« ZurückWeiter »
marks entirely new, delivered in the purest and most expressive language, are the richest augmentation literature has lately received; and from which the following passage, gradually unfolding the singular beauties of this prophecy, is here closely, though faintly, translated, and inserted as a pattern of just criticism.
The prophet having predicted the deliverance of the Jews, and their return into their own country from their rigorous Babylonish captivity, instantly introduces them singing a triumphal song on the fall of the king of Babylon; a song abounding in the most splendid images, and carried on by perpetual, and those very beautiful, personifications. The song begins with a sudden exclamation of the Jews, expressing their joy and wonder at the unexpected change of their condition, and death of the tyrant. Earth with her inhabitants triumphs; the firs and cedars of Libanus, under which images the allegoric style frequently shadows the kings and princes of the Gentiles, rejoice, and insult with reproaches, the broken power of their most implacable foe.
She is at rest, the whole earth is quiet: they break forth into singing.
Even the firs rejoice at thee, the cedars of Libanus:
There follows a most daring prosopopeia of One us, or the infernal regions: he rouses his inhabitants, the manes of princes, and the shades of departed kings: immediately all of them arise from their thrones, and walk forward to meet the king of Babylon: they insult and deride him, and gather consolation from his calamity.
Art thou also made weak as we? art thou made like unto us?
Is thy pride dashed down to Orcus, the noise of thy harps?
The worm is strewn under thee, the earth-worm is thy covering!
The Jews are again represented speaking: they most strongly exaggerate his remarkable fall, by an exclamation formed in the manner of funeral lamentations:
How art thou fallen from Heaven,. O Lucifer, son of the morning!
Thou art dashed down to the earth, thou that didst crush the nations!
They They next represent the king himself speaking, and madly boasting of his unbounded power whence the prodigiousness of his ruin is wonderfully aggravated. Nor is this enough; a new character is immediately formed: Those are introduced who found the body of the king of' Babylon cast out; they survey it closely and attentively, and at last hardly know it.
Is this the man who made earth tremble, who shook the kingdoms?
Who made the world a solitude, and destroyed its cities?
They reproach him with the loss of the common rite of sepulture, which was deservedly denied to him for his cruelty and oppression; and curse his name, his race, and posterity. The scene is closed by a most awful speech of God himself, menacing a perpetual extirpation to the king of Babylon, to his descendants,- and to his city; and confirming the immutability of his counsels, by the ratification of a solemn oath
What images, how various, how thick-sown, how sublime, exalted with what energy, what expressions, figures, and sentiments, are here
accumulated accumulated together! We hear the Jews, the cedars of Libanus, the shades of the departed kings, the kings of Babylon, those who find his body, and lastly, Jehovah himself, all speaking in order; and behold them acting their several parts, as it were, in a drama. One continued action is carried on; or rather a various and manifold series of different actions is connected; an excellence more peculiarly appropriated to the sublimer ode, and consummately displayed in this poem of Isaiah, which is the most perfect and unexampled model among all the monuments of antiquity. The personifications are frequent, but not confused; are bold, but not affected : a free, lofty and truly divine spirit predominates through the whole. Nor is any thing wanting to crown and complete the sublimity of this ode with absolute beauty; nor can the Greek or Roman poesy produce any thing that is similar, or second, to this ode."*
It cannot be thought strange, that he who could so judiciously explain, could as poetically Vol. i. C express,
* Praelect. xiii. pag. 121.
express, the ideas of Isaiah: the latter he has performed in many instances; but in none more strikingly than in the following, which magnificently represents the Messiah treading the winepress in his anger; and which an impartial judge, not blinded by the charms of antiquity, will think equal to many descriptions in Virgil, in point of elegance and energy:
—— Ille patris vires indutus et iraro,
* Praelect. vii. pag. 02.