Billeder på siden

oracle. In vain; thick darkness continues to cover it; not a ray of meaning dawns through it. With sullen and angry hope he reaches for the Vulgate, his old and sworn enemy, the treacherous confederate of the Roman anti-Christ, which he so gladly, when he can, rebukes for idolatrous falsehoods, that had dared place

Within the sanctuary itself their shrines,

Now-O thought of humiliation-he must entreat its aid. See! there has the sly spirit of apostasy worked-in a phrase, which favors the doctrine of purgatory, the intercession of saints, or the efficacy of prayers for the dead; and what is worst of all, the interpretation is plausible. The original Hebrew might be forced into this meaning and no other meaning seems to lie in it, none to hover above it in the heights of allegory, none to lurk beneath it even in the depths of cabala! This is the work of the tempter; it is a cloud of darkness conjured up between the truth of the sacred letters and the eyes of his understanding, by the malice of the evil one, and for a trial of his faith! Must he then at length confess, must he subscribe the name of Luther to an exposition which consecrates a weapon for the hand of the idolatrous hierarchy ? Never! never!

There still remains one auxiliary in reserve, the translation of the Seventy. The Alexandrine Greeks, anterior to the Church itself, could intend no support to its corruptions-the Septuagint will have profaned the altar of truth with no incense for the nostrils of the universal bishop to snuff up. And here again his hopes are baffled! Exactly at this perplexed passage had the Greek translator given his understanding a holiday, and made his pen supply its place. O honored Luther! as easily mightest thou convert the whole city of Rome, with the Pope and the conclave of cardinals inclusively, as strike a spark of light from the words, and nothing but words, of the Alexandrine version. Disappointed, despondent, enraged, ceasing to think, yet continuing his brain on the stretch in solicitation of a thought; and gradually giving himself up to angry fancies, to recollections of past persecutions, to uneasy fears and inward defiances and floating images of the evil being, their supposed personal author; he sinks without perceiving it, into a trance of slumber; during which his brain retains its waking energies, excepting that what

would have been mere thoughts before, now-the action and counterweight of his senses and of their impressions being withdrawn-shape and condense themselves into things, into realities. Repeatedly half-wakening, and his eyelids as often reclosing, the objects which really surround him form the place and scenery of his dream. All at once he sees the arch-fiend coming forth on the wall of the room, from the very spot, perhaps, on which his eyes had been fixed vacantly during the perplexed moments of his former meditation: the inkstand which he had at the same time been using, becomes associated with it: and in that struggle of rage, which in these distempered dreams almost constantly precedes the helpless terror by the pain of which we are finally awakened, he imagines that he hurls it at the intruder, or not improbably in the first instant of awakening, while yet both his imagination and his eyes are possessed by the dream, he actually hurls it. Some weeks after, perhaps, during which interval he had often mused on the incident, undetermined whether to deem it a visitation of Satan to him in the body or out of the body, he discovers for the first time the dark spot on his wall, and receives it as a sign and pledge vouchsafed to him of the event having actually taken place.

Such was Luther under the influences of the age and country in and for which he was born. Conceive him a citizen of Geneva, and a contemporary of Voltaire: suppose the French language his mother-tongue, and the political and moral philosophy of English free-thinkers re-modelled by Parisian fort esprits, to have been the objects of his study;-conceive this change of circumstances, and Luther will no longer dream of fiends or of antiChrist—but will he have no dreams in their place? His melancholy will have changed its drapery; but will it find no new costume wherewith to clothe itself? His impetuous temperament, his deep working mind, his busy and vivid imaginations-would they not have been a trouble to him in a world, where nothing was to be altered, where nothing was to obey his power, to cease to be that which it had been, in order to realize his pre-conceptions of what it ought to be? His sensibility, which found objects for itself, and shadows of human suffering in the harmless brute, and even in the flowers which he trod upon-might it not naturally, in an unspiritualized age, have wept, and trembled, and dissolved, over scenes of earthly passion, and the struggles of

love with duty? His pity, that so easily passed into rage, would it not have found in the inequalities of mankind, in the oppressions of governments and the miseries of the governed, an entire instead of a divided object? And might not a perfect constitution, a government of pure reason, a renovation of the social contract, have easily supplied the place of the reign of Christ in the new Jerusalem, of the restoration of the visible Church, and the union of all men by one faith in one charity? Henceforward then, we will conceive his reason employed in building up anew the edifice of earthly society, and his imagination as pledging itself for the possible realization of the structure. We will lose the great reformer, who was born in an age which needed him, in the philosopher of Geneva, who was doomed to misapply his energies to materials the properties of which he misunderstood, and happy only that he did not live to witness the direful effects of his own system.


