Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

(Lon. Mag.) TRAITS OF THE FEMALE CHARACTER.-RUTH. What a beautiful Poem, if I may so rium et mutabile semper femina” is call it, is the Book of Ruth. Here is sufficient to indicate the opinion of the one of the few swiet and exquisitely earlier ages; the literal translation of faithful pictures, left us by the An- this sentence being,–Woman is a ficcients, of that noble tenderness which kle and changeable animal. Indeed distinguishes the Female character. they seldom in their writings give us Ruth is both the pattern and the copy any reason to suppose that they examof the best of her sex. It has often, ined the subject with due attention; no doubt, been remarked as a defect they do not appear ever to have justly among the Poets of Antiquity, that they appreciated the peculiar graces of the have so rarely exhibited woman in all female mind, or the characteristic virthe peculiar loveliness of her nature. tues of the female disposition. The The Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Ro- Turks are said to hold that women mans, though Sophocles and a few oth- have no souls, and I cannot but coners may afford partial exceptions, clude the Greeks and the Romans số seemsto have regarded the female sex far barbarians, that they were wholly as almost below the dignity of poetical ignorant of a fact which I am sure notice. When they are introduced up- needs only be asserted to obtain geneon the scene, it is almost always in mas. ral assent, - viz. the higher perfection culine characters : they are men in wo- of that quality which we denominate men's apparel. Clytemnestra, Medea, soul, in the female breast than in ours. Camilla, Amata, have all the rough- Whatever we may arrogate in point of ness of the other sex, and but little of Understanding, whatever with respect the tenderness of their own. Or if to the grander emotions of the soul ;they are occasionally drawn with a where the finer dispositions or feelings more delicate pencil, it is only to exhi- (which we denominate par excellence, bit them at the loom, amongst their soul) are concerned, it must be allowed maids, or engaged in their household that the sex which is pré-eminent for affairs. Not to speak of the Deities, delicacy of outward form, is proportionwho seem to participate all the vices of ably endued with these nicer refinethe Human race and none of the vir. ments of the spirit. tues, Penelope, nay Andromache her. Friendship and Love are two of sell, the most amiable female charac- those gentler passions in which soul is ters painted by Homer, (who in pow. principally concerned. And the story ers of delineation was the Shakspeare of Ruth appears to confirm an old theof that age), are but faint and lifeless ory of mine, upon the comparative carepresentations of Woman as she is pacities of the two sexes for the enterolien to be found upon the great stage tainment of these kindred emotions. It of Nature. The draught of the poet has long been a favourite opinion with was infinitely less poetical than the ori. me, that in purity of feelings where ginal, for the cold majestic housewifely love is the passion, in devotedness of deportment of Andromache towards heart, and strength of attachment to Hector, even in the height of her grief the object preferred, women are, for his departure, is such as no matron generally speaking, far nobler beings who leuderly loves her husband would than men. Indeed is the reader agrees assume. In this respect the Moderns with me in the assertion made above, have not only manifested a more deli- first that women are pre-eminent in cate taste and refined sensibility, but soul, and secondly that soul is predombave taken a much more philosophical inant in love, he must of necessity alview of human nature. The Ancients so agree with me, that women love evidently seem to have considered wo- with more truth and intensity than we men an inferior species of beings to do; thus far, my theory is impregnamen, which is a doctrine as illiberal as ble. But besides the intensity of the it is unphilosophical. The sneer couch- feeling, I think its purity in the female ed in the very geoder of Virgil's “va- breast is for the most part confirmed

by observation. In her loves, Woman with ourselves in this particular, I dare is seldom more than an ardent friend; say were Female Biography as copious in bis, Man is never less than a lover. and historical as ours, foi every PyThe last and best quality engaged in lades and Orestes, it would be easy to this passion-Constancy, is, however, quote a Naomi and Ruth. that in which I think the nobleness of The story or poem, as given in the the female heart chiefly remarkable. Sacred Writings, is an historical testiThere is a spirit of peculiar devoted- mony in favour of the above conclusion. dess to the object of her love, in the As well, therefore, to illustrate my pobreast of a woman, a certain fortitude sition, as to make a few cursory obserof affection, which no changes or

vations on the beauties of Scripture chances of life can discourage, which Poetry, I beg leave to rehearse a few increases with adversity, and which passages of the Book of Ruth. unkindness itself cannot subdue : Wo

And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law,

Go, return each to ber mother's house : the Lord man's love, like an April flower, seems deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead to bloom most sweetly in tears. To and with me.

