When Israel's tribes were parch'd with thirst,
Forth from the rock the waters burst;
And all their future journey through
Yielded them drink, and gospel too!
In Moses' rod a type they saw
Of his severe and fiery law;
The smitten rock prefigur'd Him
From whose pierc'd side all blessings stream. — John Newton, "That Rock was Christ" (1772)
Rivers of living waters
Broke from a thousand unsuspected springs;
And gushing cataracts, like that call'd forth
On Horeb by the rod of Amram's son,
Gladden'd the mountain slopes, and coursed adown
The startled defiles, till the crystal wealth,
Gather'd in what was once an arid vale,
A lake of azure and of silver shone,
A mirror for the sun and moon and stars. — Edward Henry Bickersteth, Yesterday, To-day, and For Ever (1866), 10.456-64
As a means of indicating the contributions which typology made to Victorian iconography, the following pages will examine the appearances in art and literature of a single commonplace type, that of Moses striking the rock. When the Israelites were desperate from thirst during their desert wanderings, the Lord instructed Moses: "Behold, I will stand before thee there on the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink" (Exodus 17:6). in "The Death of Moses," Henry Melvill makes the standard interpretation of this incident when he holds that
It is generally allowed that this rock in Horeb was typical of Christ; and that the circumstances of the rock yielding no water, until smitten by the rod of Moses, represented the important truth, that the Mediator must receive the blows of the law, before He could be the source of salvation to a parched and perishing world. It is to this that St. Paul refers, when he says of the Jews, "They did all drink of the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ" [I Corinthians 10:4]." [Sermons (London, 1836), II, 163-64.]
Moses Striking the Rick by Gustave Doré. [Click on thumbnail to obtain a larger image.]Because the Apostle himself had interpreted this incident typologically, virtually all interpreters accepted that it was an authenticated or innate type, and the very fact of such authentication made the stricken or smitten rock especially popular as a subject for such prefigurative exegesis, many examples of which are quite elaborate.2 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, probably the single most popular preacher in Victorian England, exemplifies this kind of Bible interpretation in its most complex, detailed form. When the Baptist Spurgeon delivers a sermon on that same text that Melvill cited from 1 Corinthians, he manages to uncover a series of complex parallels, all of which reveal how elaborately God uses the Old Testament to teach us our need of Christ. Spurgeon begins his reading by making the general claim that both the rock in Horeb and that smitten thirty-seven years afterwards in Kadesh "were most eminent types of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who, being smitten, gives forth water for the refreshing of his people, and who follows them all the desert through with his refreshing floods." Next, after reading aloud relevant passages from Exodus to provide the scriptural context for the first time the rock was struck, this famous Evangelical begins his detailed analysis by arguing that the very names of the rocks Moses struck in themselves bear a typological significance.3 Thus, this first rock is called both "Horeb," which means "barrenness," and "Rephidim," which means "beds of rest," and both titles, says Spurgeon, refer to Christ Himself, who was obviously a bed of rest. Christ was also "a rock in a barren and a dry land." Citing the prophecy of Isaiah that the Messiah would "be a "root out of a dry ground"," the preacher urges that Christ similarly arose as an unexpected source of sustenance in a most unlikely place, for he "came out of a family which, although once royal, was then almost extinct. His father and mother were but common people, of the tradesman class" (2.314), and to many of his contemporaries it seemed impossible that the Messiah could spring from such origins.
Having urged the prefigurative significance of the rock's two names, the preacher then begins to draw out the major parallels between the type and antitype, the first of which is that "this rock, like our Saviour, GAVE FORTH NO WATER TILL IT WAS SMITTEN. Our Lord Jesus was no Saviour except as he was smitten; for he could not save man unless by his death" (2.315). Making a particularly Evangelical emphasis, Spurgeon adds: "It is not Christ who is my salvation, unless I put it with his cross; it is Christ on Calvary who redeems my soul.... The rock yields no water until it is smitten, and so the Saviour yields no salvation until he is slain" (2.315).
Second, the rock must be struck in a particular manner: "It must be SMITTEN WITH THE ROD OF THE LAWGIVER, or else no water will come forth. So our Saviour Jesus Christ was smitten with the sword of the lawgiver on earth, and by the rod of his great Father, the lawgiver in Heaven" (2.316). In making this point, Spurgeon places great emphasis upon the characteristic double vision produced by typological symbolism. According to him, "it is true that the Roman nailed him to the tree; it is true the Jew dragged him to death; but it is equally true that it was his Father who did it all. It is a great fact that man slew the Saviour, but it is a great fact that God slew him too" (2.316).
Third, it was also necessary that the rock be struck publicly, for the Crucifixion which fulfills this event took place in the presence of both Jew and Gentile, men rich and poor, wise and ignorant. righteous and sinful. "In fact. being near the time of the passover. there were gathered together Greeks, Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia. Persons out of all nations, standing as representatives of the whole earth, saw the Saviour die, even as the elders stood as the representatives of all the tribes of Israel" (2.318).
Fourth, "this rock, which was smitten, and thus represented the humanity of our Saviour offered up for our sins, had DIVINITY ABOVE IT; for you will notice in the 6th verse, "Behold I will stand before thee upon the rock in Horeb." Although it was a barren rock and so represented Christ's condition of dishonor; although it was a smitten rock, and so represented his suffering humanity, yet over that rock the bright light of the Shecinah shone. God, with outstretched wings of cherubim, stood over the rock, and the people saw him; there was a manifestation of the deity upon Horeb. And so at Calvary" (2.318).
