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almost superfluous to add, that of those three great epic bards of the moderns---Ariosto, Camoens, Tasso--the palm of excellence is, in my estimation, due to the second."*
No competent judge who has examined the poem, even through the medium of a good translation, such as the Germans, French, and Italians possess in their respective languages, can deny this, or indeed will have any disposition to do so. Is it not to be regretted, then, that we have not a good translation in English? Of no other great work can the same be said. No other modern language contains more or better translations than the English. In short the Lusiad is the only great production of human genius that has survived the ravages of time, or that may be found in any other dialect, of which the Anglo-Saxon does not possess a reliable version. Nor does this exception exist because English poets are incapable of doing justice to Camoens. There is no such obstacle in the way ; nor has there been for the last century. The real cause is, that the subject of the Lusiad is the Discovery of India, and the establishment of an Eastern empire by Portuguese--an empire which has since become British. It is not strange that the English should not have any great relish for a poem which, however noble, grand and interesting in itself, gives all the glory of European conquest and civilization in India to the enterprising spirit, intelligence, and bravery of a people, whose language is still spoken throughout the whole of Hindostan, and to a much larger extent than their own. Our British kinsmen are as liberal and cosmopolitan in feeling as any other people in the world ; but we should assume them to be more than human, did we expect them to admire, as its intrinsic merits deserve, a poem, every line of which is more or less suggestive of a comparison, by no means flattering, between Portuguese and British domination in the East. But it is otherwise with the people of this country, who have no prejudices in regard to India more than the Germans or Italians, but much less than the French, and who read more of the best English books than the English themselves.
Why, then, not have an American translation? Our poets are fully competent to do justice, not only to the great epic, but also
* Schlegel's Hist. of Literature, pp. 254–255.
to the author's lyrics, of which it has been truly said, that they possess "all the graceful and charming simplicity of the Grecian muse.” Lord Strangford's bald, unmusical translation, is all we possess of those canzons, canzonets, madrigals and sonnets, which, in addition to their native sweetness, beauty and pathos, are enriched with the happiest fancies of Anacreon, Dante and Petrarch. A faithful version of each would undoubtedly be well received. Either Bryant or Longfellow could render the Lusiad so as to vin dicate the fame of Camoens as a true epic poet; while the author of “Woodman spare that Tree” could secure for the chansons an American popularity second only to his own songs,
ART. IV.-1. Constitutional History of England. By HENRY HAL
New York. 1851.
The History of England, until the period of the American Revolution, is the history of our own ancestors. Authentic American history begins with the discovery and early settlement of our country, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. How dark would be the past, had we no historical records from beyond the seas,
to tell us what, and who our ancestors were, and by what steps they had become the civilized, and in many instances, the learned and polished men who founded the American nation. Unlike the history of all other countries, which emerge from darkness and dim twilight into day, that of America at once opens into full light in a period of civilization. The arts of printing and of navigation, coeval with the downfall of a system which had held mankind in moral, as well as civil bondage, had dawned upon the world before the Western Continent opened its broad expanse as a new theatre for enterprise or ambition, and an asylum for those who had become wcaried with religious intolerance and persecution.
Our annals do not lead us back to an obscure period and savage lineage ; but leaving the great-hearted, enlightened men,
: ; who feared not to encounter the hardships of a wilderness, and the ferocity of savage foes, to work with their hands and their heads to cultivate the soil, and to establish wise laws, we will go
to their and our fatherland and learn who were our British ancestors, and what, at å remote period, was the condition of the people from whom we claim descent. We cannot detach our views of England, from some consideration of the other portions of Great Britain. Scotland and Ireland, now integral parts of the British Empire, have ever, in their annals, been inseparably interwoven with English history.
The traveller, in Britain, meets with occasional relics of Roman architecture—in ancient walls and fortifications-enough to tell the story of Roman conquest, and yet so few and insignificant as to attest the fact, that Britain was to Rome but a trifling acquisition. Indeed, it appears that we have little reason to be proud of the character which the British barbarians maintained among the cultivated Byzantians and the polished Franks, who, according to ancient historians, regarded them with a kind of superstitious terror, as scarcely human in their characteristics. It is believed that St. Paul visited Britain, and introduced Christianity among the Druidical worshippers of the sanguinary Woden. On the conquest of this island, by the Anglo-Saxons, the name England first appears in history. Intercourse with other nations, civilization, and the spread of Christianity, followed in the train of this conquest.
