George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 14) online

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shouts, as from a joyous banquet-hall, where
boon companions are shedding the heart's
blood

" Of the vine divine,
"Which flames so warm in Lansovine,"

fall cheerily upon his ear, and invite him to
pleasure and reckless enjoyment. In this
moment, Lucifer, the tempter, comes, and
speaks to the soul of Festus.

" Lucifer. Peace ! peace !

All nature knows that I am with thee here,
And that thou need'st no minor minister.
To thee I personate the world — its powers.
Beliefs, and doubts, and practices.

" Festus. Are all

My invocations useless, then ?

" Lucifer. They are.

Let us enjoy the world.

Let us enjoy the world ! Ay, there speaks
the worst demon of all. His creed, or the
creed which he would teach to tempt, can
be written in a sentence — Le jeu ne vaut jms
la chandelle. Aspiration is useless. Brave
deeds are unrewarded. Noble thoughts are
the parents of sorrow. Knowledge is as
Dead Sea fruit, ashes to the taste. Truth is
sweet to the eye, and salt to the tongue.
Love of the soul is torture — love of the body
is pleasure. Liberty is a fable, save when
it exists as the liberty of the wine-cup. The
real hero is the voluptuary, and the poet is
he who acts the drama of Anacreon. As to
glory, the laurel-wreath, unselfish achieve-
ments, self-sacrifice for humanity — ha! le
jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle. Study the
lives of patriots and pliilanthroi)ists, and
'find self the basis of their characters, and
the inspiration of their actions. Curtius,
leaping into the gulf, is a vain fool, immolat-
ing himself for the applause of the greasy
mob ; the honesty of Fabricius is only an-
'Other means to the universal end, popular



praise. Howard, in the most loathsome
prisons, is thinking, not of the sufferings of
his fellow-men, but of the verdict which
" the world " will pass on his labors. Wil-
berforce is a gentle hypocrite, who makes
capital in the shape of reputation by pre-
tended sympathy with the oppressed. As
to ambition, think of Chatterton and his
fate. Homer, ages ago, begged his bread.
Ovid won a prison, not a crown; so did
Tasso. Dante became immortal as the au-
thor of the Inferno, and realized a hell upon
earth for his pains. Otway was called a
poet, and starved. Napoleon conquered the
world, and died chained to a rock. Byron
" awoke one morning, and found himself
famous," and miserable also. Pshaw ! re-
cline on your ottoman ; let the dancing-girls
of Bethlehem be summoned ; sip your lac-
rymce Christi, and say with me, Le jeu ne
vaut pas la chandelle. So the demon
speaks; and youth must be strong and
sinewy to burst through the cunning bonds
which he flings around it, and face once
more towards the sun.

Festus, like Faust, opens in Heaven. The
book, the author says, " has a plan, no plot."
The plan is simply to trace the history of
temptation in the case of a young, bold poet-
mind, of great passions, underneath the
waves of which rich mines of thought are
lying ; and having brought it through the
furnace, to lead it back to God, that all men
may read the moral which teaches us that
there is suflScient good in all created things
to counterbalance the evil, and work out
ultimate salvation. We know one other
book — a plan without a plot also — which is
very similar to this, and deserves to rank
beside it, if not above it. That book is
" Sartor Resartus." That master-work of a
master-mind is intended as a record of the
life-deeds and life-thoughts of the author,
Thomas Carlyle. It, too, has its Mephisto-
pheles ; for the grim sarcasms of the writer
play over its deepest meditations, like blue
lightning over precipices. We follow the
hero from childhood to manhood with ad-
miration and love, mingled with a half-dis-
gust, a shuddering fear, caused by the
mocking Devil in his glance. We find him
in love with the fiiir Blumine, the goddess
of flowers, and envy him his Idyllic happi-
ness and " aesthetic tears ;" soon to weep for
him when we see him deserted by his lady,
alone in the universe — alone with the stars.



1851.



Theories of Evil.



523



We tremble when we see him cast into the
dreary prison of the "Everlasting No," when
faith has fled from his soul, like the maiden
from his side, and all the world is a horrible
blank, on which the name of God is written
nowhere, and even the serenity of nature is
a torture and a curse. And we rejoice, even
to tears, when the happy change comes;
when a ray of human affection lights his
eye once more, as he gazes on man his bro-
ther, and the lost soul is recalled and pointed
again to the skies, made perfect by suffering,
and redeemed by love. 'Tis the old, true
story. There is a great similarity in the
history of intelligent nations, and greater in
the life-process of thinking men. Festus
and Saitor are of one race. Their blood is
the same; they are both poets; they have
both reached the height of manhood ;

" The degree
They took was high ; it was wise wretchedness ;"

they are both thunder-scarred ; and even
after their redemption, bear marks of the
fire upon them.