The Lord grant that ye may find rest each of you her, love is a second nature, the busi- in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them, ness of her life, the motive of her ac. and they lift up their voice, and wept. tions, the theme of her waking thoughts, I must interrupt the course of the the shadow which her fancy pursues narrative here, to remark upon the exeven in slumber; it is the innaie prin- quisite beauty of the common scriptuciple of her constitution, it is born with ral phrase, “they lift up their voice, her, it grows with her heart-strings, and wept." It is not only a very bold, and she rarely parts with it but with but a critically just metaphor; and alher life. Constancy is then, in her, so expresses most aptly that kind of acalmost an unavoidable virtue, for her tion which generally accompanies loud happiness consists in loving and be weeping, where the bosom expands up ing loved, which constancy best en-wards and the head is involuntarily sures. By the very delicacy of her raised or thrown back, to give strength constitution she is bound to home, she and freedom to the voice. The exis essentially domestic; her tempera- pression “ to raise the voice" is much ment therefore must be one which can feebler, and whatever metaphor might be satisfed with sameness, else there once have been in it, is now unperceivwould be no fitness between the being ed by reason of its triteness. and its circumstances ; in other words, with the unto tby people.

And they said unto her, Surely we will return she is of a constant, faithful disposition. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters ; Of course I shall be understood as why will you go with me?

Are there yet any

more sons in my womb, that they may be your husspeaking generally ; there are many bands?

And they lift up their voice, and wept again : inconstant women. Nay, perhaps, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave where love is not immediately con

And she said, Behold thy sister-in-law is gone back cerned, the same exquisite sensibility unto her people, and unto her gods ; return thou to every thing charming will induce after thy sister-in-law.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to fickleness: new pleasurable objects return from following after thee; for wbither tbou will excite new feelings.

goest, I will go ; and where tbou lodgest, I will

lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God It is from this devotedness of spirit, Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be that I copelude, in opposition to com

buried : the Lord do so to me, and more also, if

anght but death part thee and me mon opinion, that women are more When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to capable of mutual Friendship than men. go with ber, then she left speaking unto ber. The domestic nature of the circum How beautiful, how affecting is this stances in which they are placed, story! and how simply, yet poetically whereby their little weaknesses are told. The chasteness and concision of perpetually brought into collision, suf- the manner is peculiarly adipirable. ficiently accounts for the infrequency There is nothing like false ornament or impermanency of their friendship or ambitious decoration in the lan. amongst themselves,-if such allega. guage; all is naturally and expressively tion be true, which I am by no means related. What a pleasing image of amiinclined to admit. Comparing them ability and tenderness does the second

unto her.

my God:

verse present; the matron blessing her bleness of mind, much firmness of pur. two daughters, embracing them, and pose displayed. Pylades and Orestes, their returning no answer, but weep- Damon and Pythias, are splendid esing. The loneliness, the resignation amples of honour, magnanimity, couof the widowed childless Naomi, is rage, and fidelity. But yet, if we cualso beautifully painted in the first. I riously examine these stories, we shall would moreover especially point out to find that the peculiar devotedness of the notice of the reader, the mode in spirit which I am inclined to attribute which Orpah's departure is made to the female sex, is never dwelt upon known. The sacred poet says, she by the historian, never brought out io“ kissed her mother-in-law;" but he to the foreground, never particularly does not add, as a less skilful writer insisted on as the sole ruling motive of would have done,—and went her way. action. There is always some other He leaves that to be implied by the re- inducement, some selfish principle mainder of the sentence. This brief leading one or other of the parties to. way of narrating by implication, is ve- the commission of the said act of ry difficult of attainment, being apt to friendship, some motive of action bedegenerate into obscurity. And for side the apparent one. Thus we are this best quality of narration,-concise told in the story of Theseus and Piriperspicuity, -the Scriptures, it must be thous, that one of these heroes accomacknowledged, are remarkable. There panied his friend to hell (by which is no laborious preparation for a com- some difficult adventure was figured), ing incident, no minute detail of worth. Here is fidelity to be sure, but this was less circumstantials; ihe writer direct- clearly not the only motive. The ly, yet not abruptly, introduces the principle of honour was another innext subject at once. Ossian likewise citement, and quite distinct from love excels in this particular. But the ver or friendship. The glory of the acses quoted above are also as poetical tion was a third. It is to the Book of in their measure, as in the imagery Ruth we must turn, if we look for an they contain. There is a sweet melan- historical example of pure and disincholy cadence runs all through them, terested friendship. This fidelity of which is uncommonly delightful to the Ruth was built upon the single motive, ear. It is particularly remarkable in love ; there was here no debt of honour the first verse, and in Ruth's answer to to be paid, no fame or glory to be won, Naomi. Indeed, whether we consider She followed Naomi from the sole and the music of the periods, or the strength simple impulse of generous affection. and pathos of the sentiments, I do not And how beautifully this is set forth by think it possible to point out in any the sacred poet, it is needless to obbook whatsoever, sacred or profane, a serve. more truly poetical passage than this And Naomi bad a kinsman of her husband's, a answer of Ruth. What an eloquence mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, breathes through it, how forcible are And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me

