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morse, and despair. The descriptions in this book are wonderfully poetical. It would be impossible, as well as inappropriate, to present mutilated passages in support of this observation; they are so intimately commingled, so admirable in their connexion, fine flow, and consistency;-the pathetic and the marvellous; the grand and the dreadful; the beautiful and the sublime, follow so closely and yet so naturally, that we are sometimes melted with pity or roused to indignation, or else enrapt in a mysterious air and astonishment, or shuddering with horror.
The fourth book, opens with a night scene and the distrésses of Mahala and Cain. Overcome with the tremendous conflicts of passion, he throws himself on the earth in a wild agony. Cain invokes the powers of sleep. The fiend Anamalech is beside him. He dreams; and every horrible shadow, that can waken frenzy in his gloomy and guilty soul, passes in fearful panorama before him, The veil of futurity is rent, and he beholds the enduring wretchedness and labour and misery entailed, by the curse of the Almighty, on his posterity. The spirit of his dream is changed, and a contrast is exhibited in the offspring of Abel. Happiness and tranquil indolence, and a bounteous and luxurious unfolding of all that is pleasant to the senses, or captivating to the mind, is there in possession; rich and evergreen pastures, snow white flocks innumerable; and far spread waters bursting up in bright sparkles in the sunshine; shepherds and beauteous maidens; long moonlight nights of merriment and love-musick and dancing. These shadows quickly vanish, and the slumberer imagines that the posterity of Abel come, in the array of war, in the darkness of the night, to smite his descendants with the sword; to despoil, ravish, enslave and overwhelm.
But we cannot forbear giving the following, and final quotation from this admirable book;—it may be justly and we hesitate not, to place it aside, the very best passages of the Jerusalem Delivered, and Paradise Lost.
*Cain imagined that he beheld the dreadful project executed! The terrible sounds of wailing and grief and lamentation burst on his affrighted ear, mingled with shouts of triumph and rejoicing. He looked, and beheld the humble huts of his posterity blazing amid the darkness of midnight. The fiery reflection of flames gleaming on the encircling mountains, and sweeping in a red glimmering on the waves of the deep waters, which broke with hoarse and sullen murmurs against the rocks. By that disastrous light, he beheld his children bound and subdued, and driven like locks of innocent lambs, before the triumphant descendants of Abel. He beheld, and startled convulsively in his disturbed slumbers; when Abel who had discovered him sleeping under the dark brow of the cliffs, approached him softly, and bending over him whispered, thus in mildest accents. Soon mayst thou waken, beloved brother, that I may pour forth the fondest language of my love for thee; that I may embrace thee, Cain—But ah! let me repress my impatient
wishes; perhaps, yet longer thy wearied and worn limbs, require the sweet alleviations of sleep.--Ye wanton winds be still! Ye warbling birds be silent! nor sweep with quick glancing wings, the dews of slumber from his eyes!—But soft! how pale! how agitated! what gloomy imaginings convulse his brow!-Ye visions of terror, wherefore haunt his repose! Away, away, and leave his spirit in peace! and come, ye visions of delight, shadows of loveliness and serenity! come and fill his soul with joy and gratitude!-He spake, and tenderly gazed on the slumberer of the rock.
Cain awoke. Foaming with horror and rage he started from the rock; his eyes light'ned; the storms of revenge and hatred lowered on his gloomy visage. Open! oh earth and hide; burst ye rocks and crush me! bury me in your depths! Wretched! lost! and oh horrible thought! my little ones must inherit all my agony and wo! In vain, in vain, I supplicate Thee to annihilate and destroy. Yes! the Avenger's fiat has gone forth;-condemned to misery! the veil is rent and the retributions of futurity break upon my sight. Accursed, for ever cursed, be the day which saw me born! accursed be the place where the throes of travail came upon my mother!-never let herbage spring there, or shrub grow there, or the tree cast its shadow there! May those who are for the sowing and planting, with dreadful bitterness mourn their fruitless toil, and execrate the ungrateful spot! May all who tread there tremble with the shudderings of terror, their hearts withered and desolate, and lameness enfeebling their tottering limbs!
• Thus raved the maniac!
