« AnteriorContinua »
There had been Jezebels and Lady Mac- as Agamemnon, Mary as energetic as beths enough; the memory of David still Medea. Little children are no longer smelt of blood; the Roman eagles were dashed in pieces, — they are embraced gorging their beaks on human flesh; and and blessed. the Samaritan everywhere felt the gnaw- But let us select for attention, and for ing, shuddering sense of hatred and scorn. a conclusion to these remarks, a particuNo chorus appears answering to chorus, lar scene. It shall be from Luke. This praising the god of battles, or exulting in evangelist has been fabled a painter, and the achievements of arms; but the sym- in the apotheosis of the old Church be pathies of Him who was touched with the was made the tutelar patron of that class feeling of our infirmities answer to the of artists. If the individuality of his wants and woes of the race, and every conceptions, the skill of his groupings, thoughtful mind ecstatically encores. The and the graphicness gave rise to such an inexorable Fate of the Greeks does not idea, it would seem to have its foundaappear, but a good Providence interferes, tion as well in Nature as in superstition. and Heaven smiles graciously upon the
Matthew has more detail, more thought; There is passion, indeed, grief Luke is more picturesque, more descripand sorrow, sin and suffering — but the tive. John has more deep feeling; Luke tempest-stiller is here, who breathes tran- more action, more life. The Annunciaquillity upon the waters, and pours seren- tion, the Widow of Nain, the Prodigal ity into the turbid deep. The Niobe of Son, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man humanity, stiff and speechless, with her and Lazarus, and the incident to which enmarbled children, that used sometimes we shall presently advert, are found in to be introduced on the Athenian stage Luke alone. for purposes of terror or pity, is here re- The incident in question is the dining stored to life, and she renders thanks for of Christ at the house of Simon the Pharher deliverance and participates in the isee, and, while they were reclining at general joy to which the piece gives birth. meat, the entrance of a woman which No murderers of the prophets are hewn was a sinner, who bathes the feet of Je. in pieces before the Lord; but from the sus with tears, and wipes them with the agonies of the cross and the depths of a hair of her head. The place is the city preternatural darkness, the tender
is of Nain; the hour noon. The dramatis heard, on behalf of the murderers of the personce are three, -Jesus, Simon, and Son of God, " Father, forgive them, for the Woman,- and, if we choose to add they know not what they do!” No Alces- them, the other guests, who are silent tis is exhibited, doomed to destruction to spectators of what transpires. save the life of her husband, — but One Let us consider, first, the Woman. She appears, moving cheerfully, voluntarily, was a sinner.” This is all, in fact, that forwards, to what may be termed the fu- we know of her; but this is enough. The neral pile of the world, from which, phe- term “sinner,” in this instance, as in many nix-like, he rises, and gloriously ascends, others, does not refer to the general aposdrawing after him the hearts, the love, tasy in Adam; it is distinctive of race the worship of millions of spectators. The and habit. She was probably of heathen key of the whole piece is Redemption, the extraction, as she was certainly of a disspirit that actuates is Love. The chief ac- solute life. The poetry of sin and shame tors, indeed, are Christ and Man; but in- calls her the Magdalen, and there may numerable subsidiary personages are the be a convenience in permitting this name Charities. The elements of a spiritualized to stand. The depth of her depravity existence act their part. Humanity is not Christ clearly intimates in his allusion changed in its substance, but in its ten- to the debtor who owed five hundred dencies; the sensibilities exist, but under pence, and the language of Simon teacha divine culture. Stephen is as heroic es that the infamy of her life was well
understood among the inhabitants of the threading her lonely way through the city. If a foreigner, she had probably streets, learning by hints, since she would been brought into the country by the not dare to learn by questions, where Roman soldiers and deserted. If a na- Jesus is, and stops before the vestibule tive, she had fallen beneath the ban of of the elegant mansion of Simon the Pharrespectability, and was an outcast alike isee. from hope and from good society. She Who is Simon the Pharisee ? Not was condemned to wear a dress different necessarily a bad man. We associate from that of other people ; she was liable whatever is odious in hypocrisy or base at any moment to be stoned for her con- in craft with the name Pharisee, while duct; she was one whom it was a ritual really it was the most distinguished tiimpurity to touch. She was wretched
