would be rude, vels of material creation. The virtues ascended gross, and solitary. Woman spreads around like pure fires into the heavens; some, like him the flowers of existence, as the creepers brilliant suns, attracted the regards by their of the forests which decorate the trunks of resplendent light; others, more modest, sought sturdy oaks with their perfumed garlands. the shade, where nevertheless their lustre Finally, the Christian pair live and die united: could not be concealed. From that moment together they rear the fruits of their union; an admirable balance was established between in the dust they lie side by side ; and they are the forces and the weaknesses of existence. reunited beyond the limits of the tomb."-. Religion directed its thunders against pride, 78, 79,
the vice which is nourished by the virtues; it The extreme unction of the Catholic Church discovers it in the in most recesses of the heart, is described in these touching words :
and follows it out in all its metamorphoses; “ Come and behold the most moving spec- the sacraments in a holy legion march against tacle which the world can exhibit-the death it, while humility, clothed in 'sackcloth and of the faithful. The dying Christian is no ashes, its eyes downcast and bathed in tears, longer a man of this world; he belongs no becomes one of the chief virtues of the faithfarther to his country; all his relations with ful.”-1. 74. society have ceased. For him the calculations On the tendency of all the fables concerning of time are closed, and the great era of eternity creation to remount to one general and eternal has commenced. A priest seated beside his truth, our author presents the following reflecbed pours the consolations of religion into his tions: dying ear: the holy minister converses with “After this exposition of the dreams of the expiring penitent on the immortality of the philosophy, it may seem useless to speak of soul; and that sublime scene which antiquity the fancy of the poets. Who does not know presented but once in the death of the greatest Deucalion and Pyrrha, the age of gold and of of her philosophers, is renewed every day at iron? What innumerable traditions are scatthe couch where the humblest of the Christians tered through the earth! In India, an elephant expires.
sustains the globe; the sun in Peru has brought * At length the supreme moment arrives: forth all the marvels of existence; in Canada, one sacrament has opened the gates of the the Great Spirit is the father of the world, in world, another is about to close them ; religion Greenland, man has emerged from an egg; in rocked the cradle of existence; its sweet fine, Scandinavia has beheld the birth of Askur strains and its maternal hand will lull it to and Emla; Odin has poured in the breath of sleep in the arms of death. It prepares the life, Hænerus reason, and Loedur blood and baptism of a second existence; but it is no beauty. longer with water, but oil, the emblem of celestial incorruption. The liberating sacra
Animam nec possidebant, rationem nec habebant
Nec sanguinem, nec sermonem, nec faciem venustam, ment dissolves, one by one, the chords which
Animam dedit Odinus, rationem dedit Hænerus, attach the faithful to this world: the soul, half Loedur sanguinem addidit et faciem venustam.' escaped from its earthly prison, is almost visi- “In these various traditions, we find ourble to the senses, in the smile which plays selves placed between the stories of children around his lips. Already he hears the music and the abstractions of philosophers; of the seraphims; already he longs to fly to were obliged to choose, it were better to take those regions, where hope divine, daughter of the first. virtue and death, beckons him to approach. “But to discover the original of the picture At length the angel of peace, descending from in the midst of so many copies, we must recur the heavens, touches with his golden sceptre to that which, by its unity and the perfection his wearied eyelids, and closes them in deli- of its parts, unfolds the genius of a master. cious repose to the light. He dies: and sweet has been his departure, that no one has of all those pictures which we see reproduced heard his last sigh; and his friends, long after in so many different traditions. What can be he is no more, preserve silence round his at once more natural and more magnificent,couch, still thinking that he slept; so like the more easy to conceive, and more, in unison sleep of infancy is the death of the just.”I. with human reason, than the Creator descend09-71.
the night of ages to create light by It is against pride, as every one knows, a word? In an instant, the sun is seen susthat the chief efforts of the Catholic Church / pended in the heavens, in the midst of an im
• Askum et Emlam omni conatu destitutos
mense azure vault; with invisible bonds he in order that his powers should correspond envelopes the planets, and whirls them round with the full-grown magnificence of his new his burning axle; the sea and the forests ap- empire,—while his consort, doubtless, had pear on the globe, and their earliest voices already passed her sixteenth spring, though arise to announce to the universe that great yet in the slumber of nonentity, that she might marriage, of which God is the priest, the earth be in harmony with the flowers, the birds, the the nuptial couch, and the human race the innocence, the love, the beauty of the youthful posterity.”-1. 97, 98.
