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the Sikar," say the natives, " and what
is the use to contend against the Brah-
min?" I am convinced that more in-
justice is dealt out the poor raiat by
the Brahmin petty judge of a taluk
in one year than will be by every
English judge in all India for one
hundred years.

The Brahmin, whether he beaTyer
(Vishnuite) or a Tengar (Shivaite), is
careful not to clash with the authori-
ties. He never attempts to bring
about an open rupture. The Brah-
min is rather a peace-loving individ-
ual, though of course a Vishnu has
a hatred for a Shiva. Perhaps one
cause, or at least an aggravation, of
the enmity is the curious fact that
the followers of Shiva are handsomer
than those of Vishnu. In one school



of about fifty, where there was an
equal proportion of both sects, there
was but one passably good-look-
ing Vishnuite, while all the Shi-
vaites were fine-looking. Another
superiority of the pure Brahmin is,
he has better capacities for learning
than the Sudra or the lower castes.

The Brahmins, especially the Shi-
vaites, are extremely sociable. They
meet before each other's homes at
night and hold quaint concerts.
Few lands know such lovely even-
ings. The air is perfectly still and
the incense of wetted earth fills the
atmosphere. The dark copses are
ablaze with tiny glittering lights
which never seem to rest. No sounds
disturb the pleasant cool ; it is rest-
ful, soul-satisfying. Suddenly the
quiet is broken by the clear tenor
voice of a young Hindoo, and the re-
frain is caught up by other voices,
fresh and pure, till the very woods
and water breathe music and are
stirred to poetic emotions.

Their life is purely pastoral, and
the Brahmins, before the lust of gov-
ernmental power seizes them, are the
best fellows in the world. They have
a peculiar vocabulary, as the follow-
ing will show. They call the wasp,
videgar, or priest; the grasshopper,
a soldier; a large worm, a species of
glow-worm, a cowherd or milkman ;
mosquitoes and fleas, servants; bug, a
doctor; butterfly, a Brahmin woman;
the horsefly, a dog; and the bee, a

It was explained to me that the
bee was called a Brahmin for its

habits of exclusiveness, the wasp a
priest because of its love for getting
others into trouble. The rest may be
easily understood in their application.

Tinnevelly is the home of the co-
coanut palm. This palm is the Ma-
drassi's all in all. He eats the fruit
and drinks the milk, from its trunk
he makes a strong cordage, and when
old he saws it down and its wood is
valuable to the carpenter. For the
leaves he has a multiplicity of uses.
They can be employed for roofs and
also for school-books. They are split
at the crease, and two holes are bored
in each end, through which is passed
a string and a school-book is fash-
ioned. These quaint leaves are also
used as writing tablets, a sharp steel
stylus being used to write upon
them. The Brahmins are very fond
of this tree, and no house seems to
be complete unless one or two face its
front. The verandas of these domi-
ciles are built up from one to four-
feet from the ground and are painted
red and white. These artistic build-
ings and the avenues of palm-trees
render a Brahmin village eminently
picturesque, and the exquisite clean-
liness makes a visit to them very

An atmosphere of romanticism
seems to hover about this stately
people and their homes, and the
world can produce few races braver
or more stoical under misfortune and
in whom exists a pride of caste so
strong that it enables them to face
calamity with the equanimity of a



"\TO great political improve-
rs merit, no great reform, leg-
islative or administrative,"
says Buckle, " was ever originated in
any country by its rulers. " This state-
ment is very broad and hardly con-
sistent with the exact truth. We are
nnable to determine what the author
regarded as great improvements or
reforms, but that rulers have origi-
nated that which is of value cannot
be doubted. Solon and Lycurgus
were rulers, and they gave improved
laws and institutions to their respec-
tive countries, or framed advanced
systems and procured for them popu-
lar assent. Marcus Aurelius is cred-
ited with the origination and enforce-
ment of reforms in the darkest period
of the Roman Empire. Justinian
caused the Roman laws to be revised
and codified, and his Code, Pandects,
and Institutes were decided improve-
ments in Roman jurisprudence, so
much so that they constitute the
basis of the civil-law system which
prevails in some of the most civilized
nations of the present time. Bona-
parte caused the laws of France to be
codified and improved, and the Code
Napoleon with no very great modifi-
cation is the basis of French jurispru-
dence to this day. Since Buckle died
the Czar of Russia has abolished serf-
dom, and so far as we know this meas-
ure of reform and humanity originat-
ed with him. Many instances may be
cited where improvements or reforms
of greater or less importance pro-
ceeded from the brains of rulers
whose powers were even absolute.