tle among the Jews. Many of the Pharbeyond measure; but while so corrupt, isees were hypocrites ; not all of them. she was not utterly hardened. Incapa. The name is significant of profession, not ble of virtue, she was not incapable of of character. He could not have been gratitude. Weltering in grossness, she an unprincipled, villanous man, or he could still be touched by the sight of would never have tendered to Jesus the purity. Plunged into extremest vice, she hospitalities of his house. Indeed, Christ retained the damning horror of her situ- allows him, in the sense of moral indebtation. If she had ever striven to recov- edness, to owe but fifty pence. He was er her lost position, there were none to probably a rich man, which might apassist her; the bigotry of patriotism reject- pear from the generous entertainment ed her for her birth,—the scrupulousness he made. He was a respectable man. of modesty, for her history. The night. The sect to which he belonged was the that consecrated so many homes and most celebrated and influential among gathered together so many families in in- the Jews; and when not debased by nocence and repose, was to her blacker positive crime, a Pharisee was always than its own blackness in misery and tur- esteemed for his learning and his piety. pitude; the morning, that radiated glad- He had some interest in Christ, either ness over the face of the world, revealed in his mission or his character,--an inthe extent and exaggerated the sense of terest beyond mere curiosity, or he would her own degradation. But the vision of not have invited him to dine with him. Jesus had alighted upon her; she had He betrays a sincere friendliness, also, in seen him speeding on his errands of mer- his apprehension lest Christ should suffer cy; she hung about the crowd that follow
any religious contamination. ed his steps; his tender look of pity may The third person in the scene is Christ, have sometimes gleamed into her soul. who, to speak of him not as theology has Stricken, smitten, confounded, her yearn- interpreted him to us, but as he appeared ings for peace gush forth afresh. It was to the eyes of his contemporaries, was as if Hell, moved by contrition, had giv- the reputed son of Joseph and Mary, the en up its prey,
,—as if Remorse, tired of its Bethlehemites; who by his words and gnawing, felt within itself the stimulus of deeds had attracted much attention and hope. But how shall she see Jesus? made some converts; now accused of Wherewithal shall she approach him? breaking the Jewish Sabbath, now of She has nothing to pay.” She has plotting against the Roman sovereignty; tears enough, and sorrows enough,—but one who in his own person had felt the these are derided by the vain, and sus- full power of temptation, and who had pected by the wise. She has an alabas- been raised to the grandeur of a transfigter box of ointment, which, shut out as uration; so tender he would not bruise the she is from honorable gain, must be the broken reed, so gentle his yoke was rest ; product and the concomitant of her guilt. raying out with compassion and love wherBut with these she must go. We see her ever he went; healing alike the pangs of
grief and the languor of disease; whom “Sir, say on,” is the reply of the Pharsome believed to be the Messiah, and oth- isee, who is awed by this appeal into an ers thought a prophet; whom the masses humble listener. followed, and the priests feared ;—this is Whereupon Jesus relates the story the third member of the company. of the two debtors, and, with irresistible
The two last, with the other guests, are strength of illustration and delicacy of engaged at their meal, and in conversation. application, breaks the prejudice and The door is darkened by a strange figure; wins the composure of the Jew. “If, all eyes are riveted on the apparition; the then," he continues, " he loves much to Magılalen enters, faded, distressed, with whom much is forgiven, what shall we long dishevelled hair. She has no intro- say of one who loves so much?” duction ; she says nothing; indeed, in all See,” he goes on, pointing to the this remarkable scene she never speaks; woman, " See this woman,—this wretch. her silence is as significant as it is pro- I entered thy house; thou gavest me no found. She goes behind the couch where water for my feet; but she has washed Jesus, according to Oriental custom, is my feet with her tears and wiped them reclined. She drops at his feet; there with her hair. She kisses my feet; she her tears stream; there the speechless anoints them with ointment. Wherefore agony of her soul bursts. Observe the I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, workings of the moment. See how those are forgiven; for she loved much.” people are affected. Surprise on the part This scene, however inadequately it of Simon and his friends turns to scorn, may be set forth, contains all that is suband this shades into indignation. Jesus lime in tragedy, terrible in guilt, or inis calm, collected, and intently thought- tense in pathos. The woman represents ful. The woman is overwhelined by her humanity, or the soul of human nature; situation. The lip of Simon curls, his Simon, the world, or worldly wisdom ; eye flashes with fire of outraged virtue. Christ, divinity, or the divine purposes Jesus meets his gaze with