Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

54. THE KORAN.

CAMPBELL.

[THE following illustration of the inferiority in subject matter and style of the Koran of Mohammed, as compared with the Bible, is not given as a paper for Sunday reading, but as a specimen of a book which contains a number of similar stories, in connection, indeed, with many things that are in a higher spirit. The passage which we subjoin occurs in a note to Dr. George Campbell's Dissertation on Miracles. This learned Scotch divine was Principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen. He was the author also of a valuable work, · The Philosophy of Rhetoric.' George Campbell was born in 1709, and died in 1796.]

I hardly think that we can have a more striking proof of the prejudices of modern infidels, than in their comparing this motley composition, the Koran, to the writings of the Old and New Testament. Let the reader but take the trouble to peruse the history of Joseph by Mahomet, which is the subject of a very long chapter, and to compare it with the account of that patriarch given by Moses, and if he doth not perceive at once the immense inferiority of the former, I shall never, for my part, undertake by argument to convince him of it. To me it appears even almost incredible, that the most beautiful and most effecting passages of Holy Writ should have been so wretchedly disfigured by a writer, whose intention, we are certain, was not to burlesque them. But that every reader may be qualified to form some notion of this miracle of a book, I have subjoined a specimen of it, from the chapter of the Ant; where we are informed particularly of the cause of the visit which the queen of Sheba (there called Saba) made to Solomon, and of the occasion of her conversion from idolatry. I have not selected this passage on account of any special futility to be found in it, for the like absurdities may be observed in every page of the performance; but I have selected it because it is short, and because it contains a distinct story, which bears some relation to a passage of scripture. I use Mr. Sale's version, which is the latest, and the most approved, omitting only, for the sake of brevity, such supplementary expressions as have been, without necessity, inserted by the translator

tread you

“Solomon was David's heir; and he said, “O men, we have been taught the speech of birds, and have had all things bestowed on us; this is manifest excellence.' And his armies were gathered together to Solomon, consisting of genii, and men, and birds ; and they were led in distinct bands, until they came to the valley of ants. An ant said, O ants, enter ye into your habitations, lest Solomon and his army

under foot, and perceive it not.' And he smiled, laughing at her words, and said, “O Lord, excite me, that I may be thankful for thy favour, wherewith thou hast favoured me and my parents ;

and that I

may

do that which is right and well pleasing to thee: and introduce me, through thy mercy, among thy servants the righteous.' And he viewed the birds, and said, "What is the reason that I see not the lapwing? Is she absent ? Verily I will chastise her with a severe chastisement, or I will put her to death; unless she bring me a just excuse.' And she tarried not long, and said, 'I have viewed that which thou hast not viewed; and I come to thee from Saba, with a certain piece of news. I found a woman to reign over them, who is provided with every thing, and hath a magnificent throne. I found her and her people to worship the sun, besides God: and Satan hath prepared their works for them, and hath turned them aside from the way (wherefore they are not directed), lest they should worship God, who bringeth to light that which is hidden in heaven and earth, and knowing whatever they conceal, and whatever they discover. God! there is no God but he; the lord of the magnificent throne.' He said, “We shall see whe. ther thou hast spoken the truth, or whether thou art a liar. Go with this my letter, and cast it down to them; then turn aside from them, and wait for their answer.' The queen said, “O nobles, verily an honourable letter hath been delivered to me; it is from Solomon, and this is the tenour thereof. In the name of the most merciful God, rise not up against me: but come and surrender yourselves to me.' She said, '0 nobles, advise me in my business. I will not resolve on any thing, till ye be witnesses hereof.' They answered, “We are endued with strength, and endued with great prowess in war; but the command appertaineth to thee : see, therefore, what thou wilt command.' She said, “Verily kings, when they enter a city, waste the same, and abase the most powerful of the inhabitants thereof; and so will these do. But I will send gifts to them; and will wait for what those who shall be sent shall bring back.' And when the ambassador came to Solomon, the prince

said, “Will ye present me with riches ? Verily that which God hath given me is better than what he hath given you: but ye glory in your gifts. Return to your people. We will surely come to them with forces which they shall not be able to withstand ; and we will drive them out humbled, and they shall be contemptible.' And Solomon said, "O nobles, which of you will bring me her throne, before they come and surrender themselves to me?' A terrible genius answered, “I will bring it thee before thou arise from thy place.' And one, with whom was the knowledge of the Scripture, said, I will bring it to thee in the twinkling of an eye.' And when Solomon saw it placed before him, he said, “This is a favour of my Lord, that he may make trial of me, whether I will be grateful, or whether I will be ungrateful; and he who is grateful, is grateful to his own advantage; but if any shall be ungrateful, verily my Lord is self-sufficient and munificent.' And he said, “ Alter her throne, that she may not know it, to the end we may see whether she be directed, or whether she be of those who are not directed. And when she was come, it was said, 'Is thy throne like this?' She answered, as though it were the same. And we have had knowledge bestowed on us before this, and have been resigned. But that which she worshipped besides God, had turned her aside, for she was of an unbelieving people. It was said to her, ‘Enter the palace.' And when she saw it, she imagined it to be a great water, and she discovered her legs. Solomon said, “Verily this is a palace, evenly floored · with glass.' She said, ' O Lord, verily I have dealt unjustly with my own soul; and I resign myself, together with Solomon, to God, the Lord of all creatures.'

