« VorigeDoorgaan »
instruction with respect to the meaning of their terms, and to the farmer's boy for information on the nature of rent, we plead guilty to the charge; but declare ourselves unconscious of having misrepresented the author in any one particular; and believe that our readers will acquit us of having done him injustice, when they have read but a very small portion of the volumes before us.
Hugh Lorper, Charleston di Carolina
ART. III.-1. History of Charles the Great and Orlando, ascribed
to Archbishop Turpin. Translated from the Latin in Spanheim's Lives of Ecclesiastical Writers : together with the most celebrated ancient Spanish Ballads, relating to the Twelve Peers of France mentioned in Don Quixote ; with English metrical versions. By THOMAS RODD. In 2 vols. London.
2. Floresta de varios Romances sacados de las Historias an
tiguas de los Doce Pares de Francia. Por DAMIAN LOPEZ DE TORTAJADA.
SINCE the beginning of that struggle which resulted in the deliverance of German literature from the bondage of French authority and a servile imitation of foreign models, a new order of researches, and almost a new theory of criticism have been proposed to scholars. It has been discovered that there is no genuine, living beauty of composition which springs not spontaneously, if we may, so express it, out of the very soil of a country;
which is not connected with the history, animated by the spirit, and in perfect harmony with the character and opinions of its people. It has been found that all imitative or derivative literatures are in comparison of the truly primitive and national, tame, vapid and feeble—that Roman genius, for instance, did but dimly reflect the glories of the Attic muse, and that even in the chefs d'auvre of the Augustan age of France, replete as they are in other respects with the highest graces of composition, the want of this native sweetness, this “colour of primeval beauty,” is universally complained of by foreigners. The German critics, therefore, and after their example, many others have, within the present century, busily employed themselves
in tracing 'the history of modern literature up to its sources, with a view to show its connexion with national history and
The repositories of antiquarian lore have been ransacked for forgotten MSS. The oldest monuments—the most scattered and mutilated fragments have been brought to light, and collated aod compared. The simplest traditions, the wildest fictions, the superstitions of the common people, the tales of the nursery and the fireside, legend and lay, and lovedirty and heroic ballad, have been all laid under contribution, to furnish forth such pictures of national manners, and “to show the very age and body of the times” which produced them, "its forin and pressure." These collections, both of metrical and prose “Reliques,” in English as well as iņ foreign languages, are multiplying every day, and becoming more and more generally studied and popular. In short, it is undeniable that the spirit of criticism is, in this respect, far more liberal now, its views more enlarged and profound, thàn they 'were in the reign of Queen Anne, and during the former half of the last century. The age is gone by when his display of the beauties of “Chevy Chase," exposed Addison to “the ridicule of Wagstaffe and the contempt of Dennis," and when Dr. Percy found it necessary to use the names of "
many men of learning and character,” as “an amulet to guard him from every unfavourable censure for having bestowed any attention upon a parcel of OLD BALLADS."
There is no country in Christendorn whose literature furnishes such a striking exemplification of these ideas as Spain. Her old national poetry is second to none-if it is not superior to any in Europe. Her classical productions of a later date, on the contrary, whatever may be said of them by enthusiasts, and whatever may be, in fact, the merit of soine of them, have ever appeared to us, as to the majority of mankind, incomparably inferior to those of her neighbours. We do not mean to repeat the wellknown bon-mot of Montesquieu, yet we venture to say, that, in spite of Schlegel or Cervantes,t it will be long before Calderon, or Herrera, or Garcilaso de la Vega, shall rival Dante, and Ariosto and Tasso in the estimation of the world. But we pity the man wbo can read a genuine old Spanish romance, and not feel “his heart,” in Sir Philip Sidney's phrase, “more moved than with a trumpet.” For these artless lays are the very language of nature, at once heroic and simple—the living record of what the most“
renowned, romantic” race of modern men, under circumstances the most peculiar and the most interesting, did
Reliques, &c. vol. i. pref. sis.
+ Don Quixotte, c. 6.
