“With the Idolatrous Egyptian.” The probability is indeed slight in comparison, but it is a probability nevertheless, and one which is daily on the increase. I trust that I may not be thought to underrate the danger of such sympathy, though I speak lightly of the chance of it. I have confidence in the central religious body of the English and Scottish people, as being not only untainted with Romanism, but immovably adverse to it: and, however strongly and swiftly the heresy of the Protestant and victory of the Papist may seem to be extending among us, I feel assured that there are barriers in the living faith of this nation which neither can overpass.3 Yet this confidence is only in the ultimate faithfulness of a few, not in the security of the nation from the sin and punishment of partial apostacy. Both have, indeed, in some sort, been committed and suffered already; and, in expressing my belief of the close connection of the distress and burden which the mass of the people at present sustain, with the encouragement which, in various directions, has been given to the Papist, do not let me be called superstitious or irrational.4 No man was ever more inclined than I, both by natural disposition and by many ties of early association, to a sympathy with the principles and forms of the Romanist Church;5 and there is much in its discipline which conscientiously, [267/268] as well as sympathetically, I could love and advocate. But in confessing this strength of affectionate prejudice, surely I vindicate more respect for my firmly expressed belief, that the entire doctrine and system of that Church is in the fullest sense anti-Christian; that its lying and idolatrous Power is the darkest plague that ever held commission to hurt the Earth; that all those yearnings for unity and fellowship, and common obedience, which have been the root of our late heresies, are as false in their grounds as fatal in their termination; that we never can have the remotest fellowship with the utterers of that fearful falsehood, and live; that we have nothing to look to from them but treacherous hostility; and that, exactly in proportion to the sternness of our separation from them, will be not only the spiritual but the temporal blessings granted by God to this country. How close has been the correspondence hitherto between the degree of resistance to Romanism marked in our national acts, and the honour with which those acts have been crowned, has been sufficiently proved in a short essay by a writer whose investigations into the [268/269] influence of Religion upon the fate of Nations have been singularly earnest and successful a writer with whom I faithfully and firmly believe that England will never be prosperous again, that the honour of her arms will be tarnished, and her commerce blighted, and her national character degraded, until the Romanist is expelled from the place which has impiously been conceded to him among her legislators. "Whatever be the lot of those to whom error is an inheritance, woe be to the man and to the people to whom it is an adoption. If England, free above all other nations, sustained amidst the trials which have covered Europe, before her eyes, with burning and slaughter, and enlightened by the fullest knowledge of divine truth, shall refuse fidelity to the compact by which those matchless privileges have been given, her condemnation will not linger. She has already made one step full of danger. She has committed the capital error of mistaking that for a purely political question, which was a purely religious one. Her foot already hangs over the edge of the precipice. It must be retracted, or the Empire is but a name. In the clouds of darkness which seem to be deepening on all human policy in the gathering tumults of Europe, and the feverish discontents at home it may be even difficult to discern where the power yet lives to erect the fallen majesty of the constitution once more. But there are mighty means in sincerity; and if no miracle was ever wrought for the faithless and despairing, the country that will help itself will never be left destitute of the help of Heaven." (Historical Essays, by the Rev. Dr. Croly,6 1842.) The first of these essays, “England the Fortress of Christianity,” I most earnestly recommend to the meditation of those who doubt that a special punishment is inflicted by the Deity upon all national crime, and perhaps of all such crime, most instantly on the betrayal, on the part of England, of the truth and the faith with which she has been entrusted.7
Note 2 (p. 67, above)8
”Does not admit iron as a constructive material.” Except in Chaucer's noble temple of Mars. In the former editions, a note on the structural use of iron quoted Chaucer's description of the temple of Mars; but only in the Chaucer English, which few readers quite understand, and which I certainly do not always myself. I rewrite it now in as familiar spelling as may be, with a little bit of needful explanation.
“And downward from a hill under a bent
There stood the temple of Mars armipotent,
Wrought all of burned steel; of which th' entree
Was long, and strait, and ghastly for to see.
5. And thereout came a rage, and such a vise
That it made all the gate's for to rise.
