A RHYMING ANSWER TO COLENSO.*
IT is surely no common mind which has conceived the idea of refuting Bishop Colenso and all other heretics in rhyme. Lu- cretius long ago sang in numbers, not indeed polished to Virgilian perfection, but still surpassingly beautiful, how from the acci- dental movements and combinations of the original particles of matter the world grew into the order and loveliness that lie around us ; and Milton, in more recent times, told in majestic ierse the story of the fall of man and of his redemption ; but it has been reserved, it seems, for Mr. Craig, and for our own time, to assign its due limits to reason, and vindicate the authority of Scripture against all its impugners, in verse which, if not exactly harmonious, is at all events in some respects absolutely unrivalled. There are many points in which Mr. Craig resembles Milton, though we are sure his own modesty would shrink from the corn- The Province of Reason in Religion. By Rev. J. R. Craig, Oxon. Lonaq flimpkin, Marshall, and CO. 1855
parison. Both of them handle a very lofty subject, both of them are deeply imbued with classical lore, and their respective poems abound with learned allusions, both of them occasionally drop the poetic disguise, and afford glimpses into their own lives, as when Milton laments his blindness, and Mr. Craig confesses to having once written a hostile review of Colenso's arithmetic in the Salisbury Journal. But with all these similarities there is also a great difference. Milton wrote a poem as worthy of his great theme as the limits of human knowledge and language would permit. Mr. Craig has succeeded only in making himself infi- nitely ridiculous. Indeed we have not for a long time read a funnier book than this ; and it is the more amusing that it seems to be written in the most undoubted good faith, and with the sincerest wish to render a service to the cause of religion. This consideration, combined with the very serious nature of the sub- ject, ought rather perhaps to be a protection to the author against ridicule, bat there are some parts of this little volume which we fancy would defy the most unimpressible muscles. In fact the work, if not written by a clergyman of the English Church, might take its place by the side of the Comic History of England, and might be called "The Comic Reply to Bishop Colenso."
Not that Bishop Coleuso figures very largely in its pages. On the contrary, a few stanzas are thought quite sufficient to demolish him, and the seven authors of the Essays and Reviews are disposed of with equal facility, and not without a revival of some of the old scurrilous jokes. The author, indeed, seems to have felt some compunction regarding his treatment of those writers, for we find him in a note in his appendix very justly remarking, "My verse at this part has a semblance of severity, a temper ever to be deprecated as an impulse to a priestly pen : I trust it is only righteous indignation," &c., but he does not appear to have been the least aware that his severity is of such a kind that it could not possibly hurt anybody but himself, and that it does not hurt even himself, except by exciting against him the shafts of ridicule. We have read somewhere that "facit indignatio versus," but we doubt if any one could have imagined that indignation would produce such verses as some we shall presently present to our readers.
Mr. Craig's poem starts from the fundamental question of all religion, and goes on to subjects into which we could not follow without risk of seeming profane. Having overthrown atheism and polytheism, and established the orthodox doctrine, proved the necessity of a revelation and its existence in the Bible, and given an outline with theological comments of the Gospel history, he prepares for his grand attack upon the heretics. By this time he is thoroughly warmed to the work, and thus he opens fire :- "Have at ye, now, ye seven droll champions Not Christ'ndom of, but some far diff'rent 'dom. So-dom, or E-dom (not the best of sons,— ' I'll slay my brother Jacob when we come
1. my father's dying day);—
And worse ye are than rash Esan ; For, pottage for, whose rancid scum Your own materials, coarse, and raw, And indigestible, is from, Ye, false, your birthright sell, and wonld God's Israel slay.
Have at thee now, Natal! Arithmetic, They tell us, was the sordid base whereon Erected was your fame ; and the fabric Is base enough built up that base upon ; Have at thee, even there !
Before your present guilty raid, This pen, in years now past and gone, Its charge presumptuously laid Against the Extraction The Rule your Book prescribes of th' Cube Root and the Square.
"At fault in figures then, in figures still Ill figuring, thy figures also now Be here arraisn'd;—• A man, you write, shall fill A. space in throng of two feet square; so how Could Israel Moses hear ?'
Mark a square yard upon the ground, Take nine, nay, twelve, good Zulus, thou,
And range them in't; it shall be found,— Thou shalt thyself the fact allow,—
Ground is for them, but not for your complaint severe.
