Imatges de pÓgina

cannot see why Mr Rose should have thought himself obliged to follow in any respect the prose of Herberay, while he himself was writing poetry. We can easily conceive that a prose romance may be converted into a metrical romance or epic poem; but we cannot allow, that there ought to subsist betwixt two works, the style of which is so very different, the relations of a translation and an original work. In consequence of Mr Rose's plan, it appears to us that his


has suffered some injury. The necessity of following out minutely the prose narrative, occasions an occasional languor in the poem, for which simple, and even elegant versification, does not atone. We will, however, frankly own, that the casual circumstance of having perused Mr Southey's prose work before the poem of Mr Rose may have had some influence upon our criticism ; since our curiosity being completely forestalled, we may have felt a diminished interest in the latter from a cause not imputable to want of merit.

The avowed model upon which Mr Rose has framed his Amadis is the translation of Le Grand's Fabliaux by Mr Way; and it is but justice to state that, in our opinion, he has fully attained what he proposed. An easy flow of verse, partaking more of the school of Dryden than of Pope, and checkered, occasionally, with ancient words and terms of chivalry, seems well calculated for the narration of romance and legendary tale. The following passage is a successful imitation of Chaucer :

“ To tell, as meet, the costly feast's array,
My tedious tale would hold a summer's day:
I let to sing who mid the courtly throng
Did most excel in dance or sprightly song ;
Who first, who last, were seated on the dais;
Who carped of love and arms in courtliest phrase,
What many minstrels harp, what bratchets lie

The feet beneath, what hawks were placed on high." We do not pretend to say, that Mr Rose's poetry is altogether free from the common-places of the time. Such lines occur as these :

“ Nearer and nearer bursts the deafening crash,

Athwart the lurid clouds red lightnings flash.” But if Mr Rose's plan prevented him from aspiring to the higher flights of poetry, he never, on the other hand, disgusts the reader by sinking into bathos. We are persuaded that the public would be interested in a modern version of some of our best metrical romances by Mr Rose. We are the more certain of this, because we have read the notes to Amadis with very great satisfaction. We pay them a very great compliment, indeed, when we say, that they resemble in lightness and elegance, though not in extent of information, those of George Ellis to Way's Fabliaux.



[From the Quarterly Review, Feoruary, 1809.!

The name of the Cid is best known to us by the celebrated tragedy of Corneille, founded on a circumstance which happened early in the champion's career, and which the Spanish compilers of his story do not dwell upon with any peculiar emphasis. Those who are deep read in Don Quixote may also recollect, that the Campeador and his great exploits against the Moors was one of the subjects that deranged the brain of the worthy knight of La Mancha. Few English or French literati know more of a hero as famous in Spain as Bertrand du Guesclin in France, Glendower in Wales, or Wallace in Scotland ; yet have his achievements been recorded in the “ letter blake," and harped in many a hall and bower.

“Desde Sevilla a Marchena,

Desde Granada hasta Leja.” Mr Southey, to whom the fabulous heroes of Spain, her Amadis, and her Palmerin, have such obligations, has undertaken the same generous task in favour of the Cid, the real champion of a history scarcely less romantic than theirs. His work is not to be considered as the precise translation of any of the numerous histories of the Cid, but as a compilation of all that relates to him extracted from those several sources. First, a prose chronicle of the life and achievements of the Cid, printed in 1552 and 1593, which there is some reason to ascribe to Gil Diaz, a converted Moor, one of the Cid's most faithful followers. This is corrected and enlarged from a general chronicle of Spanish history. Secondly, a metrical legend, of which the Cid is the hero. This work, which fluctuates between history and romance, has a considerable degree of poetical merit, is the oldest poem in the Spanish language, and, in Mr Southey's judgment, decidedly and beyond all comparison the finest. Lastly, the translator has laid under contribution the popular ballads or romances which celebrated the feats of this renowned warrior—and were sung by minstrels, jongleurs, and glee-men, at places of festive resort. Mr Southey is not inclined to rank very highly either the authority or the antiquity of these songs, and has made little use of them in compiling his Chronicle. By these lights, however, he has guided the narrative through the following details.

Rodrigo of Bivar, “ a youth strong in arms and of good customs,” destined to protect his country from the Moors, was born at Burgos in the reign of King Ferrando of Castile, and in the year 1026.


His father Diego Laynez, chief of the noble house, bad received a blow from the Count Don Gomez, the Lord of Gormaz. The consequences are described in a picturesque manner, and form a good specimen of this singular narrative.

“ Now Diego was a man in years, and his strength had passed from him, so that he could not take vengeance, and he retired to his home, to dwell there in solitude, and lament over his disho

And he took nu pleasure in his food, neither could he sleep by night, nor would he lift up his eyes from the ground, nor stir out of his house, nor commune with his friends, but turned from them in silence, as if the breath of his shame would taint them. Rodrigo was yet but a youth, and the count was a mighty man in arms, one who gave his voice first in the Cortes, and was held to be the best in the war, and so powerful, that he had a thousand friends

among the mountains. Howbeit all these things appeared as nothing to Rodrigo when he thought of the wrong done to his father, the first which had ever been offered to the blood of Layn Calvo. He asked nothing but justice of Heaven, and of man he asked only a fair field; and his father seeing of how good heart he was, gave him his sword and his blessing. The sword had been the sword of Mudarra in former times, and when Rodrigo held its cross in his hand, he thought within himself that his arm was not weaker than Mudarra's. And he went out, and defied the count, and slew him, and smote off his head, and carried it home to his father. The old man was sitting at table, the food lying before him untasted, when Rodrigu returned, and pointing to the head which hung from the horse's collar, dropping blood, he bade him look up, for there was the herb which should restore to him his appetite : the tongue, quoth he, which insulted you is no longer a tongue, and the hand which wronged you is no longer a hand. And the old man arose and embraced his son, and placed him above him at the table, saying, that he who had brought home that head should be the head of the house of Layn Calvo.”—P. 3. This

prosperous commencement was followed by a victory which Rodrigo obtained over five of the Moorish petty princes, who had allied themselves

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »