« ForrigeFortsett »
A bishop has the special duty of superintending the Massakhta, which is a sort of mass, generally said for the souls of the dead, but which anyone may say for his own soul before death and thus escape many penalties in the other worlds. It involves seven days' unceasing prayer, and a variety of initiatory ceremonies ; after which the performer is considered dead to the world and is the object of intense reverence: when his soul is weighed in Abáthur's balance it is found to be as heavy as Shithil's own.
The whole duty of man,' as conceived by the Mandæans, has been summarised by M. Siouffi, and will serve as a fit conclusion to the sketch we have given of the tenets and customs of the Christians of St. John.' A year after birth —if possible earlier-the Sabian must be baptised. At seven years he enters a school, kept by a deacon, where he learns (or ought to learn) to read the sacred books and to say the prescribed prayers.
. On leaving school he must be apprenticed to a trade-generally he becomes a goldsmith, carpenter, or shipbuilder. In a foreign country or a strange house he must eat no food he has not dressed himself. He must be baptised every Sunday. He must pay the debts of others, labour for the freeing of those who are in captivity, be generous, hospitable, kind-hearted, never complaining. He must be humble, and rise if even a beggar salutes him ; chaste and modest; his dress unassuming. He must never be angry or return blow for blow, but must rather seek reconciliation with his enemy. In society he must always seek to take the lowest place, his voice must be always subdued. He must never cut his beard, and he must always be in a state of legal purity. He must not forswear himself, nor steal, nor lie. He must keep the Sundays and feast and fast days, must honour his parents, and kiss his mother's brow and his father's hand each day; he must not covet another man's goods, and in the presence of women he must avert his eyes. He must always be agreeable and respectful to his wife, and devote himself assiduously to the bringing up of his children. His alms must be given in secret, and his prayers earnest and regular. To be quite perfect, he should copy the sacred books and perform the Great Mass.
Although the modern Christians of St. John' do not always attain to the standard of excellence thus held before them, they are a very well-meaning, inoffensive people. They hate orthodox Christianity, and only tolerate Islam upon com
. pulsion;' but they manage to live fairly peaceably with their Mohammedan neighbours. They work steadily at the trades they adopt, and are famous for their skill as jewellers. And if they are ignorant of the fundamental doctrines of their religion, at least they are indefatigable in carrying out its ceremonious law in the wholesome matter of baptism, and are cleanly if they are not godly. Their diminishing numbers and the secrecy in which they preserve the mysteries of their faith render a further enquiry into their tenets and customs very desirable. There is so much that is conflicting and obscure in our present information as to the Mandæan religion that a visit to the people by some qualified scholar could not fail to be an advantage, and might throw fresh light on the many difficulties that attend the student of the peculiar creed of the Babylonian Sabians or Christians of St. John.
Art. VI.--Hodge and his Masters. By RICHARD JEFFERIES,
Author of The Gamekeeper at Home,' • Wild Life in a Southern County,' &c.
London : 1880. THER HERE was a time, and not very long ago, when rural tran
quillity was not only the theme of poets, but the envy of toil-worn workers in cities. The members of the landed interest from the landlord down to the labourer seemed to be associated in a happy and united family.
If there were trifling domestic jars, outsiders heard but little of them. The squire of the type the late Lord Lytton scarcely idealised in the Mr. Hazeldean of My Novel ' was the genial despot of the parish, and the beneficent Providence of his neighbourhood. He had been brought up with a sense of the responsibilities that were to devolve upon him, as he had been born to the enjoyment of country pursuits. If his rent-roll was not absolutely unencumbered—for there must be charges in the shape of jointures and family provisions-yet there was always a handsome balance at his bankers'; his bills were paid with exemplary punctuality, and he needed to hurry no man for rent. It would have blunted the edge of his admirable appetite, and spoiled the flavour of his famous old port, had he known of any family in misery upon his acres. Yet while he was always ready to do a kindly action, he was the last man in the world to be imposed upon, and had too great a respect for independence to think of pauperising the poor.
In his good works he went hand in hand with the parson, whom he had probably presented to the living. And as for the parson, he was the safest of counsellors in matters temporal as well as spiritual. Visiting about from farmhouse to cottage, listening
to the complaints, sorrows, and troubles which seldom went directly to the ears of the squire, he became the common confidant, and on occasion the intercessor. But as for the farmers, great and small, they rarely needed a mediator between them and the master. The homesteads of not a few of them had been in their families for generations; and even newcomers of similar ways of thinking soon fell into the fashions of the place. Many of them had known the young squire' from his childhood : they had drunk luck to him through life in rare old ale at his christening; he had shot over their holdings since he had been strong enough to carry a gun. Even latterly he had often turned his cob down the lane to the farmyard, and dropped in for five minutes' friendly chat in kitchen or parlour. He interested himself in the weddings of their buxom daughters, and was always willing to lend a helping hand to their sons.
If they were in temporary straits in a bad season, or had suffered from giving surety for a friend in defiance of Solomon's warnings, they had only to put the matter straightforwardly to him, and might surely reckon on his forbearance.
