Dublin Review—Notices of Books

Verses on Various Occasions. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, D.D.
London: Burns, Oates, & Co.

{531} AMONG the various streams which of late years have flowed into the sea of Catholicism, Tractarianism occupies no subordinate place; and it is, moreover, peculiarly interesting to English Catholics, because its whole progress and characteristics have been so thoroughly English. Now no one had so prominent a position as F. Newman in directing the course of Tractarianism; and in studying his poems, therefore, Catholics may to a great extent learn the first springs, as it were, and intimate principles of the movement. But at this day the number is by no means small of those who owe their very possession of the Faith to F. Newman's influence; and these will peruse the volume before us with peculiar interest. Many of the poems will revive the keenest associations and remembrances in the mind of such a Catholic. They may remind him, perhaps, of this or that epoch in his life when some great thought was first explicitly presented to his mind by their perusal; some thought which has never quitted him since, and which, by God's grace, has borne fruit thirty-fold, sixty-fold, an hundred-fold.

Considering the great learning both of F. Newman and Dr. Pusey, nothing is more remarkable in early Tractarianism than the comparatively subordinate place assigned to intellectual researches as a means for arriving at truth. "Rule carefully your daily life in God's presence:" such was the predominant lesson. "Be zealous for such doctrine as you already hold: thus will God lead you forward to a fuller knowledge of His Revelation." This lesson might be illustrated by a large number of these poems; and we can only give one or two most inadequate illustrations of such a drift. Thus the following teaches that zeal for the spread of truth is requisite for God's service; and that oftentimes men cannot innocently content themselves with cultivation of the mere tranquil and domestic virtues.

            "'Give any boon for peace!
Why should our fair-eyed Mother e'er engage
In the world's course and on a troubled stage,
From which her very call is a release?
            No! in thy garden stand,
            And tend with pious hand {532}
            The flowers thou plantest there,
            Which are thy proper care,
O man of God! In meekness and in love,
And waiting for the blissful realms above.

            Alas! for thou must learn,
Thou guileless one! rough is the holy hand.
Runs not the Word of Truth through every land,
A sword to sever, and a fire to burn?
            If blessed Paul had stay'd
            In cot or learned shade,
            With the priest's white attire,
            And the Saints' tuneful choir,
Men had not gnash'd their teeth, nor risen to slay,
But thou hadst been a heathen in thy day."

Yet such zeal must be founded on strict and (so to speak) homely conscientiousness:—

"Thou to wax fierce
     In the cause of the Lord,
To threat and to pierce
     With the heavenly sword!
Anger and Zeal,
     And the Joy of the brave,
Who bade thee to feel,
     Sin's slave.

The Altar's pure flame
     Consumes as it soars;
Faith meetly may blame,
     For it serves and adores.
Thou warnest and smitest!
     Yet Christ must atone
For a soul that thou slightest—
     Thine own."

We will give but one more extract:—

"Thrice bless'd are they, who feel their loneliness;
    To whom nor voice of friends nor pleasant scene
    Brings that on which the sadden'd heart can lean;
Yea, the rich earth, garb'd in her daintiest dress
Of light and joy, doth but the more oppress,
    Claiming responsive smiles and rapture high;
    Till, sick at heart, beyond the veil they fly
Seeking His Presence, who alone can bless."

Of the Catholic poems, the chief of course is the celebrated "Dream of Gerontius." Certain Protestant critics have made a very curious comment on this poem. They have represented F. Newman as intending to protest in it for more "spiritual" and "enlightened" views concerning Purgatory than prevail among his co-religionists. We can only say we never heard of any Catholics whatever, be their general school of thought what it might, {533} who have taken any exception at any part of the doctrine contained in this beautiful poem.

The present writer is one of those who must thank F. Newman heartily for having renewed in their mind, by the publication of this volume, so many grateful and happy memories of the past.

[Dublin Review, vol. X., April, 1868.]

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