« VorigeDoorgaan »
reading; but with such gracefulness and natural ease did Mrs. Coleridge wear her endowments and her attainments, that the simple vivacity and sprightliness of the most agreeable form of familiar letter is not lost or overlaid with learning; her letters are like the animated conversation of a thoughtful and very accomplished woman-vigorous, gentle, and unpretending 3
Mrs. Coleridge's health had been delicate for several years, and during the last two years she was the victim of one of the most fearful maladies that flesh is heir to. Towards the end her sufferings were great, but they were borne with the utmost fortitude, her mind retaining its clearness to the last. Within only a few days of her death, she made her last effort upon an edition of her father's poems—the volume which has since been published as "edited by Sara and Derwent Coleridge.” In the editorial part of that book will be found the last production of her pen-tanquam cyonea vox et oratio. Her filial piety never failed. No sick-room
3To enable the reader to appreciate this harmony of extraordinary female scholarship with entire simplicity and gracefulness of womanly character, he is referred to the "Appendix on the Poetical Picturesque,” which Mrs. Coleridge placed at the end of her edition of the “ Biographia Literaria.” It is an essay of about fifteen pages, in support of a critical remark of Coleridge's on “The Fairy Queen,” from which Mr. Hallam and Mr. Leigh Hunt had expressed dissent. The subject is one which admitted, and indeed required, illustration, widely gathered from the ancient and modern poets and their commentators, Within this short essay, Mrs. Coleridge cites the poetry of the Bible, Pindar, Æschylus, Euripides (with the commentators on the Greek drama, Hermann, Klausen, Scholefield, Sewell), Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Dante, Spenser, Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Keats, and Sir Walter Scott-Lessing, Klopstock, and Wieland. Now, when these authorities—from literature, ancient and modern, continental and English-are presented thus in succinct array, and without the context, it might be thought that they could hardly have been cited, especially by a woman, without some. thing like pedantic ostentation. But the reader, most inclined to a censorious dread of female learning, will be able to detect nothing of the kind. Every. thing like pedantry or display seems to be charmed away by the mere power of simple-heartedness; and one ceases to think of the extent and variety of the learning that subserves the well-reasoning earnestness with which the subject is discussed. The reader cannot but feel that it comes from the abundance of genuine scholarship, and he will, I am quite sure, be disposed to think of the writer as Charles Lamb did when he described her as “the inobtrusive, quiet soul, who has digged her noiseless way” through so much learniug.
selfishness narrowed her large and generous sympathies. In her last letter to a friend in America, she said: “Of course, all literary exertion and extensive correspondence are out of the question for me in my present condition. * * * * I wish to accompany [in thought] my friends in their ramblings on the face of nature, and I like to hear their views on religion, politics, moralsall subjects of general interest.” Speaking of her malady, she said :
I endeavor not to speculate—to make the most of each day as it comes, making use of what powers remain to me, and feeling assured that strength will be supplied, if it be sought from above, to bear every trial which my Father in Heaven may think fit to send.”
This was one utterance of the Christian piety which, not only at the approach of death, but through life, was joined with the genius and learning of the daughter of Coleridge.
THE CONQUEST OF SPAIN BY THE ARAB-MOORS.
XVII. —THE INTELLECTUAL CULTURE OF THE ARABIANS.
IN this, the last paper of the series, I propose to consider the . I intellectual development and culture of the Arabians in Spain, and I shall hope, by a synoptical view of their progress in literature, in art, in the mathematical and natural sciences and in philosophy, to exhibit the nature and extent of the debt which Europe and the civilized world still owe to them. I can only express my regret that in place of a detailed account, which would be both interesting and instructive, I can only touch for a moment upon many topics which could readily be expanded into separate papers.
The Arabic LANGUAGE. The Arabians had a polished, flexible and powerful instrument in their language. All the languages of Europe are of the great Aryan family. The lineage and relationship of the Arabic are widely different. It is of the Shemitic or Oriental family, in which are found three very distinct and important languages: the Aramaic or Northern branch, the Hebrew or Middle branch, and the Arabic or Southern.
The Aramaic was spoken anciently in the countries between the
Mediterranean and Persia on the one side, and bounded by Asia Minor or Armenia on the other. The Hebrew, long but erroneneously considered the original language of mankind, is the vehicle of our ancient scriptures. The Arabic, indigenous in Arabia, has a very strong structure and a full vocabulary, and has also a very marked individuality. Among its ancient documents are the Himyaritic inscriptions, which tell of a king of Yemen called Himyar and of his dynasty, which extended from about one hundred and fifty years before Christ until several centuries after Christ. Before the advent of Mohammed, the Arabic boasted of old popular poems which were called moallakat or the suspended, because they were hung upon the walls of the Holy House at Mecca. These seem to have been the earliest models of Arabic verse, both in fancy and in form. They described desert and nomadic life, and treated of the joys, griefs and rhapsodies of love, intermingled with heroic adventures.