Fifth, another reason the rock prefigures Jesus is that "WHEN SMITTEN THE WATER DID GUSH FORTH most freely, sufficient for all the children of Israel" (2.319). Having introduced this crucial idea that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to save all men at all times Spurgeon emotionally addresses his congregation: "Christ smitten, my beloved, gives out water for all thirsty souls, affording enough for every child of Israel. Christ smitten gives forth a stream which does not flow to-day, nor to-morrow, but which flows forever" (2.319). In a characteristic Evangelical manner Spurgeon then attempts to place his listeners within the events of Old Testament history by using types as if they apply directly to the lives of all w ho hear him. If God's children, says Spurgeon, "arc brought to the wilderness of Zin, or the realms of Kadesh, Christ shall follow them the efficacy of his blood, the light of his grace, the power of his gospel, shall attend them in all the ten thousand wanderings however tortuous may be their paths, however winding the track in which the cloudy pillar shall lead them" (2.319). Next, after he has thus striven to move the members of his congregation from their everyday reality into the greater reality of God's Gospel scheme of redemption, Spurgeon addresses his Saviour in such a way as to demonstrate to his listeners — who "overhear" this fervent prayer and confession — that he himself has been saved by having found himself within the world in which Moses strikes the rock:
O! blessed Jesus, thou art indeed a sweet antitype of the rock. Once my thirsty soul clamored for something to satisfy its wants; I hungered and I thirsted for righteousness; l looked to the heavens, but they were as brass, for an angry God seemed frowning on me; l looked to the earth, but it was as arid sand, and my good works failed me.... But well I remember when my thirsty soul fainted within me, and God said, "Come hither, sinner, I will show thee where thou mayest drink," and he showed me Christ on his cross, with his side pierced and his hands nailed. l thought I heard the expiring death shriek, "It is finished," and when I heard it, lo! I saw a stream of water, at which I slaked my burning thirst.... Had I not beheld that mighty stream flowing there, l had never washed away my thirst.... You see, then, beloved, that this rock is a type of Christ personally, it is a type of him dying, smitten for our sins. (2.319-20)
Spurgeon, who fervently believes that the Old Testament types can permit the prepared worshipper to experience the presence of Christ in both his own life and that of ancient believers, thus draws upon his own conversion as he moves from a merely explanatory to a dramatic, meditative mode. Evangelical preachers frequently recreated the scenes of Christ's passion and death because they believed it essential for their listeners to participate imaginatively in the mysteries of the atonement and thus bring it home to themselves. Spurgeon's procedure here reminds us that, having once become proficient at reading types with a spiritual or double vision, the preacher and believer did not require a specific Gospel event itself as the occasion for such a transcendental excursion. An Old Testament prefiguration, which God had ordained to lead men to Christ, could also prompt such powerful imaginative experience.
Spurgeon uses this emotional meditation to prepare for his next major point, which is that the second rock, the rock in Kadesh, prefigures the Church of Christ and hence all of those in his present audience. This famous preacher, who elsewhere confesses that he "loves to be textual," opens his explanation by reading the passage in Numbers 20:1-13 which relates that Moses, while carried away by anger at his rebellious, ungrateful, unbelieving people, sins by striking the rock to bring forth water instead of praying as God had instructed him to do. According to Spurgeon, this second himself, the Man-God, smitten for us; the second rock is Christ the church, Christ the head and all its members together, and out of the church, and out of the church only, must always flow all that the world requires" (2.32)
Once again, he claims a prefigurative significance for the names recorded in the Old Testament account of this event. Kadesh, for instance, signifies "holiness," and that is "just w here Christ mystically dwells. We can tell Christ's church by its being separated from the world." Furthermore, this rock was in the wilderness of Zin, "which means "a buckler" and "a coldness," and in fact the church of God stands in "a double position" — "in coldness and indifference with regard to the world, and it stands also secure, as in a buckler, with regard to its blessed God" (2.32)
From the fact that God had instructed Moses to speak to, rather than smite, the rock, Spurgeon deduces that "it is God's revealed will that Christ mystically should bless the world by speaking" (2.323). According to this Evangelical preacher, in other words, it is God's will that the Church and its individual members should spread God's blessings by preaching the Gospel. In contrast, High Churchmen who characteristically wished to emphasize the importance of the sacraments, might be more likely to interpret the stricken rock as a type of communion.
From the fact that Moses sinfully smote the rock, Spurgeon deduces "another significant parallel" between type and antitype namely, that just as Moses wrongfully struck the rock, so also "the wicked men of this world have smitten Christ again in his church they have persecuted God's people." Furthermore, "although the smiting was a sinful act, THE WATER CAME FORTH, to show by persecution the church has been made a blessing to the world.... The smiting of God's gospel rock, the church, has scattered drops of precious water to lands where else it would never have flowed" (2.323) . The immediate relevance of this last point to each believer is that by suffering on behalf of Christ, by suffering while attempting to preach His word, one imitates Christ.4 Turning again to his own experience, as he had previously while setting forth the meaning of the rock in Horeb, Spurgeon relates how delighted he had been to realize that the rock in Kadesh, "although smitten wrongly, was SMITTEN WITH THE ROD OF THE LAWGIVER, for this fact means that "If I suffer for Christ, my sufferings are the sufferings of Christ; and although they are occasioned by man as the second cause, yet they do really spring from God" (2.325).
Having thus far guided us through the complex web of meanings that appear when one looks closely at a type, Spurgeon next points out that Moses was punished for his disobedience as have all been and will be who thus persecute God's church. In the course of explaining the typological meaning of these two smitten rocks, the preacher has related them to Old Testament prophecies, pointed out how even names and places bear unexpected significance, drawn upon his personal spiritual experience, and used a visual, meditative prose at times to show his listeners how they are to find Christ in their Old Testaments. He has done so in Evangelical fashion to emphasize Evangelical doctrines: the need to preach the Gospel, the terrible beauty of Christ's sacrifice, the centrality of this event to human history, the inevitability of suffering for Christ, and the crucial fact that God arranged sacred history as a semiotic or signifying system which the spiritual eye can read.
Turning to almost any popular nineteenth-century hymnal or collection of religious verse, one is certain to find numerous examples of this type. The Book of Praise (1863) compiled by Roundell Palmer, first Earl of Selborne, contains four uses of the image . The author draws heavily upon writers of the late eighteenth-century Evangelical revival as well as the earlier Watts, and the fact that as late as 1863 he chooses to print these earlier works and selects those which employ typology might suggest how important this mode of thought was to worshippers in England and America. Isaac Watts's "Go, worship at Immanuel's feet" (1709) exemplifies one manner of incorporating typology into verse structure. Asking a series of questions which define the nature of Christ, the hymn inquires if He is a fountain, fire, door, temple, and so on. The tenth stanza thus asks:
Is He a Rock? How firm He proves!
