“Die Sinnlichkeit erzeugt, auf der ersten stufe der Wortschöpfung, ein Abbild; die Einbildungskraft, auf der zweiten, ein Symbol; der Verstand, endlich, auf der dritten, ein Zeichen für das object.”—Heyse, System der Sprachwissenschaft, s. 95.

“Every language is a dictionary of faded metaphors.”—Richter.

If it be impossible for us to know any single particle of matter in itself; if we are unable to do more than express the relations of any single external phenomenon; how can we hope to give an accurate nomenclature to the noumena, the inward emotions, the immaterial conceptions, the abstract entities which we cannot touch or handle, and which have an existence only for the intellect and the heart? How can we make the modulations of the voice the symbols[152] for the passions of the soul?

In mathematics there is a line, known as the asymptote, which continually approaches to a curve, but, being produced for ever, does not cut it, though the distance between the asymptote and the curve becomes, in the course of this approach, less than any assignable quantity. Language, in relation to thought, must ever be regarded as an asymptote. They can no more perfectly coincide than any two particles of matter can be made absolutely to touch each other. No power of language enables man to reveal the features of the mystic Isis, on whose statue was inscribed: “I am all which hath been, which is, and shall be, and no mortal hath ever lifted my veil.” Now, as ever, a curtain of shadow must hang between—

That hidden life, and what we see and hear.

No single virtue, no single faculty, no single spiritual truth, no single metaphysical conception, can be expressed without the aid of analogy or metaphor. Metaphor—the transference of a word from its usual meaning to an analogous one—is the intellectual agent of language, just as onomatopœia is the mechanical agent. Metaphor and catachresis (i.e., the use of the same word to express two different things which are supposed to present some analogy to each other, as when “sweet” is applied to sounds) have been called the two channels of expression which irrigate the wide field of human intelligence. By their means language, though poor in vocables, was rich in thought, and resembled in its power the one coin[153] of the Wandering Jew, which always sufficed for all his needs, and always took the impress of the sovereign regnant in the countries through which he passed.

We might have easily conjectured that such would be the case. “Man, by the action of all his faculties, is carried out of himself and towards the exterior world; the phenomena of the exterior world are those which strike him first, and those, therefore, are the ones which receive the first names, which names are, so to speak, tinted with the colours of the objects they express. But, afterwards, when man turns his attention inwards, he sees distinctly those intellectual phenomena, of which he had previously had only a confused perception, and when he wishes to express those new phenomena of the soul and of thought, analogy leads him to apply the signs which he is looking for to the signs which he already possesses; for analogy is the law of every nascent or developed language; hence come the metaphors into which analysis resolves the majority of the signs for the most abstract moral ideas.”[154]

To call things which we have never seen before by the name of that which appears to us most nearly to resemble them, is a practice of every-day life. That children at first call all men “father,” and all women “mother,” is an observation as old as Aristotle.[155] The Romans gave the name of Lucanian ox to the elephant, and camelopardus to the giraffe, just as the New Zealanders are stated to have called “horses” large dogs. The astonished Caffirs gave the name of cloud to the first parasol which they had seen; and similar instances might be adduced almost indefinitely. They prove that it is an instinct, if it be not a necessity to borrow for the unknown the names already used for things known.

But although we can absolutely trace this process in so many cases, that we are entitled to infer, with Locke, that every word expressing facts which do not fall under the senses, is yet ultimately derived from sensible ideas, we cannot expect to prove this in every particular instance. When a standard of value is once introduced among nations, it is almost always a coinage of the precious metals; but when public credit is firmly established, a paper currency is allowed freely to circulate. And so in language many terms have become purely arbitrary, and in themselves valueless, which now pass unquestioned in their conventional meaning, but have lost all traces of the process to which they owed their origin, and retain no longer the impress of the thought which they originally conveyed.