now go into the field, and glean ears of corn after the expressions, and how impassioned him, in whose sight 1 shall find grace. And she the manner. That spirit of devotion said unto her, Go, my daughter. and determinedness of constancy, Here is another remarkable instance which I noted as a characteristic of of that direct and simple brevity which the female disposition, is here most renders the style of these writings so strikingly displayed. Ruth persists animated; " And she said unto her, to the verge of obstinacy io accompa- Go, my daughter.” nying her mother-in-law, and will not Ruth goes into the field to glean be persuaded even by the person she after the reapers, and there it was loves so ardently. The expression “her hap to light on a part of the field " Ruth clave unto her,” denotes this belonging unto Boaz." Boaz inquires amiable persistence very happily. of his servant, “What damsel is this ?"

In the several accounts which his- and learning her story, addresses her: torians have given us of Friendship be Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou pol, my tween man and man, we see much no- daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither

go from hence, but abide here fast by my maiders

Let thipe eyes be on the field that they do reap, concludes his interesting, his pathetic, young men, that they shall not touch thee And his incomparable story. when thou art athirst, go upto the vessels and drink

Reverting to my theory concerning of that which the young men bave drawn.

Then she fell on her face and bowed herself unto Friendship, it may be asked, Is not grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take know. Orpah's departure as unfavourable to ledge of me, seeing I am a stranger.

your opinion, as Ruth's permanence is And Boaz answered, and said unto her, It hath fally been shown to me, all thou hast done to thy the contrary ? No: no more than mother-in-law, since the death of thine husband the comparative weakness of Cæsar's, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto á boatmen, is an argument against the people which tbou knewest not heretofore.

courage of our sex, because he was What an excellent moral lesson is not as brave as Cæsar himself. bere conveyed; Ruth's virtuous fideli- A much more plausible objection ty to Naomi is rewarded by the pro- would be, that although friendships tection of Boaz. Indeed the whole amongst women are, from their spistory is a striking exemplification of rit of constancy, more permanent retributive justice; Ruth' is preferred when made, yet that there is no natunot only to be the wife of “a mighty ral tendency in that sex towards mutuman of wealth," but to be the ances- al friendship. This may be very true, tress in a direct line to the Messiah, and when I see it proved I shall be for her goodness of heart and innate lieve it. To say, however, that Woamiability of disposition, as displayed man's love for the other sex interferes towards Naomi. But let the historian with her love for our own, goes but a speak:

very little way in advancing this proof, And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz com--for is not Man in an exactly similar wanded his young men saying, Lee hereglean ever predicament? We are told : Men,

And let fall also some of the bandfuls on purpose after marriage, frequently preserve for her, and leave them that she may glean them, their friendships as close as before ; ated rebuke ber not. There is a kind of rude delicacy in

women generally, after the same cerethis proceeding of Boaz, which per mony, sacrifice theirs. Granting the haps would be but ill exchanged for fact, what does it prove? That was the more refined gallantry of modern

men are more inconstant than men ? times. His attentions towards Ruth Certainly not: but that their domestic are quite in the spirit of simplicity duties prevent them cultivating friendsbich prevailed in those unpolished ship as sedulously as before, and that ages, yet Raleigh himself could not this noble feeling declines, and perhave more adroitly contrived to furnish haps gradually dies, as all feelings will

, the Beautiful Gleaner with an abundant which are thus cut off from exercise.

Those also who assert that gathering

women Ruth then returns with hier gleanings

have not greatness of mind to enterto Naomi, who upon hearing the fa tain friendship, would do well to recolyour she had obtained in the sight of lect that they have softness and amiaBoaz, advises her to solicit his protec bility of disposition, which is much tion according to the ceremonial of the better. Besides, I have Shakspeare on Jews. Roth accordingly performs this my side, whose ceremonial, and, as the reader is doubt which they upon the adverse faction want.

name is a tower of strength, less aware, is finally married to Boaz: So Boaz took Ruth, and she became bis wise...“ address to Hermia, when

We cannot, surely, forget Helena's and she bare a son.

