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times which I have had the pleasure of reading. At the outset
it captivates the attention, then it grows in depth and power with each successive chapter, almost with each successive paragraph. The climax at the close is, as I see it, rarely surpassed in any language.
It should be observed, first of all, that the tale is either an allegory or not, just as the reader chooses. Suppose, for a moment, that we call it an allegory. Now, ordinarily, an allegory is very dull reading. But the cause is this: The writers of most allegories, in their eagerness to represent some underlying (the allegorized) story by a primary (the allegorizing) story, fail to make the primary story interesting. Then the allegorized story itself is spoiled. This fault has, I think, been completely avoided by Doctor Shastid, who has so constructed his volume that it may be read with interest as mere story only and without the slightest care for the underlying sense, or, if the reader prefer, then also as an allegory and with even greater interest.
A word of caution to those who would take this splendid work with an eye to its deeper significance. The tale does not seek to allegorize the external, but the internal, history of Israel. It is, in fact, as its author calls it on the title-page, “the story of a nation's soul.” Now it is true that, in order to exhibit the development of spiritual Israel, it was plainly necessary, from time to time, to display, or depict, one or another event of Jewish external history. For example, the crucifixion (an external event) undoubtedly had to be presented, or described, in order that the effect thereof on the Jewish inner consciousness might clearly be depicted throughout the later portions of the volume. But, in general, the external events of Jewish history are skillfully evaded, and only the great successive phases of Jewish soul-life are symbolized. Thus, in the Egyptian part of the book, the reaction of the Jewish nature to Egyptian idolatry is clearly and wonderfully represented; in the Petran portion, that to Nabathæan idolatry, and, in the Palestinian portion, that to the Syrian Baal worship, and so on. After the Babylonian captivity, as all readers know, there were no further lapses to idolatry, at least in the ordinary sense of the term.
The various periods of Jewish development, I should add, were not strictly successive or mutually exclusive, yet, in an allegory wherein one single person stands for the soul of an entire nation, the facts must, as a matter of course, be somewhat simplified, and so the various periods of Jewish development do, in this book, become strictly successive and mutually exclusive. This sort of privilege, however, we grant to every allegorist as a kind of allegorical license.
Many parts of Doctor Shastid's story are sad beyond belief, some are gently comic, and a few are even repellent, but, everywhere, the book is, as I see it, strictly true to Bible chronicle, to post-biblical history, and to the various Bible prophecies. Opinions, of course, even of the highest authorities, differ on some of these points-a fact which must be borne in mind by the reader who cares for the deeper meaning of the book.
The author of the volume has, on every page, made manifest an intense and ever-increasing sympathy with the Jewish character-a character which, I may say in passing, is the greatest national character in all history. Not for nothing did God choose Israel to be unto Him as a nation of priests. Even in all their fallings to idolatry, the children of Israel, as is well known, never gave up their belief in the true God. The attempt was always to add whatever phase of idolatry chanced to be under consideration at the time, to the true worship of Jehovah—the results being, in each case, exactly as Doctor Shastid has symbolized them in his work. If, sometimes, the results were repellent, the facts could not be otherwise shown. How, in later times, the Jew has, in spite of himself, been a monument unto JehovahJesus, Doctor Shastid has symbolized with wonderful appositeness and effect.
I cannot close without calling attention to the very pathetic portrait of the dear old Archon Basileus, as well as to those of the Seven Deadly Sins, and to conatus “the man without a face." These figures will live in my memory forever. As to the friendship which Doctor Shastid has shown between Lampadephorus (not solely, if mostly, a Greek, but bearer of the ancient secular light, Greek or not-Greek) and Samson-Solomon (bearer of the light from above), this is, in my opinion, one of the finest depictions of any sort or kind of friendship outside the Bible itself. Moreover, it is strictly true to fact, as ancient records abundantly demonstrate.
My advice to one and all is to read this book: first for the sheer interest of the story itself, second for its great gallery of human portraits, third (and best of all) for its profound allegorical meaning.
ALBERT W. RYAN. St. Paul's Rectory,