21 NOVEMBER 1908, Page 39


"discovered" Mr. Andrew Carnegie as an economist. Mr. Carnegie had written an article in the North American Review on the uses and taxation of wealth, and Mr. Gladstone, much struck by it, asked that it might be reprinted in England. This was done in the Pall Mall Budget under the title "The Gospel of Wealth," and a discussion followed in which Mr. Gladstone, Cardinal Manning, and others took part. In "The Gospel of Wealth" Mr. Carnegie recommended high progressive taxes on estates at the death of their owners. In this volume he repeats his argument with modern instances. But that is not all. He is able to show the Socialist leaders that be had very advanced views on "Labour" and " Land " while some of them were still at school; and having proved to them that he * Problems of To-clay: Wealth—Labour—Socialism. By Andrew Carnegie. London : George Allen and Bona. [2.. 6d. net.]

will place after them, in grim contrast, a stanza of Luther's and its rendering by Carlyle :—

" Ein feste burg 1st unser Gott, em n gute wehr mid waffen;

Er bilfft uns frey aus slier not die tins ytzt hat betroffen. Der alt bose feind mit ernst ers ytzt meint, gros macht und viol list sein grausam riistung ist, auf erd jet nicht reins gleichen."

Rough and rugged such verse as this may be, but assuredly its plain homespun speech is the stuff from which are made those hymns that are truly "great,"—the hymns that last, that stand the wear and tear of common life, and go with us almost from the cradle to the grave.

And yet our older hymns, in spite of their strength and grandeur, have, it may be allowed, a certain sameness of form, and scarcely adapt themselves to some more meditative moods, or to the expression of ideas which are not direct and positive. Watts constantly felt himself trammelled by what he calls the " fetters " of "the old narrow metres," while modern thought, even where it clings firmly to dogma, is yet haunted by a sense of perplexity ; seems at times to lose, as it were, the clue amid the vast labyrinth of knowledge, and so to lack that assured confidence which gave force to the early hymn-writers. Let any one consider that hymn which is perhaps the most distinctive of modern hymns—we mean "Lead, kindly Light"—and contrast it with "0 God, our help in ages past"; or let him look at "Crossing the Bar," which the common voice has now pronounced to be a true hymn, and then turn to the Dies Irae, or to "Great God, what do I see and hear " The old and the new are separated almost by a world of thought. Both Newman and Tennyson bear on them the impress of an age in which, as knowledge "grows from more to more," and our sense of ignorance grows with it, even the clearest belief seems somehow to be "clouded with a doubt." And yet their two great hymns, written under new and more complex conditions, still conform to the old laws. Unless the famous reference to "Angel faces" is held to bar such a judgment, they are both, we think, models of simplicity. The words are of the plainest ; the images are such as stir an immediate apprehension ; and, above all, there is no fine writing, no attempt to impose by being unintelligible. "Here," said Wesley in the preface to his own hymn-book, "is no doggerel ; no botches; nothing put in to patch up the rhyme nothing turgid and bombast on the one hand or low and creeping on the other ; no cant expressions " ; and these hymns, though so different from his own, would certainly satisfy him in all of these points; while they would equally fulfil his second law that a hymn must possess that "spirit of true poetry" which we have ventured in the case of sacred song to call "sublimity." To labour the point is idle, for those who fail to catch in them some "echo" of a soul that is soaring heavenward would be deaf to argument ; but it may be permissible to note that they have a third distinction, which may be called "sobriety." Restraint and measure arc the mark of all good work, and most especially in things which have relation to the divine. "God is in heaven," said the Hebrew prophet, "and thou upon earth : therefore let thy words be few " ; and this law of reticence applies not only to the multitude of words but to their spirit. Exaggeration and effusiveness of speech are not to be estimated only by formal length, but also by tone and temper. A true piety is reserved and reverent even under the stress of strong emotion, and such a hymn, for instance, as "0 Paradise, 0 Paradise," exhibits, we think, rather feebleness than force of feeling. Ecstatic ejacula- tions and the repetition of such words as "All rapture through and through" come more readily from the lips than from the heart. They mark an agitation which is most violent where there is least depth. They are alien from reality and the soberness of truth, while in their orgiastic character they seem repugnant to the meek and quiet spirit of Christianity. We may, indeed, fitly quote and apply to hymns South's magnificent • appeal for plainness of speech in sermons :—

"I speak the words of soberness,' said Saint Paul ; and I preach the gospel not with the enticing words of man's

"A safe stronghold our God is still, A trusty shield and weapon; He'll help us clear from all the ill That in our day shall happen. The ancient prince of hell Hath risen with purpose fell; Strong mail of craft and power He weareth in this hour; On earth is not his fellow."

wisdom.' This was the way of the apostles' discoursing of things sacred. Nothing here of the fringes of the north star ; ' nothing of 'nature's becoming unnatural ; ' nothing of the 'down of angels' wings,' or 'the beautiful locks of cherubims ; ' no starched similitudes introduced with a 'Thus have I seen a cloud rolling in its airy mansion,' and the like. No, these were sublimities above the rise of the apostolic spirit. For the apostles, poor mortals, were content to take lower steps, and to tell the world in plain terms, 'that he who believed should be saved, and that be who believed not should be damned.' And this was the dialect which pierced the conscience, and made the hearers cry out, Men and brethren, what shall we do I" It tickled not the ear, but sunk into the heart : and when men came from such sermons, they never commended the preacher for his taking voice or gesture ; for the fineness of such a simile, or the quaintness of such a sentence; but they spoke like men conquered with the overpowering force and evidence of the most concerning truths; much in the words of the two disciples going to Emmaus; 'Did not our hearts burn within us, while he opened to us the Scriptures ? ' In a word, the apostles' preaching was therefore mighty, and successful, because plain, natural, and familiar, and by no means above the capacity of their hearers ; nothing being more preposterous, than for those who were pro- fessedly aiming at men's hearts to miss the mark, by shooting over their heads."

But amid the vast and varied mass of hymns—for Charles Wesley alone wrote about six thousand—to arrive at any clear criterion of excellence is perhaps hardly possible, and the editor of the present volume, in selecting "the hundred best hymns," though his choice is on the whole admirable, has probably been guided, as most of us would be, rather by an unreasoning preference than by regard for any rule. At least, when he makes it the test of "a good hymn" that it should "have in it devotion, teaching, religion, and poetry," his definition seems of little use, for the first three requirements are assuredly often found in very bad hymns ; and we have there- fore attempted to indicate certain qualities which seem to be more essential. Such an endeavour can, indeed, only be hesitating and hazardous—a venture, as it were, upon an unmapped sea—but it may appear not unjustified to those who reflect how often poor and unworthy hymns mar the beauty and solemnity of our public services.

Happily, however, there seems at last some hope of better things. Within the last few days The Orford Hymn Book has come into our hands. We only wish we had more space to devote to its consideration. But though, unfortunately, we cannot give it detailed notice, we can unhesitatingly commend it to our readers as a very noteworthy collection of noble hymns.