Oberon And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the had thrown his enchantments around Loni which hath pet left thee this day without a kinsaat, that his naine may be famous in Israel. them.

And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a pourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter- Is all the counsel that we two have shared, In-law which loveth thee, which is better to thee The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent, than seven sons, hath borne him. And Naomi wook the child, and laid it in her bosom, For parting us—0, is all now forgot?

When we have chid the hasty-footed time asd became surse uoto it. With this beautiful image of the We Hermia, like two artificial gods,

All school-days' friendship, childhood innocence ? grateful widow with her daughter's Have with our neelds created both one flowes', child in her bosom, the sacred author Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,

Both warbling of one song, both in one key, perform this revolting deed of justice, As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds,

is quite a secondary personage in the Had been incorporate. So we grew together, Like to a double cherry, seeming parted ;

tragedy, he is little more than a pasBut yet an union in partition,

sive instrument in the hands of Electra. Two lovely berries moulded on one stem :

So that in both these cases, whether So with two seeming bodies, but one heart. considered as matters of history or po

Midsummer-Night's Dream. etical fiction, fidelity of spirit is assignHere is Shakspeare, who seems to ed to the female sex, as a characterishave made for himself a window in tic attribute distinguishing them above every human breast, here is the Grand other men. I do not however adduce Joquisitor who penetrates with an intu- either deed as a proof of woman's conition almost supernatural the mysteries stancy of affection ; they were rather of this “ little world of man," here is acts of heathen piety. Much less are the infallible interpreter of Nature, the Antigone and Electra of SophoShakspeare himself, delineating a pic- cles to be looked upon as favourable ture of friendship the most perfect; pictures of the sex in general, nor as and who compose the group on the exonerating the poets of antiquity from foreground? Women ! Now I put it the imputation of apathy with respect to the candour of the reader, would to the peculiar beauty of the female Shakspeare have drawn such a vivid character. They are both, especially picture of female friendship, unless the the latter, marked by a spirit of fiercepropriety of it had been suggested to ness, which is by no means amiable. him by his previous observation of hu- Antigone in the Cdipus Coloneus man nature? Why did he never think (which affords another instance of deof depicting two boys in such an atti- votedness, in the same person,) is a far tude ?

more faithful copy of woman in the ANTIGONE is another instance of fe- best array of her virtues. But where male devotedness. In defiance of the shall we find the tenderness, the deliking's edict, she piously inters the bo. cacy of soul, the fineness of sensibility, dy of her brother Polynices, and ac- and all the mild excellencies of the fecording to the penalty denounced, is male character, pourtrayed with such buried alive ! Moreover ELECTRA exquisite truth and feeling, as in our sacrifices her own mother to avenge own Juliet, Desdemona, Ophelia, Corher father's death; and it is especially delia, Imogen, Hermione, and Miranworthy of notice, that her brother da? Ruth is alone worthy to join Orestes, who had the same reason to such a band of sister Persections.

LAMENT FOR THE PAST YEAR. Farewell, thou shadowy Year, farewell ;

All that has been may be again,
My heart feels light that thou art gone;

And yet lives in my spirit's pain.
That last star was thy burial light,
That passing wind thy funeral moan.

Now there is storm upon the sky,

The clouds hang heavy, as with care ;
Another year ? It cannot be,
Surely, what thou hast been to me !

The stars have darkened one by one,

A moaning sound is on the air ; Twelve months ago I sat, as now ;

And be the year the worst to me, Glorious was the blue midnight,

'Tis but what I expect should be. A glad sound came from many bells, And never shone the stars more brigbt ;

Come, thou new Year! I doubt thy life I thought the sky, so calm, so clear,

Will be such as thy birth has been, Might be an omen of the year.

Ended as it begun, in tears, False sky! false stars ! showed they their light

A desolate and darkened scene. But as in mockery to the eye,

There is now but one only thing Tbat sought in their bright page to read

Which I can wish, or thou canst bring. A something of its destiny?

A deep, a lone, a silent grave, Why looked they beauty, looked they hope,

Is all I ask, dark Year, of thee; On such a darkened horoscope !

To others hope and pleasure bring, For, not one warning shadow told

But only bring the grave to me! How many clouds were on the wind,

The wearied heart, in its despair, of hopes that sell like autumn fruit,

Will seek and find a baven there. Leaving the sapless boughs behind!

Jan. 1, 1821.,

L. E. L.

« AnteriorContinuar »