part of the universe.”—I. 137, 138. On the appearance of age on the globe, and In the rhythm of prose these are the colours its first aspect when fresh from the hands of of poetry, but still this was not to all appearthe Creator, the author presents an hypothesis ance the order of creation; and here, as in more in unison with the imagination of a poet many other instances, it will be found that the than the observations of a philosopher, on the deductions of experience present conclusions gradual formation of all objects destined for a more sublime than the most fervid imaginalong endurance. He supposes that every thing tion has been able to conceive. Every thing was at once created as we now see it.
announces that the great works of nature are “It is probable that the Author of nature carried on by slow and insensible gradations; planted at once aged forests and their youthful continents, the abode of millions, are formed progeny; that animals arose at the same time, by the confluence of innumerable rills; vegesome full of years, others buoyant with the tation, commencing with the lichen and the vigour and adorned with the grace of youth. moss, rises at length into the riches and magniThe oaks, while they pierced with their roots ficence of the forest. Patient analysis, philothe fruitful earth, without doubt bore at once sophical discovery, have now taught us that it the old nests of rooks, and the young progeny was by the same slow progress that the great of doves. At once grew a chrysalis and a work of creation was accomplished. The fosbutterfly; the insect bounded on the grass, sil remains of antediluvian ages have laid open suspended its golden egg in the forests, or the primeval works of nature; the long period trembled in the undulations of the air. The which elapsed before the creation of man, the bee, which had not yet lived a morning, already vegetables which then covered the earth, the counted the generations of flowers by its animals which sported amidst its watery wastes, ambrosia—the sheep was not without its lamb, the life which first succeeded to chaos, all the dre without its fawns. The thickets already stand revealed. To the astonishment of mancontained the nightingale, astonished at the kind, the order of creation, unfolded in Genesis, melody of their first airs, as they poured forth is proved by the contents of the earth beneath the new-born effusion of their infant loves. every part of its surface to be precisely that
“Had the world not arisen at once young which has actually been followed; the days of and old, the grand, the serious, the impressive, the Creator's workmanship turn out to be the would have disappeared from nature; for all days of the Most High, not of his uncreated these sentiments depend for their very essence subjects, and to correspond to ages of our on ancient things. The marvels of existence ephemeral existence; and the great sabbath would have been unknown. The ruined rock of the earth took place, not, as we imagined, would not have hung over the abyss beneath; when the sixth sun had set after the first mornthe woods would not have exhibited that ing had beamed, but when the sixth period had splendid variety of trunks bending under the expired, devoted by Omnipotence to the mighty weight of years, of trees hanging over the bed undertaking. God then rested from his labours, of streams. The inspired thoughts, the vene- because the great changes of matter, and the rated sounds, the magic voices, the sacred hor- successive production and annihilation of difror of the forests, would have vanished with ferent kinds of animated existence, ceased; the vaults which serve for their retreats; and creation assumed a settled form, and laws the solitudes of earth and heaven would have came into operation destined for indefinite enremained naked and disenchanted in losing the durance. Chateaubriand said truly, that to columns of oaks which united them. On the man, when he first opened his eyes on paradise, first day when the ocean dashed against the nature appeared with all the majesty of age as shore, he bathed, be assured, sands bearing all well as all the freshness of youth; but it was the marks of the action of his waves for ages; not in a week, but during a series of ages, that cliffs strewed with the eggs of innumerable sea- the magnificent spectacle had been assembled; fowl, and rugged capes which sustained against and for the undying delight of his progeny, in the waters the crumbling shores of the earth. all future years, the powers of nature for count
“Without that primeval age, there would less time had been already exerted. have been neither pomp nor majesty in the The fifth book of the Génie de Christianisme work of the Most High; and, contrary to all treats of the proofs of the existence of God, our conceptions, nature in the innocence of derived from the wonders of material natureman would have been less beautiful than it is in other words, of the splendid subject of now in the days of his corruption. An insipid natural theology. On such a subject, the obchildhood of plants, of animals, of elements, servations of a mind so stored with knowledge, would have covered the earth, without the and gifted with such powers of eloquence, may poetical feelings, which now constitute its be expected to be something of extraordinary principal charm. But God was not so feeble excellence. Though the part of his work, aca designer of the grove of Eden as the incredu- cordingly, which treats of this subject, is neceslous would lead us to believe. Man, the sove- sarily circumscribed, from the multitude of reign of nature, was born at thirty years of age, l others with which it is overwhelmed, it is of
surpassing beauty, and superior in point of from whence we every instant expect to see description to any thing which has been pro- them precipitated; and like the old seaman, duced on the same subject by the genius of whose hammock is suspended to the roof of Britain.
