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metaphysics from the gymnosophists of India; and hence, like the latter,
Th essential fount of life and love!
O, lose me in the light above!Flee, flee, ye mists I let earth depart:
* Sir Win. Jones, vl. p. 417.
t Cnncedl, O Padre! 1' alta e sacra eerie
While such, however, were the philosophical traditions, the popular tradition appears to have been of a different kind, and as much more ancient as it was more extensive. It taught that the disimbodied spirit becomes a ghost as soon as it is separated from the corporeal frame; a thin, misty, or aerial form, somewhat larger than life, with a feeble voice, shadowy limbs; knowledge superior to what was possessed while in the flesh; capable, under particular circumstances, of rendering itself visible; and retaining so much of its former features as to be recognised upon its apparition; in a few instances wandering about for a certain period of time after death, but for the most part conveyed to a common receptacle situated in the interior of the earth, and denominated scheol (sikc), hades (aSvs), hell, or the world of shades. Such was the general belief of the multitude in almost all countries from a very early period of time; with this difference, that the hades of various nations was supposed to exist in some remote situation on the surface of the earth, and that of others in the clouds. The first of these modifications of the general tradition is still to be traced among many of the African tribes, and perhaps all the aboriginal tribes of North America. That most excellent man, William Penn, who appears, with some singularities, to have united in his character as much moral goodness, natural eloquence, and legislative wisdom, as ever fell to the lot of any one, has sufficiently noticed this fact, in regard to the American tribes, in his valuable account of the country, addressed to "The Free Society of Traders of Pennsylvania," drawn up from an extensive and actual survey, and constituting, so far as it goes, one of the most important and authentic documents we possess. "These poor people," says he, " are under a dark night in things relating to religion, to be sure, the tradition of it: yet they believe a God and immortality without the help of metaphysics; for they say there is a great king who made them, who dwells in a glorious country to the southward of them, and that the souls of the good shall go thither, where they shall live again."* And it is upon the faith of this description that Mr. Pope drew up that admirable and well-known picture of the same tradition, that occurs in the first epistle of his Essay on Man, and is known to every one. Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind, See* God in clouds, or hears him in the wind: His foul proud science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk or milky way; Yet simple nature to his hope has given Beyond the ejoud-topp'd hill, an humbler heaven; Some safer world in depth of woods enibrac'd, Some happier island in the wat'ry waste; Where slaves once more their native land behold, No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold. The tradition which describes the hades, or invisible world, as seated in the clouds, was chiefly common to the Celtic tribes, and particularly to that which at an early age peopled North Britain. It is by far the most refined and picturesque idea that antiquity has offered upon the subject, and which has consequently been productive, not only of the most sublime, but of the most pathetic descriptions to which the general tradition has given rise under any form. The Celtic bards are full of this imagery; and it is hence a chief characteristic in the genuine productions of Ossian, which, in consequence, assume a still higher importance as historical records than as fragments of exquisite poetry. Let me, in proof of this, quote his fine delineation of the spirit of Crugal from a passage in the second book of Fingal, one of his best Fuga le nebbie, e le terrestre mole Leva da me, e splendi in la tua luce;
Tu se' quel sommo ben cbe cbiascun
K te come suo fin, vede ognl plo;
Tu se' prindpio, portatoree duce,
* Clark son's Life of Wm. Penn, vol. I. p. 3D
authenticated poems,* premising that the importance of the errand, which is to warn his friends, " the sons of green Erin," of impending destruction, and to advise them to save themselves by retreat, sufficiently justifies the apparition. "A dark red stream of fire comes down from the hill. Crugal sat upon the beam: he that lately fell by the hand of Swaran striving in the battle of heroes. His face is like the beam of the setting moon: his robes are of the clouds of the hill: his eyes are like two decaying flames. Dark is the wound on his breast. The stars dim-twinkled through his form; and his voice was like the sound of a distant stream. Dim and in tears he stood, and stretched his pale hand over the hero. Faintly he raised his feeble voice, like the gale of the reedy Lego. 