« AnteriorContinuar »
him, and that he had been here a few days ago, canvassing for the Lowthers. What think you of that-Wordsworth versus Brougham!! Sad-sad-sad-and yet the family has been his friend always. What can we say? We are now about seven miles from Rydale, and expect to see him to-morrow. You shall hear all about our visit.
There are many disfigurements to this Lake-not in the way of land or water. No; the two views we have had of it are of the most noble tenderness—they can never fade awaythey make one forget the divisions of life; age, youth, poverty and riches; and refine one's sensual vision into a sort of north star which can never cease to be open lidded and stedfast over the wonders of the great Power. The disfigurement I mean is the miasma of London. I do suppose it contaminated with bucks and soldiers, and women of fashion--and hat-band ignorance. The border inhabitants are quite out of keeping with the romance about them, from a continual intercourse with London rank and fashion. But why should I grumble? They let me have a prime glass of soda water-O they are as good as their neighbors. But Lord Wordsworth, instead of being in retirement, has himself and his house full in the thick of fashionable visitors quite convenient to be pointed at all the summer long. When we had gone about half this morning, we began to get among the hills and to see the mountains grow up before us—the other half brought us to Wynandermere, 14 miles to dinner. The weather is capital for the views, but is now rather misty, and we are in doubt whether to walk to Ambleside to tea—it is five miles along the borders of the Lake. Loughrigg will swell up before us all the way--I have an amazing partiality for mountains in the clouds. There is nothing in Devon like this, and Brown says there is nothing in Wales to be compared to it. I must tell you, that in going through Cheshire and Lancashire, I saw the Welsh mountains at a distance. We have passed the two castles, Lancaster and Kendal. 27th-We walked here to Ambleside yesterday along the border of Winandermere all beautiful with wooded shores and Islands—our road was a winding lane, wooded on each side, and green overhead, full of Foxgloves—every now and then a glimpse of the Lake, and all the while Kirkstone and other large hills nestled together in a sort of grey black mist. Ambleside is at the northern extremity of the Lake. We arose this morning at six, because we call it a day of rest, having to call on Wordsworth who lives only two miles hence-before breakfast we went to see the Ambleside water fall. The morning beautiful—the walk early among
the hills. We, I may say, fortunately, missed the direct path, and after wandering a little, found it out by the noise-for, mark you, it is buried in trees, in the bottom of the valleythe stream itself is interesting throughout with “mazy error over pendant shades." Milton meant a smooth river—this is buffetting all the way on a rocky bed ever various but the waterfall itself, which I came suddenly upon, gave me a pleasant twinge. First we stood a little below the head about half way down the first fall, buried deep in trees, and saw it streaming down two more descents to the depth of near fifty feet—then we went on a jut of rock nearly level with the tsecond fall-head, where the first fall was above us, and the third below our feet still—at the same time we saw that the water was divided by a sort of cataract island on whose other side burst out a glorious stream—then the thunder and the freshness. At the same time the different falls have as different characters; the first darting down the slate-rock like an arrow; the second spreading out like a fan-the third dashed into a mist-and the one on the other side of the rock a sort of mis. ture of all these. We afterwards moved away a space, and saw nearly the whole more mild, streaming silverly through the trees. What astonishes me more than any thing is the tone, the coloring, the slate, the stone, the moss, the rockweed; or, if I may so say, the intellect, the countenance of such places. The space, the magnitude of mountains and waterfalls are well imagined before one sees them; but this countenance or intellectual tone must surpass every imagination and defy any remembrance. I shall learn poetry here and shall henceforth write more than ever, for the abstract endeavor of being able to add a mite to that mass of beauty which is harvested from these grand materials, by the finest spirits, and put into etherial existence for the relish of one's fellows. I cannot think with Hazlitt that these scenes make man appear little. I never forgot my stature so completelyI live in the eye; and my imagination, surpassed, is at restWe shall see another waterfall near Kydal to which we shall proceed after having put these letters in the post office. I long to be at Carlisle, as I expect there a letter from George and one from you. Let any of my friends see my letters they may not be interested in descriptions—descriptions are bad at all times--I did not intend to give you any; but how can I help it? I am anxious you should taste a little of our pleasure; it may not be an unpleasant thing, as you have not the fatigue. I am well in health. Direct henceforth to Post Patrick till the 12th July. Content that probably three or
four pair of eyes whose owners I am rather partial to will run over these lines I remain; and moreover that I am your affectionate brother John.
ART. 13.—A WORD ON MIRACLES. They who object to Miracles generally, object to them simply as being violations of the laws of nature. They first assume that nature is governed by certain fixed laws, and then deny the possibility of any violation of these laws. They talk as if they knew all the laws, by which the natural and spiritual universe is governed, and could tell what are the proper effects of their laws, and what would be impossible violations of them. What arrogance is this! Let men remember that every age is revealing new laws of nature; let them remember too, that one order of laws is constantly suspending the action of others; that the laws of chemical action are constantly suspending the action of mechanical force; and the laws of vitality constantly suspending the laws of chemical action: and that thus on the same principle the laws of the spiritual world may suspend the influence of all inferior laws. Accordingly a wise man will be slow in refusing to believe in any declared fact because it is strange to him, and a seeming violation of known principles. He must consider whether some new principles may not come into action and produce the given effect, and he must listen without prejudice to the proof of the truth alleged. Let a man listen in this rational spirit to the evidence of the Christian miracles, and he will find new light bursting into his mind, however sceptical he may be. Once waiving the a priori prejudice against miracles in general, and listening to their evidence, as to the evidence of any other alleged truth, he will find his scepticism gradually verging into faith.
