Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

XXIV.

writers,

Roman de la Rose more qualified to excite CHAP and to gratify the reader's curiosity. To every one who is' inquisitive respecting the manners of distant ages, or has a desire to perfect his knowledge of the nature of man; this

passage must prove a valuable relic, and a most acceptable entertainment. The Romance writers of these early ages had dealt so long in unnatural manners, forced heroism, and incredible achievements, that it must afford an enviable relief to a mind of taste, to meet with a passage so natural, so genuine and so human. In the adventures of Arthur and Charlemagne, of the Red-Cross-Knights and the Soldans, we scarcely recognise the features of our common species. They are like the strange, uncouth and unwieldy figures, which we see dressed up for a masquing or a coronation. With William de Lorris in the present instance we at once descend to the level scene of private life, and the parlours and domestic sentiments of our ancestors. The versifiers indeed who wrote Fableours, before the Romance of the Rose, had their

XXIV.

CH A'p. comic and satirical tales ; but these, as well

as the tales of high and heroic achievement, were strained beyond the true bias. They are exhibitions, intended to produce strong and unusual sensations, and do not present us with our fellow-man, undressed and unconscious of a spectator. In the counsels of prudence or of conduct which are here delivered to us, the most secret sentiments of the human mind are unfolded, and the minute impulses which often escape the observation of the man upon whom they act. The true lover of man feels an exquisite and incalculable delight, when he is enabled to perceive in how many respects the men of five centuries ago identify them

selves with him and his contemporaries, Historians. This makes the difference between Livy and

Froissart, the difference between the history on the one hand of the harsh, the haughty, the factious, the public-minded and stoical republic of Rome, and on the other of the good old people of England, the peasant in the midst of his family, the hospitable,

well-humoured and open-hearted country- CHAP: gentleman, and the baron surrounded by his vassals,

Whom they did ever honour as their guide,
Lov'd as their father, as their master follow'd,
As their great patron thought on in their

prayers

The manners of England under the Plantagenets were in many respects extremely unlike our own, the relative situations of man and man, of the higher classes and the lower, are usually said to have been totally different; yet it is only man with a little variety of garb, and exhibiting in the main, the same passions and humours, human frailty and human kindness. When the men of former times are shown as William de Lorris brings them to our view, the sacred awe with which we contemplate the airy shadows of

Lear, Act I, Scene i.

XXIV.

passages of

CHAP. the departed perishes from our bosoms, and

they become to us our brother-men, living, moving and real. It is thus that in reading

of great animation and fire in the best authors, we seem to hold direct communion with the author himself, and can scarcely be persuaded that the heart which dictated such passages has ceased to beåt, and the eye which sparkled with such sentiments has ceased to glisten.—The discourse of the God of Love to his vassal is in

many respects so curious and important, that it has been thought proper to insert it in the Appendix to this volume ".

On the whole it may safely be affirmed that the first 2950 verses of William de Lorris may challenge a comparison with most of the happiest effusions of the genius of poetry: they exhibit an admirable variety of talent; and it will be found difficult to pronounce from the perusal, whether the

William de
Lorris.

Appendix, No. IV.

XXIV.

author excels most in the richness of his de- CHAP. scriptive powers, in the spirit and force of his allegorical paintings, or in the acuteness and exactness of his observations upon life and manners.

VOL. II.

« AnteriorContinua »