and suffered a picture of “fierce wars and faithful loves," when every war was a Holy War, waged for hearth and altar, and the stootest champion that ever drew sword for his country and the cross, would have deemed it a foul blot upon his escutcheon, to be wanting in devotion to his lady-love and all gentleness and knightly grace in hall and bower. The intimate connexion, especially, which so long subsisted between the Spaniards and those inveterate enemies of the whole Christian name, their Oriental conquerors, gives a singular and most attractive colouring to this early literature. From the influence of the church in the dark ages, and the absence of the diversified interests and avocations which absorb the attention of mankind in an advanced state of society, religion mixed itself up with all the pursuits, feelings, opinions, and even the very amusements of those times. Every thing breathed of it-every thing recalled it to the mind and impressed it upon the imagination and the heart. But this zeal for the true faith, or this fidelity to Mother-Church, was perpetually exercised and enflamed by the dangers which were supposed to beset them from the progress and the influence of a rival, though a false creed. In the depth of that starless night, the banners of Mohammedaniam had been suddenly displayed in the very heart of Christendom. Sicily and Spain were subdued; Coustantinople was repeatedly threatened, and the prowess of Charles Martel seems to have been the only barrier between the hitherto irresistible impetuosity of these martial fanatics and the whole western world. Never, perhaps, either before or since, were such mighty interests staked upon the issue of a single battle, as depended upon that gained by the hero just mentioned, over the Saracens, between Tours and Poitiers. When at length the tide of conquest was rolled back upon the East, the same fierce and burning spirit of conflict and hostility was kept alive by the Crusades for two centuries together, at the very æra of awakening civilization in Europe, and thus pervaded all its institutions and deeply tinctured its character in their first formation. The influence of these wars of enthusiasm upon modern literature, has been often adverted to, but cannot be exaggerated. They are to us what Thebes and Troy and the Argonautic expedition were to the Greeks. The particular effect of them, however, to which we are now adverting, was to make an irreconcileable hatred, or at least, perpetual resistance to Islanism, be considered as of the very essence of all true piety. “Mahound and A polyn,” in the old metrical romances, are other names for the incarnate Spirit of Evil. Nor could a good Catholic in those times, give a better proof of a saving faith in his own
religion, or make a surer atonement for his sins, than by visiting the Holy Sepulchre with a warrior's sword and spear, instead of the scrip and staff of a pilgrim. The feelings and opinions of this heroic age are preserved in all its inonuments, and were transmitted to succeeding ages, with the exaggeration and enchantment which objects of fancy or feeling are sure to derive from time and distance. To judge from some curious relics of the past, the recovery of Palestine out of the hands of the Infidel, was, long after the last of the crusades, an engrossing interest in Christendom. The idea of the barbarian conquerors, of the execrated miscreants, who bad formerly struck such terror into Europe-who had overrun so many of the fairest lands, once blessed with the light of the gospel-who had thus been brought into close contact and perpetual and vexatious conflict with the faithful followers of Christ-had “built their seats long after near the seat of God, their altars near his altar
--yea, often placed Within his sanctuary itself their shrines,
Abominations” this idea took such strong possession of the minds of men as to be identified with their ordinary pursuits, their daily thoughts, and their most ruling passions. Thus, in a collection of records subjoined by Burnet to bis History of the Reformation,* we find the following. It is from the bidding prayer" in popish times, and was taken out of the festival printed in 1509, as it is said. “The Bedes on Sunday. Ye shall kneel down on your knees, and lift up your hearts, making your prayers to Almighty God for the good state and peace of all Holy Church, &c. Holy Father the Pope, with all his true College of Cardinals, &c. Also; ye shall pray for the Holy Land and the Holy Cross that Jesus Christ died on for the redemption of men's souls, that it may come into the
of Christian men. Again : ye shall pray for all true pilgrims and palmers," &c. No wonder that the genius of Tassoấthe Christian poet par excellence-should have kindled with these feelings, and that the subject of, by far, the most popular epic of modern times, were the perils and the triumph of the first crusade!
But these religious wars, which-important as were their effects, were but an episode in the annals of the rest of Europe, are the whole history of Spain. For upwards of seven centu. ries together, this mighty conflict of fanaticism was carried on with
various success, but uniformly the same spirit. From the battle of Xeres in 712,until towards the end of the tenth century, the crescent had been in the ascendant, but the faithful few who had defended themselves with so much difficulty in their mountain fastnesses, began about that period, to act, vigorously and successfully, on the offensive. The exploits of the Cid signalized the greater part of the eleventh century, and finally decided the question of superiority, between the Christians and Mahometans, in favour of the former. The capture of Toledo, in 1085, in which he was assisted by the flower of European chivalry, has been justly classed, by Sismondi, with the Crusades soon after proclaimed, as forming one of the most important eras in modern history. In the twelfth century, the religious orders of St. Jago, Calatrava and Alcantara were founded after the example of the Templars and Hospitallers of Jerusalem. One of their vows was perpetual hostility to the Moslem, and in every effort subsequently made to recover their country from its Saracen conquerors, these martial monks fully acquitted themselves of that obligation. The knights of Calatrava, second in dignity and consequence to those of St. Jago, combined in a remarkable degrec, the various and apparently incompatible duties of the camp and the cloister. In their dress and diet, they were distinguished by the severest simplicity, and even by an ascetic rigour. “They were silent in the oratory and the refectory, one voice only reciting the prayers or reading a legend of battle; but when the first note of the Moorish atabal was heard by the warder on the tower, the convent became a scene of universal uproar. The caparisoning of steeds and the clashing of armour, broke the repose of the cloister, while the humble figure of the Monk was raised into a bold and expanded form of dignity and power."* It is easy to conceive bow deep an impression such' institutions and habits must have made upon the Spanish character, during seven centuries of incessant warfare under the holy banner of the cross. Every encounter with “the Paynim Chivalry," every siege, and battle, and skirmish, during that long period, is invested with somewhat of that romantic character and poetical interest, which are justly ascribed to the adventures of the Croisès ; and a crown of martyrdom, in addition to all the other rewards of valour, was reserved for the patriot soldier, who fell by the Moorish scimitar. If christianity and chivalry are, as they have been said to be, the vital principles of modern literature, the old heroic ballads of Spain, breathe more of this spirit thau any other similar monuments of past times.
* Mills' History of Chivalry.