Thus poverty of sentiment, monstrosity of invention, which always betokens a distempered not a rich imagination, and, in respect of diction, the most turgid verbosity, so apt to be mistaken by persons of a vitiated taste for true sublimity, are the genuine characteristics of the book. They appear almost in every line. The very titles and epithets assigned to God are not exempt from them. The Lord of the daybreak, the Lord of the magnificent throne, the King of the day of judgment, &c. They are pompous and insignificant. If the language of the Koran, as the Mahometans pretend, is indeed the language of God, the thoughts are but too evidently the thoughts of men. The reverse of this is the character of the Bible. When God speaks to men, it is reasonable to think that he addresses then in their own

VOL. I.

BB

language. In the Bible you will see nothing inflated, nothing affected in the style. The words are human, but the sentiments are divine. Accordingly, there is perhaps no book in the world, as hath been often justly observed, which suffers less by a literal translation into any other language.

55.-DR. JOHNSON AND HIS TIMES.

MACAULAY. [The Right Hon. Thomas Babington Macaulay, now Member of Parliament for Edinburgh, and one of the Cabinet, is the son of Mr. Zachary Macaulay, a leader amongst that distinguished band to whom we owe the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Mr. T. B. Macaulay received his collegiate education at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he acquired a great reputation, and upon entering Parliament soon obtained a leading position amongst the orators of the most critical assembly in the world. He subsequently received a high official appointment in India, and, after an absence from England of a few years, returned to take up the distinguished place as a parliamentary speaker which he has since maintained. Mr. Macaulay's writings have a wide popularity. His · Lays of Ancient Rome' are amongst the most brilliant of modern poetical productions, and his · Essays from the Edinburgh Review,' collected in three volumes, from that influential Journal, have attained a success far higher than any other contributions to the periodical works of our day. His style as a prose writer is distinguished from that of all his contemporaries by its epigrammatic point. It is always clear and uninvolved; every sentence tells. But style alone would not command the admiration which these writings excite, if they were not also full of matter. The resources of the most ex: tensive reading are here displayed without ostentation, in the happiest illustrations and analogies. If others may aim at greater profundity, Mr. Macaulay is certainly the most attractive of modern English essayists.]

Johnson grown old—Johnson in the fulness of his fame and in the enjoyment of a competent fortune-is better known to us than any other man in history. Every thing about him, his coat, his wig, his figure, his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus's dance, his rolling walk, his blinking eye, the outward signs which too clearly marked his approbation of his dinner, his insatiable appetite for fish-sauce and veal-pie with plums, his inextinguishable thirst for tea, his trick of touching the posts as he walked, his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps of orange-peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight disputations, his contortions, his mutterings, his gruntings, his puffings, his vigorous, acute, and ready eloquence, his sarcastic wit, his vehemence, his insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage, his queer inmates, old Mr. Levett and blind Mrs. Williams, the cat Hodge and the negro Frank,—all are as familiar to us as the objects by which we have been surrounded from childhood. But we have no minute information respecting those years of Johnson's life during which his character and his manners became immutably fixed. We know him, not as he was known to the men of his own generation, but as he was known to men whose father he might have been. That celebrated club of which he was the most distinguished member contained few persons who could remember a time when his fame was not fully established, and his habits completely formed. He had made himself a name in literature while Reynolds and the Wartons were still boys. He was about twenty years older than Burke, Goldsmith, and Gerard Hamilton, about thirty years older than Gibbon, Beauclerk, and Langton, and about forty years older than Lord Stowell, Sir William Jones, and Windham. Boswell and Mrs. Thrale, the two writers from whom we derive most of our knowledge respecting him, never saw him till long after he was fifty years old, till most of his great works had become classical, and till the pension bestowed on him by the Crown had placed him above poverty.

Of those eminent men who were his most intimate associates, towards the close of his life, the only one, as far as we remember, who knew him during the first ten or twelve years of his residence in the capital, was David Garrick; and it does not appear that, during those years, David Garrick saw much of his fellow-townsman.

Johnson came up to London precisely at the time when the condition of a man of letters was most miserable and degraded. It was a dark night between two sunny days. The age of patronage had passed away. The age of general curiosity and intelligence had not arrived. The number of readers is at present so great, that a popular author

may

subsist in comfort and opulence on the profits of his works. In the reigns of William the Third, of Anne, and of George the First, even such men as Congreve and Addison would scarcely have been able to live like gentlemen by the mere sale of their writings. But the deficiency of the natural demand for literature was, at the close of

« AnteriorContinuar »