The Northern light in at the door shone,
Through which meii mighteu any light discerne.
10. The door was all of adamant eterne,
Yclenched overthwart and endelong
With iron tough, and for to make it strong,
Every pillar, the temple to sustene,
14. Was tun-great, of iron bright and sheene."
(The Knight’s Tale, l. 1983 of “The Canterbury Tales”)
Line 1. “Bent.” In glossary, the ‘bending’ or declivity, of a hill. Properly, I believe, the hollow cut out by the sweep of a stream. Just the place where they put milldams or chimneys on the streams above Sheffield, for grinding knives or bayonets.
Line 3. “Burnëd steel.” Twice hardened in the fire.
Line 5. “Vise.” I am not sure what the word means; but the general sense is, that such a blast came out of the building, that it lifted the gates, underneath, as a portcullis is lifted.
Line 7. “The Northern light.” Flickering, furious, and cheerless the only light that is ever seen by the soul purposed for war.
Line 10. “Adamant.” Diamond: the jewel which means sable in heraldry. The Northern light is conceived as shining through it.
Line 14. “Tun-great.” As large round as a cask.
Note, finally, the absolute carelessness of all great poets, whether their images be common or not, so only they be clear.
There is, by-the-bye, an exquisite piece of architectural colour just before:
“And northward, in a turret on the wall
Of alabaster white, and red corall,
An oratorie riche for to see,
In worship of Diane of Chastitee.”9 [270/271]
“In one of the noblest poems.” — Coleridge's Ode to France: —
“Ye Clouds! that far above me float and pause,
Whose pathless march no mortal may control! a
Ye Ocean-Waves! that wheresoe'er ye roll,
Yield homage only to eternal laws! b
Ye Woods! that listen to the night-birds singing,c
Midway the smooth and perilous slope reclined d
Save when your own imperious branches swinging, e
Have made a solemn music of the wind!
Where, like a man beloved of God, f
Through glooms, which never woodman trod, g
How oft, pursuing fancies holy,
My moonlight way o'er flowering weeds I wound,
Inspired, beyond the guess of folly, h
By each rude shape and wild unconquerable sound!
O ye loud Waves! and O ye Forests high!
And O ye Clouds that far above me soared!
Thou rising Sun! thou blue rejoicing Sky! lk
Yea, every thing that is and will be free!
Bear witness for me, wheresoe'er ye be,
With what deep worship I have still adored
The spirit of divinest Liberty."
a If controlled by God, are they therefore more free ?
b Is the ship they bear less noble in obeying those, and her captain also? and does she gain dignity in disobeying her helm ?
c Pure nonsense.
d Why midway, any more than at the top, or the bottom ?
e Is it honourable then to be imperious, but not to be obedient and what are the branches imperative of? to what?
f Nonsense again. We are not more like " men beloved of God," when we walk in a wood, than when we walk out of one.
g Are woodmen naturally profane persons ?
h Holiness, and Inspiration of an unguessable height, claimed perhaps too confidently, for the fancies of a moonlight walk, among rude shapes and unconquerable noises.
ik The rising sun has not been before noticed; nor does it appear why the author considers it more "free" in rising than setting. Of all objects in Creation, the sun is the last which any rational person would think of as moving in “the spirit of divinest Liberty,” or could wish that it should be permitted to do so.11 [GPL note: the superscript letter above in the annotated line appears to be “lk” or “1k” instead of the expected “i”; the note itself, however, has “ik”.]
Noble verse, but erring thought: contrast George Herbert: —
“Slight those who say amidst their sickly healths,
Thou livest by rule. What doth not so but man ?
Houses are built by rule, and Commonwealths.
Entice the trusty sun, if that you can,
From his ecliptic line; beckon the sky.
Who lives by rule, then, keeps good company. [271/272]
Who keeps no" guard upon himself is slack,
And rots to nothing at the next great thaw;
Man is a shop of rules; a well-truss'd pack
Whose every parcel underwrites a law.
Lose not thyself, nor give thy humours way;
God gave them to thee under lock and key." 12
Last modified 13 July 2010