Imatges de pÓgina
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cost us; by the pains we took; antecedent labor sweetens rest. Hence, the passages of our own lives which we most fondly recollect and relate, and those in the lives of others which most deeply engage and interest us, are the scenes of depression, mortification and pain through which we have passed. The perils of a battle, the horrors of a shipwreck, so dreadful at the moment, become the source of lasting joy, when the tempest bas ceased to roar, and the confused noise of the warrior is hushed into silence.

Fiction, in order to please, is, accordingly, forced to borrow the garb of truth. The bero's sufferings, the lover's solicitude and uncertainty, the parent's anguish, the patriot's conflict, are the subject of the drama. When the ship has reached her desired haven, when the cloud disperses, when the contest is decided, the curtain must drop. Periods of prosperity cannot be the theme of history.

The vast, general system, in like manner, exhibits "the whole creation groaning and travaling in pain together" interest clashing with interest, spirit rising up against spirit, one purpose defeating another, universal nature apparently on the verge of confusion; chaos and ancient night threatening to resume their empire: but without knowledge, design or co-operation, nay, in defiance of concert and co-operation, the whole is making a regular, steady progress: the muddy stream is working itself pure; the discordant mass is bound as in chains of adamant, the wrath of man is praising God; every succeeding era and event is explaining aud confirming that which preceded it; all is tending towards one grand consummation which shall collect, adjust, unite and crown the scattered parts, and demonstrate to the conviction of every intelligent being, that all was, is, and shall be very good.

Finite capacity can contemplate and comprehend but a few fragments at most: and scripture has furnished us with a most delicious one, in the little bisto2 x

VOL. 111.

960

HISTORY OF RUTH.

ry, of which I have now read the conclusion. The story of Ruth has been considered, by every reader of taste, as a perfect model in that species of composition. It will stand the test of the most rigid criticism, or rather, is calculated to give instruction and law to critieism. With your patience I will attempt a brief analysis of it.

1st. The subject is great and important beyond all that heathen antiquity presents: the foundation and establishment of the regal dignity in the house of David, the type and ancestor of the Messiah. An event in which not one age, one nation, one interest is concerned, but the whole extent of time, the whole human race, the temporal, the spiritual, the everlasting interests of maukind. What is the demolition of Troy, or the settlement of Æneas in Latinm, compared to this? Paradise Lost itself must give place to this glo. rious opening of Paradise Regained.

2d. The story is perfect and complete in itself; or, as the critic would say, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Elimelech is driven by famine into banishment, dies in the land of Moab, and leaves his family in distress. Here the action commences. Naomi and Ruth, united by propinquity, by affection and by distress, are induced to return to Bethlebem-Judah, in hope of effecting a redemption of the estate which had belonged to the family, but under the pressure of necessity had been alienated. Their reception, deportment, and progress, form the great body of the piece. The marriage of Boaz and Ruth, and the birth of Obed is the conclusion of it.

3d. The conduct of the plot is simple, natural and easy. No extraneous matter, personage, or event is introduced, from first to last: the incidents follow, and arise out of one another, without force, without effort. No extraordinary agency appears, because none is requi site: the ordinary powers of nature, and the ordinary course of things, are adequate to the effect intended to

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be produced. There is no violent or sudden transition, but a calm, rational, progressive change from deep sorrow to moderated affliction, to composed resignation, to badding hope, to dawning prosperity, to solicie tous prosecution, to partial success, to final aud fuli attainment.

The discovery of Ruth, of her character, of her virtues, of her relation to Boaz, is in the same happy style of natural simplicity and ease. On her part we see no indecent eagerness to bring herself forward, no clamorous publication of her distresses or pretensions, no affected disguise or concealment to attract observation or provoke inquiry: on his, there is no vehemence of exclamation, no hastiness of resolution; but in both, the calmness of good minds, the satisfaction which conscious virtue enjoys, in the unexpected discovery of mutual attractions and kindred worth. The situations are interesting, affecting, governed by the laws of nature and probability, and consonant to every day's experience.