In the first scene of Bailey's drama, Lucifer
asks the ])ermission of God to tempt Festus,
as does Mejdiistopheles in " Faust." We
learn from this that the suft'erings of the man
are permitted and preordained : but we also
hear God's words, " He is chosen," and
know the moral — that evil only works out
the primal design of the universe, and works
unto good. This thought was almost ex-
pressed by John Sterling, when he said,
" Lies are the masks of truths." Under the
appearance, evil is the substantial good, and
the existence of the one is as necessary to
that of the other as bone to flesh. It was
indispensable, however, to the elucidation of
this idea, that the temptation of the man
should be consented to by the Divinity ; on
which account we have Evil, or Lucifer, de-
manding the Divine permission to tempt
him. Lucifer can no more avoid tempting
Festus, than the latter can escape being
tempted. The demon is a part of the
machine, and as necessary to its continuance
as the man ; like an unsightly crank in the
steam-engine, the blotch is indispensable to
the beauty. It fulfils its mission. It mars
the appearance to the casual eye ; but, in
reality, it secures the stability and symmetry
of the whole. So we understand Bailey's
theory ; and again we must remark, that we
are endeavoring only to analyze it, not to



justify it, or convince ourselves or our readers
of its truth. The dramatic artifice of intro-
ducing the personification of Evil into the
presence of the Divinity, in order to account
for the temptation of the man, is as old as
the Book of Job. Goethe and Bailey have
both copied that ; and, in doing so, they have
selected a glorious model. Job was a good
man, who lived in the fear of the Lord, and
daily testified to His greatness, by sacrifices
and prayers. And Jehovah smiled kindly
on him, and " blessed the work of his
hands." But, as no man can enjoy his
Heaven upon earth, he is compellecl to en-
dure anguish and sore suftering, for

" On a certain day, when the sons of God came
to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present
among them.

"And the Lord said to him, Whence comest
thou? And he answered and said, I have gone
round about the earth, and walked tlirough it.

"And the Lord said to him, Hast thou considered
my servant Job, that there is none Uke him in the
earth, a simple and upright man, one tliat feareth
God, and avoideth evil ?

"And Satan, answering, said. Doth Job fear God
in vain ?

" Hast thou not made a fence for him and his
house and all his substance, and blessed the work
of his hands, and his possession hath increased on
the earth ?

" But stretch forth thy hand a little, and touch
all that he hath, and see if he blesseth thee to thy
face.

"Then the Lord said to Satan, Behold ! all that
he hath is in thy hands ; only put not forth thy
hand upon his person. And Satan went forth from
the presence of the Lord."

Here, too, temptation is permitted ; evil
is a necessity. The prosperous man is te.sted
by suftering, and redeemed by love. Many
writers assert that the grand poem, called
the Book of Job, was written as an argument
for universal salvation ; but, be this as it
may, Bailey has borrowed his plan from it,
and told the old story in modern verse.
Festus yields to temptation ; becomes the
slave of the senses ; loves, and sins ; wanders
over the earth without a purpose or aim,
blindly groping for light, " as the Cyclops
in his cave ;" drinks deep of pleasure, which
is the herald of death ; and finally leturns,
in humility and love, to the Author and
Origin of all Good. But there is one char-
acteristic of Bailey's Lucifer which we should
not forget to mention — a characteristic not
belonging to any other creation of the kind.
He is a sorrowful devil ; he laments, and
almost repents ; he indulges in supernatural



524



Theories of Evil.



December,



sorrow, like unto no other sorrow, and knows
not bow to shut bis misery in bis beart. He
speaks bke a being wbo foresees a worse fate
even than an eternity of misery ; as one who
expects an eternity of annihilation. He appears
to feel that, some day or other, his existence
will cease to be necessary to the existence of
the world-machine, and shudders as be faces
nonentity. Better to be in torture than
not to be at all. He can endure any thing
but death. And from those com])laints and
shudderings we conclude that Bailey wished
to teach the utter destruction of the evil
principle finally, and the return of all created
things to Good, or God. Indeed, when we
reacb the conclusion of the book, we are
scai'cely astonished to find mercy meted out
even to Lucifer ; to find him not only de-
stroyed as an evil principle, but restored to
Heaven and happiness. We close our im-
perfect analysis with the final words of God :

" Rise, spirit ! all created things unmade ;

It suits not tlie eternal laws of good

That evil be immortal. In all space

Is joy and glory ; and the gladdened stars,

Exultant in the sacrifice of sin,

And of all human matter in themselves,

Leap forth as though to welcome earth to heaven —

Leap forth and die. All nature disappears ;

Shadows are passed away. Through all is light.