Illustrations are not far to seek; indeed, we can hardly utter a sentence which will not supply them, of which the very word “illustration” is itself an instance. Thus, in Hebrew, the words for “anger” and “the nose” are identical,[156] and even in Greek, πρᾷος τὴν ῥίνα, “gentle in nose,” is used for “of gentle disposition.” Every reader of the Bible will recognise that “a melting of the heart” is the metaphor for despair; a “loosening of the reins” for fear; a “high carriage of the head” for pride; “stiffness of neck” for obstinacy; “thirst” or “pallor” for fear; a “turning of the face” for favour. It is this word-painting, this eagerness[157] for graphic touches, that gives to Hebrew its vivid, picturesque, impetuous character. It is interesting to observe how necessary to them it became. Even when they have by long usage learnt to accept a special word as the sign of some moral sentiment or mental emotion, they love to add to it also a picture of the physical circumstance. This is the explanation of such apparent pleonasms, as “he opened his mouth and said,” “he answered and said,” “he was angry and his visage fell,” “he was angry and his visage was enflamed.” It is the result of that vital energy which enkindled the soul of prophets and poets; which exalted the intellect of a nation, fully conscious that it had a mighty mission to perform. Spontaneous imagery is the characteristic of all passionate thought.

The Hebrews were not the only nation which sought for open and confessed metaphors in their style, when the bright colours of the original picture-word had grown too dim to recall the image which they once presented. We feel instinctively that certain states of mind can only be described by a comparison with the natural appearance which offers the nearest analogy to them. “A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite. Flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expressions for knowledge and ignorance. Visible distance behind and before us is respectively our image of memory and of hope.”[158]

Again, to take the first group of English words which present themselves, what is “imagination” or “reflection” but the summoning up of a picture before the inward eye? What is “comprehension” but a grasping; “disgust” but an unpleasant taste; “insinuation” but a getting into the bosom of anything? Courage is “good heart;” “rectitude” a perpendicular position; “austerity” is dryness; “superciliousness” a raising of the eyebrow; “humility” is something cognate to the ground; “fortune” is the falling of a lot; “virtue” is that which becomes a man; “humanity” is the proper characteristic of our race; “courtesy” is borrowed from palaces; “calamity” is the hurrying of the wind among the reeds. What are “aversion”[159] and “inclination” but a turning away from, and a bending towards? “Error” is a wandering out of the way; “envy” is looking upon another with an evil eye; an “emotion” is a movement of the soul; “influence” recalls the ripple circling on the surface of a stream; “heaven” is the canopy heaved over our heads; “hell” is the hollow space beneath our feet; “religion” is a solemn study, or a binding, or a new[160] choice; an “angel” is a messenger; the “spirit” is but a breath of air.

The last etymology reminds us that we can carry our proofs of what we assert into still higher regions, even the transcendental regions of human faith and worship. “Mystery” is derived from “mu,” the imitation of closing the lips; “priest” from “presbuteros,” elder; “sacrament” is deduced from the meaning “oath;” “baptism” is dipping; “propitiation” is bringing near; “wisdom” is that which we have seen; even the word for God himself, in Sanskrit as in Chinese, means but the bright ether[161] or starry sky.

To illustrate this necessity of metaphor any farther would be superfluous, since the materials for doing so are sufficiently abundant for any student who wishes to pursue the subject. The philosophical examination of the thoughts which are thus involved in concrete images is a most valuable inquiry, and one which opens a field of inexhaustible interest. The metaphors which we are thus forced to adopt are a living memorial[162] of the quick perceptions, the poetic intuitions, the deep insight of our ancestors: or are else a perpetuation of their unaccountable caprices of feeling or fancy, their vulgar errors and groundless suppositions. It sometimes happens that in all languages, the same analogy has been thus seized upon for a transitive “application,” as in the words רוּחַ, πνεῦμα, anima, spirit, which all mean ‘wind;’ but, more frequently, different aspects of the same phenomenon have led to a different nomenclature; thus, “to think” is in Hebrew “to speak;” and among the savages of the Pacific it is “to speak in the stomach;” while in French it means “to weigh,” and in Greek it is often described by a word borrowed from the deep purpling[163] of an agitated sea.

We call an expression metaphoric when it is applied in such a way that we glide lightly over its primary and obvious meaning to attach to it one which is secondary and more indirect. We call an expression a catachresis when it is used inappropriately, although custom may have sanctioned the use of it in the inappropriate sense; e.g., when we speak of “an arm of the sea,” the word “arm” is a catachresis; and when Shakspeare uses the phrase “To take up arms against a sea of troubles,” it is only the use of this figure twice in the same line that forces on us a sense of incongruity.

