Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

а

As to Edgar Ravenswood, so to Ajax we in a contest which, if not "understood to are inclined to extend the meed of sym- be at outrance," seems to promise no less pathy, and to regard him as an unneces- danger than that incurred in “the Gensary and innocent victim of cold- tle and Joyous Passage of Arms of blooded persecution. For in the matter Ashby." We can readily understand of the award of the arms of Achilles, on that in a state of society where robbery Homer's own showing in the “Iliad,” under arms was accounted a heroic acthere was, if the arms were to be given tion, and winning on a foul passed as to the bravest, only one other possible a creditable achievement, downright competitor. Had Diomed been the re- and straightforward giants of the Ajax cipient of the prize, there would have and Dandie Dinmont type were rather been less excuse for grumbling at the at a discount. But when the apologists decision of the judges. But on what -and they are many-for this malversa. possible grounds can the Ulysses of the tion of justice assure us that the success “Iliad" be considered as a bona fide of Ulysses is intended to symbolize the competitor for the prize of valor? He triumph of mind over matter, or of had, to our minds, about as much claim intellect over brute force, we cannot but to the distinction as Ralph de Vipont or note that the intellectual superiority of Grantmesnil to the honors of the tourna- Ulysses as depicted by Homer is not of ment at Ashby. When the Greek character that appeals much to heroes had contended for the privilege modern sympathy. The idealized of encountering Hector in single com. Ulysses of the “Odyssey” is indeed a bat, not only had Ulysses been the last man of ready wit and full of resource to enter, but he had clearly been an out- in emergencies; and the Ulysses of sider—to use betting parlance-from Sophocles, with all the winning cards start to finish.

in his hand, is a fluent and plausible

orator; but from start to finish he seems Grant Father Zeus, The lot on Ajax, or on Tydeus' son,

to be playing for his own hand entirely, Or on Mycena's wealthy king, may fall.

and to be magnanimous only where

there is nothing to lose by magnanimity. This prayer of the Greeks only em- The intellect of Ulysses is the intellect phasizes the fact that, had the challeng- of Isaac of York, and he looks the gifters in the list at Ashby been selected horse of the Phæacian king in the from among the heroes of the “Iliad,” mouth as critically as the Jew counts Diomed would have represented the out the zechins paid by his late preTemplar, Ajas Front de Bæuf, Aga- server for the use of horse and armor; memnon Malvoisin, and Ulysses, had he or it is the intellect of the charlatan found a place at all, might have been Galeotti or of the German impostor in one of the "cheapest bargains."

the "Antiquary.” At another time it Again, when it came to actual fight reminds us of the cold blooded and cal. ing-putting Achilles, of course, out of culating sagacity of Louis XI. For the question—the only Greeks who won Achilles and Philoctetes, Quentin Durany honor in a single-handed encounter ward and the Bohemian, may be with Hector were Diomed and Ajax, hanged, drawn, and quartered for all and the advantage gained by the latter that Louis or Ulysses care, so long as · was if anything more marked.

they have duly fulfilled the purpose for Finally, when Achilles invites

which they were called into action.

Ulysses' companion in more than one Two champions bold To don their arms, their sharp-edged knight-errant of Homer, selected, like

perilous adventure, Diomed, is the true weapons grasp, And public trial of their powers make.

Marbot in Napoleon's army, to perform

any special feat of derring-do, and alDiomed and Ajax alone enter the lists; lowed to chose his supporters. He is nor does any other Greek offer to com- always spoiling for a fight, and, like pete with these formidable champions Robert of Paris, will gladly “barter

a

safety for fame" and take his seat upon the interview between the old man and an emperor's throne; nor will he be nice the slayer of his "warrior son.” We about choosing the degree of his adver leave the tent of Achilles feeling, as sary, provided 'that the latter “bears Priam must have felt, reconciled at bimself like one who is willing and for- least in part to the Greek hero, and glad ward in battle." But, as De Wilton in that in his magnanimous behavior "Marmion" vows:

towards the old man he has in some de

gree atoned for his late barbarity. No Where'er I meet a Douglas, trust one who reads the story can believe That Douglas is my brother;