his vessel, the more he is tossed by the winds, “ There is a God! The herbs of the valley, the more profound is his repose."--I. 147, 148 the cedars of the mountain, bless him--the in- " Amidst the different instincts which the sect sports in his beams--the elephant salutes Sovereign of the universe has implanted in him with the rising orb of the day--the bird nature, one of the most wonderful is that sings him in the foliage—the thunder pro- which every year brings the fish of the pole claims him in the heavens--the ocean declares to our temperate region. They come, without his immensity-man alone has said, “There is once mistaking their way, through the solitude no God!'
of the ocean, to reach, on a fixed day, the “ Unite in thought, at the same instant, the stream where their hymen is to be celebrated. most beautiful objects in nature; suppose that The spring prepares on our shores their nuptial you see at once all the hours of the day, and pomp; it covers the willows with verdure, it all the seasons of the year; a morning of spreads beds of moss in the waves to serve spring and a morning of autumn; a night be- for curtains to its crystal couches. Hardly spangled with stars, and a night covered are these preparations completed when the with clouds; meadows enamelled with flowers, enamelled legions appear; the animated naviforests hoary with snow; fields gilded by the gators enliven our coasts; some spring aloft tints of autumn; then alone you will have a from the surface of the waters, others balance just conception of the universe. While you themselves on the waves, or diverge from a are gazing on that sun which is plunging common centre like innumerable flashes of under the vault of the west, another observer gold; these dart obliquely their shining bodies admires him emerging from the gilded gates of athwart the azure fluid, while they sleep in the east. By what unconceivable magic does the rays of the sun, which penetrates beneath that aged star, which is sinking fatigued and the dancing surface of the waves. All, sportburning in the shades of the evening, reappear ing in the joys of existence, meander, return, at the same instant fresh and humid with the wheel about, dash across, form in squadron, rosy dew of the morning? At every instant separate, and reunite; and the inhabitant of of the day the glorious orb is at once rising the seas, inspired by a breath of existence, resplendent at noonday, and setting in the pursues with bounding movements its mate, west; or rather our senses deceive us, and by the line of fire which is reflected from her there is, properly speaking, no east, or south, in the stream.”—I. 152, 153. or west in the world. Every thing reduces Chateaubriand's mind is full not only of the itself to one single point, from whence the images but the sounds which attest the reign King of Day sends forth at once a triple light of animated nature. Equally familiar with in one single substance. The bright splendour those of the desert and of the cultivated plain, is perhaps that which nature can present that he has had his susceptibility alike open in is most beautiful; for while it gives us an idea both to the impressions which arise to a pious of the perpetual magnificence and resistless observer from their contemplation. power of God, it exhibits, at the same time, a « There is a law in nature relative to the shining image of the glorious Trinity." cries of animals, which has not been sufficient
The instincts of animals, and their adapta- ly observed, and deserves to be so. The diftion to the wants of their existence, have long ferent sounds of the inhabitants of the desert furnished one of the most interesting subjects are calculated according to the grandeur or of study to the naturalist, and of meditation to the sweetness of the scene where they arise, the devout observer of creation. Chateau- and the hour of the day when they are heard briand has painted, with his usual descriptive The roaring of the lion, loud, rough, and tre powers, one of the most familiar of these ex- mendous, is in unison with the desert scenes amples
in which it is heard; while the lowing of the “What ingenious springs move the feet of a oxen diffuses a pleasing calm through our bird? It is not by a contraction of muscles valleys. The goat has something trembling dependent on his will that he maintains him- and savage in its cry, like the rocks and ravines self firm upon a branch; his foot is constructed from which it loves to suspend itself. The in such a way that when it is pressed in the war-horse imitates the notes of the trumpet centre, the toes close of their own accord that animates him to the charge, and, as if he upon the body which supports it. It results felt that he was not made for degrading exafron: this mechanism, that the talons of the ployments, he is silent under the spur of the bird grasp more or less firmly the object on labourer, and neighs under the rein of the which it has alighted, in proportion to the warrior. The night, by turns charming or agitation, more or less violent, which it has sombre, is enlivened by the nightingale or received. Thus, when we see at the approach saddened by the owl-the one sings for the of night during winter the crows perched on zephyrs, the groves, the moon, the soul of the scathed summit of an aged oak, we sup- lovers--the other for the winds, the forests, the pose that, watchful and attentive, they main- darkness, and the dead. Finally, all the ani tain their place with pain during the rocking mals which live on others have a peculiar cry of the winds; and yet, heedless of danger, and by which they may be distinguished by the mocking the tempest, the winds only bring creatures which are destined to be their prey,' them profounder slumber;
-the blasts of the -I. 156. north attach them more firmly to the branch, The making of birds' nests is one of the