As for the labourers, they worked tolerably hard, it was true, but if their fare was coarse, it was plentiful. Their actual money wage might be moderate, but, never looking for more, they were seldom discontented. They had employment and their wages all the year round, with the certainty of windfalls in haymaking and harvest times. They stuck generally to the farms on which they had been bred, as their fathers had done before them. Often the unmarried men had their home in the farm kitchen, taking their meals at the same table with their employer. They were rather his humble friends than his servants, and did not hesitate to give their opinions bluntly when he talked over the course of farming operations. So they came to regard his interests as their own; nor did they grudge him their services beyond every-day hours if disease had broken out among the cattle, or rain-storms were threatening the hay. They would as soon have thought of giving warning as of receiving it, and so they had become practically · bound to the soil' like the old Scottish salters and colliers. The farmer on his side was understood to have care of them in sickness, and to see that they had to put up with no unnecessary privations when their strength failed with old age. Had he shown any inclination to be churlish, all the parish would have cried shame on his parsimony, and he would have lost indirectly far more than he saved.
Such used to be the popular impressions as to the state of society in the country districts, and in the main they were fairly true. Life in the rural districts was far less of a lottery than in cities; and if there were no great prizes to be gained, save those to which lucky landowners were born, at least there was a general average of comfort. Above all, men were free from the fever of speculation, and from that intense ardour of excessive competition that stimulates the more malignant forms of the passions. Of course nobody at any time believed in an idyllic immunity from sin, self-seeking, and covetousness. But it was supposed that those worthy rustics were relieved from many of the temptations which are the bane of more artificial societies; while their easy conservatism, with the sense of a margin,' saved them from the worries that wear men out. They were content to live as their fathers before them; they were not perpetually making enemies among their neighbours by struggling for front places in a crowd; they might suffer from a succession of unfavourable seasons, but experience told them that things must work round in the end ; and while they waited for the inevitable turn for the better, they had something to come and go upon. For they were naturally a frugal generation, and when the body was fairly well cared for, they found a real satisfaction in denying themselves; while, in spite of their ingrained habits of acquisitiveness, they had cultivated a serenity, or a stolidity, which closely resembled Oriental fatalism. The farmer who grudged each shilling out of pocket slept and ate little the worse while the drought was shrivelling his sprouting root crops, or the rain was beating on the ripening wheat. His imagination, like his intellect, was imperfectly developed, and he never let it run riot in conjuring up the misfortunes which no amount of forethought or carefulness could avert.
In short, it was an easy, jog-trot existence, which kept men in sleek condition, like their stall-fed cattle, if it had no temptations for ambitious spirits. Not, by the way, that feeding cattle in the stall was common then, or anything that involved speculative outlay. There was slight expenditure on oil-cakes and artificial manures to aggravate the risks of bad years. The agriculture was still primitive as the implements, though improvements were being slowly recognised and adopted. As the ponderous wagon, built up in the back yard of the village wheelwright as if its solid timbers were put together for eternity, went lumbering along the deep-worn lanes, so the simple ploughshare forged by the local blacksmith seemed barely to scratch the surface of the soil; and horses went their tedious rounds in the threshing mills, if, indeed, flails wielded by sinewy arms were not swinging in cadence on the barn floors. The easy life was reflected in the aspect of the country, which had the rude picturesqueness it is likely to lose when science has taken possession of the field, and profits are more closely considered. The farms, as they had been from time immemorial, were laid out in a labyrinth of irregular enclosures. On every slope, and in every nook, were hanging copses or spinneys; there were thickets of gorse noted as fox-covers, and osier-beds luxuriating in undrained swamp. The great straggling hedgerows formed no inconsiderable percentage of the acreage, and the hedgerow timber flung its broad shadows over many a patch of arable land. The grass grew rank and coarse in the bottoms, innocent as yet of patent drain-pipes; there were unsightly tufts of rushes, the favourite forms of hares ; and the banks that overhung the weed-grown ditches were burrowed by colonies of destructive rabbits. As nobody dreamed of grubbing the hedgerows for the sake of turning the ground to remunerative purposes, so it had never occurred to the farmer to straighten the winding lanes. Except when pressed by the obvious urgency of the case to unwonted exertions in his hay-fields, he had never realised that time is money. His men worked leisurely through long hours, and he went as leisurely about his supervision, when he was not lending them a hand himself. His household was managed frugally, and if the farm was not absolutely self-supporting, the outgoings were on the simplest scale. He was singularly abstemious in point of self-indulgence; he seldom spent anything on show or pretence, and though gradations of rank were defined and acknowledged, yet the tenants among themselves were much on an equality. They had not learned as yet to look down on their occupation, and rather prided themselves on the old-fashioned title of Farmer.' And though they exercised the farmer's privilege of grumbling, it was understood that the grumbling never meant much. They might be sluggishly alive to certain class grievances, which it was to be hoped that the King and his Parliament would redress; but among themselves there was harmony and kindly feeling. They followed the political lead of the squire, and voted for representatives with a stake in the county. Whatever might be their opinions as to the propriety of tithes, they respected the sacred office of their pastor, and were regular in their attendance at his church, though they probably slumbered through the sermon. Radical doctrinaires would have gone crying in the wilderness had they preached a political revival in the rural parishes, and the stump orator who agitated for