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Art. II.- The Iris: a Literary and Religious Offering. Edited by the
Rev. Thomas Dale, M. A. London: Low; Hurst, Chance, & Co.
1830. 8vo. 12s. The Amulet: a Christian and Literary Remembrancer. Edited by
S. C. Hall. London: Westley. 1830. 12mo. 12s.
The variety of those little works, called Annuals, which are already well known to the public, and the high literary merit to which most of them lay claim, seemed to give little prospect of success for another of the same class, even if many of its predecessors are not forced to quit the field. Under the auspices of Mr. Dale, however, though others sink, the Iris cannot fail to rise; his talents as a writer, his fame as a poet, his character as a scholar, and his zeal in the cause of true religion, in the face of his unfortunate connexion with the establishment in Gower Street, are a sufficient guarantee for more than ordinary merit in any thing which he undertakes. There is a novelty of design too in the Iris, which, at the same time that it brings it under the more especial notice of the Christian Remembrancer, will entitle it to the patronage of those who are anxious to encourage the diffusion of sober piety and sound principle. Its contents are exclusively of a religious tendency; but, withal, entirely devoid of any tincture of those doctrinal peculiarities, the profession of which is now so much in vogue. To render amusement subservient to the great end of moral and religious improvement, has been the object of the editor; not to sow the seeds of Pharisaical hypocrisy, or to convert the sincere believer into a morbid devotee.
After what we have now said, some of our readers will perhaps be startled at finding among the list of Mr. Dale's contributors, some who are not very well disposed toward the doctrines or discipline of the Established Church. With the editor's acceptance or rejection of assistance from these quarters, we have nothing to do, provided nothing be sanctioned in his volume which can give offence to the sober and rational Christian. It is not with persons or with names that we war; but with false principles and erroneous doctrines. Josiah Conder, for aught we see, is as fair a name as that of Reginald Heber; and if Josiah Conder wrote one of a number of religious and moral pieces, equally pure and unexceptionable with the rest, why let Josiah Conder have the credit of so doing. But should he take advantage of the privilege afforded him, to alienate the minds of his readers from the path in which they have been brought up, then would Mr. Dale be answerable for the consequences, and we should think it our bounden duty “to pour the fiercest vial of our wrath” both upon the editor and the writer. As this is not the case, let both enjoy the meed of their well-earned praise; the one as the author, and the other as the impartial judge, of a work of literary merit.
It will of course be expected that we say something of the embellishments. Be it known, however, that we are no connoisseurs; but not on that account, perhaps, less likely to coincide in opinion with many of our readers. An eye, which is over-nice in searching for a flaw, will be apt to neglect a beauty; and the discovery of some striking excellence will compensate with many for want of effect in the general design. We have been told, for instance, of the exquisite richness of the “Raising of Lazarus” in the volume before us; whereas, for the life of us, we cannot make head or tail of the artist's intention, and we think that many besides ourselves will be found in a similar plight. Besides this, there are ten other engravings finished in the first style of the art. Among these our especial favourites are the frontispiece from Carlo Dolci's “ Thy Will be done;" “ The Flight into Egypt,” by Claude ; " Christ expounding the Law," by Leonardo da Vinci; “St. John,” by Cignani ; and “Hagar and Ishmael," by Baroccio. “A Magdalen," by Carlo Dolci; and the “Incredulity of Thomas,” by Caracci, are also beautiful specimens of the old Italian school. It will be observed that, in accordance with the general design of this Annual, the Embellishments are all Scripture pieces, taken exclusively from the old masters: most of them are accompanied with a characteristic poem from the pen of the editor, so as to form a series of Scripture illustrations; and the rest have had ample justice done them by other hands. Those, however, who are acquainted with the beauty of Mr. Dale's sacred poetry, will not be surprised that we give the preference throughout to those undertaken by himself.