that Priam King of Troy loses anything

of his dignity by falling in so worthy a so Diomed does not in the heat of the

cause a suppliant at Achilles' feet, any battle forget the sacred ties of guest- more than does stout old Arnold Biederfriendship, but exchanges courteous

man when he bends the knee to Charles words and friendly gifts with Glaucus of Burgundy, whose frantic rage so and Lycian, who, though fighting on the closely resembles the wrath of Achilles; side of the Trojans, claims old acquaint- and he who reads afresh the old king's anceship with the family of Tydeus. appeal that he may receive back the We fear that Diomed, who is quite as

dead body of his son will be tempted to 'ready to encounter on the battle-field say what Queen Caroline said of the an immortal god as a mortal adversary, simple words of Jeanie Deans, that would have felt no more scruples than “this is indeed eloquence.” Reginald Front de Bæuf about employ

If there are moments when the long ing an image-whether of St. Chris- stories told by old Nestor of his own topher or of any other saint in the cal- past progress weary us, as they must endar-as

missile weapon. Like have wearied his audience, almost to Reginald Front de Bæuf, and like the same extent as Sir Henry Lee's Balaam the son of Beor, he receives the recitations from Shakespeare palled wages of his uprighteousness, not in- upon his royal guest, we cannot but addeed dying a violent death like the Nor- mire the pluck of the Gerenian knight man noble and the Hebrew prophet, but when, maugre his years, he boldly acts espiating by weary exile the sin of hav

as Diomed's charioteer when matters ing ventured to brave the wrath of are almost at their worst for the hearen.

Achæans, just as we admire the stoutWe may conclude by observing that hearted old knight of Woodstock when both our authors, Homer and Walter he draws sword on the cánting indeScott, had a sufficient respect for grey pendent. If we may guess that in his bairs to portray in their pictures of old day the old Greek was as “tight a tasks age interesting and exemplary charac- master" as the venerable Royalist, and ters. Old Priam is one of the most that Antilochus would no more have refined and gentlemanly - we miglt ventured to cock his hat in the presence almost say Christian-like-personages of his father than Albert Lee in the that we meet with in Greek literature. presence of Sir Henry, we would have His gentleness and courtesy towards his trusted to the advice of the grey-beard rery dubious and inconvenient daugh- Nestor as implicitly as Charles Stuart ter-in-law, his perfect integrity and trusted to the advice of the grey-beard affection in matters that concern the Lee, convinced that he would find a road household, stand out in bold relief. to safety "were the whole Roundheads And while all the time we cannot help that are out of hell in present assem. reflecting what despicable beast blage” round the place of our concealParis was to allow the old man his ment. Young and vigorous men are father to run the risk of braving the killed off by the score in the pages of Frath of Achilles, we fancy that the the “Iliad” and the Waverley Novels, story of the "Iliad" would not have• Albert Lee and Antilochus alike find been complete without the account of graves in a foreign strand, but Nestor

а

and Sir Henry live on to find their of young voices singing a canticle to dearest hopes realized and to see their the Virgin: Ave, ave, Maria! The two children's children, and die in the home songs blend and clash and blend again of their forefathers at a good old age, in a strange harmony of discord. They full of years, riches, and honor.

belong to each other, these two, different as they are; they have come down the centuries together in amity and good fellowship. These, and such as

these, are the Songs of Yesterday. From Macmillan's Magazine.

Elsewhere there is. singing also; inTHE SONGS OF YESTERDAY.

deed, the love of song is perhaps the

most marked characteristic of everyThe sun is near its setting, and lies above the long blue line of Cape Fre

day life in a small French town. hel, sending level rays of light across

Everywhere and at all times the peothe undulations of shore and pastur- ple sing; the masons working in the age, of thick woodland and dotted field,

new houses, the cobblers bending over

half-made shoes, the carters plodding and spreading a saffron glory over the wide calm water. The air is very still,

beside their horses, the women at the with that round, ripe stillness of au

ironing-boards or beating the wet linen tumn before the damp of November

at the edge of washing-pools, the chi]has brought decay; the earth, the trees,

dren on their way to and from schooleven the sky, are softly golden with a

men and women, young and old, at all clear glowing brightness that is yet hours of the day they sing with enthu

siasm. the hither edge of twilight. And

It is their principal pleasure. through the stillness every sound is They go to church to sing, they sing at carried, so that one perceives, as if marriages, at baptisms, on their way

to the conscription, on their return with a magic hearing, the life that lies about one; but the sound that is sweet- home; there is no one so popular among est and loudest is the sound of singing.

