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THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
DOCTOR JOHNSON, all whose studies
were desultory, and who hated, as he said, to read books through, made an exception in favour of
Pilgrim's Progress.” That work was one of the two or three works which he wished longer. It was by no common merit that the illiterate sectary extracted praise like this from the most pedantic of critics and the most bigoted of Tories. In the wildest parts of Scotland the “ Pilgrim's Progress" is the delight of the peasantry. In every nursery the “Pilgrim's Progress" is a greater favourite than "Jack the Giant Killer." Every reader knows the straight and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius, that things which are not should be as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. And this miracle the tinker has wrought.
All the stages of the journey, all the forms which cross or overtake the pilgrims, giants, and hobgoblins, ill-favoured ones and shining ones, the tall, comely, swarthy, Madam Bubble, with her great purse by her side, and her fingers playing with the money, the black man in the bright vesture, Mr Worldly Wiseman and my Lord Hategood, Mr Talkative and Mrs Timorous, all are actually existing beings to us. We follow the travellers through their allegorical progress with interest not inferior to that with which we follow Elizabeth from Siberia to Moscow, or Jeanie Deans from Edinburgh to London. Bunyan is almost the only writer who ever gave to the abstract the interest of the concrete. In the works of many celebrated authors, men are mere personifications. We have not a jealous man, but jealousy; not a traitor, but perfidy; not a patriot, but patriotism. The mind of Bunyan, on the contrary, was so imaginative that personifications, when he dealt with them, became men. A dialogue between two qualities, in his dream, has more dramatic effect than a dialogue between two human beings in most plays.
The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as a study to every person who wishes to obtain a wide command over the English language. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people. There is not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of
theology, which would puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed several pages which do not contain a single word of more than two syllables. Yet no writer has said more exactly what he meant to say. nificence, for pathos, for vehement exhortation, for subtle disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working men, was perfectly sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we would so readily stake the fame of the unpolluted English language, no book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed.
The warl’ly race may riches chase,
And riches still may fly them, O; And though at last they catch them fast,
Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O.
But gie me a canny hour at een,
My arms about my dearie, O, And warl’ly cares, and warl’ly men,
May a' gae tapsalteerie, O.
For you sae douce, ye sneer at this,
Ye're nought but senseless asses, O; The wisest man the warl' e'er saw
He dearly loved the lasses, O
Auld Nature swears the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes, O; Her 'prentice hand she tried on man,
And then she made the lasses, ().
THE LAST MAN.
ALL worldly shapes shall melt in gloom,
The sun himself must die,
Adown the gulf of Time!
As Adam saw her prime !
The sun's eye had a sickly glare,
The earth with age was wan,
Around that lonely man!
In plague and famine some !
To shores where all was dumb !
Yet, prophet-like, that lone one stood,
With dauntless words and high, That shook the sere leaves from the wood
As if a storm pass'd bySaying, We are twins in death, proud sun, Thy face is cold, thy race is run,
'Tis mercy bids thee go; For thou ten thousand thousand years Hast seen the tide of human tears,
That shall no longer flow.