Catachresis, as well as metaphor, has given rise to a large set of terms, phrases, and expressions; and it is in one sense bolder than metaphor, because it takes words without any modification to apply them to fresh emergencies. Thus, very often words applicable to one sense are adopted to express the sensations of another. That there is[164] an analogy between the manners in which they are affected no one will deny. The plant “heliotrope” recalls by its smell the taste which has given it its vulgar name; the king of Hanover knew from the overture to a piece of music, that the scene of it was supposed to be a wood; Saunderson, who was born blind, compared the colour red to the blowing of a trumpet, or the crowing of a cock. There is, therefore, no inherent absurdity, though there is much affectation, in such lines as Ford’s—

What’s that I saw? a sound?

and Donne’s—

A loud perfume;

and Herbert’s—

His beams shall help my song, and both so twine,

Till e’en his beams sing and my music shine.

It is against catachresis rather than against metaphor that philosophers should have inveighed. “There is,” says Seneca, “a vast number of things without names, which we call, not by proper designations, but by borrowed and adapted ones. We apply the word ‘foot,’ both to our own foot and that of a couch, and of a sail, and of a page, though these things are naturally distinct. But this results from the poverty of language.” “It is a ridiculous sterility,” says Voltaire, “to have been ignorant how to express otherwise an arm of the sea, an arm of a balance, an arm of a chair; it is a poverty of intellect which leads us to speak equally of the head of a nail, and the head of an army.” It is this very frequent use of homonyms which leads to such great uncertainty about the meaning of many Hebrew words. Catachresis ought to be sparingly applied, and it possesses none of the advantages which arise from metaphor.

When the Megarians wanted assistance from the Spartans, they threw down an empty meal-bag before the assembly, and declared that “it lacked meal.” The Laconic criticism “that the mention of the sack was superfluous,” cannot be considered a fair one, because the action gave far more point to the request. When the Scythian ambassadors wished to prove to Darius the hopelessness of invading their country, instead of making a long harangue, they argued with infinitely more force by merely bringing him a bird, a mouse, a frog, and two arrows, to imply, that unless he could soar like a bird, burrow like a mouse, and hide in the marshes like a frog, he would never be able to escape their shafts. The tall poppyheads that Tarquinius lopped off with his stick in the presence of the messenger of Sextus, conveyed more vividly the intended lesson than any amount of diabolical advice; and turning[165] to Jewish history, we shall find that the prophets found it necessary to illustrate even their language (metaphorical as it was) by living pictures—the rending of a garment, the hiding of a girdle, the pushing with iron horns—in order to bring home a vivid sense of conviction to the gross hearts of the people whom they taught.

But when such outward illustrations are impossible, we adopt a shadow of them by painting with words. When we speak of the cornfields standing so thick with corn, that they laugh and sing; when we speak of the harvests thirsting, or of the green fields sleeping in the quiet sunshine; when we speak of the thunderbolts of eloquence, or the dewy close of tender music, our language is understood perhaps with more rapidity, and our meaning expressed with greater clearness, than if we were to translate the same phrases into more prosaic and less imaginative expression.

Even the unimaginative[166]Aristotle observed the fact. Mere names, he says, carry to the mind of the hearer their specific meaning, and there they end; but metaphors do more than this, for they awaken new thoughts. Let us take Aristotle’s own example of the word “age,” and instead of Solomon’s fine expression, “when the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper be a burden,” substitute “when the hair is white, and the body decrepit;” who does not see that the force and poetry of the passage is evaporated at once?

And, in point of fact, we do not go at all nearer to truth by a substitution of terms that imply no direct figure. Eloquence, for instance, has in all ages been compared to thunder[167] and lightning, because the effect of it upon the mind is closely analogous to that produced by the bursting of a storm; and when, out of dislike to such expressions, we talk of eloquence as having been passionate, or forcible, or effective, the impressions we convey are not nearly so powerful, or nearly so descriptive. And in many cases we must rest content to leave our emotions unexpressed, if we will not condescend to use the assistance of figurative terms. “Language,” says Mr. Carlyle, “is the flesh-garment of Thought. I said that Imagination wove this flesh-garment; and does she not? Metaphors are her stuff. Examine Language. What, if you except some few primitive elements (of natural sound), what is it all but metaphors recognised as such, or no longer recognised; still fluid and florid, or now solid-grown and colourless? If those same primitive elements are the osseous fixtures in the flesh-garment, Language—then are metaphors its muscles, and tissues, and living integuments. An unmetaphorical style you shall in vain seek for: is not your very attention [168] a stretching-to?”