'My ghost, O Connal! is on my native hills, but my corse is on the sands of Ullin. Thou shalt never talk with Crugal, nor find his lone steps on the heath. I am light as the blast of Cromla, and I move like the shadow of mist. Connal, son of Colgar! I see the dark cloud of death. It hovers over the plains of Lena. The sons of green Erin shall fall. Remove from the field of ghosts.' Like the darkened moon, he retired in the midst of the whistling blast." Let us take another very brief but very beautiful example. "Trenmor came from his hill at the voice of his mighty son. A cloud, like the steed of the stranger, supported his airy limbs. His robe is of the mist of Lano, that brings death to the people. His sword is a green meteor half extinguished.His face is without form and dark. He sighed thrice over the hero; and thrice the winds of the night roared around. Many were his words to Oscar. He slowly vanished, like a mist that melts on the sunny hill." The idea of his still pursuing his accustomed occupation of riding with his glittering sword (its glitter now half-extinguished, and of a green hue) on the steed of the stranger—a steed won in battle—his own limbs rendered airy, and the steed dissolved into the semblance of a cloud—is not only exquisite as a piece of poetic painting but as a fact consonant with the popular tradition of all other countries, which uniformly allotted to the shades or ghosts of their respective heroes their former passions and inclinations, the pastimes or employments to which they had devoted themselves while on earth, and the arms or implements they had chiefly made use of. Thus, the Scandinavian bard, Lodbrog, while singing his own death-song, literally translated from the Runic into Latin by Olaus Wormius, and transferring, in like manner, the pursuits of his life to his pursuits after death: "In the halls of our father Balder I know seats are prepared, where we shall soon drink all out of the hollow sculls of our enemies. In the house of the mighty Odin no brave man laments death. I come not with the voice of despair to Odm's hall."|
The same popular belief was common to the Greeks and Romans. Thus, jEneas, according to Virgil, in his descent to the infernal regions, beholds the shades of the Trojan heroes still panting for fame, and amusing themselves with the martial exercises to which they had been accustomed, and with airy semblances of horses, arms, and chariots:The chief surveyed full many a shadowy car, Illusive arms, nnd couriers trairrd for war. Their innces nVd in earth, their ateeila around, Now Tree from harness, graze the mimic ground. The love of horses which they had, alive, And care of chariots, after death survive.^
Virgil, while true to the tradition of his country, is well known to have copied his description from Homer; and in Homer's time the same popular
• See Report of the Committee of the Highland Society of Scotland appointed to inquire into the Nature and Authenticity of the Poems of Omian, drawn up, according to the Directions of the Committee, by Henry Mackenzie, Esq. its Convener or Chairman, p. 153, and p. 1B0—260. t See Blair's Dissertation on Ossian.
% Arma procul, ctlrrusque virum mlratur inanes.
Jltuid, vi. 651.
tradition was common to the Jews, and runs through almost all their poetry. It is thus Isaiah, who was nearly contemporary with Homer, satirizes the fall of Belshazzar, ch. xiv. 9. The lotvemimt Hell is in motion further, To congratulate thy arrival: For thee niouseth he themioitTv Dead, All the chieftains of the earth. The term Mighty Dead is peculiarly emphatic. The Hebrew word is O'KBI (Rephaim), the " gigantic spectres," "the magnified and mighty ghost;" exhibiting, as I have already observed, a form larger than life, or, as Juvenal has admirably expressed it upon a similar occasion, xiii. 231,
Major imago Humana A more than mortal make:whence the term Rephaim is rendered in the Septuagint, r,ryi*1ls, and by Theodotion, r/j-amv.
To the same effect, Ezekiel, about a century afterward, in his sublime prophecy of the destruction of Egypt, a piece of poetry that has never been surpassed in any age or country, ch. xxxii. 18—26. I can only quote a few verses, and I do it to prove that the tradition common to other nations, that the ghosts of heroes were surrounded in hades, or the invisible world, with a shadowy semblance of their former dress and instruments of war, was equally common to Judea.
v. 2. Wall! Son of Man, for multitudinous Egypt, Yea, down let her be cast, Like the daughters of the renowned nations, ,Into the nether parts of the earth, Among those that have descended into the pit. Thou I that surpassest in beauty! Get thee down.— To the sword is she surrendered: Draw him forth, and all his forces. The chieftains of the Miouty Dead (q'soi) Call to him and his auxiliaries From the lowest depths of hell,— v. 27. To the grave who have descended With their instruments of war; With their swords placed under their heads. From what quarter this popular and almost universal tradition was derived, or in what age it originated, we know not. I have said that it appears to be more ancient than any of the traditions of the philosophers; and in support of this opinion, I chiefly allude to one or two hints at it that are scattered throughout the book of Job, which 1 must again take leave to regard as the oldest composition that has descended to us. I do not refer to the fearful and unrivalled description of the spectre that appeared to Eliphaz, because the narrator himself does not seem to have regarded this as a human image, but, among other passages,*to the following part of the afflicted patriarch's severe invective against his friend Bildad:Yea the Nighty Dead are laid open from below, The floods and their inhabitants.