The Rock of Ages never moves:
Yet the sweet streams, that from Him flow,
Attend us all the desert through.
Since the structure of this hymn is cumulative, heaping up more and more qualities of the Savior, it never concentrates long on any particular analogy or type. Although this poetic structure prevents any satisfying aesthetic development of the initial idea, it compensates somewhat by making its main point effectively — that Christ is simultaneously many things to man, and that a listing of the various facts serves well to remind us how complex, how hard for the human to encompass, He is.
Other works in The Book of Praise develop this type differently. William Williams begins the brief "Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah!" (1774) by emphasizing that he and all men are pilgrims in a "barren land." Here, as so frequently in Evangelical hymns, the image of man as a pilgrim in the desert of life brings to mind Moses guiding the children of God; and Moses leads one's thoughts to the type of the smitten rock:
Open now the crystal Fountain,
Whence the healing streams do flow
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Similarly, in the course of John Newton's "When Israel, by Divine command" (1799), we also learn our resemblance to those who accompanied Moses out of Egyptian bondage. Newton begins by focusing upon the wanderings of the Israelites:
When Israel, by Divine command,
The pathless desert trod
They found, though "t was a barren land, A sure resource in God.
A cloudy pillar marked their road,
And screened them from the heat;
From the hard rocks the water flowed,
And manna was their meat.
The hymn then points out that "Like them, we pass a desert too," and then goes on to enforce the type, for "We drink a wondrous stream from Heaven,/"Tis water, wine, and blood." This last line makes the Old Testament passage serve as a type of several aspects of the Christian dispensation, for it figures forth the Crucifixion, the salvation purchased by it, the sacrament of communion, and possibly also the miraculous changing of water into wine, which is itself a type of communion. Rather than assemble a series of discrete symbols, as does Watts's "Go, worship at Immanuel's feet," this hymn conflates various antitypes, all of which fulfill the Old Testament narrative differently. The effect is to emphasize the complexity and richness of the Gospel scheme by demonstrating how many of its strands come together at any one point in time. The type of the smitten rock therefore becomes a powerful meditative image, a window into the miraculous world of salvation.
Augustus Montague Toplady's "Rock of Ages" (1776), perhaps the most famous application of this type in a hymn, conflates the rock in Horeb with that rock in which God placed Moses to protect him from the immanence of His glory.5 Exodus 33:2-23 relates that after Moses asked to see the face of God, the Lord told him that no man could survive such a sight, but that "I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with mine hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen." Toplady's hymn opens with the image of the Rock of Ages which has been cleft — and crucified — for the speaker:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
This poem develops this initial image by emphasizing that the worshipper remains helpless without Christ's aid, after which it ends with a repetition of the two opening lines. The extent to which this kind of hymn was immediately understood to use the commonplace type appears in an illustration the Dalziel brothers engraved more than a century after the poem's composition, apparently for a volume of Felicia Hemans's poems. The wood engraving, which depicts Moses striking water from the rock, bears the caption "Rock of Ages cleft for me," words which immediately establish the Old Testament event in a Christian context.6 Illustrations of Moses bringing forth water from the desert rock seem to have been fairly popular in the nineteenth century, perhaps suggesting the importance this type had for the average worshipper.
Of course, this type, whose first known appearance is on the tomb of Junius Bassus (d. AD 359), has had a long history in Christian art, but that history has not been very illustrious. Since the smitten rock was traditionally taken as a type of baptism, it appropriately appears on baptismal founts: a terracotta maquette for a font attributed to Pierre Francheville (1548?-1615), which was formerly in the collection of Bernard Black Gallery, New York, and the Fitzwilliam Museum's cast-lead plaquette by Peter Flotner (c. 1485-1546) exemplify sculpted versions of the subject with this particular application. Giulio and Polidoro painted this scene from Old Testament history as part of a series in the Vatican Logge, and Nicholaus Poussin painted it three times, once explicitly as a type of baptism. There also exist several monumental-size versions of the subject, including the Philadelphia Moses striking the Rock (c. 1660) and the Boston Moses after striking the Rock (1527) by Lucas van Leyden.7 An interesting analogue to this subject appears in the York Art Gallery's St. Clement striking the Rock by Bernardo Fungai (1460-1516), a painter of the Umbro-Sienese school.8 The saint who had refused to submit to Trajan and abandon his faith, was consequently sentenced to exile in the stone quarries, and Fungai's painting depicts him bringing forth water from a rock upon which stands the Lamb of God. In this way he, like Moses, relieved the people of God who were suffering from thirst, though he did so while they were still in a condition analogous to Egyptian slavery and not after they were freed.
Apart from this last, rather unusual work, the theme of the stricken rock served pre-nineteenth-century art as a type of baptism. But in Victorian religious art, as in Victorian sermons, this is no longer the standard — or even an especially common — interpretation. Apparently, more than half a century of Evangelical readings of the rock in Horeb as prefiguring the Crucifixion changed the significance of this type for most believers.9 Even the Baptist Spurgeon, as we have already seen, does not take the smitten rock to adumbrate baptism.
During the Victorian period, then, representations of the smitten rock were both more commonly found and interpreted differently than in earlier art. At the lowest cultural levels, the theme appeared in chapbook Bibles, which depicted the event with crude woodcuts; and in more elegant illustrated Bibles, the subject was also common.10 The Dalziel brothers, who were the leading Victorian wood engravers, made more than half a dozen versions of it. Both Moses striking the rock and the smitten rock alone occasionally appear in Victorian stained-glass decorations for churches. Water pouring from a cleft rock can be found, for instance, in William Holman Hunt's Melchizedek (1865), in which it probably stands as a type of the Crucifixion as sacrifice, and hence also as a type of Holy Communion. The complete type, with Moses smiting the rock, appears several decades later in the east window of the parish church in Burford, Oxfordshire, where its placement as the first of five paired panels depicting miraculous cures or rescues — Moses striking the rock is paired with "Moses Prophet" — suggests that the event is taken as a type of both Christ's New Law of grace and also of His miracles, which themselves were types of His gift of eternal life.
