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366.4 Herder

Eentered according to Act of Congress in the year 1833, by CHAUNCEY GOODRICH,

in the office of the Clerk of the District of Vermont.


The work, of which a translation is here offered to the publick, has long been celebrated in Germany, as one of distinguished merit. On its first publication it did much to awaken and cherish the taste for Oriental and especially Hebrew antiquity, which has since so extensively prevailed among the scholars of that country. It taught them, too, in the study of Hebrew antiquity and Hebrew poetry, as the works of Lessing, Winkelmann, and others had done in regard to Grecian antiquity, to divest themselves of the conceptions, and modes of thought, which are peculiar to their own country and institutions, and of the peculiar spirit of their own age; by the force of imagination to place themselves in the condition of those ancient patriarchs and prophets, whose thoughts and feelings they seek to apprehend; to see the world as they saw it, to feel as they felt, to imbibe and to express their spirit in its truth and simplicity. Hence, though Germany has since been fruitful in works connected with Hebrew poetry and history, and though the great work of Bp. Lowth has been translated and is appreciated there, this still retains its place, as a classical and standard work.

These general facts might seem sufficient, in the view even of those, who are not personally acquainted with the work, to claim for it a place in the biblical literature of this country, and the few among us, who are acquainted with it, have long wished for a translation, which should render it accessible especially to all who are professionally engaged in biblical studies. The same influence, it is believed moreover, is needed here, and indeed among English scholars generally, which, as above remarked, it exerted, in concert with other works, in the country which produced it. The work of Bp. Lowth is the only one of much distinction, whose influence is felt either in England or in this country, in cultivating in the minds of students a genial love for the spirit of Hebrew antiquity. What that is, as compared with the work of Herder, is readily seen by any one, who is acquainted with both, and capable of appreciating the difference between them. Valuable, and indeed indispensable as it is, to the student of the Bible, from the richness of its thoughts and the nice discrimination exhibited in its learned criticism, it differs essentially from that of Herder in the point of view, from which it contemplates the subject of which it treats. It seeks to illustrate and make intelligible the beauties and sublimities of Hebrew poetry, by comparing it in all its varieties, with the productions of Grecian and Roman art, and has done perhaps all that can be desired in following out that mode of critical comparison. It exhibits the views, which must naturally be taken, and are therefore justly taken, by a mind thoroughly disciplined and cultivated by a study of what in English literature is exclusively understood by classical learning both ancient and modern.

But in one sense it may be justly said, that the more thoroughly one's understanding is moulded by the forms, and occupied with the conceptions exhibited in the literature of one age and country, the less is it qualified to imbibe the genuine spirit, and feel the simple power of every other national literature. This must necessarily be the case, if it be so pre-occupied and biassed as to judge of all others, and test their merits, exclusively by the result of comparison with that, from which its own character was derived. Unless it have the higher power of divesting itself of all that is peculiar in its acquired forms of thought, and in those conceptions by which it takes cognizance of the objects of its knowledge, of clothing itself anew in the forms of thought peculiar to another people, and of so adopting their conceptions for its own, as contemplate the world around them under the same relations with them, the man can never participate in their emotions, nor breathe the spirit of their poetry. He must not only be acquainted with the facts of their history, the modes of life, and the circumstances of every kind, by which their habits of thought and feeling were moulded, as a mass of antiquarian lore, but must learn to place himself entirely in their point of view, and to see all these particulars in the relation to each other, and to the observer, which they would then assume. When he has done this, he will be prepared to understand why they thought, and felt, and wrote as they did; and if he have the feeling and inspiration of the poet, he will sympathize with their emotions, and the living spirit of their poetry will be kindled up in his own imagination. How difficult it is for us to do this, however, in relation to the poetry

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