Pectora cui credam? quis me lenire docebit
Mordaces curas, quis longas fallere noctes,
Ex quo summa dies tulerit Damona sub umbras?

Omnia paulatim consumit longior atas,
Vivendoque simul morimur, rapimurque manendo.

Ite tamen, lacrymæ ! purum colis æthera, Damon!
Nec mihi conveniunt lacryma. Non omnia terræ
Obruta! vivit amor, vivit dolor! ora negatur
Dulcia conspicere: flere et meminisse relictum est.


THE two following essays I devote to elucidation, the first of the theory of Luther's apparitions stated perhaps too briefly in the preceding essay; the second for the purpose of removing the only obstacle, which I can discover in the next section of The Friend, to the reader's ready comprehension of the principles, on which the arguments are grounded. First, I will endeavor to make my ghost theory more clear to those of my readers, who are fortunate

enough to find it obscure in consequence of their own good health and unshattered nerves. The window of my library at Keswick is opposite to the fire-place, and looks out on the very large garden that occupies the whole slope of the hill on which the house stands. Consequently, the rays of light transmitted through the glass, that is, the rays from the garden, the opposite mountains, and the bridge, river, lake, and vale interjacent, and the rays reflected from it, of the fire-place, &c., enter the eye at the same moment. At the coming on of evening, it was my frequent amusement to watch the image or reflection of the fire, that seemed burning in the bushes or between the trees in different parts of the garden or the fields beyond it, according as there was more or less light; and which still arranged itself among the real objects of vision, with a distance and magnitude proportioned to its greater or lesser faintness. For still as the darkness increased, the image of the fire lessened and grew nearer and more distinct; till the twilight had deepened into perfect night, when all outward objects being excluded, the window became a perfect looking-glass save only that my books on the side shelves of the room were lettered, as it were, on their backs with stars, more or fewer as the sky was less or more clouded, the rays of the stars being at that time the only ones transmitted. Now substitute

the phantom from Luther's brain for the images of reflected light, the fire for instance, and the forms of his room and its furniture for the transmitted rays, and you have a fair resemblance of an apparition, and a just conception of the manner in which it is seen together with real objects. I have long wished to devote an entire work to the subject of dreams, visions, ghosts, and witchcraft, in which I might first give, and then endeavor to explain, the most interesting and best attested fact of each, which has come within my knowledge, either from books or from personal testimony. I might then explain in a more satisfactory way the mode in which our thoughts, in states of morbid slumber, become at times perfectly dramatic,-for in certain sorts of dreams the dullest weight becomes a Shakspeare,—and by what law the form of the vision appears to talk to us its own thoughts in a voice as audible as the shape is visible; and this too oftentimes in connected trains, and not seldom even with a concentration of power which may easily impose on the soundest judgments, uninstructed in the optics and acoustics of the inner sense, for reve

lations and gifts of prescience. In aid of the present case, I will only remark, that it would appear incredible to persons not accustomed to these subtle notices of self-observation, what small and remote resemblances, what mere hints of likeness from some real external object, especially if the shape be aided by color, will suffice to make a vivid thought consubstantiate with the real object, and derive from it an outward perceptibility. Even when we are broad awake, if we are in anxious expectation, how often will not the most confused sounds of nature be heard by us as articulate sounds? For instance, the babbling of a brook will appear for a moment the voice of a friend, for whom we are waiting, calling out our own names. A short meditation, therefore, on the great law of the imagination, that a likeness in part tends to become a likeness of the whole, will make it not only conceivable but probable, that the inkstand itself, and the darkcolored stone on the wall, which Luther perhaps had never till then noticed, might have a considerable influence in the production of the fiend, and of the hostile act by which his obtrusive visit was repelled.

A lady once asked me if I believed in ghosts and apparitions. I answered with truth and simplicity: No, madam! I have seen far too many myself. I have indeed a whole memorandum-book filled with records of these phænomena, many of them interesting as facts and data for psychology, and affording some valuable materials for a theory of perception, and its dependence on the memory and imagination. In omnem actum perceptionis imaginatio influit efficienter, says Wolfe. But he is no more, who would have realized this idea; who had already established the foundations and the law of the theory; and for whom I had so often found a pleasure and a comfort, even during the wretched and restless nights of sickness, in watching and instantly recording these experiences of the world within us, of the gemina natura, quæ fit et facit, et creat et creatur! He is gone, my friend; my munificent co-patron, and not less the benefactor of my intellect!—He who, beyond all other men known to me, added a fine and ever-wakeful sense of beauty to the most patient accuracy in experimental philosophy and the profounder researches of metaphysical science; he who united all the play and spring of fancy with the subtlest discrimination and an inexorable judg

* Thomas Wedgwood.

« ForrigeFortsæt »