The most prominent attraction in the book, is a poem of some length by the editor, entitled “ The Daughter of Jaïrus." It seems to have been originally written as a companion to “ The Widow of Nain;" which has so justly entitled the author to the distinguished eminence which he holds among the most admired poets of the day. In assuring our readers that it is not a whit inferior to its predecessor, we at once render it unnecessary to make any extracts, as no one will rest contented till he has perused the whole. We shall therefore prove our assertions respecting the general excellence of the contents, by furnishing a few specimens from different parts of the work. And, first, as in duty bound, we present one of the minor contributions of the editor himself, with which the volume opens :
TIIE MADONNA AND CHILD.
O High and Holy One!
No ray of living light
Flashed on th' astonished sight,
Thine was no awful form,
Shrouded in mist and storm,
Nor didst thou deign to wear
The port, sublimely fair,
Made like the sons of clay,
Thy matchles glories lay
No pomp of outward sign
Proclaimed the Power Divine;
Thou didst not choose thy home
Beneath a lordly dome;
Nor on a soft couch laid,
Nor in rich vest arrayed,
Yet she, whose gentle breast
Was Thy glad place of rest;
Men passed her dwelling by
With proud and scornful eye;
There softer strains she heard
Than song of evening bird,
And o'er her dwelling lone
A brighter radiance shone
For there the Mystic Star
That sages led from far,
Still shed its golden light;
There, through the calm, clear night,
O happiest thou of all
Who bare the deadly thrall
Her first of mortal birth
Brought Death to reign on earth,
Happiest of Virgins thou,
On whose unruffled brow
Blest in thy Heavenly Son,
Blest in the Holy One,
The following is from the pen of James Montgomery:
HEAVEN IN PROSPECT.
Crowns that never fade away,
Priests, and kings, and conquerors they.
To the Lamb amidst the throne :
Victory through his Cross alone !
Crying, as they strike the chords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords !"
If their robes are white as snow;
And his blood, that made them so.
Sinners once, of Adam's race;
But were saved from all by grace.
Ah! when we like them shall die,
Pp. 109, 110.
One more extract from the poetry, and then for the prose. We take at random some spirited stanzas by the Rev. H. Thompson, M. A.
THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE.
Heard ye the call divine ?
Advance thy Captain's sign!
Conquering to conquer forth He goes :
With Truth's unsullied baldrick gird
Upon thy mailed side,
Let Virtue's corslet, tried
In strife and furnace, guard thy breast;
But most, upon thy martial arm
Take Faith's impervious targe,
Amid the deadly charge.
Then forth on thy victorious way
Saw'st thou the waters foaming high?
"Tis Passion's restless sea :
'Tis stern Adversity.
Heed not-tread on the billows, cleft,
Saw'st thou the broad and arid plain?
No sheltering leaf is there,
Beneath the sultry glare
May slake his lips. Nor fear, nor fly :
The hosts that bar thy way:
A loftier Power than they
Conducts thy march ; before Him driven
True, dark Ingratitude is there,
And Disappointment cold;
Unwinds his viper fold.
Yet fear not-He whose knight thou art,
True, Earth, in treacherous charms arrayed,
With eye too wildly sweet,
To lure thy pilgrim feet.
Yet yield not. She who woos thy vows,
Say not, thy yoke is hard to bear!
But look on Him who bore
And then repine no more.
His yoke is light: His ways are rest :
Fear not, and thou shalt overcome!
Yea, through His love who led;
Twine thine unhelmed head.
Fear not! in victory thou shalt stand
Upon the glassy sea,
The pæan of the free:
“ Sing to the Lord! the fight is done!
Pr. 213—216. From the prose we shall content ourselves with one extract, for it will be a long one. We shall be forgiven, however, for giving at length a relic of the late Bishop Heber.
THE CHARACTER OF NICODEMUS. Nicodemus was a man of the highest rank among the Jews, and a Pharisee of great reputation for his learning and piety. He is described in the Gospel as a ruler, or magistrate, and as a member of their high court of Sanhedrim, or parliament; and the ancient books of the Jews are full of strange and improbable stories as to his wealth, his magnificent liberality, and the wonderful manner in which his prayers were supposed to be heard by God. His substance was calculated as sufficient to feed all Jerusalem for seven years; his daughter's marriage-bed was, in ostentation of wealth, built up with purses of money; his