As we have already observed in popular hymns, literary typology frequently parallels the organization of stained-glass programs in employing an additive structure to place one type in the presence of others. Other defining devices appear in "The Cross" by Horatius Bonar (1808-90), a popular devotional poet. Bonar, who makes frequent use of typological symbolism, ends "The Cross" with the recognition that
Here the living water welleth,
Here the rock, now smitten, telleth
Of salvation freely given.
This is the fount of love and pity,
This is the pathway to the City;
This is the very gate of Heaven."11
The previous four stanzas have emphasized the calm and peace that the Cross represents for the true believer, and, using a Tennysonian poetic structure, Bonar has them build towards a moment of vision or recognition. Appropriately, the type provides the core of this rhetorical and spiritual climax, to which the last three lines add the idea that the stricken rock, which prefigures the crucified Christ, is the source of the new dispensation's "love and pity," the way to Heaven, and, finally, our entrance into it. The very mention of "Heaven" signals the reader that the Old Testament event is being understood within a Christian context, since in the original narrative Moses saves the Israelites" bodies and not souls with his act. Furthermore, the poem's title, which also informs us immediately that the smitten rock must be understood typologically, directs the reader to the proper interpretation of the type — that is, as adumbrating the Crucifixion and not the sacraments of baptism or Holy communion.
Although the literary examples at which we have thus far looked appear richer and more interesting once we recognize their use of prefigurative imagery, few of them have proved to possess any major poetic value, and most of them do not in fact release very much of the intrinsic imaginative power of typology. Since each type is a synecdoche for the entire Gospel scheme, it possesses the property of being able to generate the entire vision of time, causality, and salvation contained in that scheme. A typological image always has the potential to thrust the reader into another context, demonstrating in the process how everything and every man exists simultaneously in two realms of meaning.
In contrast to these rather pedestrian employments of this image Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Soliloquy of One of the Spies left in the Wilderness," which dates from about 1864, makes a particularly skillful use of it. The opening stanza forcefully presents the rebelliousness of a man who prefers the safety of Egyptian slavery to the dangers of the prophet's rule in the desert:
Who is this Moses? who made him, we say,
To be a judge and ruler over us?
He slew the Egyptian yesterday.
To-day In hot sands perilous
He hides our corpses dropping by the way
Wherein he makes us stray.
After two more stanzas that emphasize how much the speaker loathes both the discomforts of the journey and the manna which Sustains him, he exclaims,
Sicken'd and thicken'd by the glare and sand
Who would drink water from a stony rock?
The reader, of course, is tempted to reply that in such a situation anyone would. Hopkins's use of this typological image — like that of the manna — effortlessly allows him to produce one of the important effects of the dramatic monologue, the creation of an ironic disparity between what the speaker intends to state and that additional meaning which the reader perceives. The commonplace type creates this essential disparity by setting the speaker simultaneously within two parallel contexts, which we may variously define as literal and metaphorical, historical and metahistorical, and Old Testament and New. Thus, on the literal level, the poem attempts to portray the rebelliousness and self justifications of one of the Jews who preferred slavery in Egypt to the dangers of freedom with Moses. By the time the penultimate stanza presents his relishing the pleasures of slavery above the pains of liberty, we have also understood how much human weakness can do to corrupt itself:
Give us the tale of bricks as heretofore;
To plash with cool feet the clay juicy soil.
Who tread the grapes are splay'd with stripes of gore,
And they who crush the oil
Are spatter'd. We desire the yoke we bore,
The easy burden of yore.
Groping for excuses, for easy pleasures, the rebellious spy descends to a porcine or reptilian wallowing in cool Nile mud. On this level, then, the poem is analogous to those many Victorian paintings which attempt an archaeological reconstruction of scriptural or religious subjects. On this most basic level, it is also obvious that the speaker comes rather quickly to represent all men, or that element in human nature, which prefers enslavement, degradation, and ease to more bracing enterprises.
But the presence of the typological image of the smitten rock abruptly, economically, forcefully adds another dimension to the poem, for its presence suddenly makes us aware that the speaker exists in the Christian as well as the Judaic universe; or, perhaps more accurately, that he exists as part of the Gospel scheme of salvation as well as in his own purely human right. He represents, in other words, the sinner who refuses the atonement so dearly bought by the Crucifixion. He is the one for whom the rock is stricken in vain, the person who prefers the slavery of sin, the bondage of materiality, the imprisonment within time to the gifts offered by divine grace. As Keble urges in "The hard service of sin," the ingratitude and rebelliousness of the ancient Jews is not something about which the Victorian believer can say, "This is very aweful, but what is it to us Christians? Oh my brethren, it is every thing to us, in the way of the most solemn instruction and warning" (Sermons, 3. ] 53) . We also fail to appreciate our blessings, says Keble, "or we refused to serve Him in joyfulness and gladness of heart, what little we did offer, was blemished with our own ill temper and discontent. In this as in many other respects, our fathers who came out of Egypt were too true a type and shadow of us Christians" (Sermons, 3.152).
Within Hopkins's poem, then, the appearance of the type thus establishes an entire additional set of meanings for all the details of the poem, and it also helps to explain certain details that might otherwise remain enigmatic. For example, at first the reader does not understand why the poet uses an upper-case "H" when he wrote, "He [Moses] feeds me with His manna every day" (emphasis added), if the speaker refers, as he clearly does, to the prophet. When we come upon the type of the stricken rock, however, we then recognize that the speaker takes his place in the Gospel scheme, referring unknowingly to Christ. (One might argue, of course, that the initial recognition occurs six lines earlier, where the speaker mentions the gift of manna, since manna was often interpreted figurally. It seems to me, however, that the poet's use of the food that miraculously sustained the tribes of Israel does not, like the smitten rock, at first demand interpretation as a type. After one perceives that the rock functions prefiguratively, one then makes the same recognition about the manna. But the important point here is that the manna does not possess the same drama — because it does not possess the movement — of the poem's central type.) The type functions as a sign, as an indication of the way we should react intellectually and emotionally to the words which surround its appearance.12
Hopkins uses typological symbolism much as does Millais in Christ in the House of His Parents, to add another dimension of meaning which spiritually redeems the physical, the material, making it richer and more relevant. One must also note that the presence of the type has another effect, since it turns the reader back to the details of narrative and psychology. Because everything in the poem has gained new relevance from the presence of the symbol of Christ, that image demands that one devote close attention to the literal level to insure that we miss nothing of the speaker's manner and habit of thinking. In emphasizing the symbolic implications of the narrative, the typological image paradoxically also emphasizes the literal elements as well. This effect, one should notice, is parallel to that of Pre-Raphaelite painting, where the presence of complex symbolic statements forces the spectator back to the visual elements of the picture, thus insuring that he fully perceives the aesthetic surface.