them as a good singer, and nothing Yonder, where the three horses har- they love so much as a good song. And nessed in line pull the clumsy plough it must be acknowledged that they sing through the red buckwheat stubble. well, with an inherited taste and ease. the driver as he walks beside them

the men in a rich, sonorous baritone,

and the women in a strange, Sweet sings an old ditty that his fathers before him have sung on just such even

treble, unnaturally high and small, bus

bird-like in its flexibility and plainings as this, as they, too, followed the plough.

tiveness. His voice rises sonorously,

Every one sings; only, unmonotonously, in a quaint cadence that fortunately, in the towns the music is drops into a minor, and ends without too often imported and smacks hid

eously of Paris or London, and the popany end at all:

ular tune of the year before last. The I ha’ slept from home,

streets are vocal with “Saint Nazaire," I ha' slept from home,

the "Czarine," worse, with His fathers have sung it before him, “Daisy Bell.” Every one sings here, that, or another, as he sings now; their as in the country; but in the towns they voices also have gone out into the still- sing the songs of To-day. ness of the evening, when the sun lay It is in the further corners and byeabove Cape Frehel, and the sea and ways, where there is nothing to tempt the sky were painted with gold; it has tourists, where life changes so slowly all been the same for so long, that one that it scarcely seems to change at all. forgets that there can ever have been that a music lingers which is neither a beginning. And from the other side vulgar nor commonplace, music where the children are driving home which has a history behind it, and the cows from the seaward pastures, which to-morrow will be dead. For it there comes the clear, high sweetness is dying fast, even among the peasants

or

or,

a

a

who are so tenacious of old use and ranged their own festivals; they not babit that one asks oneself continually only inter-married, but they raised up how France has ever come to be repub- a curious hereditary relation of godlican. Soon the old songs will be for- parent and god-child, which was as gotten, and the change which has been close a link as kinship, and bound so long on the way will at last have ar- whole districts together; above all, rired. Th at the tobacco-thread- they spread news about among theming and at the cider-making, when the selves, for they often dwelt on lonely red buckwheat is tied, and on the long farms where strangers seldom passed, Christmas nights, even the peasants and they came into touch with the will sing the “Czarine" or "Daisy Bell" outer world only at the nearest yearly or their like, and yesterday will be so fair or pardon. In one direction only utterly forgotten that it will seem as if were they largely influenced from it had never existed.

without, and that was through the And yet the old songs are worthy of a Church. Wherefore one finds, as one little notice before they are quite gone would expect, that their songs can be from among us; if they are not beauti- divided into two great classes, that yet ful, they have at least the charm of all continually meet and mingle; the rethings ancient and primitive, and they ligious, which had its birth in the have stories to tell from which one may Church or in its teaching, and the secubuild up history. For if singing is a lar, which was the natural outcome of popular amusement now, it was in- a common gaiety and a common life. finitely more than that in those earlier A very little consideration will show days when life was simpler and pleas- how strong a hold upon the people such ures more homely. Whenever the peo- music must have obtained. The ple came together they fell to singing, Church was, and is still, in spite of whether they met for merry-making or State-encouragement to unbelief, mourning, in labor or in idleness; and very intimate thing to the peasants. when one asks what these occasions It has continually played a large part were that called them together, one in their lives, and they look upon it finds that they were very many, for the with a complete familiarity which to circumstances of their time and condi- the stranger borders on the profane. tion constrained them greatly to a com- It has given them encouragement and mon life. It is a mere truism to say a benediction for their labor, and has that from oppression grows indepen- provided them with a better share of dence; but one is apt not to realize that all their gaieties, their assemblies, their the excessive strength of the feudal pardons, their missions and their fairs; nobles, while crushing the poor into it prepared for them throughout the servitude, bred and fostered the very recurring seasons a succession of paself-sufficiency and unity that was geants in which they all might share. some day to become a power. Cut off Pastorals at Christmas, Passion-plays from their lords by birth, and from in Lent, the splendid summer festivals the townsmen by poverty and igno- of the Corpus Christi and the Assumprance, the peasant in those days was all tion, and the funeral dirges of All in all to the peasant.

