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Influence of the Christian Religion on Poetry,in the Christian Spectator for June 1834. Art. III American Advocate of Peace (1834-1836), Vol. 1, No. 3 (DECEMBER, 1834), pp. 138-141 Published by: World Affairs Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27886783 . Accessed: 04/10/2013 02:19
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138

Influence of the Christian Religion

on Poetry.

[Dec.

Article CRITICAL

III. NOTICES.

BY THE EDITOR.

1.?Influence of theChristianReligion onPoetry,?in Spectator for June 1834. Art. III.


of a

theChristian

The special object of thisdepartmentof ourwork is thepromotion subjects, by the application of just and Christian principles to the
criticism will have of current observed, sense us publications. our notices of the term. pleasure, Still, have however, as our readers not been critical, exclusively our scope, and within pure and Christian literature, in respect toWar and kindred

in the certainly

strict

It comes to mark

gives.

thinking-?to ture?and that are

signalize to make

scattered they

the progress of just of a better spirit in litera a our pages of the choicest things repository here and there in the various works that come great the manifestations can be transferred, and as our limits will permit?

out, so far as

That the special efforts of the lovers of peace and humanityhave not been without effect,and that their principles are silently but surely and increasinglygaining ground,must, we think,be obvious departmentsof itwhich most immediately influenceand reflectthe
tone of the public tionably beginning mind. The cause more of universal attention and peace is unques to awaken to excite more to any one who is observant of our literature, particularly those

interest. A juster and more Christian style of thinking and feeling tomanifest itselfdecisively in various quarters of thewide field of
in regard to the true character of war and its concomitants, begins

general

literature.

In the Christian Spectator for June, containing the article whose titlewe have given above, we find the following admirable and ofChristianityupon eloquent passage. After showing the influence
in respect that : to mythology and machinery, the writer goes on to observe

poetry

" The
theme

love, and aims to bring together in appropriate union, all thewild

of poetry.

influenceof Christianity tends to destroy another great


Its spirit is peace. It breathes harmony and

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1834.] Influence of the Christian


of that blessed future, when we

Religion
no more

on Poetry.
hear

139

and jarring elements of this world ; and warrants the anticipation


shall

noise of battle, or behold garments rolled in blood.


is poetry existence.

tions over the slain with inimitable pathos. But what theme of ofwar or a field of death present? pleasurable poetry does the strife We feel that there is an awful delusion on this subject, arising from
course and strengthened of our associations, by the whole early turn to Kames' of man, Sketches to We need education. only ' on this he says, learn the sentiments of thousands War,' subject. 6 for man, as the school of magnanimity, is necessary and heroism, nature. human virtue that ennobles Without it, he would every a sentiments without glow of indignation. feeling of one tor man ! A sentiment, indeed, worthy should its author back a thousand place How often, too, has the historian

weep,?she

our social to instruct, and to deepen to please, interest in Is war, then, a fit subject for poetry ? The muse may forth her bitter lamenta has often, like David, poured

The object of

the confused

rival the hare in timidity!' We

confess thatwe cannot read such


War who necessary had learned

his philosophy in the school of Racine and Voltaire, and which


era.

Essex, in the time of Elizabeth, but not a solitary page forShak


many cumstance of battles, speare.' " To there seems war

he has passed while in silence before kings and warriors, bowing some of the most creations of genius for ex ! Volumes, splendid ' and quarrels of Leicester and petty freaks ample, he has for the

deceptive colors over this subject ; prostitutinghis noble talents,

years before the Christian thrown his but enchanting

feelingwhich glows in the hour of danger. We need not say that thisfeeling is powerfully invigoratedby the glowing descriptionsof
the historian and us, however, many painful there of the warrior. To the poet, in their apotheosis are too in such scenes. is no poetry There with cannot con connected them. We associations to the scene where his ovation was purchased,? the thousands that have

glorious as the contending and generous something

God-like

in 6the pomp and cir noble something sublime in the onset of ;' something meet and dash against each other ; legions in the ardor of that chivalrous

fineour imaginationto theglories that encircle the individualhero ;


our minds revert dwell the ensangnined plain,-?and car. fallen under his victorious upon

of nations.' array;?the

" Let us look at this subject in the lightof sober,Christian phi Waterloo, that<Golgotha losophy. Let us survey thus the fieldof
There stood chivalrous legions the mighty it is true, in awful combatants, to the more de of France opposed

termined hosts ofBritain. They meet ; and when that day's work is over, what do we behold of poetry there ??a field for a mile with themutila square covered with ghastly and disfiguredforms, ' and sounds are terrific ted, the dying and the dead. Melancholy heard ; the shoutsof victory have given place togroans of anguish,

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140

Influence of the Christian

Religion

on

Poetry.