A second, perhaps less strictly orthodox type occurs when poets use the image of Moses striking the desert rock to prefigure, not the Old Law bringing forth the New by means of the Crucifixion, but rather Christ Himself bringing forth tears of repentance from the stony heart of the individual worshipper. This second version of the type has had a long history in English verse. Henry Vaughan, for example, employed it as the author's "emblem of himself," which opens the first part of Silex Scintillans (1650). In French Fogle's translation of this Latin emblem poem, which Vaughan wrote to accompany his visual emblem, the poet addressed God:
You launch your attack and shatter that boulder, my stony heart. What was stone, becomes flesh. Look at it, broken in pieces! Look, its fragments are flashing at last to heaven and you, and my cheeks are wet with tears wrung from flint. In the same way, ever provident for your people, you once commanded dry rocks to overflow and crags to gush with water. How marvelous your hand is! [The Complete Poetry of Henry Vaughan , ed. French Fogle (Garden City, N. Y., 1964), p. 137. The pictorial emblem is illustrated opposite p. 384.]
In thus describing himself, Vaughan also describes his poetry, for we are henceforth to understand it as having been struck out of him by God, and the record or result of that smiting is to provide us with waters of grace. In other words, the image of divine intervention has simultaneously become an image of divine inspiration — just as it has in Donne and Milton.
This version of the type which refers to the individual believer appears in Book 6 of Wordsworth's The Excursion. Ellen, whose lover has betrayed her, tells her mother that God's grace has given her strength to bear her pain, waking her at last from her deadened state:
There was a stony region in my heart;
But He, at whose command the parched rock
Was smitten, and poured forth a quenching stream,
Hath softened that obduracy, and made
Unlooked-for gladness in the desert place,
To save the perishing. (918-23)
John Ruskin employs the same type in his poem "The Broken Chain," when (probably imitating Wordsworth, then his favorite poet) he describes a character as a man who
looked like one whom power or pain
Had hardened, or had hewn, to rock
That could not melt nor rend again,
Unless the staff of God might shock,
And burst the sacred waves to birth
That deck with bloom the Desert's dearth
That dearth that knows nor breeze, nor balm. (2.174)
Two points strike one about both Ruskin's and Wordsworth's use of this type. In the first place, they both omit mention of Moses and assume that since the reader recognizes Moses" prefiguration of Christ, it is therefore legitimate to describe Moses" literal action as if it were being performed by Christ Himself. Second, although the omission of Moses requires a close knowledge of scripture — or at least of the more popular passages in scripture — it also serves to make the image fit more easily into the narrative context. Indeed, one does not have to realize that this is a type to read the passage with some basic understanding of what the author intends. None the less, a recognition that both authors cite a commonplace type much enriches the significance and emotional impact of the image: by perceiving that Ellen received God's grace and that it will be necessary for Ruskin's hero to do so, the reader recognizes the essentially Christian basis of both men's moral psychology. One might also points out that for Evangelicalism, such typological imagery economically demonstrates the essentially Christian conception of sympathetic imagination shared by Romantic theory and Evangelical theology.
It is therefore not surprising that this image recurs frequently in nineteenth-century poetry. It appears, for instance, in John Keble's "Sixth Sunday after Trinity," which attempts to comfort "bitter thoughts, of conscience born" by showing their essential role in forgiveness and salvation. Employing as an epigraph David's confession of sin to Nathan and the prophet's assurance of divine mercy, the poem makes this Old Testament episode itself function as a type of confession of guilt and Christ's subsequent forgiveness. Explaining how "Israel's crowned mourner felt/ The dull hard stone within him melt," the poem relates that when God saw "the mighty grief ," He quickly cased the repentant, fearful sinner's pain. David's confession makes the angels in Heaven, who have turned from his music, welcome "the broken heart to love's embrace." At this juncture Keble enforces his point by making use of another typological image, a technique which demonstrates how interwoven are the acts and meanings of scriptural history:
The rock is smitten, and to future years
Springs ever fresh the tide of holy tears
And holy music, whispering peace
Till time and sin together cease.
This use of one type, here the smitten rock, to comment upon another, David's confession and forgiveness, shows how many layers of meaning the poet could employ because he had an audience that was both capable of following his use of typology and delighted to discover commonplace types in new contexts.
As one might expect from a poem which so skillfully employs the exegetical tradition, Keble's "Sixth Sunday after Trinity" builds upon traditional readings. The poem's epigraph is taken from 2 Samuel 12:13 ("David said unto Nathan, l have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die") but the fifty-first Psalm and the traditional commentaries which have accrued to it are equally important. Keble himself cites this psalm as a footnote to his line "Springs ever fresh the tide of holy tears," and he specifically refers to a single verse later in the poem. Psalm 51, whose title is "A Psalm of David, when Nathan the Prophet came unto him, after he had gone unto Bathsheba," refers in great detail to the Levitical sacrifices and makes what all interpreters saw as an obviously proto-Christian recognition that God
desirest not sacrifice, else I would give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)
The psalm concludes with the assertion that God will be pleased with the various Levitical sacrifices when they are offered in the proper spirit, and Bishop George Horne, to whose commentary Keble refers in one of his notes to "Sixth Sunday after Trinity," comments that David's statement that God will "be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt-offering" was in fact literally fulfilled after David's son Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.
it is spiritually true in the Christian church, where the substance of all Mosaic types and shadows is offered and presented to the Father, by the Prince of Peace, at the head of the Israel of God. And it will be eternally verified in the kingdom of heaven, where the sacrifices of righteousness and love, of praise and thanksgiving, Will never cease to be offered to him that sitteth on the throne, by the church triumphant in glory. [Quoted in Morrison, An Exposition of the Book of Psalms, 3 vols. (London, 1832), II, 77.]
