Page images
PDF
EPUB

this philosopher developed the system of the physical world, and men may no longer consider this earth as the central point of the universe, even so was it the mission of Poland to reveal to the world that nations should no more regard each itself as the centre of all that surrounds it, but that each, holding its own place, and keeping its just balance, should form a part of one great whole, each separate nationality circling round the great central idea of humanity.

“O my people! this thought, this destiny, take thou upon thee to fulfil, or for ever to descend into the tomb! Shouldst thou also thus perish, even so dost thou perfect thy last mission, and, with the palm-branch in thy hand, shalt thou come to Christ, thy Master!”

Brodziński survived not many years the last disappointment of his country's hopes. He died at Dresden, in 1836, deeply mourned ; for he had been beloved, even with enthusiasm, by those who shared the privilege of knowing him. They who sat under his teaching yet cherish his memory with reverent affection, and recall, with sad delight, his gentle and eloquent tones, and the angelic light that beamed from his pale, spiritual features.

The author of the works the titles of which we have prefixed to this article was a student at the University of Warsaw during the professorship of Brodziński ; and the influence of the genius and character of this excellent man is, we think, plainly to be traced in the writings of his pupil. It is with this author, one of the most remarkable, though one of the youngest of their number, that we propose to begin our sketches of the living writers of Poland.

His name has never been formally given to the public ; it is, however, no secret to his countrymen. He is known to be a son of one of the noblest and most ancient families of Poland, and allied either by birth or by marriage to the most powerful magnates of the land. This circumstance is not to be lost sight of in reading his works ; it is necessary to the full appreciation of an author, that we should know the point of view from which he looks upon the world. It is, besides, a fact full of significance and of hope for Poland. It shows what she may expect of her privileged children, when the day of her restoration at length arrives; it proves that their longsuffering has not been without its fruit, – that they are substi

tuting a wise patriotism for an unreasoning and selfish nationality, - that her aristocracy no longer regard themselves as the whole nation, but have learned, that, in order rightly to love one's country, it is needful to love even the humblest of her sons. Through all the works of the author of ". Przedświt” and the “ Nieboska Komedyia,” breathes a spirit truly liberal, thoroughly humane, and profoundly religious. He accepts in its entireness the Christian law, and looks forward with a confident hope to the time when this law shall be not merely the rule for the conduct of individuals, but shall govern in the councils of states, and be heard from the throne and the senate-house.

Przedświt (Morning Twilight) is the last published of the works of this author. As his other writings are in the dramatic form, and his character and opinions are rather to be inferred than directly gathered from them, we shall begin our selections from his works with some extracts from the Preface to this poem, that the reader may form an acquaintance with the mind and cast of thought of the poet before proceeding to the consideration of his dramatic compositions.

In the Preface to the Przedświt, the author draws a parallel between the condition of the ancient world immediately before the time of Cæsar and that of the modern world before the coming of Napoleon. He believes, that, as the ambition and conquests of Cæsar made the path smooth for the reception of the Christian religion, it was, in like manner, the office of Napoleon to prepare the world, not indeed for a new revelation, but for the more perfect reception of the Christian doctrine, and for its introduction into the political sphere.

“ During the day of Cæsar, preceding the great day of Christ, the world had arrived at the last results of its history ; in religion, to absolute doubt, — in philosophy, to the entire overthrow of the principles of polytheism. Augur laughed at augur, the Greek sophist at himself. The critic Reason annihilated all ancient faith, all existing life among the people, and established nothing more living, or equally living, in its place. The view into the world of the soul discovered only ruin, license, discord ; — quot capita, tot sensus. Epicureanism, Stoicism, Platonism, passed like phantoms over the widowed breast of humanity. After so many wars, proscriptions, and revolutions, there remained in the hearts of men only a sense of weariness and exhaustion. All political faith

had vanished. The plebeian Marius, the 'patrician Sylla, could not realize their ideas, though by unheard-of pouring forth of human blood, by violence, by injustice, by terrorism, they strove to call from the past the old decaying order of things, and to frame it once more into a living present. All the great men of the last days of Rome, whether destroyers or renovators, are stamped with the same sign ; they are consumed by an intolerable thirst to change the form of things, but they know not whither tends the history of the world. Some hold to the traditions of the Gracchi, and wish democracy. Others believe yet in the divine manes of the Appii, and the dream of an aristocratic republic. Misled by such a dream, Brutus murders his father, and calls it virtue ; and despairing of himself, his country, and the gods, cries out in dying, “Thou, too, Virtue, art only a delusion !' The soul of the self-murdering Brutus is the type of the whole world of his time. Weakness, uncertainty, a feverish desire of something better, a feverish terror after every accomplished deed, — these were the characteristics of this soul; and from these signs it was easy to discern that the world was near to the day of judgment and of transformation. And not alone this intellectual state void of faith, full of vain anxiety and regret, witnesses of this. Another sign manifests itself, a sign above all others clear and unfailing, though resting on the material side of the humanity of that day ; while in the field of spirit all is dissipation and distraction, all in the field of the material condenses and concentrates.