The root of the prejudice lies in a wrong definition of the term 'miracle.' The definition is commonly a merely negative one, implying a miracle to be a violation of the ordinary laws of nature, without any reference to the principles and power of the divine will or the laws of the spiritual world. On this point I may but quote the language of a late work, whose author with all his singularities of expression, shews signs of deep thought and original genius.*
“Deep has been, and is, the significance of miracles," thus quietly begins the Professor; “far deeper, perhaps, than we
* Sartor Resartus, p. 256. Boston, J. Munroe & Co.-1836,
imagine. Meanwhile, the question of questions were: What specially is a miracle! To that Dutch King of Siam, an icicle had been a miracle; whoso had carried with him an airpump, and phial of vitriolic ether, might have worked a miracle. To my horse again, who unhappily is still more unscientific, do not I work a miracle, and magical 'open sesame!' every time I please to pay twopence, and open for him an impassable Schlagbaum, or shut turnpike?
“ But is not a real miracle simply a violation of the laws of Nature!' ask several. Whom I answer by this new question: What are the laws of Nature? To me perhaps the rising of one from the dead were no violation of these laws, but a confirmation; were some far deeper law, now first penetrated into, and by spiritual force, even as the rest have all been, brought to bear on us with its material force.
“Here, too, may some inquire, not without astonishment: On what ground shall one, that can make iron swim, come and declare that, therefore, he can teach religion? To us, truly, of the nineteenth century, such declaration were inept enough; which, nevertheless, to our fathers of the first century, was full of meaning.
“But, is it not the deepest law of Nature that she be constant? cries an illuminated class: 'Is not the machine of the universe fixed to move by unalterable rules? Probable enough, good friends; nay, I too must believe that the God, whom ancient, inspired men assert to be without variableness or shadow of turning,' does, indeed, never change; that Nature, that the universe, which no one, whom it so pleases, can be prevented from calling a machine, does move by the most unnatural rules. And now of you, too, I make the old inquiry: What those same unalterable rules, forming the complete Statute-Book of Nature, may possibly be!
“They stand written in our works of science, say you; in the accumulated records of man's experience! Was man with his experience present at the creation, then, to see how it all went on. Have any deepest scientific individuals yet dived down to the foundations of the universe, and gauged every thing there? Did the Maker take them into His counsel; that they read his ground plan of the incomprehensible All; and can say: This stands marked therein, and no more than this? Alas, not in any wise! These scientific individuals have been nowhere but where we also are; have seen some handbreadths deeper than we see into the deep that is infinite, without bottom as without shore.
"Laplace's book on the stars, wherein he exhibits that cer
tain planets, with their satellites, gyrate round our worthy sun, at a rate and in a course, which, by greatest good fortune, he and the like of him have succeeded in detecting -is to me as precious as to another. But is this what thou namest ‘Mechanism of the Heavens,' and 'System of the World;' this, wherein Sirius and the Pleiades, and all Herschel's fifteen thousand suns per minute, being left out, some paltry handful of moons, and inert balls, had been looked at, nicknamed, and marked in the Zodiacal Waybill; so that we can now prate of their whereabout; their How, their Why, their What, being had from us as in the signless Inane?
“System of Nature! To the wisest man, wide as is his vision, Nature remains of quite infinite depth, of quite infinite expansion; and all experience thereof limits itself to some few computed centuries and measured square-miles. The course of Nature's phases, on this our little fraction of a planet, is partially known to us; but who knows what deeper courses these depend on; what infinitely larger cycle (of causes) our little epicicle revolves on? To the minnow every cranny and pebble, and quality and accident, of its little native creek may have become familiar; but does the minnow understand the ocean tides and periodic currents, the trade-winds and monsoons, and moon's eclipses; by all which the condition of its little creek is regulated, and may, from time to time )unmiraculously enough), be quite overset and reversed? Such a minnow is man; his creek, this planet earth; his ocean, the immeasurable All; his monsoons and periodic currents the mysterious course of Providence through Æons of Æons.
“We speak of the volume of Nature; and truly a vo!ume it is,—whose author and writer is God. To read it! Dost thou, does man, so much as know the alphabet thereof?"
No, we do not know as much, even as much as the alphabet thereof. If such, then, be man's ignorance of Nature, let him talk and think humbly of the laws of creation. Let him not deny, where it would be wiser to examine the proof. Let him ask himself whether there be not laws of the spiritual world, that sometimes act upon and above the material creation. Let him carefully study the proof of the Christian miracles. Let him consider the need in which the world at the foundation of Christianity, stood of some signs from the spiritual world, to show, that man was not the slave of mere material force, that an iron fate did not rule over his destiny, and that he, although despairing of a just and overruling God, was not an orphan, but had a Father in Heaven. Let him consider, moreover, the moral sublimity of the Christian miracles. He