* Abel, pale as with the death agony-with faltering steps advanced-My brother! oh no! but some rebellious, some disconsolate spirit hurled by the thunder of the Almighty from Heaven, has dared to assume his form, and imprecate blasphemies.—Where art thou, Cain, I fly to seek thee and bless thee!-- Behold him here, ex. claimed Cain, thou smiling, crouching favourite of the Avenger! Thou, whose viperous brood are soon to inherit and monopolizeall the blessedness of this fair world!—Yes--yes-too fit it is that there should be a crew of menials to wait upon thee—to labour for the voluptuous chosen-whose hours of happiness and dalliance must not be darkened with even thoughts of servitude! Oh horrible! Hell with all its fires rages and inflames my soul!
Cain! my brother, answered Abel, while blended emotions of tenderness and anxiety beamed on his countenance—what dreadful dream has deceived thee? With the earliest dawn I came hither to seek thee, to embrace thee, and to give thee, the salutations of the morning. But, ah me! what stormy passions agitate thy soul; how unkindly thou acceptest my testimonials of affection! When will those blissful days arrive when love and peace shall reign together; when the wrapt spirit, shall yield itself to the wondrous consummation of well regulated delights; those days which our parents anticipate with so much solicitude! Oh Cain, how hast thou frozen those warm hopes awakened in long past hours of affection and reconciliation when I leaned upon thy bosom and wept!—Tell me, Cain, my brother, how have I offended theel-Heaven knows how unconsciously! Dissipate, I pray thee, the horrible gloominess that overclouds thy brow! -Thus let me expiate my involuntary errors!
' He said, and kneeling down there embraced his brother's knees. Ha! serpent, wouldst thou entwine me in thy treacherous folds. Cain shuddered and sprung back-God! It is enough!--He spake. Terrible ire nerved his uplifted arm; he swung a ponderous club, it awfully divided the air and descended on the head of Abel! The innocent victim sunk at his feet! he fixed his dying eyes on the murderer;—in that farewell glance there was a bright expression of pity and forgiveness. The rushing blood distained the radiant tresses of his golden hair and bathed the feet of Cain. 'T'is past now, and the spirit of Abel has departed.'—
Gess. Works. b. 4. p. 103. Such is the poetry of that dark deed, which first evinced the reality and hatefulness of sin in this world. The remainder of this affecting and sublime book, is taken up in portraying the ravings of Cain, on the first wakefulness of his mind after the diabolical deed; the triumphal elation of Anamalech on the completion of his work; the apotheosis of Abel, and the great mourning and lamentation of the primitive family.
The fifth and last book, contains the annunciation of the death of Abel to Thirza; the grief and despair of Mahala and Thirza: the burial of the first martyr; the remorse and wretchedness of the fratricide. The consolation, and the farewell departure of Cain and Mahala.
In reflecting on the foregoing analysis, it may be easily perceived, that the death of Cain possesses many of the properties peculiar to the Epopea. We are not, however, satisfied with the adoption of measured prose, rather than verse; rhyme is not essential, in the composition of the higher kinds of poetry. Perhaps too, there is not that easiness of repose maintained, which forms so fine a contrast to the more majestic and lofty parts of the poem. This objection may be applied with equal justness to the Messiah, and indeed to all the more arduous efforts of the German muse. Besides the subject of Gessner's poem, is evidently too much restricted. This was the primary fault of Paradise Regained. There is no intricacy of events, which gradually unfold into a wide and splendid development. But then it must be allowed, without reservation, that those events which are agitated, interest and animate. The outline is finely sketched, and prodigiously well filled up; the characters are delineated with great force and accuracy; and the master springs of the human heart are touched cunningly, and the complex organization and operations beautifully revealed. The machinery is such, as Homer would have chosen, if he had selected such a subject for the display of his mighty powers. Gessner is throughout instructive, from the pure and bright flowing of his morality; and learned, where he may be learned with impunity.
The narrative is hardly ever disturbed by the introduction of episodes; hence the poverty of that variety of incidents which is sometimes deemed, with what propriety we know not, fundamentally necessary to the Epopea. His descriptions are bold and commanding; though at times there appears to be a wild profusion, substituted for richness of fancy; and declamation for elegance and sublimity; yet it must be confessed that his sentiments and figures are always full of life, energy, enthusiasm, and originality. The most timid circumstances in rural life are raised and dignified; and we know how to estimate and look upon them; and lastly, there is per, ceptibly throughout the poem, strength and luxuriousness of imagination, and grandeur and elevation of feeling, together with a manifold and lucid correctness of judgment and illustrative thought, and the profoundest sensibility.