equal fire, but of good to us ward. Simon is an incarit is all of pure heavenly feeling. Simon nation of what St. Paul calls the beggarmoves to have the vagabond expelled; ly elements; Christ, of spirituality ; the Christ interrupts the attempt. But the woman, of sin. It is not the woman alone, honor of the house is insulted. Yes, but —but in her there cluster upon the undying interests of the soul are at all want and woe, all calamity and disstake. But the breath of the woman is appointment, all shame and guilt. In ritual poison, and her touch will bring Christ there come forward to meet her, down the curses of the law. But the love, hope, truth, light, salvation. In Silook of Christ indicates that depth of mon are acted out doting conservatism, spirituality before which the institutions mean expediency, purblind calculation, of Moses flee away as chaff before the carnal insensibility. Generosity in this wind. Simon has some esteem for Jesus, scene is confronted with meanness, in the and in this juncture his sensations take attempt to shelter misfortune. The woma turn of pity, spiced, perhaps, with a lit- an is a tragedy herself, such as Eschylus tle contempt, and he
with himself, never dreamed of. The scourging FuSurely, this man cannot be a prophet, ries, dread Fate, and burning Hell unite as is pretended, or he would know who in her, and, borne on by the new impulse and what sort of woman it is that touches of the new dispensation, they come tohim ; for she is a sinner; she is unclean wards the light, they ask for peace, they and reprobate.”
throng to the heaven that opens in Jesus. “ Simon !” says Jesus, with a tone that Simon embodies that vast array of influpierced to the worthy host's heart, and ences that stand between humanity and arrested the force of his pious alarm, its redemption. He is a very excellent, a -“ Simon!”
very estimable man,- but he is not shock
ed at intemperance, he would not have ly weep, she could only love. But, blessslavery disturbed, he sees a necessity for ed be Jesus, he could forgive her, he can war. Does Christ know who and what forgive all. The woman departs in peace; sort of a woman it is that touches him? Simon is satisfied; Jesus triumphs; we Will he defile himself by such a con- almost hear the applauses with which the tact ? Can he expect to accomplish any- ages and generations of earth greet the thing by familiarity with such matters ? closing scene. From the serene celestial Why is he not satisfied with a good din- immensity that opens above the spot we * Simon ! ” “ Simon ! ”
can distinguish a voice, saying, “ This is The silence of the woman is wonder my beloved Son; hear ye him!” ful, it is awful. What is most profound, We speak of these things dramatically, most agitating, most intense cannot speak; but, after all, they are the only great rewords are too little for the greatness of alities. Everything else is mimetic, phanfeeling. So Job sat himself upon the tasmal, tinkling. Deeply do the masters ground seven days and seven nights, of the drama move us; but the Gospel speechless. Not in this case, as is said cleaves, inworks, regenerates. In the of Schiller's Robbers, did the pent vol- theatre, the leading characters go off in cano find vent in power-words; not in death and despair, or with empty constrong and terrible accents was uttered ceits and a forced frivolity; in the Gosthe hoarded wrath of long centuries of pel, tranquilly, grandly, they are dismissmisrule and oppression. The volcano, ed to a serener life and a nobler probaraging, aching, threw itself in silence in- tion. Who has not pitied the ravings of to the arms of one who could sootbe and Lear and the agonies of Othello ? The allay it. The thunder is noisy and harm- Gospel pities, but, by a magnificence of less. The lightning is silent, — and the plot altogether its own, by preserving, if lightning splits, kills, consumes. Human
we may so say, the unities of heaven and ity had muttered its thunder for ages. earth, it also saves. Its lightning, the condensed, fiery, fatal Of all common tragedy, we may exforce of things, leaped from the black- claim, in the words of the old play,— ness of sin, threaded with terrific glare the vision of man, and, in the
“ How like a silent stream shaded with night,
And gliding softly, with our windy sighs, the woman, fell hot and blasting at the
Moves the whole frame of this solemnity!” feet of Jesus, who quenched its fire, and of that destructive bolt made a trophy The Gospel moves by, as a pure river of grace and a fair image of hope. She of water of life, clear as crystal, from the could not speak, and so she wept, – like throne of God and the Lamb; on its surthe raw, chilling, hard atmosphere, which face play the sunbeams of hope; in its is relieved only by a shower of snow. valleys rise the trees of life, beneath the How could she speak, guilty, remorseful shadows of which the weary years of huwretch, without excuse, without extenu- man passion repose, and from the leaves ation? In the presence of divine virtue, of the branches of which is exhaled to at the tribunal of judgment, she could on- the passing breeze healing for the nations.