More flexible than the Hebrew, less complete than the Aramaic, the Arabic has retained its vitality. They are dead; it remains a living language. It was a ready and powerful instrument in the hands of Mohammed and his successors. Wherever they went, their language imposed itself upon the conquered, supplanting or greatly modifying other tongues: the Koran was everywhere the instructor both in religion and grammar. When it came into Spain, it reigned supreme, receiving little or nothing from its contact with the Latin of the earlier conquerors, the jargon of the Celtiberians, or the German creole of the Goths. It instructed the Provençal ; versions of existing works were made from other languages; and soon original Arabian authorship was so much cultivated, that we find in the works of their principal bibliographers, sketches of authors in the chief cities, divided according to special subjects.
The written language was not essentially altered in its transit from East to West, either lexically or in its characters, but the Spanish Arabs adopted a peculiar hand-writing, which, to judge from manuscripts still existing, was clearer and handsomer than that of the East. The writing is from right to left like the Hebrew, and each letter of the alphabet has four forms—the initial, the medial, the final and the isolated.
But the spoken language deviated considerably from that of the East, so that Ibnu Said declares,_" should an Eastern Arab hear even the prince of Andalusian grammarians, Shalubin, conversing with another man, he would burst out laughing to hear the blunders he made in speaking.” So much, in later times, have the Arabians departed from their original language, that the Arabic of the Koran is now taught almost as a dead language in the college of Mecca, and the Arabic of Algiers is a distinct tongue, for which the French have provided grammar, dictionary and phrase books."
The question has been asked, but not yet fully answered,–To what extent has the Arabic influenced the Spanish, and, in less degree, the other languages of Western Europe? The hatred of the Christian towards the Moor, and the jealousy of Moorish renown in any direction, have rendered such an investigation an uncomfortable subject for Spanish scholars. A great many Arabic words are in constant use in Spain ; among them are most of those having the prefix al;algebra, alchemy, alembic, &c. The truth is, however, that the common language of southern Spain abounds in words of Arabic origin. I have not space for an extended list; take a few of the most familiar;—adobe, alcalde, alcantara (the bridge), alcazar, alhamra, alameda, faquir and alfaquir, cabila, azotea (the house-top), azucar (sugar), arroba, arsenal, axarafe (carafe), caba, camisa, escarlata, fonda (eating-house), loco (crazy), mezquita (mosque), quintal, sierra (sahra, a desert mountain tract), xabeque (xebec). But besides and far more important than this lexical tribute, the Arabian stamped his modes of thought and his rhetorical forms upon the conquered people.
POETRY. Poetry was a branch of literature which they cultivated with pleasure and assiduity, and we may partly judge of their success by numerous and excellent translations. They delighted in metaphor, and were at the same time more euphuis.ic than Lyly or “Sir Piercie Shafton.” From title to colophon they strained after happy illustrations; plain speech was water; apologue and allegory were the generous wine of Shiraz
1 One of these is, “Cours de la Langue Arabe, ou les dialectes vulgaires d' Alger, de Maroc, de Tunis et d' Egypte, Par J. F. Bled de Braine, ex-directeur des Ecoles Arabes d'Alger.” In his introduction the author says: “ When the interpreters of the expedition arrived in Africa, although they had zealously pursued at Paris the lessons of the most learned professors of Oriental languages, they found, to their great disappointment, that they could not make themselves intelligible to the Arabs, and succeeded no better in understanding
2 Al, il, el, are forms of the article similar to the same in the romance languages; and with the Latin ille, may have a common origin somewhere in the mists of antiquity.
A collection of verses by Ibn Faraj is called Kitabu-l-hadayak (the book of the enclosed gardens): another is entitled shodhurul-dhabbab (gold particles). The latter contains a poem on alchymy, which was so highly esteemed, that it was commonly said of the author,—“If Abul-hasan's poem cannot teach thee how to make gold, it will at least show thee how to write verses.” The Arabians had quickness of perception, fertile fancy, ease of adaptation and remarkable command of language. Besides, they really loved poetry: those who were not ready writers were appreciative hearers. The poet was an honored guest among the great, be. cause his versatile art touched not only the sensibilities, but was also the vehicle of instruction to the mind : it was an instrument for conveying all kinds of knowledge, -biography, history, theology, science and the training of the schools. There is, for example, an entertaining History of Andalus, in verse, by Al Ghazal, the poet and philosopher.
While thoroughly satisfied of the superior general culture of the Saracens, I am equally convinced that the power of their poetry has been overrated. It is sweet but turgid : from its almost universal application it becomes artificial; it gilds commonplaces. The sentiment is often forced and the expression superlative: so much as to the matter: there is doubtless a great charm of rhetorical harmony in the Arabic language which is lost in translation, -a charm of the hum of bees, the twitter of swallows, the note of the whippoorwill; a charm of nature's chorus in changing melodies.
Every scholar knows the inadequacy of translation : I am inclined to think that no poetry suffers more in the transcript than the Arabic. We must add too to the value of sweet sounds the effect produced by the recitative : they chanted their verses with rhythmic divisions.
The most favorite forn:s of poetry were,—the Ghasele, the Casside, and the Divan. The Ghazele was either a love song or an