The author quoted in tracing the
progress of civilization necessarily
began with the earliest ages of which
we have historical information.
His route was through the night of
the darkest period of the world. He

had to deal with peoples sunk in ig-
norance and superstition and whose
rulers were temporal or ecclesiastical
despots. His researches were among
the records of absolute and irresponsi-
ble monarchies and not among the
archives of an intelligent and free
people. When he wrote there was
little republicanism in Europe and
when France was imperialistic. Its
experiences under the first republic
were not assuring, and England was
monarchical and aristocratical. What
he said is more nearly true in mon-
archies than in popular governments.
He was little acquainted with the
history of the United States appar-
ently, for he classes her as least
among the four most civilized na-
tions. He places England first,
France second, Germany third, and
the United States fourth. Heredi-
tary rulers are not interested in re-
forms that improve the condition .and
opportunities of the masses, for they
detract from their privileges and
powers. Louis Quatorze said, " I am
the state," which is expressive of the
feeling that pervades the minds of
all monarchs to a greater or less ex-
tent. While the statement quoted is
not strictly accurate, it suggests re-
flections touching the sources of prog-
ress and the duties and power of a
free people.

It is true that improvements and
reforms usually proceed from the
conceptions and efforts of men in pri-
vate stations, and that powers have
been wrested from kings and privi-
leged classes by the people. Postal
reform in England resulted from the
labors of Sir Rowland Hill, and
prison reform from those of John
Howard. Slavery in British depend-
encies was abolished at the command
of a public sentiment created by the




eloquence of Wilberforce, and the
American mind was aroused to op-
position to our own slavery by the
self-abnegating efforts of Garrison,
Phillips, Thoreau, Parker, and a few
other philanthropic men. Magna
Charta was wrested from King John
by the sturdy barons of England, and
since Buckle wrote the emperors of
Austria and Germany have conceded
more liberal constitutions, which en-
large the rights of the people as to
representation in the parliaments of
those countries. These concessions
were not voluntary, but in a measure
enforced by popular sentiment. It
may be said that public opinion has
become the most potential influence
known among men. It is an incident
to the growth of civilization. Before
civilization became a recognized fact
there was no such thing as public
opinion, for it can have no existence
where there is the absence of intelli-
gence and of independent thought.
Through the progress of civilization
governments and social institutions
have been revolutionized either radi-
cally or partially. We have seen ad-
vancement in nearly all the countries
of Europe, and that advance has been
in proportion to the intelligence and
virtue of the people. That there are
a few learned and advanced thinkers
in a nation does not make it civilized
in the broadest and highest sense.
Knowledge of physical and mental
laws and moral integrity must be pos-
sessed by the masses, and while a
few men of observation and thought
may have great knowledge, their
achievements are comparatively in-
consequential so far as the public
good is concerned unless the masses
make corresponding progress. Im-
provements and reforms — and it is to
be lamented — are slower in govern-
ments than in almost any department
of human affairs. Absolutists do not
seek to introduce reforms because
they are hostile to their interests, and
in popular governments rulers will
not proceed faster than the people re-
quire of them. They may originate

improvements in ordinary legislation,
in methods and details of administra-
tion, and for the preservation of peace
and order, but there need be no ex-
pectation that they will introduce
material innovations until they are
sure of popular approval. Those who
rule by the right of heredity do not
think of the public welfare, and rulers
in republics do not ordinarily act in
advance of public sentiment.