Immediately after the publication of the Death of Abel, three large editions of which were printed in a single year, and translated into many of the European languages, Gessner passed much of his time in solitude, devoting himself
for the most part, to the stuk dy of belles lettres, and landscape painting; the wild and wondrous scenery of Helvetia, its mighty and romantic mountains, its vallies and extensive lakes, afforded numerous opportunities for the exercise of this admirable art. But Gessner was not formed by nature for solitude. The remonstrances and entreaties of his friends availed, and he returned again to the tumultuous scenes of the world; and immediately engaged assiduously in the duties of his profession.
In the former part of this work, we have had occasion to mention mademoiselle Charlotte Heidegger, the daughter of M. Heidegger, a celebrated landscape painter. She was remarkable for her beauty of person and gracefulnesss of manners, to which was united a highly cultivated mind, and a most amiable disposition. A mutual attachment had long subsisted between Gessner and Charlotte; and it was in the summer of 1760, that this attachment was devoutly consecrated at the holy altar. Soon after his marriage, he was summoned by the universal suffrages of the inhabit. ants of Zurich to the great council of the republic. During the year 1762, he published his poem of The First Navigator. It is a romantic tale, and well worthy of the genius of its author. He esteemed it the best written of all his fugitive pieces. The world perhaps may differ from him in regard to this opinion. In 1772, he published another volume of Idylls, containing the celebrated, and justly celebrated poem, entitled the Deluge, (which has been elegantly translated into English, by that most interesting paragon of female excellence, the late Miss Elizabeth Smith) and the still more popular letter on Landscape Painting, inscribed to his friend and relative Fusselin, the ingenious author of the historical essay, on the Artists of Switzerland. This was the last literary work of Gessner.
The qualities which are necessary to fulfil the duties of a public station with reputation, seemed to have been possessed by Gessner in an eminent degree. On his relinquishing the office of senator, he was immediately appointed bailiff of Eilbach, of the four guards, and superintendent of the waters. These were situations of high trust, dignity, and responsibility, and were discharged by this illustrious man, with peculiar probity and scrupulousness of conduct. Nor were these all the honours which were lavished upon him. Catherine II. empress of Russia, presented him with a valuable gold medal, as a memorial of her friendship and regard; and numerous scientific and literary institutions in Europe, elected him honorary member of their societies. His company was courted by the opulent and powerful, by scholars and philosophers, who universally and unreservedly bestowed upon him the tribute of their applause and admiration.
He was attacked by a sudden stroke of the palsy, and died March 2, 1788.
Enough has been suggested in the foregoing article, to give the reader an intimate view of the literary character of Gessner. What remains, is to portray, very briefly, his private character. His life was pure and exemplary; he possessed a most excellent heart, full of the spirit of loving kindness and charity. He had a just sense of religion, and many of his private hours, were spent in the hallowed exercises of piety. There was at times much of light-heartedness and cheerfulness with him, blended with a serene melancholy and reserve—that kind of melancholy and reserve, which seems to be constitutional with men of genius; but there was nothing malignant in his melancholy; nothing of misanthropy in his reserve. In his conversation he was mild and condescending, never assuming that exclusiveness and dogmatism of assertion and argument, which is oftentimes, unhappily exhibited, by men of letters. His language was select and appropriate, and his whole converse, a bright development of deep thinking and comprehensiveness of views, artfully arranged, and perhaps intentionally, with a beautiful unfolding of well governed expression, rich and quaint fancies, and at times, a sublime illustration and allegory. But let us hear something more of him from a bosom and long tried friend. “This immortal poet, (says the learned Zimmerman), in the familiar society of confidential friends, was one of the most amiable companions. The sight of him conveyed instant relief and pleasure.-To strangers who visited him out of impertinent curiosity, or to pay him compliments, which he did not want, he was cold and reserved. In the fund of humour which he possessed, he found resources against terror and dejection, even in circumstances, where other men are terrihed and dejected. He once requested my attendance at the baths of Schintnznach where he was attacked with a violent disease of the liver. I hastened to him with a sorrowful heart, but I had scarcely been with him a minute, when he made me laugh