Keble, however, does not cite this aspect of the psalm at all and instead introduces another type, that of the smitten rock . Whereas an Evangelical would have emphasized that the legal types contained in the psalm prefigured Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, a High Churchman, as we have already observed, would have taken these to adumbrate the Eucharist — a meaning not particularly relevant to the subject of David's contrition. Therefore Keble introduces the smitten rock, a type commonly interpreted to symbolize the act of grace upon the sinner's heart.
Keble's "Easter Eve," which also uses other types such as that of Joseph cast into the pit, again draws on the image of the stricken rock. After elucidating the significance of atonement, the speaker expresses his longing to be with God:
But stay, presumptuous — Christ with thee abides
In the rock's dreary sides:
He from the stone will wring celestial dew
If but the prisoner's heart be faithful found and true.
When tears are spent, and thou art left alone
With ghost of blessings gone,
Think thou art taken from the cross, and laid
In Jesus burial shade;
Take Moses" rod, the rod of prayer, and call
Out of the rocky wall
The font of holy blood; and lift on high
Thy grovelling soul that feels so desolate and dry.
During the course of this passage Keble shifts emphasis from the actions of Christ which affect the worshipper to those of the worshipper himself. This movement is appropriate to the entire poem, since it begins with the fact of the Crucifixion and then proceeds to instruct us how we can secure the gifts it purchased. The movement, we observe, leads the poet to ring intricate changes on the basic figure. In the first place, Keble apparently conflates two uses of the type, so that the rock simultaneously symbolizes both the worshipper's heart and the crucified body of Christ. When we are told, "Christ with thee abides," we wonder perhaps who then is going to strike the rock and thus bring forth the waters of life. Keble clarifies this point by making a variant, yet quite orthodox, application of the basic type: "Moses" rod," it turns out, is "the rod of prayer," and we must be the ones to produce the waters that will flow, simultaneously, from both Christ and our own hearts. The words "Christ with thee abides" tell the reader both that He has elected to share our human nature and that He is always there to comfort us. Furthermore, there is another variation of the basic type here: whereas in Exodus God tells Moses to strike the rock, in Numbers He instructs him to speak to the rock. This second episode was intended to demonstrate, say some exegetes, that once Christ was crucified, prayer was enough to bring forth His grace, and Keble has apparently employed this second rock, that in Kadesh, as his type.
Tennyson's early "Supposed Confessions of a Second-Rate Sensitive Mind not in Unity with Itself (1830), which appeared three years after Keble's "Easter Eve," seems a conscious attempt to write a dramatic monologue commenting upon the earlier poem from the fictional vantage point of one unable to believe. Both poems open with emphases upon the physical reality of the sacrificial suffering and death of Christ; both then mention the tranquil, happy state of those He has saved; and both employ the type of the smitten rock at a crucial point. We have already observed how Keble, the firm believer, recognizes that it is presumptuous to say that he will be with Christ only in death since He is already with him in "the rock's dreary sides" ready to spring forth when called by the "rod of prayer." In contrast, Tennyson's speaker, who is too proud of his despair and doubt to believe, first claims that he is cut off from the joys of Christian belief and then apparently blames God for his painful state. Next, in the poem's second movement, which begins at line 68, the speaker turns to address his dead mother, claiming that her faith had not served to protect him from doubts. He knows, of course, that if his mother were still alive she would tell him:
I must brook the rod
And chastisement of human pride;
That pride, the sin of devils, stood
Betwixt me and the light of God!
That hitherto I had defied
And had rejected God — that grace
Would drop from his o'er-brimming love,
As manna on my wilderness,
If I would pray — that God would move
And strike the hard, hard rock, and thence
Sweet in their utmost bitterness
Would issue tears of penitence
Which would keep green hope's life. (107-19)
Well aware of his dismal spiritual condition but unable to do anything about it, Tennyson's speaker, who is an embodiment of Sartrean "bad faith," refuses to see that he is in fact so proud of his doubt and failure that he has cut himself off from God. In the characteristic manner of the dramatic monologue Tennyson's "Confessions" allows the speaker to say more than he realizes, for we Soon perceive that his attempt to anticipate and refute what his mother would say if she were still alive in fact convicts him of this intellectual and spiritual pride.
In the third movement of the poem, which begins at line 139, when the speaker again addresses God, he presents his youthful doubts as if they were purely a matter of high intellectual courage. In the poem's closing lines he first throws himself on God's mercy and then, at the very end, pulls back and bemoans his 'damned vacillating state." The lines which dramatize his admission of a desperate need for God seem again to owe much to Keble's poem. The last stanza of "Easter Eve," which immediately follows those that employ the type of the smitten rock, alludes to Zechariah 9:12 in addressing Keble himself as a "Prisoner of Hope" and commanding him to "look up and sing/ In hope of promised spring" . Just as Joseph when cast by his brothers into the pit knew “his God would save [him] . . . from that living grave, So, buried with our Lord, we'll close our eyes To the decaying world, till Angels bid us rise.”
In sharp contrast, Tennyson's speaker finds himself a prisoner of despair, not hope, and thinks not of promised spring but of the decay of his own "morn of youth" and the fate of spring lambs. Desperate, not so much for belief as for an escape from the pains of unbelief, he implores God:
Let Thy Dove
Shadow me over, and my sins
Be unremembered, and Thy love
Enlighten me. Oh teach me yet
Somewhat before the heavy clod
Weighs on me, and the busy fret
Of that sharp-headed worm begins
In the gross blackness underneath.
These lines apparently comprise a passionately eloquent prayer to something outside himself, but the three final lines of the poem reveal they are fundamentally insincere. The speaker passionately desires relief from his spiritual malaise, knows the forms of belief, but is finally unable to cast away pride and independence enough to have true faith in something other than himself. Consequently, he remains unlike Keble, who is one of those who can "close our eyes to the decaying world," and indeed the last fifty lines of the poem show how much this decaying world obsesses him. Unable to turn his thoughts away from himself enough to believe in his Lord, he imagines the weight of "the heavy clod" upon him and terrified awaits the touch of the worm in "the gross blackness underneath."