He was com- Souls. It baptized their children, pelled to a life which he shared with taught them at school, married their bis neighbor in all its aspects; he was young people, and buried their dead; constrained into doing whatever he it was among them at all times, guardmust do, for himself, and by himself. ing, consoling, rewarding, one with His peculiar isolation in a class apart them, a very partner of their lives. from all others nourished an individ- The first music that the peasant heard uality so distinct that it is still existent. was in the church, the first tune he He and his fellows gave each other a learned to sing was that of a canticle; mutual help in labor, and in need; they one need not wonder that the religious made their own amusements and ar

songs are so many, the songs which, if not perhaps taught by the priests, yet And it was not at Christmas only rose directly from their teaching. that such songs were sung: in Leut

It was the custom, for instance, to there were Complaints of the Passion, spend Christmas eve in keeping vigil at Easter there were Allelujabs, durin the parish church till it was time ing the month of Mary there were for the midnight mass; and during the Mays; and every saint that was belong cold hours the villagers so assem- loved of the people had a special cantibled sang their ancient traditional cle in his honor. They are still to be songs, unwritten, unauthorized, but bought, these canticles, or at least modfamiliar to all. Some of these popular ern versions of them, for the sum of canticles were indeed composed by the one halfpenny each, with a wonderful clergy, but these are at once distin- picture of the saint in the midst of guishable by their extreme stiffness clouds and angels; and there are few and propriety. For the most part they houses about the country that have not were of homelier growth, and often at least one such pinned upon their were strictly local, differing in every walls. There is Great-Saint-Yves-ofdistrict; while both Nöels and pas- Truth, whose hymn describes him as a torals, the latter introducing the shep- “handsome lawyer (un joli avocat).herds and generally more dramatic in There is Saint Cornely, the patron of character, were sung by the young men cattle, and Saint Eloi, the protector of and by the children from door to door horses, whose litanies must be said, and farm to farm. Such a song as

and whose canticles must be sung this that follows, for instance, has been when the farm stock does not thrive. sung in this way for not less than four There is Saint Roch, preserver of public or five hundred years; it is included in health and cleanser of the skin, as he a rough manuscript collection of simi- is quaintly called in his hymn, and one lar pieces, dating from the end of the cannot say how many more; but the fourteenth century and found in an old saints are not more innumerable than church of the district.

the canticles. The Church, at least, will see that her music is not forgot

ten; and if some of the more ancient “Shepherdess, whence come you,

songs slip daily out of mind, there are Whence come you, say?"

still so many left that they are scarcely "I came from yonder stable,

missed. Where God is born to-day,

As to the secular songs, even these Between the ox and the ass,

were not always wholly secular in Lying in the bay."

their employ. They, too, on occasions, "Shepherdess, is He fine,

were closely connected with the clergy, Is He pure and white?"

and the manner of this connection is "Finer than the fine moon

interesting, for it throws light upon the Giving her light.

life of the people, and upon the civil and Nothing in all the world,

feudal dues of the Church.

To quote Is so fair and brignt."

one or two instances from this district

alone; the prior of Hédé had the right “Shepherdess, is there naught,

of the wedding-song, due from the Naught more to see?”

newly-married of Hédé on the first "Saint Joseph who looks on Him,

Sunday after the wedding.

It was to Adoringly;

be sung at the churchyard gate on the And sweet Mary who holds the Child Upon her knee."

coming out from high mass, under a

penalty of sixty sols. The priory also “Shepherdess, is there naught,

of Saint Georges de Grehaignes, not Naught more to tell?"

far from Saint Malo, possessed until "Four little white angels,

the seventeenth century a feudal right That sing with good will,

called the Duty of Brides, who were Crying to the King of Kings,

obliged, on the first Sunday after their Noël, Noël!”

marriage, to sing and dance upon a flat

NOEL.

« VorigeDoorgaan »