forty-eighth, fiftieth, sixty-fifth, sixty-eighth, seventy-sixth, ninetyseventh, ninety-eighth, one hundred and forty-ninth, and the psalm in the third chapter of Habakkuk. To this arrangement and discussion critical observations are subjoined.

The ninth dissertation is dedicated to a new subject, viz. that of PROPHECY; in respect to which, Dr. Hurdis inquires into the time of its communication; and to prove that it was, in its regular course, delivered at the same season with the psalm, he dwells minutely upon the history of the mission of Elijah, whom he styles the prophet of the former rain ; and having offered an explanation of his running before Ahab, adds proofs that Saul and David ran in the same manner. Stating some instances in reference to Solomon, Samuel, Balaam, &c. that the word was communicated by night in vision or dream, and suggesting reflexions on the feast of Moab, and on Abraham's rescue of Lot, the dissertation closes with such evidence as the professor deems sufficient to evince that prophecy was delivered at the season of the former rain, from the age of Abraham to that of Elijah.

The doctor, continuing his researches, introduces his tenth dissertation with the observation, that, about the period of time he is discussing, the prophetic character assumed a uniform complexion, which ever afterwards attached to it. Evidence is consequently adduced to show that the successors of Elijah prophesied at the same season of the year; and these exemplifications are accordingly applied both to Elisha and Isaiah, in this dissertation; whilst the next extends them to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel ; and the twelfth to the minor prophets.

The dissertations are followed by the annexed conclusion.

• Thus have I shown, to the satisfaction, I trust, and full conviotion of my reader, what is the nature and what the occasion of psalm and prophecy. Let it not be imagined that I have exhausted the subject, and suffered no proofs which may favour my conclusions to he kept in reserve. My intention, in this volume, has been to state briefly what I have found to be fact, and to support truth by sufficient evidence. I have therefore appealed to the psalms only in a limited number of instances, and from the prophecies I have drawn still fewer examples. He who entertains an opinion, that I have not fully established my assertion, that the season of the promulgation of prophecy and of singing the psalm was at a great public feast held previous to the former rain, must be referred to the Scriptures at large for farther information. I have planted a rock upon which criticism will find it safe to rely, and I must leave it to the curious to build upon it the fabric of perfect knowledge by research. With safety can I pronounce, that labour thus applied will be well repaid ; and that when the Scriptures have been examined by the above standard of investigation, they will be found to be truly worthy of that Holy Spirit which inspired their authors. It is to the superficial inquirer only that they appear to be clouded with imperfections. To him who patiently considers their merits, it will be manifest, that they are capable of extorting admiration from the scholar who reviews them by the severest test. They are compositions truly incomparable for their beauty and sublimity, for their regard to unity of design and orderly arrangement; and are not to be charged in vain with the slightest critical defect.

. I will farther add, that the method here pursued is the only safe and effectual means of extracting from the Scriptures their genuine sense. To be able to understand the New Testament, we must be well acquainted with the Septuagint; and to comprehend the Septuagint, we ought to be critically versed in the Hebrew. When an extensive and accurate knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, supported by a patient investigation of the ancient customs of the East, has been applied to the illustration of the Septuagint, we may open the New Testament with sanguine hopes of completely understanding its language. Without such a foundation, and while we interpret apostles and evangelists, by appeal to those Greek classics, with which they had little or no acquaintance, imperfect and even contradictory explanations must arise. On the contrary, if the Scriptures are not studied through this elegant but deceitful medium, if they are investigated as it were ab ovo, in the manner above represented, I will venture to pronounce, that many doctrinal points upon which well-meaning but ill-informed Christians at present differ, will assume a sense so precise and determined, as to be no longer capable of being misinterpreted and controverted.' P. 266.

Such is the retrospect which Dr. Hurdis has taken of his own work; but in whatever light it might have appeared to himselfor however satisfactory, in his own estimation, the data which he denominates proofs--in our judgement they should be called by a different appellation, and rather contemplated as mere fancies, inconsistent, in many instances, with the very facts to which they appeal. The rock then upon which, to use the doctor's phrase, criticism may safely rely, is not that upon which he has built. That labor well applied to the study of the Scriptures will be well repaid, we are as thoroughly convinced of as we are that the Scriptures themselves, when thoroughly examined, will be found truly worthy of the divinity by whom they were inspired: but we must not read them through the spectacles of hypothesis, which would exhibit men, like trees, walking. When Dr. Lowth began to deliver his Prelections, the art of Hebrew poetry was but little understood. Prejudices were in general so prevalent against it, when contrasted with the remains of Greece and of Rome, that his lectures were necessarily a sort of apology to excuse existing differences of opinion. The ingenuity, however, with which each topic was treated, the elegance of his translations, and the general beauty of his style, all joined to excite and conciliate the public attention. Since that period, Biblical criticism hath been in consequence considerably promoted; and Herder, in particular, not less accomplished with preparatory learning, while possessed of as vigorous a mind, has resumed the subject with the happlest success. Like Aristotle, who developed his principles of criticism from the poets of Greece, Herder had recourse to those of the Bible; and having considered 'nature, religion, manners and customs, with their respective peculiarities, as connected with his subject, has placed their productions in the most interesting light. Dr. Hurdis's attempt is somewhat similar, but without imitation, for he never appears to have heard even of Herder's :-we wish we could say he had rivaled or excelled this accomplished critic of the continent.


Art. VIII. - The Poetical Works of Hector Macneill, Esq. 2 Vols.