Although Tennyson's poem parallels Keble's "Easter Eve" so closely that it appears a parody of its predecessor, it in fact uses similar argument and scriptural allusion, not to mock religious poetry, but to dramatize — and satirize — the peculiarly modern, Arnoldian state of unbelief mixed with a desire for faith in which Tennyson apparently found himself occasionally, even before the death of Hallam. As at times in Browning's poetry, a speaker's knowledge of typological symbolism demonstrates, not that he is particularly spiritually minded, but rather that he uses religious forms without appropriate feeling and belief. Such deployments of typology, a form of symbolism well suited to produce the dramatic monologue's characteristic irony, are particularly useful in portraying how the imaginative worlds of belief and unbelief collide in the Victorian world.
Christina Rossetti's "Good Friday" (1862), which also uses this type, differs from the poems of Tennyson and Keble at which we have looked because its play upon the stricken rock generates the structure of the entire poem: here the figure of the rock is not merely a forceful image employed by the poet but rather a conceit which contains the germ of all sixteen lines of the poem. Her initial opposition of stone and sheep, which she may have derived from one of the Olney Hymns,15 sets the conceit in motion:
Am I a stone and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop
Thy blood's slow loss And yet not weep?
The opening line establishes the contrasts that provide the axis of the poem: she calls herself a stone, one who does not react deeply enough, humanly enough, to the reality of Christ's sacrifice, and yet she wants to make herself one of the shepherd's flock, one of those whom He will save. The next two stanzas emphasize the other people and even things that grieved: Mary and the other women, Peter, the thief, even the sun and moon. After confessing at the end of the third stanza that "I, only I," remain a stone, she turns to God in lines which brilliantly resolve the spiritual — and poetic — problem introduced by her initial contrast:
Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more,
And smite a rock.
The entire poem moves toward this last action and culminates in it. She manages a brevity, force, and wit not found in Keble's more diffuse poems, and unlike her fellow High Church poet she can purposefully blend her symbols with greater effect. Most important, her poem, like Hopkins's, employs the typological image as an essential part of its structure. It is clearly the core of the poem, its generating conceit, and when we arrive at the carefully prepared-for type of the smitten rock, it detonates, releasing us into a new universe and a New Law of hope.
Yet another use of this figure appears in Section 131 of In Memoriam, which closes the main portion of the poem:
O living will that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow through our deeds and make them pure,
That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears
A cry above the conquered years
To one that with us works, and trust,
With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.
The image of the smitten rock works with that complexity we have come to expect from Tennyson. First of all, the "living will," which Tennyson himself glossed as man's free will, is also the will of God.16 To appreciate the full meaning of the type, then, we must perceive that the living will is that of the speaker, Christ, and Hallam, or at least an embodiment, like him, of the highest element in mankind. After the shock that the poet has suffered, he now confidently expects the living will (which here essentially replaces grace or merges with it) to rise in his heart, in his life, guiding him out of the desert of this life to union with Hallam. At the same time, it is also Christ himself who is to rise in the spiritual rock, providing salvation. And, finally, it is also Hallam who is to be the guide. Hallam, who becomes analogous to both Beatrice and Christ in the course of In Memoriam, here also gains a resemblance to Moses. That mystical union of God, Hallam, and the poet which takes place in the ninety-fifth section of the poem is here recapitulated in the lines which close it. This type, one should add, also well prepares the reader for the epilogue's concluding emphasis upon Hallam's role as a prefiguration of both Christ and the higher race of men.
Once the type of the stricken rock becomes a commonplace of nineteenth-century poetry, it begins to appear in what we may term a secularized or extended form. Poetry can employ types in at least four different ways: first of all, hymns and devotional verse can simply remind the audience of the existence of types, providing standard interpretations of them and perhaps juxtaposing several to enforce points of doctrine. Here the poet does little more than assist the preacher to educate people to read the Bible in terms of types and figures of Christ. Second, at a level of somewhat greater complexity, the writer applies types to his own spiritual situation in verse of personal devotion. The dividing line between this and the first use of types is often difficult to locate, particularly in the case of minor poetry, but the distinguishing characteristic of the mode is its personal, even idiosyncratic, application and development of this form of symbolism. A third use of typological imagery occurs when the poet applies it in a fictional narrative. Such transference of biblical symbolism — which God Himself had supposedly placed in the scriptures — to secular fiction requires the poet to make a slight leap. None the less, the poetry which results still uses typological imagery to convey straightforward, orthodox Christian doctrine. Thus, when Ruskin and Wordsworth refer to the rock in Horeb they still intend it to convey an essentially Christian point about the way God vivifies the human heart. In contrast, Robert Calder Campbell and Emily Dickinson, at whom we shall next look, exemplify various secularized forms of this type, precisely because they employ it in the modernist manner to create poetic emphasis rather than to communicate ideas about salvation and grace.
For instance, Campbell's untitled love sonnet in The Germ (1850), the short-lived publication of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, uses the commonplace type as the basis of a witty conceit. The linked images of manna and smitten rock define the positions of speaker and listener, lover and beloved, rather than conveying Christian doctrine. The sonnet opens with a description of the lovers at play, and a gamesome, light tone characterizes this not very inspired poetic effort. The speaker tells his beloved that when she pulls
Pink scented apples from the garden trees
To fling at me, l catch them, on my knees,
Like those who gather'd manna.
This whimsical introduction of the miraculous food in the wilderness prepares here, as it does so often in hymns and devotional verse, for the associated type of the smitten rock . Pointing out that when he is with her he can speak his love, the poet confesses:
but when thou'rt gone
I have no speech, — no magic that beguiles,
The stream of utterance from the harden'd rock.
In the manner of many love poets, Campbell sets his beloved at the center of his imaginative world, thus displacing God, for her presence produced the desired vitalization of the heart — her presence, her grace replaces that of God. Of course, the tone is light here, and this playful poem makes no attempt to be either blasphemously ardent or critical of the original text.