4th. The sentiments are just, arising out of the situations, adapted to the characters, guarded equally from apathy and violence. The pathetic expostulation of Ruth with her mother-in-law, when she proposed a separation, is, in particular, a master-piece of native eloquence: at hearing it, the heart is melted into tenderness, the tear of sympathy rushes to the eye, nature feels and acknowledges the triumph of virtue. The sentiment of impassioned sorrow glows with equal vehemence on the lips of Naomi, and excite in the bosom of sensibility, pity mingled with respect. In Boaz we praise and admire unostentatious generosity, dignified condescension, honest, undisguised affection, a sense of impartial, inflexible, undeviating justice.

5th. The characters are nicely discriminated, boldly designed, and uniformly supported. The grief of Naami is verbose, impetuous and penetrating; that of Ruth calm, silent, melting, modest. The plans of the

mother are sagacious, comprehensive; the result of reflection, of experience; they indicate skill, ability, resolution, perseverance. Those of the daughter are artless, innocent; the suggestion of the moment, the effusion of the heart, indicate candor, sincerity, conscious, unblushing, unsuspecting rectitude.

In Boaz the struggle between mclination, propriety, prudence and justice is happily designed, and forcibly executed; it is a painting from nature, and therefore cannot fail to please. His openness and fair dealing also, as was observed in a former Lecture, are finely contrasted with the selfishness, iusincerity and unsteadiness of the nearer kinshnan.

The character of the servant who was over the reapers, though we have but a slight sketch of it, discovers the band of a master, the band of truth and nature. We see in it, the beautiful and interesting portrait of unabashed, unassuming inferiority, of authority undisfigured by insolence or severity, the happy medium between power and dependence, the link in the scale of society which connects the wealthy lord with the honest laborer, the friend and companion of both.

The rest of the characters are classed in groups, but discover a characteristic and decided distinction. We have the inquisitiveness, curiosity, hard-heartedness and indifference of an idle provincial town, the good nature, hospitality, candor and cheerfulness of the country.

The compliments of congratulation presented to Boaz, on his marriage, and those addressed to Naomi on the birth of her grandson, clearly evince the different train of thought and feeling which dictated them, and mark beyond the possibility of mistake the sex and sentiment of the addressors. In a word, the ideas expressed by the several characters in this sacred drama, are so peculiarly their own, that no reader of ordinary discernment needs to be told, who it is that speaks:

the sentiments cannot possibly be transferred from one

to another.

6th. The manners are delineated with the same felicity of pencil. We have a faithful representation of those that are permanent and founded in nature: and of those which are local and temporary. When I observe these Bethlehemites flocking round the old woman and her outlandish daughter, plying them and one another with questions, circulating the leer and the whisper, I could suppose myself in one of the gossiping villages which surround this metropolis, whose inhabitants feed on rumour, exercise no principle but curiosity, employ no member but the tongue, or the feet, in hunting after materials for that employment. In the innocent festivity, the uncomplaining toil, the contented simplicity, the unaffected benevolence, the unprofessing piety of that field of reapers, I have mingled a thousand and a thousand times. It was the delight of childhood, it is the unpainful, the undepressing retrospect of age.

We have a representation equally faithful and just of customs and manners which are local and temporary; some of which excite our astonishment, some shock our delicacy, and some provoke our mirth. Such are the modes of courtship bere described, the transfer of property, the forms of judicial procedure, the terms of familiar address and friendly communica. tion; and the like. These, having no intrinsic moral excellence or turpitude, are the object of neither praise nor censure. To trace their origin, or explain their nature and design, may be an innocent amusement, but it were unjust to explode them as absurd, or to run them down as ridiculous. The antiquarian will revere them for their age, the philosopher will investigate them as opening a new path to the knowledge of the human heart, the philanthropist will deal with them gently, because they are the harmless peculiarities of his fellow-creatures, and piety will respect them as pre

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