Buckle is one of those authors who
is of opinion that governments and
ecclesiasticism have not only retarded
progress, but have been the causes of
innumerable and grievous woes, and
but for the independent thinkers, lit-
terateurs, publicists, economists, and
scientists the world woulu still be in
the maelstrom of ignorance and vice.
His investigations were such as to
lead to extreme conclusions and
cause him to draw pictures extrava-
gantly dark. We who live in this
enlightened and progressive country
are naturally less pessimistic in our
views than those who have existed in
and have studied less favorable con-
ditions, but by study of our own
history we clearly perceive that rapid
and substantial progress in govern-
ment and institutions has not taken
place except at the behest of the
people. There is a percentage of
delinquency and dishonesty among
officials corresponding to the percent-
age of the same qualities among the
masses. The bulk of officials are at
least passably faithful and honest,
but the progressives are few as com-
pared with the whole, and those who
have the courage to advance inde-
pendently are fewer still. Our presi-
dents and governors frequently rec-
ommend changes more or less radical,
but not until they have sounded pub-
lic sentiment. The same is true of
legislators and others who conduct
administrative branches of the gov-
ernment. Political leaders frame
platforms with a view of impressing
the popular mind, but never of such
character as to antagonize what they
suppose to be the popular feeling.



Public opinion is the chronometer
with which politicians set their
clocks, and hence in this country it
is the regulator of official conduct
and the chief source of improvement
and reform in our civil and political
institutions. Those who want change
may petition the law-making and ad-
ministrative powers, not so much in
the expectation of gaining favorable
action as in arousing the public mind
to the subject. Reformers first ad-
dress the people with a view to se-
curing their indorsement, for they
know that when that is accomplished
all is done.

If what has been said be true, then a
tremendous responsibility rests upon

the masses. The character of gov-
ernment and institutions will be as
they make it, for in this free country
they may have absolute and final
control. The people are as liable to
make mistakes in their aggregate
capacity as individuals are in their
separate actions, but mistakes ought
not to be repeated. The conduct of
rulers will be as the people would
have it, if they will but make their
wishes known. They are not able
to control where their powers are
abridged, as in empires and king-
doms; but in republics, more espe-
cially in this, their will is law, and
progress in whatever field must in the
main proceed from and through them.






OME twelve months after
the preparation of the pa-
pers, " The Old Notion of
Poetry" and " Who are the
Great Poets?"— the open-
ing papers of the first se-
ries of these essays — I became
the happy possessor of a volume
to which I would call general atten-
tion. The title of the volume is,
" Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the
Hebrews. Translated from the Latin
of the late Right Rev. Robert Lowth,
D.D., F.R.S., Praelector of poetry in
the Univ. of Oxford, and Lord Bishop
of London: by G. Gregory, F.A.S."
An American edition was brought
out by Calvin E. Stowe, Andover,
1829. A writer in the North American
Review (v. 31, 1830), commenting on

the fact that this edition
sented with an apology
words :

was pre-
uses these

"It will hereafter, perhaps, be regarded
as an anomaly in the history of the human
intellect, that the poems or Homer should
for ages have attracted the attention of the
profoundest minds, and been made for a
time almost the exclusive object of criticism
in all its forms, and of associated inquiry
in all its ten thousand wanderings, and yet
that the Hebrew writings of the inspired vol-
ume, though equally before the eye and in
the memory of men, should have been long
passed by with such total absence of every-
thing like an attentive study, as to have
left the great body of the most learned
critics completely ignorant of their true na-
ture, and gravely mistaking their poetry
for prose."

This state of things has been re-
garded by the writer as an anomaly
since the days of early youth ; and
he is able to account for it only on



the ground that not one in a thou-
sand, even among scholars, has a just
conception of the character, of the
office, and of the power of poetry.
Nothing is plainer than that the secret
of power of the Old Testament lies
largely in its poetry, and yet only
recently has it begun to be suspected,
save in isolated instances, that there
are so much as wandering strains of
poetry in the matchless and eternal
old Hebrew songs and prophecies.
A hint of the confusion and loss con-
sequent on this blindness is given
by the reviewer before quoted :

"The evils which have arisen from a
wrong conception of the nature of so great
a portion of the inspired writings have
been multiplied. They have been the oc-
casion of almost all the objections of in-
fidels' and the cavils of irreligious men.
There cannot be a doubt that just in pro-
portion as the Hebrew Scriptures, especially
the poetical parts of them, are keenly and
critically scrutinized, such objections and
such cavils will utterly fade from the mind. "