Our minds are simply not adapted to deal familiarly with the abstract; we yearn for the concrete, and the successful adoption of it often constitutes the power and beauty of rhetoric and poetry. For the attributes of poetry cannot better be summed up than by saying with Milton, that it is “simple, sensuous, passionate.” It has been said, that “good writing and brilliant discourse are perpetual allegories.” The Bible more than any other book abounds in this energy of style, this matchless vivacity of description; and hence of all books it is the most fresh and living, the one which speaks most musically to the ear, most thrillingly to the heart,—the one whose rich bloom of eloquence is least dimmed by being transfused into other tongues, and the rapid wings of its words the least broken and injured by the process of many hundred years. The idioms of all language approach each other most nearly in passages of the greatest eloquence and power: here the syllogism of emotion transcends the syllogism of logic, and grammatical formulæ are fused and calcined in the flame of passion.

This concreteness of style, and liberal use of simple metaphor, is nowhere so beautifully conspicuous as in the teaching of our Lord, and he doubtless adopted it for the express purpose that—

They might learn who bind the sheaf,

Or crush the grape, or dig the grave,

And those wild eyes that watch the wave

In roarings round the coral reef.

“Consider the[169]lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If, then, God so clothe the grass, which to-day is in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, oh ye of little faith!”

“Let us here adopt,” says Dr. Campbell, “a little of the tasteless manner of modern paraphrasts, by the substitution of more general terms, one of their many processes of infrigidating, and let us observe the effect produced by this change. ‘Consider the flowers how they gradually increase in their size; they do no manner of work, and yet I declare unto you, that no king whatever, in his most splendid habit, is dressed up like them. If, then, God in his providence doth so adorn the vegetable productions which continue but a little time on the land, and are afterwards devoted to the meanest uses, how much more will he provide clothing for you!’ How spiritless[170] is the same sentiment rendered by these small variations! The very particularising of to-day and to-morrow is infinitely more expressive of transitoriness than any description wherein the terms are general, that can be substituted in its room.”

Philosophers, then, have been mistaken in complaining of metaphors as a proof[171] of poverty. Tropes, it has been said, would disappear, if we had in every case a direct and independent expression, and metaphor is a coin struck only for the earth. How this may be we know not; although, if there be mysteries even for the angels, then for them also will the gracious analogies of a sublime symbolism be no less necessary. For us at any rate, since it is impossible to find a direct word for every phenomenon, metaphor is our only resource; the figure is necessitated by the non-existence of the proper term. Because poetry abounds in figures, it does not follow that it is “the dark murmur of a lie, instead of the clear cry of truth,” but that it deals for the most part with thoughts which transcend the exigencies of ordinary expression. We must not complain of the lunar beam of genius, because it has not the brightness of the sun. Our choice lies between an enchanting and beautiful twilight, or a darkness which may be felt.

If any one wishes to compare the difference between metaphorical language and the phraseology which studiously avoids the use of metaphor, and clings as far as possible to bare fact, let him contrast the nomenclature of science with the parallel nomenclature of the people.

The terminology of science is of necessity “conventional,[172] precise, constant; copious in words and minute in distinctions, according to the needs of the science;” but this very necessity kills the imagination, and leaves an uninviting argot in the place of warm and glowing human speech. It is absurd to quarrel with and ridicule the language of science, since in its researches an inaccurate or ill-defined name—a name that connotes many other things, or in itself involves an unproven theory—may be productive of the most disastrous consequences. But, at the same time, the mere nomenclature, in becoming steady and determinate, is too often uncouth and inharmonious,[173] and we see that if the language of common life were equally invariable, and unelastic, imagination would be cancelled, and genius crushed. Metaphor is no longer possible in a language which has the power of expressing everything. Such “lexical superfetations” as “chrysanthemum leukanthemum,” and “platykeros,” may be necessary to science, but who would exchange them for the popular names of “Reine Marguerite,” and “Stagbeetle” (cerf volant)? And is there not something almost repulsive in such a term as “Myosotis scorpioeides” (scorpion-shaped mouse’s ear!) when compared with the sweet vulgar names “Forget-me-not,” “Yeux de la Sainte Vierge,” and “Plus je vous vois, plus je vous aime?” The language of science is only picturesque, when, as in the case of astronomy, it borrows from shepherd philosophers such names as the “chariot,” “the serpent,” “the bear,” and “the milky way.”