Rome, torn within herself, and already possessing no ideas of her own, conquers, thunders, subjects, without ceasing, and stands at length as one man, whose name is Cæsar. And this man will teach the earth unity (jedność) and community (wspólność). In appearance, he has wounded it; in

appearance,

he has put the short sword into the hand of brother against brother, of son against father. The impious one crosses the Rubicon ; he cries, Jacta alea est.' He dashes Gaul against Egypt. He shows the Germans the blue Grecian heavens at Pharsalia. He carries Greeks with him to Africa. He confuses, mingles, ensanguines all; he fills the world with the clash of weapons, the noise of war, the cry of fate. And yet, unconsciously, involuntarily, he unites and fraternizes all. And of him the Jews will think that he is the Messiah ; of him the earth will think, for a season, that he is her God. He was the forerunner of her God. In the field of historic event, he is that angel to whom it was commanded to sweep obstacles from before the feet of the coming Lord. He forced the earth to material unity, without which no word of life could spread itself; he changed the world of that time into one broad highway. And

not many years after, who trod this beaten road? Was it not Peter? Was it not Paul ? Was it not John ? The successors of the great Julius madly persecuted the new faith. Amid their feasts, they jested at the proclaimed word. They knew not, that, to hinder the spreading of the new religion, they must annihilate the work of the first of the Cæsars. They knew not, that it was even that which had raised them to be ephemeral earthly divinities which had also prepared the way for the movement begun in heaven ; that the unity of the material empire, which inclosed within itself the rest of the world under the name of conquered provinces, was the pledge, the condition, the absolute means for the entrance of Christianity: They cherished this unity, watched over it, defended it with such effeminate force as they had left; and by this means, blindly, unconsciously, protected the ever higher growth of Christianity. In the hand of Providence, they were instruments. They fulfilled the law of history, led by their own advantage,

as the merchants and tradesmen of our time, — and from so many visible Satans upon earth, each one became the minister of Divine thoughts.

Discite historiam, exemplo moniti.' “ Two thousand years pass, and again these same signs spread themselves upon the waves of time. The last spasms of the Roman republic are reflected in the terrible epileptic convulsions of the French Revolution. The shades of Marius, of Sylla, of Catiline, start up under the bloody forms of Danton, of St. Just, of Robespierre. But the Cæsar of Christianity, higher by a whole epoch than his predecessor, filled with knowledge of himself and of the object for which the Spirit of God had sent him, said, when dying on the rock of exile, - From me will be reckoned the beginning of a new era.' In this word was contained the truth of himself and of the whole future. But before this can be developed and fulfilled, before the world passes forward from the standing-point of Napoleon to a more complete, more holy transformation, it must have exhausted itself as the ancient world exhausted itself, must have denied itself as the ancient world de. nied itself. This progressive_movement in annihilation was not begun to-day or yesterday. From the days of the Gracchi, the heathen world did not rest till it heard the promises of Christ; from the days of Luther, the modern world has known no peace; ever more and more a terrible civil war of thought and of sword has rent it. The modern world also will not rest till it comes, not to the hearing only, but to the understanding and fulfilling, of the promise of Christ.

“ The hopes, the dreams, the noble faith, the terrible blasVOL. LXVI.

No. 139.

30

phemies, of all the ages that have passed over humanity, all the forms of Christian heresy, Indian pantheism, Persian dualism, Hebrew monotheism, exclusive idealism, and exclusive sensualism, all arisen at the same time, and each lapped over the other so as hardly to be distinguished, and all crying to heaven for the day of dissolution, that they may the sooner pass away, praying for death, that they may be the sooner transformed, that they may the sooner rise up young again, informed by a new spark of life ; – behold the image of the spiritual sphere of our time. This anarchy, so terrible, tends at length to crisis ; this longing, so great, and hitherto so vain, calls at last on the aid of our Father who is in heaven. When was this aid denied ? When did God reject the appeal of History, when she has raised to him her hands, and, with the voice of all the people of the earth, has cried, ' Reveal thyself to us, O Lord !'

“You all know, my brothers, that we are born in the lap of death ; and from the cradle your eyes have been accustomed to see the lividness of dissolution spreading itself over the body of this European world. Hence the unceasing pain that gnaws your hearts; hence the uncertainty that has made itself as your life. You go, and you know not whither; and already you pray not, as in former years ; you only repeat, “ It is ill with us.' But all end already comprehends in itself an approaching beginning. The hour of death only heralds the day of waking. Know you not that this is the Christian faith? and shall it deceive when it is of God: Look, then, and you shall see the marks of death change suddenly into the signs of resurrection.

“ No one calls the Middle Ages civilized; no one ours hitherto religious. Civilization began when faith died. Civilization is the unity of the material existence, the community of worldly interests, waiting for the manifestation of the word of God. Look how it grew, how it made plain, that the coming word of God might the more easily diffuse itself, might the more easily pass from house to house, from country to country! What was Napoleon, if not this other angel in history, who sweeps obstacles from the way of the Lord, when the day of his coming is already near ?

“ His universal empire vanished like an illusion; he died on a distant island, his only son in the capital of his enemy.

His brothers and their race rest in mediocrity. When those bodies die, there will not remain a trace that each of them, in life, wore a kingly crown. And yet, in spite of this, the memory of this man is not as the remembrance of the dead, but of a spirit ever more powerfully living. What he set in motion, that still rolls

« PreviousContinue »