I believe this; hence my steadfast
preference for Matthew Arnold as
counsel in the case of poetry. He,
and he almost alone, of late years,
has had the discernment and the
courage to declare that the " best of
religion is its poetry;" and to him
more than to any other we owe the lit-
tle right-seeing that we begin to have
of the Old Scriptures, the straight
sight which makes a stand against
doubt, despondency, and despair; the
wise, just sight which takes these
writings as they were meant and for
what they are — the profoundest criti-
cisms of life, under the dictates of
poetic beauty and poetic truth. The
ancient Hebrews had the language,
the land, and the life to push the
imagination to its highest; of which
fact we need no further proof than
that, after the waste and change of
centuries, still theirs are the writings
men of to-day — men who catch but a
fraction of their beauty and majesty
— name reverentlv the Sacred Book,
The Book.

The views of Bishop Lowth con-

cerning Hebrew poetry support so
strongly, point by point, my own no-
tions, perhaps already too familiar to
those honoring me with a hearing,
that the temptation is strong to fol-
low him in this particular path ; but,
for the present, I have chosen rather
to quote him concerning the first
great principles of all poetry as they
have come down to us on the long
authentic voice of the ages. First,
as to the point so long blown round
and round by the twisting winds of
metaphysics, whirling up new diffi-
culty with each circuit:

"Poetry is commonly understood to have
two objects in view, namely, advantage
and pleasure, or rather an union of both.
I wish those who have furnished us with
this definition had rather proposed utility
as its ultimate object, and pleasure as the
means by which that end may be effectually
accomplished. The philosopher and the
poet, indeed, seem principally to differ in
the means by which they pursue the same
end. Each sustains the character of a pre-
ceptor, which the one is thought best to
support, if he teach with accuracy, with
subtlety, and with perspicuity ; the other,
with splendor, harmony, and elegance. The
one makes his appeal to reason only, inde-
pendent of the passions ; the other addresses
the reason in such a manner as even to en-
gage the passions oh his side. The one
proceeds to virtue and truth by the nearest
and most compendious ways ; the other
leads to the same point through certain de-
flections and deviations, by a winding but
pleasanter path. It is the part of the for-
mer so to describe and explain these objects
that we must necessarily become acquainted
with them ; it is the part of the latter so to
dress and adorn them that of our own ac-
cord we must love and embrace them.

"I therefore lay it down as a fundamen-
tal maxim that poetry is useful, chiefly
because it is agreeable ; and should I, as
we are apt to do, attribute too much to my
favorite occupation, I trust Philosophy will
forgive me when I add that the writings
of the poet are more useful than those of
the philosopher, inasmuch as they are more
agreeable " (p. 4).

Can anything be plainer or simpler?
Theology, bigotry, superstition —
these render some excuse for the
failure to find the poetry in The
Book; but what apology is to be
made for the failure to find the po-
etry in the books?



Let it not be thought, because this
author was lord bishop, that the
Hebrew poetry is all in all to him.
The whole gamut of antiquity has
been played in his ears — the classic
learning, eloquence, and song. A
few lines farther on— I take the points
in the order that I find them — is
asked a question that should be no
more readily put than answered ; and
yet there is no end of hesitation and
stammering when it comes, for ex-
ample, to certain lines of Browning's:

"For what is a poet, destitute of har-
mony, of grace, and of all that conduces to
allurement and delight? or how shall we
derive advantage or improvement from an
author whom no man of taste can endure
to read? The reason, therefore, why Poet-
ry is so studious to embellish her precepts
with a certain inviting sweetness, and, as
it were,

—'tincture them with the honey of the Muses,'
is plainly by such seasoning to conciliate
favor to her doctrine, as is the practice of
even physicians, who temper with pleasant
flavors their least agreeable medicines :

' Thus, the sick infant's taste disguis'd to meet,
They tinge the vessel's brim with juices sweet:
The bitter draught his willing lip receives;
He drinks deceiv'd, and >o deceiv'd he lives;'

as Lucretius expresses himself in illustra-
tion of his own design, as well as that of
poetry in general" (pp. 5,6).