To what extent, one wonders, does this obviously secular poem require that the reader perceive the existence both of biblical allusion and typological symbolism? To begin with, it seems clear that unless one recognizes the allusions to the Old Testament one cannot follow the poem very well. On the other hand, although the image of the manna seems rather strained if one does not perceive a prefigurative significance, it still remains intelligible. None the less, the reference to the miraculous food in the desert makes far more poetic sense when the reader recognizes that it functions to prepare for the rock in Horeb. This second image, which provides the poetic climax for the sonnet, demands that we understand the allusion to the commonplace type, because the line "The stream of utterance from the harden'd rock" refers, not to the Old Testament passage, but to Christian interpretations of it as a figure of Christ; that is, not to the literal water that came forth from the rock but to its typological interpretation as the effect of grace upon the heart.
Glancing briefly across the Atlantic, we can observe Emily Dickinson's far less light-hearted use of the image in a poem that obviously owes much to Protestant hymnody:
A Wounded Deer — leaps highest
I've heard the Hunter tell
'Tis but the Ecstasy of death
And then the Brake is still!
The Smitten Rock that gushes!
The trampled Steel that springs!
A Cheek is always redder
Just where the Hectic stings!
Mirth is the Mail of Anguish
In which it Cautious Arm,
Lest anybody spy the blood
And "you're hurt" exclaim! (c. 1860)
Like many hymns of old and New England, this poem proceeds by assembling a list of analogies, and to some extent the poet's italicizing serves to make the parallels she perceives clearer and more convincing. After the opening image of the stricken deer's leap, the poem provides three similar examples of the way a force impinging upon objects, whether animate or inanimate, produces a powerful — — she proposes the most powerful — — reaction. The last stanza then effects a turn, indeed a resolution, by offering the 'solution" that mirth can protect one from such troublesome capacity for pain.
What role in the poem, then, does the line "The Smitten Rock that gushes!" have, and how essential is it for the reader to perceive its commonplace typological significance — whether as prefiguration of the Crucifixion or the action of grace upon the heart? To begin with, unless we recognize the allusion, this line makes little sense, for it does not seem to refer to drilling wells or any such enterprise. In fact, only by recognizing the original importance of the image as a type of Christ does the reader allow it full impact. Although originally an image of major Christian significance, Dickinson has here emptied it of its christological meaning, using it only for powerful emphasis. None the less, in what is an apparent paradox, unless we recognize the original Christian import of the symbol, it will not function in its new role. One may also note that since the deer hunt is also an old allegorical image of both the Crucifixion and Christ's hunting down the sinner to save him, Dickinson may also be using the opening lines in the way she does the type to create sharper emphasis. (For the deer hunt, see Howard M. Helsinger, "Images on the Beatus Page of Medieval Psalters," Art Bulletin , 53 (1971), pp. 161-76.)
Browning, perhaps the Victorian poet most devoted to typological allusions, provides another secularized version of this stock image. In "One Word More," the poem which dedicates Men and Women (1855) to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poet explicitly makes Moses a symbol for himself and all artists — as had Donne, Vaughan, and Milton before him.19
Complaining that the artist sorrows because of the way the "earth" — here largely the poet's audience — lessens and even negates the heavenly gift of poetry, Browning tells his fellow poet:
He who smites the rock and spreads the water,
Bidding drink and live a crowd beneath
Even he, the minute makes immortal,
Proves, perchance, but mortal in the minute,
Desecrates, belike, the deed in doing.
While he smites, how can he but remember,
So he smote before, in such a peril,
When they stood and mocked — "Shall smiting help us?"
When they drank and sneered — "A stroke is easy!"
When they wiped their mouths and went their journey,
Throwing him for thanks — -"But drought was pleasant."
Thus old memories mar the actual triumph....
For he bears an ancient wrong about him,
Sees and knows again those phalanxed faces,
Hears, yet one time more, the "customed prelude"
How shouldst thou, of all men, smite, and save us?"
Guesses what is like to prove the sequel
Egypt's flesh-pots — nay, the drought was better. "
Clearly, this purely personal application of the old figure places its major emphasis upon the beleaguered, unappreciated Moses, since his actions and position in relation to his people receive more attention than does the water he brought forth from the rock. None the less, this use of the commonplace (which, incidentally, is very probably the direct source of Hopkins's more orthodox employment of the type)20 receives additional impact if we recognize its figural sense. The poet, in other words, sees himself, like Moses and Christ, bringing the water of life — of truth, feeling, and spiritual strength — to the hostile crowd. Of course, this image works fairly effectively even if one does not perceive a typological dimension, a dimension which here serves largely to provide emphasis. Moreover, one major emphasis of Browning's allusion — that he, like Moses, sinned in bringing forth water from the rock a second time does not accept a typological reading.
Instinctive Critical Acumen by George du Maurier — a humorous use of the subject. Click on the thumbnail for a larger image and the cartoon's caption.
One finds it difficult to demonstrate that Browning intended us to find a typological significance here, although one somewhat ambiguous bit of evidence might be cited in favor of such a thesis: The line "Even he, the minute makes immortal" can be taken to indicate that in bringing water from the rock, Moses becomes "immortal" for a brief instant because he then (and only then) partakes of the type. Moses himself would not be seen as immortal in performing this act if it referred only to himself and not to the Gospel scheme. None the less, one is reduced, finally, to accept merely a probability: Browning draws extensively upon typology for the complex imagery of Paracelsus, "Saul," and The Ring and the Book; he several times uses this same image typologically; and he probably therefore, made conscious use of the typological sense of the image of the smitten rock.21
This brief examination of Victorian poetry's use of a single commonplace type suggests how varied such applications can be. Typology furnished a large fund of intrinsically powerful stock images. Second, both secular and religious poetry drew upon this fund of types in such a way as to suggest that many authors who were not conventional believers in Christianity, much less Evangelicals or High Churchmen, also made use of it. Third, the rather anachronistic notions of time and existence implicit in typological symbolism were capable, on occasion, of producing an entire worldview, an entire imaginative universe. Finally, this kind of symbolism was used in ways which varied from thus generating an imaginative world to providing mere points of emphasis. Such evidence suggests that typology played an important, if little noticed, role in Victorian literature. To inform ourselves about its influence upon non-fiction, the novel, narrative poetry, and dramatic monologue, we shall next examine its appearance in these literary forms.
- Bernardino Fungai's St. Clement Striking the Rock — an unusual postfiguration of Moses
Last modified 4 April 2015