Man is as high above temptation now,

And where by grace he always shall remain,

As ever sun o'er sea ; and sin is burned

In hell to ashes, with the dust of death.

The worlds themselves are but as dreams within

Their souls who lived in them ; and thou art null,

And thy vocation useless, gone with them.

Therefore shall Heaven rejoice in thee again,

And the lost tribes of angels, wiio with thee

Wedded themselves to woe ; and all who dwell

Around the dizzy centres of all worlds

Again be blessed with the blessedest.

So, ye are all restored, rebought — rebrought

To Heaven, by Him who cast ye forth, your God.

Receive ye tenfold of all gifts and powers.



And thou who cam'st to heaven to claim one soul,
Remain possesssd by all. The sons of bliss
Shall welcome thee again, and all thy hosts —
Whereof thou first in glory as in woe —
In brightness as in darkness erst shall shine.
Take, Lucifer, thy place. This day art thou
Redeemed to archangelic state. Bright child
Of morning, once again thou shinest fair
O'er all the starry ornaments of light."

So mote it be.

Of the style of " Festus " we will not trust
ourselves to speak. Great thoughts look
forth from every line, like calm, deej) eyes.
Every page is starred by them. The writer
" spake inspired." A late essayist, in a
feeble and diffuse paper on the subject, said
one truth — " Bailey hath a demon." * He
speaks like one possessed. He was only
twenty-three when he published " Festus,"
and it will stand as a grand monument of
inspired youth.

Here let us pause. We have seen that all
men are agreed as to the existence of evil,
but at variance as to its nature and origin.
Each personality fashions it according to its
own views. But it is universal, and, in the
opinion of most men, immortal. The exist-
ence of conscience implies the existence of
evil, against which it battles. Furthermore,
conscience is not only an inspirer of our good
actions, but an historian of our crimes. In
the morning, the noonday, and the night, it
teaches us that evil is not only a terrible
existence, but that it coexists with us, is with
us, now and for ever, in secula seculorum.

What shall we say ? Nothing. But let
us think that we are the subjects of a mys-
tery, and obey. J. B.



* Gilfillan, in his " Literature and Literary
Men." By the way, is not the popularity of this
declamatory, bombastic writer amongst us a clear
proof of a highly vitiated literary taste ?



1851.



A Voice from the Sea.



525



A VOICE FROM THE SEA



[The rapid extension of our commercial marine ; its recent peaceful and gratifying triumphs, both in
steam navigation and in rapidity of sailing ; the new class of clipper-ships, witli their magnificent pro-
portions and scientific construction, almost rivaling steam in then- speed, have awakened public atten-
tion to this branch of our national success in no ordinary degree. But whilst having our attention
directed to these brilliant external results, it is to be feared that we are overlooking other improve-
ments more essential to our tnie greatness and real success. With the view of awakening the atten-
tion of the country to those moral considerations which should go hand in hand with all physical
improvements, we give place to the following communication. It is, what it purports to be, from one
who " knows the ropes ;" and although possibly too sweeping in its condemnation of our sea-captains^
there are more than enough who deserve what is said, as the following case will show some
evidence of: —

"A case in Admiralty came off on Saturday, P. M., before B. F. Hallet, U. S. Commissioner, which,
from its peculiar and astounding atrocity, ought to find a place in every largely circulated journal in
the country ; and the monster, guilty of the charges preferred against him, let loose, while every lionest
hand manned a whip to lash the petrified scoundrel sans culottes through the world ! One Captain
Teale, master of a vessel bound from New-Orleans to this port, ' shipped ' a lad as cook, (fee , iu the
latter city ; but when some five days out, the lad grew sick, kept his bunk, was hauled out by the mate,
and kicked, says the evidence, until the boots of the mate were worn through at the toes ! Recupe-
rating, next day the captain took the boy in hand, triced him up to the rigging, and gave him twenty-
five lashes ; threw him down into the scuppers after the operation, and washed the poor lad's wounds
with brine ! For the next twelve days the boy was whipped aloft and alow, finally shut up under
the hoobif hatch on top of a load of cotton, denied light, air, and food ; the result was death, the most
horrible ! Is this case not damnable ! Yet the Commissioner allowed the atrocious monster to get off
on ^1,000 bail, which he will forfeit, to meet death, doubtless, at some other time, at the hands of some
outraged seamen, who will be charged with mutmy, <fec., and be hanged. The murdered lad's name
is unknown ; he shipped as Bryson, but he, it is supposed, was the son of parents in good standing,
from whom he had become estranged. The mate, in evidence before the Court, said, the feller died to
escape work T — Xew-York Times of Nov. \st.