THE RING FETTER.
A NEW ENGLAND TRAGEDY.
of his grave.
TIERE are long stretches in the course suspicion of his neighbors, and a large of the Connecticut River, where its tran- quantity of Continental “ “ fairy-money." quil current assumes the aspect of a lake, So, when Abner Dimock died, all he had its sudden bends cut off the lovely reach to leave to his only son was the red house of water, and its heavily wooded banks on “ Dimock's Meadow," and a ten-acre lie silent and green, undisturbed, except lot of woodland behind and around the by the shriek of the passing steamer, green plateau where the house stood. casting golden-green reflections into the These possessions he strictly entailed on stream at twilight, and shadows of deep- his heirs forever, and nobotly being sufest blackness, star-pierced, at remoter ficiently interested in its alienation to depths of night. Here, now and then, inquire into the State laws concerning a stray gull from the sea sends a Aying the validity of such an entail, the house throb of white light across the mirror be- remained in the possession of the direct low, or the sweeping wings of a hawk line, and in the year 18— belonged to paint their moth-like image on the blue another Abner Dimock, who kept tavern surface, or a little flaw of wind shudders in Greenfield, a town of Western Massaacross the water in a black ripple ; but chusetts, and, like his father and grandexcept for these casual stirs of Nature, all father before him, had one only son. In is still, oppressive, and beautiful, as earth the mean time, the old house in lladdam seems to the trance-sleeper on the brink township had fallen into a ruinous con
dition, and, as the farm was very small, In one of these reaches, though on and unprofitable chestnut-woodland at either side the heavy woods sweep down that, the whole was leased to an old neto the shore and hang over it as if delib- gro and his wife, who lived there in the erating whether to plunge in, on the east- most utter solitude, scratching the soil ern bank there is a tiny meadow just be- for a few beans and potatoes, and in the hind the tree-fringe of the river, com- autumn gathering nuts, or in the spring pletely hedged in by the deep woods, roots for beer, with which Old Jake padand altogether hidden from any inland dled up to Middletown, to bring home a road ; nor would the traveller on the riv- return freight of salt pork and rum. er discover it, except for the chimney of The town of Greenfield, small though a house that peers above the yellow wil- was, and at the very top of a high lows and seems in that desolate seclu- hill, was yet the county town, subject to sior, as startling as a daylight ghost. But annual incursions of lawyers, and such this dwelling was built and deserted and " thrilling incidents” as arise from the weather-beaten long before the date of location of a jail and a court-room within our story. It had been erected and in- the limits of any village. The scenery habited during the Revolution, by an old
had a certain summer charm of utter Tory, who, foreseeing the result of the war quiet that did it good service with some better than some of his contemporaries, healthy people of well-regulated and inand being unwilling to expose his person
sensitive tastes. From Greenfield Hill to the chances of battle or his effects to one looked away over a wide stretch of confiscation, maintained a strict neutral- rolling country; low hills, in long, desoity, and a secret trade with both parties; late waves of pasturage and grain, rethereby welcoming peace and independ- lieved here and there by a mass of black ence, fully stocked with the dislike and woodland, or a red farm-house and barns