8vo. 145. Boards. Longman and Rees. 1801.

gives us pleasure to find that this very interesting writer, to several of whose productions, when published separately, we have already paid the tribute of our approbation, has at length presented to the world a complete collection of his poems. Some of his most popular pieces being out of print, and continuing in great demand, he has, he tells us, at the solicitation of the booksellers, re-published them, and along with them alt the other poems which he means to acknowledge. In making the selection from his MSS, Mr. Macneill expresses his fears that in some instances he may have been influenced more by a gratification of his own taste than a consideration of what would gratify the taste of others.

• There are,' says he, certain events in the early stages of life, which, on a retrospect, interest and charm perhaps beyond any other. Among these, scenes and circumstances annexed to youth and pas. sion cannot fail to be remembered with peculiar pleasure, while the occasional and unpremeditated effusions which commemorate the joys that are past, and the friends that are no more, become, even with their faults, the children of our affection.' P. vi.

We believe that most readers of taste and feeling will learn with pleasure that the poet, whose works they are about to pers use an account of, has written on topics in which not his fancy merely, but his heart at the same time, has been interested. In reviewing the history of the poetry of every nation, it will be found that such passages as have called forth the unfeigned sensibility of their respective authors possess a peculiar charm, that these have formed in many instances the living principle of their attempts, and have secured to them immortality; after the mere abstractions of fancy, the splendid frost-works of the imagination, have ceased to excite either wonder or applause. CRIT. Rev. Vol. 34. March, 1802.


The first poem in this collection is the celebrated History of Will and Jean*, or Scotland's Scaith. It appears by an advertisement prefixed, that Mr. Macneill wrote this moral tale at the instance, or at least with the knowledge and approbation, of the late Dr. Doig, the learned master of the grammar-school of Stirling, his particular friend, by whom, and under whose name, it was originally published. , Its object is to describe the baneful effects of spirituous liquors on the morals and happiness of the laboring poor. The hero is the very model of manly strength and beauty, with an affectionate and generous heart. The heroine is endued with all the charms and virtues befitting her humble situation. They meet, are mutually enamoured, marry, and pass three years in contentment and happiness. In an evil hour, Will is enticed into a house licensed to sell British spirits, i. e. whiskey: He becomes intoxicated, and repents, but sins again ; at length he acquires a habit of swearing, and becomes hardened-- Jean's patience is exhausted; and discontent and reproaches succeed to love and harmony in their once happy cottage.--Will alienates himself from home, becomes a politician, and forgets his own affairs : he soon degenerates into a downright profligate, and enlists for a soldier.- Jean, distrayed in her temper, her beauty, her health,

peace, is turned out of her dwelling, and thrown, with her infant children, a beggar on the world. The progress of their ruin is pourtrayed with a degree of truth, simplicity, and pathos, which irresistibly engages the attention, and affects the heart.

We have been told that the original intention of Mr. Mac, neill was to have composed a ballad that might have been sung in the streets and distributed from the stalls; and in this form was this beautiful pastoral first printed, without a name. But its merits could not be concealed; the phænomenon of such a poem being thrown on the public in such a form excited surprise and admiration; it sold with unexampled rapidity--ten thousand copies having been disposed of in a few months.

The success of this poem, and perhaps the benevolence of the author, induced him to continue the story in a second part, entitled the Waes o Wart. The sufferings of Jean with her infants at last terminate by their finding a retreat in the Valley of Roslin, where, after the miseries of the campaign in Flanders under the duke of York, in the course of which he loses a leg and is left for dead in the field of battle, Will at last joins them, and, instructed by adversity, learns to appreciate justly the blessings of industry and innocence ; and we are left


* See our 13th vol. New Arr.


+ Woes of War.-Sce our 1711 vol. New Arr. p. 231.

to suppose that this once happy pair are restored to peace and content.

The second part of Will and Jean, or the Waes oWar, is beautiful: in the ornaments of poetry it is superior to the first. The miseries of war in a defeated and retreating army are finely contrasted with the charms of peaceful nature in the beautiful Valley of Roslin, and the meeting of Will and Jean is drawn by the hand of a master:

• Thrice he kissed his long lost treasure !

Thrice each child—but could not speak :
Tears of love, and hope, and pleasure,

Streamed in silence down his cheek. Vol. i. p. 65. But, after all, it may be questioned whether this continuation of the story does not take off somewhat from the unity of design, and the general effect of the poem as originally written. In this point of view, the addition to Will and Jean operates in some measure like the addition made by the author's country. man, Dr. Beattie, to his exquisite poem The Hermit. The doctor yielded, we have been told, to the remonstrances of those who could not bear that his high-souled sage should be left in

darkness forlorn.'-Similar motives may have occasioned the second part of Will and Jean.

The poetical merit of the former part of this poem, great as ' it is, is inferior to its merit in a moral point of view. It is not easy to conceive any poem, or indeed any composition, to be better calculated for remedying the evil against which it is die rected, or any evil that more loudly calls for a remedy. The consumption of spirits is the bane of the poor in every part of the united islands; but the consumption of Scotland is in a far greater proportion to its population than that of England or Ireland (we speak from certain information); and it increases with a rapidity that threatens every evil, physical and moral.

Next in succession is a poem 'To Eliza on her Marriage,' which is gay and Horatian. The same character may be given to several succeeding epistles to ladies who were friends of the author. In these Mr. Macneill appears in a new character; and those who possess the volumes will in general acknowledge that he acquits himself with great success.

Of The Harp, a legendary tale in two parts, the reader will find a pretty full account in our journal, at the time of its ori. ginal publication. In the present edition we think it considerably improved, and are flattered by perceiving that the author has attended to some of our criticisms : we wish, however, he

* Soe vol, LXVIII. O. S. p. 125.

« ElőzőTovább »