'And so, good now, six hundred thousand men Can in a circle furlong find their place ; Sot Moses midst; one hundred yards and ten T'his farthest auditor shall he the space.
Agree, then, my good Sir ;— We'll wage to place two million ears Which all shall bear if you, with face Bedow'd, we trust., with sorrow's tears,
Will then confess,—'twere no disgrace,— 'I have done wrong, forgive the Bible slanderer.'
But enough. These quotations, we think, will convince our readers that Bishop Colenso has not much to apprehend from his rhyming antagonist, while they will serve at the same time as
' an ample justification of our declining to discuss his stanzas in a more serious spirit. Yet appended to a stanza as extravagant as any we have quoted is the following sensible note, which shows that the author, if not much more skilled in prose than in poetical composition, is at all events a man of courage and of right feel- ing. "Nevertheless, I must confess that I do not feel the alarm which many feel at the publication of error. To answer it is better than to suppress it. I, for one, in my humble sphere, declined to add my signature to those which were extensively circulated calling for the enforcement of the stern exercise of episcopal power. Answer error satisfactorily with exhibitions of truth, audit becomes a means for good rather than hurt ; it breaks up the fallow ground of listless indifference, and though itself but vile excrement, yet, as tillage, fits it for the reception of precious seed." We presume it was the document to which the signature was affixed, and not the signatures themselves, that called; and that what it called for it was not "the enforcement of the stern exer- cise," but simply the stern exercise of episcopal force ; and very much we rejoice to learn that Mr. Craig withheld his name from any document of the kind.
We must give our readers one or two more specimens of Mr. Craig's poetical powers. The question arises how to versify the words of Luke xi. 11, 12,—" If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone, or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion ?" The result is not a whit worse than much of the doggrel that is sung every Sunday in the churches of Scotland, but we doubt if even Sir Francis Rous would ever have hit upon the ingenious expedient devised by Mr. Craig for making "bread" rhyme to "egg." We should mention that it is a principle with our author, as with many other poets, that a correspondence in the final letter of two words is all that is required to establish a rhyme. Accordingly since the word "loaf," which is a description of bread, ends in "f," and since " ceuf," which is the French for "egg," also ends in "f," it is obvious that by mixing French and English together a very beautiful as well as novel result will be obtained :— "Will one of you, to hungry son, Heartless, ell lui demands en Give him, instead, a scorpion,
Or stone, or serpent, for a loaf ?"
Nor less is the author's skill in adapting Latin to the exigencies of English metre. If he wishes to quote a Latin author, the fact that he is writing a rather difficult form of stanza is not the slightest bar to his ingenuity. Hear him quote Pliny on the music of the spheres. He is referring to the admission of" that amiable philosopher" that the celestial music is accessible to no mortal ear, and thus he proceeds :—
"That author's words, albeit, 'tis curious
To note,—' Immensus, sensum aurium Excedens, tantas molis sonitus ; Circumactorun tinnitus siderum, Volventium orbes ; Dulci et incredibili Suavitate concentus ; ' Yet 'Nobis intus sumus qui Tacitus labitur mundus.'
Say, was it by tradition came such thoughts as these ?"
Yet in spite of all this strange absurdity, there is discovered in at least one passage a simplicity and a sad sincerity which should win for the author some portion of our esteem, while at the same time they would make us sorry if we supposed his feel- ings could be wounded by our criticism. The following stanza, with which the writer introduces an account of an angelic appear- ance of which he was himself witness in his earlier years, possesses an earnestness, and power, and childlike confidence of belief which almost remind one, and we are now quite serious, of Dante :—
"Angela of light, these ; are they seen of men On earth in these our days, or are they not ?
Now what I shall proceed to bid this pen Most meekly write, I know full well is what Will meet the scorner's jeer : Yet, fain this hand than falsely trace These characters would fade and rot ; Or penitential tear efface Those written with corroding blot, Than let so grave a record recklessly appear."
And here we must take leave of Mr. Craig, regretting that all his stanzas are not equal to this one, or that he was not at least better advised than to give to the world a work, the writing of which may have been a very pleasant and innocent amusement for the winter evenings in his own parsonage, but which ought never to have gone beyond it. His book has, however, afforded us some amusement, which we trust is equally harmless, and we have tried to turn it to the only purpose which in this hard world it is ever likely to fulfil. We can at all events give