And now, for a moment, think of
the multitudinous definitions and de-
cipherings, divisions and subdivi-
sions — all the painful processes of
inquiry, saddled on some one kind or
style of poetry, we will say the he-
roic; what is the whole of it worth
if this much be not settled first?

"But if it be manifest, even in authors
who directly profess improvement and ad-
vantage, that those will most efficaciously
instruct who afford most entertainment,
the same will be still more apparent in
those who, dissembling the intention of in-
struction, exhibit only the blandishments
of pleasure ; and while they treat one of
the most important things, of all the prin-
ciples of moral action, all the offices of life,
yet laying aside the severity of the pre-
ceptor, adduce at once all the decorations
of elegance and all the attractions of
amusement; who display, as in a picture,
the actions, the manners, the pursuits and
passions of men ; and by the force of im-

itation and fancy, by the harmony of num-
bers, by the taste and variety of imagery,
captivate the affections of the reader, and
imperceptibly, or perhaps reluctantly, im-
pel him to the pursuit of virtue. Such is
the real purpose of heroic poetry; such is
the noble effect produced by the perusal of
Homer. And who so thoughtless, or so
callous, as not to feel incredible pleasure in
that most agreeable occupation? who is not
moved, astonished, enraptured, by the in-
spiration of that most sublime genius? who
so inanimate as not to see, not to feel in-
scribed, or as it were imprinted upon his
heart, his most excellent maxims concern-
ing human life and manners ? From philos-
ophy a few cold precepts may be deduced ;
in history, some dull and spiritless ex-
amples of manners may be found : here we
have the energetic voice of Virtue herself,
here we behold her animated form. Poetry
addresses her precepts not to the reason
alone ; she calls the passions to her aid ; she
not only exhibits examples, but infixes
them in the mind. She softens the wax
with her peculiar ardor, and renders it more
plastic to the artist's hand. Thus does.
Horace most truly and most justly apply
this commendation to the poets:

'What's fair, and false, and right, these bards

Better and plainer than the Stoic tribe.'

Plainer or more completely, because they
do not perplex their disciples with the dry
details of parts and definitions, but so per-
fectly and so accurately delineate, by ex-
amples of every kind, the forms of the hu-
man passions and habits, the principles of
social and civilized life, that he who from
the schools of philosophy should turn to the
representations of Homer would feel him-
self transported from a narrow and intri-
cate path to an extensive and flourishing
field : — better because the poet teaches not
by maxims and precepts, and in the dull
sententious form; but by the harmony of
verse, by the beauty of imagery, by the in-
genuity of the fable, by the exactness of
imitation, he allures and interests the mind
of the reader, he fashions it to habits of
virtue, and in a manner informs it with the
spirit of integrity itself " (pp. 6, 7).

If we are to form a just notion of
what poetry is through the instru-
mentality of critics, this is the order
of them to which our inquiries must
be addressed.

I hold Keats' position, " Poetry is
the supreme of power," to be im-
pregnable. The words sound strange
enough amid the tinkle of much mat-
ter dignified with the title of criti-
cism ; but in the presence of this old


8, 9

bishop and the good old minds be-
hind him, it is the inevitable conclu-
sion. It stares one in the face.
There is not a single " if " to trip us,
not so much as a " but" to stumble
over. There is no trouble, provided
we turn to solid counsellors. Like
the solicitous bishop of days by-gone,
we must be content only with the
best intelligence.

"Since the sensible world," says Bacon,
"is in dignity inferior to the rational soul,
poetry seems to endow human nature with
that which lies beyond the power of history,
and to gratify the mind with at least the
shadow of things where the substance can-
not be had. For, if the matter be properly
considered, an argument may be drawn from
poetry, and that a superior dignity in things,
a more perfect order, and a more beautiful
variety delights the soul of man, than is
found in nature since the fall. As, there-
fore, the actions and events which are the
subject of true history are not of sufficient
amplitude to content the mind" of man ;
poetry is at hand, and invents actions of a
more heroic nature. Because true history

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 109 of 120)