« AnteriorContinuar »
sceptre of ignorance had now universal domi
THE FALL OF ROME.
Ir is said that christianity was first spread over the earth at this period; but will any one maintain, that its spread was owing to the ignorance, and consequent credulity, of the people who lived during that period? That would be a libel against our religion, indeed ;-no,—but truth is ever first received, and appreciated most by people intelligent and free: barbarity and ignorance are always unfavourable to its growth;-and as the plants sown in a poor soil are not to be compared, for beauty and strength, to those which spring up in a rich soil, so the christianity established among the barbarians, differs from that cherished in civilized countries. Then in what way were beneficial results obtained from the fall of Rome? Some assert that Rome was becoming so corrupt, that revolutions were necessary. I grant that such was the case; changes and improvements were highly necessary: but by no means the entire subversion of the empire. The state had become corrupt, and it was necessary that a torrent should flow through it to cleanse it, and violent breezes should come to drive away the putrid air by which it was overhung:-but these invasions were not like torrents, destructive at first, and in the end refreshing the soil; no, they were like streams of lava issuing from burning mountains,
depopulating countries, destroying cities, annihilating every thing over which they flow. They were not the healthy breezes, but withering blasts; they were the wild tornadoes laying waste plantations, meadows, and strewing the land with wrecks. The subversion of the empire by the barbarians, instead of tending to promote the civilization of Europe, materially retarded its progress for many centuries; and it was not until such men as Charlemagne, Dante, Petrarch, Boccace, Leo the Tenth, and others, made desperate struggles for the revival of learning, that the world began to recover from the deadly effects of the blow it then sustained.
THE ELIZABETHAN AGE.
THE number of learned men alone in any particular age, is sufficient to tell what was its state of happiness or misery. When every kind of learning flourishes, it is a proof that the nation is under a happy form of government. Men of natural talent are equally numerous in one century as in another; but they are not equally known:-and why? Reflect upon this. Under a happy form of government, every thing goes on prosperously. When we find a great increase all at once in the number of eminent and learned men, we have a right to conclude that the state of the whole nation is rapidly improving. When a great many works are published, there must be a great many readers; there must be a great many sufficiently enlightened to appreciate their
merits, to admire and patronize the authors. How was it at this period?-why, we find that it was an age abounding more in lofty characters, than almost any other period which can be named in history. It was a period that showed itself worthy of the genius it fostered and produced in Shakspeare. The mighty geniuses of this period sailed round the world of arts, science, and literature-touched at every port-and gained stores of immense treasures from each. They overcame all the obstacles which presented themselves;they sportively leaped over the gulph of oblivion; and age, after age,-rolls on-and on-and on, only to add fresh laurels to their wreaths.
Each scene of many-coloured life they drew,
ELIZABETH AND MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.
LET us not condemn Elizabeth too unceremoniously. Let us call to mind the circumstances in which she was placed :-let us see whether nothing can be said which ought to soften reproaches, for her committing her apparently unnatural crime. Let it be remembered that Élizabeth was surrounded by hostile machinations, and every day apprised of some new plot against her life; and was uncertain from what quarter the blow might proceed. When we consider this, is it to be wondered at that even the masculine mind of Elizabeth gave way to the terrors of her situation; and that after a long period of vacil
lation and miserable suspense, she, determined on destroying, at any cost, a life which seemed in its very existence so imminently to threaten her own? For after the death of Mary, Elizabeth's enemies had no longer an incentive for seeking her life. Is it surprising, then, that she should desire to get rid of the cause of her fears? Remember what the love of life is :-to what meannesses would not the far greater portion of human beings stoop, rather than part with that which by nature it is intended we should cling to so long as we can. Love of life is naturally the strongest feeling we have. It is very well for those who know themselves to be secure from danger, to talk about parting with life sooner than with virtue; to talk about dying ten thousand deaths, rather than lose their dignity of character. Oh, but how very different would be the feelings and expressions of such, if, perchance, they saw a naked sword over their heads, suspended by a hair! This is the only rational solution of the English Queen's conduct, in this most critical period of her life and reign. It is time to dismiss all the romantic and imaginary causes of her deadly enmity to her prisoner, on account of feminine jealousies ;-idle stories all,-by whomsoever told-by whomsoever invented. Her part was completely forced upon her by the very strongest of human motives;-by the same motives which, with far less reason, prompted Napoleon to command the murder of the Duc D'Enghien,-it was personal fear,-the daily and nightly dread of conspiracies and assassinations. There were many parts of Elizabeth's conduct towards Mary, which prove that her malignity
towards Mary was not so great as is represented. It is evident, by the decorum and moderation Elizabeth displayed when she heard of those tragical occurrences which so much tarnished the fame of Mary; it is evident by the concern Elizabeth felt and showed at the period of the battle of Carbury Hill,-at this period, when Mary-the infatuated Mary-(for how else can she be termed?)—was placed in the most imminent danger;-there was one who turned towards her an anxious, yea, a tender eye,—and that one-however strange it may sound to the ears of some-was Queen Elizabeth. Yes! fears and rivalries ancient offences and recent provocations-all the imprudence she had censured-all the crimes of which she had been guilty-vanished from the thoughts of our queen, the moment she beheld a woman, a kinswoman, a sister queen, reduced to the extremity of distress, and exposed to the menaces and insults of her own subjects. For a time, the cause of Mary seemed to be her own she interfered in her behalf in a tone that could not be mistaken;-in such a tone of imperative earnestness, that the Scotch nobles who feared her power and sought her friendship, did not dare to withstand her: and, in all probability, Mary at this time owed her life to the good offices of Queen Elizabeth. There was no hypocrisy in this, whatever there might have been in some of her other professions with respect to Mary at a later period. But that hypocrisy of which she is accused, proceeded from the same motives which induced her to take away Mary's life.