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conflicts and conquests the progress of his own Pilgrim. Therefore his book is a perfect reality in oneness as a whole, and in every page a book not of imagination and shadows, but of realities experienced. To those who have never set out on this pilgrimage, nor encountered its dangers, it is interesting, as would be a book powerfully written of travels in an unknown romantic land. Regarded as a work of original genius simply, without taking into view its spiritual meaning, it is a wonder to all, and cannot cease to be. Though a book of personification and allegory, it enchants the simplest child, as powerfully, almost, as the story of Aladdin and his lamp, or the adventures of Sindbad the Sailor, or the history of Robinson Crusoe himself. It is interesting to all who have any taste for poetical beauty, in the same manner as Spenser's Fairy Queen, or we might mention, especially for the similar absorbing interest we take in all that happens to the hero, the Odyssey of Homer.
And yet its interest for the imagination is in reality the smallest portion of its power; and it will be pleasing to the imagination just in proportion as the mind of the reader has been accustomed to interpret the things of this life by their connection with another, and by the light that comes from that world to this. A reader who has not formed this habit, nor ever felt that he is a stranger and pilgrim in a world of temptations and snares, can see but half the beauty of such poetry as fills this work, because it cannot make its appeal to his own experience; for him there is nothing within, that tells more certainly than any process of judgment or criticism the truth and sweet
ness of the picture ; there is no reflection of its images, nor interpretation of its meaning in his own soul. The Christian, the actual pilgrim, reads it with another eye. It comes to his heart. It is like a painting meant to be exhibited by fire-light; the common reader sees it by day. To the Christian it is a glorious transparency; and the light that shines through it, and gives its incidents such life, its colors such depth, and the whole scene such a surpassing glory, is light from eternity, the meaning of heaven.
I repeat it, therefore, as truth very evident, that the true beauty of the allegory in the Pilgrim's Progress can be felt only by a religious mind. No one, indeed, can avoid admiring it. The honest nature in the characters, their homely truth, the simplicity and good sense of the conversations, the beauty of the incidents, the sweetness of the scenery through which the reader is conducted, the purity of the language,
“The humorous vein, strong sense and simple style,
all these things to the eye of the severest critic are beautiful, and he who loves to read Shakspeare will admire them, and on common ground. But such a reader, in respect to the veiled beauty of the allegory, is like a deaf man, to whom you speak of the sweetness of musical sounds. Of the faithfulness with which Bunyan has depicted the inward trials of the Christian conflict, of the depth and power of the appeal, which that book makes to the Christian's heart, of the accuracy and beauty of the map
therein drawn of the dealings of the Spirit of God in leading the sinner from the City of Destruction to Mount Zion above, he knows and can conceive nothing. It is like Milton's daughters reading aloud from his Hebrew Bible to the blind poet, while they could only pronounce the words, but were ignorant of the sacred meaning, nor could divine the nature of the inspiration it excited in his soul. Little can such a reader see
“Of all that power of prospect,
Whereof many thousands tell.”
And I might go on to express, in Wordsworth’s delightful poetry, what is the utmost of the admiration excited by a common and not a Christian perusal of the Pilgrim's Progress.
“The western sky did recompense us well
With Grecian Temple, minaret and bower;
Many a glorious pile
Yes! it is perfectly true that no critical admiration of this work, overlooking its immortal meaning, sees any thing of its enduring beauty ; to look at it aright, we need a portion of the same spiritual faith, by which it was inspired, by which only it can be explained.
“Who scoffs these sympathies
it is so.
In the light of eternity this book is as far superior to a common poem of this world, or of man's temporal being and affections, as the soul of man is superior to the clod it inhabits. Whatever connects itself with man's spiritual being, turns his attention to spiritual interests and realities, and rouses his imagination to take hold on eternity, possesses, the mere philosopher would say, a dignity and power, with which nothing else can be invested. Religion does this. In her range of contemplation there is truer and deeper poetry, than in the whole world, and all man's being else. Dr. Johnson, in his life of Waller, advances the strange opinion that devotion is not a fit subject for poetry, and in his dogmatical way dedicates some space to an inquiry why
“Contemplative poetry,” he says, “or the intercourse between God and the human soul, cannot be poetical. Man, admitted to implore the mercy of his Creator, is already in a higher state, than poetry can confer. The essence of poetry is invention ; such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights. The topics of devotion are few, and being few, are universally known, but few as they are, they can be made no more; they can receive no grace from novelty of sentiment, and very little from novelty of expression.” In this sweeping style Johnson proceeds with criticism that, notwithstanding our deference for his great intellect, might be shown, on philosophical grounds, to be as poor, as the assertions are authoritative. The very definition of poetry is a most degrading one; and it is the only one to which the reasoning will at all apply; the whole passage
shows what a low estimate and false views the “wits” of the “Augustan Age” of English literature possessed of the greatest of all intellectual subjects. It would not have been thought that a being who could admire the Pilgrim's Progress as Johnson did, would have reasoned in this manner. That book itself is a refutation of the sentiment quoted; so is Cowper's Task; so is Blair's Grave; so is even George Herbert's little volume of Devotional Poetry.
And how can it be otherwise? If man is not a mere creature of this world, if his vision is not restricted to the shadows that have closed around him, if he is connected with another, an eternal world, a world of higher intelligences, of angels, and archangels, and beings free from sin;—a world, where the Creator of this and of all worlds manifests his immediate presence, where the veil of flesh will no longer be held before the eye of the soul;-and if, by the revelation which God has made, and by communion with his Maker through Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, man becomes acquainted by inward experience, and by that faith, which is the soul's spiritual vision, with the powers of that world to come,-then will those far seen visions, and all the objects of this world on which light from that world falls, and all man's thoughts, affections and movements in regard to that world, possess an interest, and wear a glory, that makes them more appropriately the province of the poetical imagination than any other subjects in the uni
And the poetry of this world will rise in magnificence, in proportion as it borrows or reflects the light from that.