Language, then, is a plummet[174] which can never fathom the abysses of existence; and yet by its means we can learn more of the world of spirit than the senses can ever tell us about the visible and the material. When we speak of any sensible object, we only adopt a convenient name for a certain synthesis of properties, and we do not thereby advance a single step towards the knowledge of the thing in its abstract essence. The very existence of substance as an absolute entity, an ens per se existens, the postulated residuum after the abstraction of all[175] separate qualities which are cognisable by the senses, is entirely denied by idealists, who would reduce all outward things to a mere relation, or a modification of the sentient subject. Nature itself is with them nothing more than “an apocalypse of the mind.” We speak of “gold,” and we mean thereby an object of which perhaps our first and main conceptions are that it is heavy, yellow, and valuable as a medium of exchange; yet the property which we call “heavy” is one which we can easily conceive capable of modification; the property of yellowness ceases when light no longer falls upon the metal; and the property of value is one purely conventional and continually varying. What, then, have we left except a philosophical figment—a something with the properties of nothing? We cannot assert the existence of any substance corresponding to the name “gold” apart from these and other properties, which, as we have seen, are mere relations. What, then, do we really learn from language even about the external world, the world of phenomena and of fact? When, on the other hand, we speak of “imagination,” we name one of the noblest faculties of the intellect, from the analogy afforded by the property of the glassy wave, which “refreshes and reflects” the flowers upon its banks; yet who shall say that our metaphor (“imagination”) gives us a less clear[176] and definable conception than is conveyed by our general term (“gold”)?

Nothing can be known of itself, but sensible things can only be named from the manner in which they affect the senses, and things invisible can only be pictured forth analogically, from the manner in which they affect the soul. And God has given us an intellect capable of observing the analogies of which the world is full, and not only of observing them, but of applying to them with perfect comprehension the words by which we describe our physical sensations. In the wise and noble language of the son[177] of Sirach: “All things are double one against another, and he hath made nothing imperfect.” There is a close, though mysterious, analogy between physical and intellectual phenomena. The continual metaphors by which we compare our thoughts and emotions to the changes of the outer world—sadness to a cloudy sky, calm to the silvery rays of the moonlight, anger to waves agitated by the wind—are not, as Schelling observed, a mere play of the imagination, but are an expression in two different languages of the same thought of the Creator, and the one serves to interpret the other. “Nature is visible spirit, spirit invisible nature.” It could have been no result of accident, no working of blind chance, that made the mind of man a mirror of the things whereby he is surrounded, and that created the world of matter under the guidance of laws which are an exact analogon of the laws of mind. Thus the Universe itself, with all that it contains, is a mighty emblem, and man is the analogist who, by the Word that lighteth him, is enabled to decipher it.

Two worlds are ours: ’tis only sin

Forbids us to descry

The mystic heaven and earth within

Plain as the sea and sky.

The stars and the mountains, the oceans and winds, may exist for nobler and sublimer purposes than “to furnish man with the dictionary and grammar of his municipal speech,” but for us at least it should be our first and chief cause of thankfulness to God when we commemorate the glories of the world in which he has placed us, that it is by the reflection of those glories that we grow conscious of ourselves, exactly as it is by the reverberation of a luminous ray that we become aware of the presence of holy Light.

But, in those primeval ages which saw the birth of language, the instinctive perception of this harmony, and the application of the perceived analogy to the purposes of language, was far more quick and vivid than it can be now, when our minds are obscured by discussion, dried up by logic, and too often choked by the unnecessary gold of a vocabulary inexhaustible and ready made. “As we go back in history,” says Mr. Emerson, “language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols.” To the primal man his words were like the fragments of coloured glass in the kaleidoscope, readily admitting of a thousand new uses, “changing their place and their effect with every emotion which agitated his language, and lending themselves with a lustre ever-new to all the new combinations of his thought.”

The dawn of language took place in the bright infancy, in the joyous boyhood of the world; the glory-clouds still lingered among the valleys, upon the hills, and those splendors of creative power which had smitten asunder the mists that swathed the primeval chaos had not yet ceased to quiver in the fresh and radiant air. Everything was new; the soil was clad in the vernal luxuriance of green and untrodden herbage, and a blissful innocence gave to the new child of Heaven a life of “happy yesterdays and confident to-morrows.” He looked at all things with the large open eyes of childish wonderment, and the[178] simplest facts of the eternal Order were to him miraculous events. To him “the warmth, the west wind, the ornaments of springtide returned unforeseen, and the sunrise, was but a long phenomenon which might in the morning fail the longings of night. If an arch of resplendent colours unfolded itself from heaven to earth, and there broke into a shower of brilliant atoms, sowing the soil with a dust of precious stones, it announced a message and a promise of God. If the moon disappeared in an eclipse, it was devoured by a black dragon; the thunder was the wrath of the Almighty, and the manna was his bread. The adolescent race had all the delicacy of tact, and all the freshness of sentiment, which in youthful souls identifies itself with the poetry of things. In fact, life was itself a poesy full of mystery and full of grace.”