In the ninth century, another branch of the Teutonic race, from the north of Europe, came down upon the coast of England, and fierce conflicts of the Danes and Anglo-Saxons were continued for a long course of time ; the latter suffering from their invaders the same outrages which, in former ages, their race had inflicted upon the conquered Celts. But the Danes and Anglo-Saxons, in England, at length became one people ; learning and religion began to revive ; then came the battle of Hastings, the crowning event of the Norman conquest, destined to change the manners, language, customs and laws of England. Scott, in his Ivanhoe, takes the period of Richard I., “affording," as he says, “a strik
a , ing contrast betwixt the Saxons, by whom the soil was cultivated, and the Normans, who still reigned in it as conquerors, reluctant to mix with the vanquished, or acknowledge themselves of the same stock.” In the first page of this brilliant work, we find an explanation of the internal state of England at this period, which gives a graphic picture of Saxon and Norman life, and in the dialogue of the Saxon Gurth, the swine herd of the Norman VOL. II.NO. III.
Cedric, with the jester Wambo, the smothered hatred of the conquered for their masters, is expressed with the peculiar power of Scott.
For nearly two centuries the English seemed no longer to exist as a nation, so entirely were they subjugated by their powerful and oppressive masters. The talents and virtues of the first six French kings," says Macaulay, “were a curse to England. The follies and vices of the seventh were her salvation." King John, å weak and vaccillating monarch, being defeated abroad, was compelled at home to yield to his barons and sign a bill of rights, the Magna Charta, which has ever since been regarded as the bulwark of English liberty. “Here," says Macaulay, “com
, mences the history of the English nation." The distinctions of races now began to disappear. For a long time it had been considered by the proud Norman a disgrace to be called an Englishman, but a century later the descendants of these men were proud to be called English.
It is not our purpose to dwell upon English history previous to the reign of the Stuarts ; we shall briefly pass over the events which preceded the period of the seventeenth century. The brilliant reign of Elizabeth, the last of the Tudors, marks a distinguished epoch in the annals of the world. Great lights shone forth in the horizon of letters-English literature, at this period, assumed a dignity and importance which no succeeding age has eclipsed. The character of the great queen stands out in bold relief ;-a sovereign who governed at home, and made her kingdom powerful abroad. It was the age of Spenser, Shakespeare, and “rare Ben Johnson," of good Roger Ascham, the “ gallant Sir Philip Sydney," the learned and philosophical Hooker, and of the suggestive Beaumont and Fletcher--the two latter immortalized by the impulse given by their writings to the genius of others. To Sir Walter Raleigh, distinguished alike in literature and enterprise, our
“Old Dominion” State owes its name, given " in honor of the Virgin Queen," and its origin as a colony. Lady Elizabeth Carew (or Carey) termed, in 1613, a "learned, virtuous, and truly noble lady," wrote tragedies in imitation of the Greek poets. The great queen, herself, was learned, and wrote well, both prose and poetry; in verses upon "my own feelings," she touchingly alludes to the restraint she is ever cbliged to exercise over her emotions. “Some gentler passions slide into my mind,"
"I am soft and made of melting snow." The lion-hearted queen,
the woman-king," as Elizabeth has been called, had yet a woman's heart, and was moved by “gentler passions”-yet the circumstances of her condition turned the “melting snow” to ice, and the “gentler passions" became lost when absorbed by the indomitable obstinacy and ambition of her nature.
The translation of the Bible, which had been attempted by Wickliffe, was continued by Tindale, Miles Coverdale, John Rogers and Cranmer. Henry VIII. directed that the Bible should be read in every parish church in England, commanding the bishops to take care to see that this crder was observed in their several jurisdictions. To James I., weak and contemptible though he was in many respects, belongs the honor of directing the great work of translating our present English Bible, which, under the charge of many of the most learned men of both the Scotch and English church, was carried forward to a most successful termination. Dr. Adam Clarke says: “They have not only made a standard translation, but have made this translation the standard of our language."
As we enter the seventeenth century, let us pause to consider the view presented by the kingdom so long governed by Elizabeth, with a strong and firm grasp, and seek to detect the latent causes of the civil wars and revolutions which distinguish the annals of her successors, the unfortunate Stuarts. It is not solely to the folly and imbecility of the son of Mary Stuart ; the tyranny and unlawful exactions of her grandson, the first Charles; the licentiousness and outrages upon the laws of morality and decency of the second Charles ; or the treachery and double-dealing of his brother, James II., that we may attribute the disturbances which caused the bloody death of one of the Stuarts, and the overthrow and final expulsion of the last of that unfortunate dynasty. In the history and developement of the human mind, the time has come for the germination of those principles of civil and religious liberty, which had been disseminated at the Reformation, and by the labors of succeeding philosophers, metaphysicians and divines. Even Elizabeth had met with rebuffs from parliament, when exceeding certain prescribed bounds, but with great sagacity, when she felt the check-rein, she stopped, and gracefully thanking her parliament for their wise caution, publicly congratulated herself that she had such prudent counselors.