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Chaos and Creation.
AND THE EARTH WAS WITHOUT FORM, AND VOID, AN» DARKNESS WAS UPON THE FACE OF THE DEEP J AND THE SPIRIT OF CoD MOVED UPON THE WATERS,
TH E true sublime of language opens upon us in this passage. It is Truth arrayed in the decorations of oriental poetry. The earth was without form: it was the reign of Chaos and old Night; matter and motion were in the utmost disorder; no distinction, no. harmony, no regularity; all those materials, which were presently commanded to compose an according system, were void. In this verse, as through a mirrour, methinks I fee this now delightful universe, in a state of anarchy: I look, as it were, into the regions of the past, and am struck with a view of B things things, before the beginning. How wide, how infinite the confusion! a promiscuous miscellany of atoms, and all the treasures of a world tumbled together, without use or beauty. But the thick gloom obstructs my survey, and yet I behold, or think I behold, the mighty and immortal Spirit, moving upon the waters. The waters hear and obey; the mighty work of wonders is begun; let such, therefore, as are able to feel the aweful scene exhibited in this verse, indulge their admiration by reading the next, which displays at once omnipotence and benignity!
And God Said—Let There Bi Iicht, And There Was Light.
There is no reading this without a tremor of veneration: there is no thinking upon it, without astonishment! It is, at once, ib amazing an instance of power and kindness, of tenderness ajid authority, that, one knows not which attribute most to reverence. It is one of the shortest passages in the whole Bible, exhibiting, at the fame time, the noblest image, with magnificence and simplicity: and, indeed, the best moderns have copied and imitated, at whatever distance, the graces of the scriptures. Those authors relate actions which are to excite instantaneous admiration, by a sinole line, and very frequently by a single expreffion, It was not to be supposed, that the subject before us should escape poetical imitation.—Let us look at certain passages in some of our English bards, to fee with what success.—Milton takes the lead:
Let there be light, said God, and forthwith light
Let us clear the road of criticism, as we go along. Is not this, at best, beating poetically, about it and about it? We confess, we feel, the scenery of the east, the airy gloom, the radient cloud, &c. but still, the second verse * is a verse of mere epithets ;B 2 'it it delays the grand truth, which by such protraction comes, at the end of a fourth line, three lines too late. The passage itself is in no degree laboured,
* Etherial, first of things, quintessence pure.
Let there be light, and there ivat light.
On the contrary, the brevity constitutes, here, great part of the beauty; nor can even the pen of the author of Paradise Lost, atone for the fault of circumlocution in such a crisis. The creation of the world depended only upon one word of the Deity; and Moses hath described it in a sentence. Language could not have been more compressed: meaning could not have been more comprehensive. Milton, however, hath been very happy and compact in another part of his poem:
Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar
Till, at his second bidding, darkness fled,
But this is not, however, equally concise:
Cowley Cow ley says,
They fung how Godspoie out the world's vast br.ll, From nothing, and from no inhere, cali'd forth all.
This is too quaint: it looks like a witticism, a kind of conceited punning, upon all and nothing, every.where and no where.
Pope's famous line,
God said let Newton be, and all was light.
Is evidently borrowed from the noble passage under consideration, but is a forced compliment carried to the border of impiety; and, when compared with the original, shrinks to nothing. What were the talents, philosophy, or discoveries of Newton ; or what his observations or experiments; what, indeed, the consequence of the greatest individual to the actual existence, œconomy, and establishment of light, of light brought instantaneously forth at the commanding fiat of the omnipotent? Read the passages together.
B 3 God