And this delicacy of tact, this youthfulness of sensation, this ever-fresh capacity for that wonder which is the parent of all knowledge and all thought, was allied most closely to religion and to poetic insight. “They seem to me,” says Plato,[179] “to frame a right genealogy, who make Iris the daughter of Thaumas.”

Upon the breast of new-created earth

Man walked; and when and wheresoe’er he moved,

Alone or mated,—solitude was not.

He heard, borne on the wind, the articulate voice

Of God, and Angels to his sight appeared

Crowning the glorious hills of Paradise;

Or through the groves gliding like morning mists

Enkindled by the sun. He sate and talked

With winged messengers who daily brought

To his small island in the ethereal deep

Tidings of joy and love. From those pure heights

(Whether of actual vision, sensible

To thought and feeling, or that in this sort

Have condescendingly been shadowed forth

Communications spiritually maintained,

And intuitions moral and divine)

Fell human kind—to banishment condemned

That flowing years repealed not.

For what is religion but reverence, and love, and worship? And what is poetry but the delicate perception of new truths, and new relations—the eloquent[180] soliloquy of wonder and of thought? “In wonder[181] all philosophy began; in wonder it ends; and admiration fills up the interspace. But the first wonder is the offspring of ignorance; the last is the parent of adoration. The first is the birth-throe of our knowledge; the last is its euthanasy and apotheosis.”

To the early language nothing was common or unclean, as to the youthful nations nothing was vulgar. With them it was no degradation for a king to labour in his vineyard and tend his flocks, or for a princess to join her maidens in washing the palace-clothes. Homer describes the cooking of a dish or the cleansing of a chamber with the same minute circumstantiality, with the same lively yet dignified delight, with the same sense that everything human has its own divine side, as he describes the falling of a hero, or the armour of a god. And the feeling which inspired him with this catholicity of admiration for every human action was a right and noble one; it was the same feeling which actuated the Christian poet in the quaint lines—

A servant in this cause

Makes service half divine;

Who sweeps a room as for thy laws

Makes that, and the action, fine.

It is only in the fastidious conventionality of later ages that a false shame quenches enthusiasm, and “the quotidian ague of frigid impertinences” infects the healthy veins of our mental constitution. Then it is that reverence perishes, and simple acts must be veiled in metaphysical euphuisms, and simple thoughts overlaid with galimatias, with tortured acceptations, with uncouth archaisms. ‘It[182] must always be the same. After the beautiful period of Spanish literature come Gongora and his cultorists; after Tasso and Ariosto, the Chevalier Marin and his pale cortège of mannered seicentisti, armed with points and conceits; after Shakspeare, euphuism; after the admirable French of the sixteenth century, after the language of Rabelais, of Des Periers, of Marot, of Henri Estienne, of Amyot, of Montaigne, comes “préciosité,”[183] so vain, so affected, so puerile, so pretentious, so unreal, so false.’

Thus the language of nations is the type of their moral as well as of their intellectual character. As long as men are noble and simple, their language will be rich in power and truth; when they fall into corruption and sensuality, their words will degenerate into the dingy and miserable counters, which have no intrinsic value, and only serve as a worthless and conventional medium of exchange. In the pedantry of Statius, in the puerility of Martial, in the conceits of Seneca, in the poets who could go into emulous raptures on the beauty of a lap-dog, and the apotheosis of a eunuch’s hair, we read the handwriting of an empire’s condemnation. Even a past[184] literature is full of power to save a people from utter degeneracy. It is the true poet after all who, more than the financier, more than the merchant, more than the statesman, more than the soldier, saves his countrymen from ruin, elevates their conduct by purifying their thoughts, keeps their feet upon the mountain, and turns their eyes towards the sun.

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue

That Shakespeare spake, the faith and morals hold

Which Milton held.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook