The Modern Job

By HENRY PETERSON. Philadelphia : H. Peterson & Co.
IT is a question for Mr. Peterson to settle with each of his readers, how far a thinker upon man’s free agency and the existence of evil is justifiable in putting his speculations in the form of dramatic blank verse. This question is renewed from age to age; and perhaps no one can say that a pill may not be sugared, and permitted to please the palate, at least; that beauty may not adorn use; that amusement may not agreeably blend with instruction. Let it be far from us, at any rate, to say this ; we concern ourselves with other points. To tell the honest truth, Mr. Peterson, if no great affair as a poet, is neither a very startling philosopher; and if it is wrong to “justify the ways of God to man ” in the form of drama, the author has not sinned greatly, for it is not much of a drama. His Job is a resident of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and is, like Job of old, in very comfortable circumstances at first ; but he loses his whole family by a fever, and is obliged to sell his homestead ; and, being afflicted with boils, has to go live in the cottage of a hideous dwarf, with whose misery and wickedness his own former prosperity and goodness had once formed a striking contrast. In this condition he is visited by two ministers (terribly dull, bigoted fellows they are), who talk evangelical Christianity at him, and go off thinking his soul in a very bad way, —in fact, telling him as much. Then the doctor has his say, which is the say of modern scientific thought, and gives little quarter to the doctrine of special providences, or the interference of God with his own laws. Then in a dream comes the Archangel Michael, the celestial regent of the universe, and discusses the coexistence of evil and an omnipotent God, and ends, like a wise archangel, by confessing that he does not know how it is. Job is so much comforted by this dream, that he gets well of his boils and lives to be seventy years old.
The tendency of the whole drama is to teach charity and the acceptance of truth in every form, and we do not observe anything in it which is not familiar to the reader of the current discussion of such topics, as well as to the thoughts of nearly every educated man. But the author is supported against the adversity here offered him by the good opinion of three distinguished poets and four distinguished poetesses, whose praises he sends in a printed slip by way of introduction, to the critic, and “ not for publication.” We assure him that we have read these with profound sorrow, but no great surprise. They are dreadfully good-natured, those distinguished poets and poetesses, and we warn the literary aspirant against their flatteries. Would that we could warn them against him !
The author may not believe us, but it is nevertheless true, that his versification is often clumsy, and that there are as few evidences of artistic power in his poem as of novel thought. Yet we think he will believe us, though we may be wrong, that there is at least one fine stroke of imagination in it, namely, this by which Satan is portrayed : —
“ Who is this
Coming this way ? — so large and vast, but yet
So mean and misproportioned. And his face,
Handsome, it may be, once, — but now so gross,
Rapacious, ugly, cruel. Can this be he
Whom all men fear ? Yes, it is he. The lord
Of disproportion and excess, — the foe
Of harmony and moderation wise.”