[Dec.

the complaints of the vanquished, and the prayers of the dying. One is calling upon heaven to protect his children ; another raves for a beloved wife ; a third tenderlybreathes a beloved name, con secrated only by that tie ; while others deprecate theirown suffer ing, or plead piteously for the pardon of their sins. There are thosewho pray ardently for death, and others who implorea few minutes more of life. Some make complaints of bodily pain, some of the gnawings of the never-dying worm ; while others, as they
crimson the brief remains torrent, waste gaze upon the fast-flowing in moralizing of life, and man's care of breath upon the shortness

less prodigality of existence. The eyes of all wander wistfully over the scene that is fast fading from their view ; and fervently hand of thosewho are mournfully bidding thern do theygrasp the* a last farewell.' Surely there is something in all this too unnatural for a poetic theme ! something too humiliating ; somethingwhich gives man with all his boasted sensibility and elevation of soul, a through the desert, or the shark which ranges the ocean. The lion preys upon the antelope, the tiger howls in unison with his brothers of blood ; but man, when about to exhibit the greatness
and superiority, on the score of ferocity, over the lion which roams

of his soul,, and the success

to destroy his fellow-man,and by 'the wisdom of the deep-laid plan,


of its execution, Such to immortal honors from the connec of glorious war.'. are the awful consequences

furnish

to after ages

a theme

for poetry,

is

aiming

gain historianand the poet ! Let no one talk of the 6pomp and circum stance

as

tedwith thatpomp and circumstance. We might as well undertake to separate the lightning'svivid flash from the riving thunder-bolt, from the glories of the individualconqueror. battle-field " Is war, then,the theme of pleasure?the object of poetry ?We blush for poor, degraded human nature ! Our hearts sicken at the very thought! Well may we exclaim, with the anointed bard, "War is not only an unfit subject for poetry, but itprostrates the spirit of song. The causes of the relapse of poetry, after
6 Lord, what is man !' to dissociate in the mind of a benevolent man, the horrors of the

Chaucer,

as

and no

nals of English history, which, during five reigns in the 15th cen turycontinue to display but a tissue of conspiracies, proscriptions,
bloodshed. War agitated society refuge from its Gothic irruptions,?no influence.' from its unhallowed as one mass. There was sanctuary of genius secure

Campbell

remarks,

'seem

but

too apparent

in the an

all these sources of poetry, we fully admit, the Bible is diametrically opposed. With war and religious persecutionChris of those baneful alike to the fine arts, and to all malign influences, intellectualpursuits. Her spirit is peace and good-will to man ; her object the establishmentof a universal sympathy forman as a social, moral, and intellectualbeing ; a charitywhich will embrace
tianity admits no compromise. She aims at the utter extermination

" To

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1834.]
' are

The Earthly Triumphs ofChristianity.

141

all, and give a hue of poetry to the whole life of man. For all the vicissitudesofthat feeling,as Mr. Montgomery forciblyremarks, which it undergoes, being intimately associated with all that is and terrible, transporting or afflictive,bright and pure, grand "
peaceful, holy, and happy, in mortal existence.' pre-eminently poetical, in every change of form and color

2.?The

Earthly Triumphs of Christianity.By Professor Bush. In theLiterary and Theological Review, No. III., September,
1834. article novel is on several views peculiar accounts ' and striking It con in the Prof.

This,

highly

interesting.

tains many author's

somewhat

Bush endeavors to show that Christianity is destined to break up


the political distinctions to of nations and States,?to human we overthrow race have civil governments,?and community. The the whole bring reasons for this conclusion into one vast not room to

style of thinking

presented suggestions* and expression.

give ; but can only remark, that it is on this ground he predicts


the cessation permanent this point. of War, Peace. We will We and the ultimate before observe, place prevalence our readers however, of universal what he says and on

we have no faith in the peculiar ground taken by the able and ex cellent author. We do not believe that the final triumphofChris or the over tianityinvolves the dissolution of political distinctions,
throw of civil in order governments. Nor abolition do we believe this is necessary than the ex to the universal of War, any more can

previously

that, for ourselves,

tinctionof private property and the dissolution of the domestic


relations

which are occasioned by them. The rightof private property,the domestic relations,and the special bonds by which individualsare thusformed into distinct families,are the occasion of many things contradictory to the just, the generous and peaceful spiritof the of Providence Gospel ; butwe do not believe that it is the intention an to evils these to put end by extinguishing,through Christianity, of families. Chris and breaking up the distinction privateproperty,
tianity which will correct the cause, the and not institutions the occasion?the are and perverts, we like manner, and not believe which perverted. distinct selfishness In States

is necessary,

before

Christianity

correct

the

evils

" will exist in the day of the latterglory," as well as distinctfami lies ; and that the influenceof Christianitywill be seen in binding 16

that civil

governments

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