The practical suggestions of our friend at the conclusion of his communication are eminently
worthy of serious consideration.



On Shipboard,



1851.



The passengers of a packet-ship are usu-
ally so absorbed iu their own sufferings, or
in securing their share of the luxuries pro-
vided for them, that the condition of the crew
entirely escapes their observation ; and ex-
cept as they sometimes watch them, admiring
the dexterity and courage with which they
move through the dizzy maze of swaying
sails, and spars, and cordage aloft, with much
the same sort of interest, if not with less,
than that with which they regard the frolics
of the porpoises and gulls, they would never
see that she was not made victorious over
the winds and waves by the simple magnet-
ism of the great mind of her captain.

If the habitual brutality with which, in
most ships, the seamen are treated, is forced



upon their notice, and they presume to audi-
bly question the necessity of it, they will
find they have deeply pricked their usually
thick-skinned host and courteous commander,
and will be advised, in reply, without
much polite circumlocution, to mind their
own business, something, perhaps, in this
way:

" I don't think you were cut out to com-
mand a ship, sir. Before a man can com-
mand, he must learn to obey. I came in at
the hawse-holes, and worked through the
forecastle myself to what I am ; and I don't
need men of your kidney to tell me what
sailors want. If I had crawled in at the
cabin windows, you might make me believe
I ought to feed them up nicely, and bed
them down soft, and coax and curry them



526



A Voice from the Sea.



December,



as you do your horses ashore ; but I didn't
weather through with the rascals for nothing,
sir, and I know better."

Supposing friend Greenhorn is thus si-
lenced, I would take up his cause ; for
though T am now " only a passenger," I also
once fought for my life in the forecastle, and
have been worked harder and bedded more
gloomily than the horse in the coal mine,
and had given me for food such matter as
no decent Christian on shore would throw
to a dog. Yet I disagree with the cap-
tain, and confidently assert that he is not
a bit the better, but a good deal the worse
fitted to command, for all that initiatory ex-
perience on which he so much prides himself.

For how is it, think you, that some of
these brave captains, generous, whole-heart-
ed fellows as they commonly appear to their
passengers, as they are known on shore —
these gentle and attentive ladies' favorites in
the cabin ; these dignified, polite, and tn-
tertaining companions on the quarter-deck,
who compel plate, and cards, and testimo-
nials from every grateful and admiring com-
pany that they conduct to safety and com-
fort through the dangers and distresses of
the sea; so kind, and brave, and generous —
how is it, I ask, that some of these very men
are looked upon by those in their forecas-
tle as mean, inhuman tyrants ? How is it,
when at their homes on shore they are all
manliness, refinement and affection ; when in
the cabin they can only exercise goodness,
and kindness and care — how is it they can
be so indifferent to the life, health, comfort
and well-being of those "placed temporarily
in their guardianship," only the other side
of the foremast?

"Ah ! their goodness is all stuff," Jack
would mutter; "they give it out only where
it's paid for." But, friend Greeny, we should
know better than that. We have seen too
much of it, seen it too steadily, to believe it
altogether insincere ; seen it living, and car-
rying him nobly ahead of us, where cargoes
of money, mailsful of newspaper glory,
would have been worth less than a spoonful
of fresh water.

But what, then, can it be, so hv from all
true dignity, refinement and kind-hearted
ness, that makes them only mean, vulgar,
passionate, heartless, when they turn from
one end of the ship to the other ? Is it cre-
dible ? Is it possible ? Can it be accounted
for — this Janus-faced character ? It can.