Hell is naked before him;And Destruction hath no covering. Bildad had been taunting Job with ready-made and proverbial speeches? and there can be no doubt that this of Job's, in reply, is of the same sort; imbued with popular tradition, but a tradition not entering into the philosophical creed either of himself or of any of his friends; for throughout the whole scope of the argument upon the important question of a future being,
the immortality and separate existence of the soul are never once brought forward; every ray of hope being, as I have already observed, derived from the doctrine of a future resurrection of the body. In many parts of the world, though not in all, this common tradition of the people was carried much farther, and, under different modifications, made to develope a very important and correct doctrine; for it was believed, in most countries, that this hell, hades, or invisible world, is divided into two very distinct and opposite regions by a broad and impassable gulf; that the one is a seat of happiness, a paradise, or Elysium, and the other a seat of misery, a Gehenna, or Tartarus; and that there is a supreme magistrate and an impartial tribunal belonging to the infernal shades, before which the ghost must appear, and by which he is sentenced to the one or the other, according to the deeds done in the body. Egypt is generally said to have been the inventress of this important and valuable part of the common tradition; and, undoubtedly, it is to be found in the earliest records of Egyptian history: but from the wonderful conformity of its outlines to the parallel doctrine of the Scriptures, it is probable that ithas astill higher origin, and that it constituted a part of the patriarchal or antediluvian creed, retained in a few channels, though forgotten or obliterated in others; and consequently, that it was a divine communication in a very early age. Putting by all traditionary information, however, there were many philosophers of Greece who attempted to reason upon the subject, and seemed desirous of abiding by the result of their own argument. Of these the principal are, Socrates, Plato, and Epicurus. The first is by far the most entitled to our attention for the simplicity and clearness of his conception, and the strength of his belief. Unfortunately, we have no satisfactory relic of the great chain of induction by which he was led to so correct and happy a conclusion; for we must not confound his ideas with those of Plato, who has too frequently intermixed his own with them. From the lucid and invaluable Memorabilia of his disciple Xenophon, however, we have historical grounds for affirming that whatever may have been the train of his reasoning, it led him to a general assurance that the human soul is allied to the Divine Being, yet not by a participation of essence, but by a similarity of nature ; and hence that the existence of good men will be continued after death in a state in which they will be rewarded for their virtue. Upon the future condition of the wicked, Socrates appears to have said but little; he chiefly speaks of it as being less happy than that of the virtuous: and it has hence been conceived that, as he thought the sole hope of immortality to the good man was founded upon his becoming assimilated to the divine nature, he may have imagined that the unassimilated soul of the wicked would perish with its body; and the more so, as he allowed the same common principle or faculty of reason, though in a subordinate degree, to all other animals as to man; and hence, again, gave sufficient proof that he did not regard this principle as necessarily incorruptible. To me, however, his opinion seems rather to have been of a contrary kind, importing future existence and punishment. Upon this sublime subject, indeed, he appears at times to have been not altogether free from anxiety: but it is infinitely to his credit, and evinces a testimony in favour of the doctrine itself far more powerful than the force of argument, and even breathing of divine inspiration, that, in his last moments, he triumphed in the persuasion of its truth, and had scarcely a doubt upon his mind. When the venerable sage, at this time in his seventieth year, took the poisoned cup, to which he had been condemned by an ungrateful country, he alone stood unmoved while his friends were weeping around him: he upbraided their cowardice, and entreated them to exercise a manliness worthy of the patrons of virtue: "It would, indeed," said he," be inexcusable in me to despise death if I were not persuaded that it will conduct me into the presence of the gods, the righteous governors of the universe, and into the society of ju3t and good men: but I draw confidence from the hope that something of man remains after death, and that the state of the good will be much better than that of the bad." He drank the deadly cup, and shortly