It is the direct, irresistible, unconquer-
able effect of CUSTOM, to which, in that edu-
cating forecastle, they were obliged to sur-
render all manly trust in the reward of
honest purpose ; all hopes of avoiding cru-
elty by simple performance of duty ; all
hopes of kindness, or even justice, from
those having power to those who make
themselves subject to it. There and then
was formed that habit of mind that makes
it impossible for them to expect a sailor
will obey from any but a sordid or des-
picable motive, or that he can respond
with any confidence to a kind, and just, and
reasonable authority. So they were trained
to believe that a sailor, for ten or fifteen dol-
lars a month, barters all right and claim to
be dealt with as a man ; to consider that he
rents for this pitiful pittance his body and
mind as well as his labor. Thus they have
been made to forget that the duties of
Charity and Mercy can never be intermitted
or bargained away, or the claims of brother-
hood bought off. So, and only so, can it be
explained, that our brave, generous, cour-
teous, and affectionate packet captains
should be indifferent, reckless savages to
their crews, their comrades, their own equally
true, and noble, and tender-hearted bro-
thers of the sea ; for degraded and brutal
as a sailor may generally appear, ofttimes
he also will show the port and carriage of

a feeling, God-like man. (Yes, old

Dan, shipmate ; sainted, holy-born was the
spirit that lived through all in thy rude
habit. Great was the heart in the iron chest
that could moisten thy cold gray eye, and
soften thy horny hand, and melt thy hoarse
utterance, and hush the tale of thy heavy
step. Would that thy unconscious faith
were but as manifest in my works as when
in those days of fever's anarchy thou wouldst
become sister, mother, angel to me !)

But sailors are seldom saints, it must be
confessed. Suspicious, distrustful, often dis-
honest and hard-hearted themselves, the
ca])tain is partly right in thinking they
would not understand, could not trust, and
might fail to reward a worthy, generous and
manly command. Trained like brutes, they
must be diiven yet like brutes. The old
wrong has produced the evil, and the evil
excuses the present wrong ; and thus here,
as often elsewhere, both are perpetuated.
Such are always the hardest cases for the
philanthropist, where heedless, fanatical, im-



1851.



A Voice from the Sea.



527



practicable reformers are for ever inaking
mischief.

Woi'se than all else is it when those pro-
fessing honest intentions, perhaps even arro-
gating in their promises the spirit of Christ,
prove unreliable, cowardly, inconsistent and
contradictory, whether from weakness in
the fiiith, want of self-control, stupidity, or
knavery.

None do so much to aggravate the degra-
dation and unwoi-thiness of the sailor as
those who, instead of good fare, give him
good words ; who, instead of hot coffee,
when he comes down half frozen from reefing
the icy topsails, press him to swallow temper-
ance tales ; who invite him to prayer-meet-
ings in their rose-wood cabins, instead of
allowing him watch-and-watch, needed rest,
and regular sleep, in his own dingy forecas-
tle. I have known a man who would turn
the watch below out of their bunks to attend
prayei-s in the cabin, then be so overcome
by religious emotion (or what I have little
doubt he thought was such) that he could
not speak for sobbing, and shortly after
come on deck and kick a man for passing
him on the weather side of the quarter-deck,
(equivalent to the inside of the walk in olden
etiquette,) at the same time calling him by
an obscene and contemptuous epithet, loud-
ly enough to be heard from stem to stern.
One voyage with such a man, whether sin-
cere or hypocritical, will do more than any
thing else to confirm a sailor's contempt for
or indifference to religion.

I have myself experienced and seen much,
and I have heard more of infamous cruelty
practised on seamen. I have heard the yells,
and seen the blood-marks of horrid corpo-
real punishment upon delicately nurtured
boys. I have known old men to be knocked
down like bullocks ; yet, I assure you, that
atrocities like these are not the worst. It
is the lingering, deliberate, studiously con-
trived torture, inflicted in what is called
working uj). Often I have heard a second
mate boast that he could work up a man, so
he would wish he was in hell. The raiser-
able deprivation of the cheapest necessities of
life ; (I have myself suflered with the scurvy,
because, when victualing in a tropical port,
a lot of mouldy bread could be bought at
less cost than a sufficient store of yams,
though the latter were in great abundance ;)
the contemptuous disregard of the common
needs of mankind, (instances oi which I



know, too foul to be related ;) the mockery
of a man's most sacred feelings ; aggi'ava-
tion of the horrors of death ; total neglect
and repudiation of all fellow-feeling ;* it is
this spirit that is most ruinous to all that
have to bear it. Ask any sailor, and he



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 14) → online text (page 85 of 89)