« ForrigeFortsæt »
more and more interefting. We confider it, in particular, as excellently calculated to be put into the hands of young perfons of both fexes; and we think it might be introduced, with great benefit, into the higher claffes of the numerous fchools throughout the kingdom; in very many of which, hiftory now properly conftitutes an important part of education but we do not mean to fay that it is a mere schoolbook it is capable of anfwering a much higher purpose; and will be found eminently ferviceable to perfons of every age and description, who are defirous of acquiring, in a fhort time and compafs, a general and comprehenfive acquaintance with a fubject, which they may not happen to know already, or which they may chance to have forgotten, Pe...e.
Arthur; or, the Northern Enchantment. A poetical Romance, in Seven Books. By Richard Hole, LL.B. 8vo. PP. 253. 4s. Boards. Robinsons.
POETRY may be faid to delight in fiction. Creation, as the
word implies, is its chief object. Soaring on the wings of fancy and imagination, new worlds and new Beings prefent themselves to the poet's view. To the realities, he adds all the poffibilities, of exiftence; and unfatisfied pedeftribus hiftoriis, with plain narrations in which only human actors and human exploits are exhibited, he enriches his fcene, and interefts the reader, by the introduction of preternatural beings. Homer could not fing of the contentions between the Grecian and the Dardan hofts, at the fiege of Troy, without elevating his subject by affociating divinities with heroes, and forcing the gods themfelves to bear a part in the mighty conflict. He employed the popular fuperftitions to give a grandeur and folemnity to his fubject, selecting, from the mythology which then prevailed, the machinery of his immortal poem.
The divinities of Greece having been transported to, and worshipped at, Rome, the Latin epic poets were forced to adopt the machinery, as well as to follow the plans, of Homer. They had little left, excepting to be fervile copyifts of this great original: but when the Mufes began to be courted by our northern ancestors, poetry was obliged to have recourse, for its machinery, to new fuperftitions, and to fubftitute Gothic demons in the place of Grecian deities. In this we are of opinion, that poetry fuftained no lofs. Nothing is, perhaps, more truly adapted to its genius, than the Gothic fictions and manners. The military inftitutions and cuftoms of chivalry, united with the gloomy theology and fables of the North,
which included a fyftem of magic, enchantment, and prodigy, opened a fpacious field to the epic adventurer. The old romancers, though they wanted powers to cultivate it to perfection, ferve to demonftrate to the difcerning critic, its extenfive capabilities. Ariofto, Taffo, and our Spencer, have employed them to fingular advantage; and had Homer flourished in the Gothic age, the fuppofition is not extravagant, that he might have produced a work fuperior to the Hiad itself, as he would certainly have found greater fcope for his genius. In the refined gallantry and military fanaticifm of this period, there was more of the tender as well as of the terrific ; and more to engage the fofter affections of the heart, as well as to harrow up the foul, than the civil and religious ftate of ancient Greece prefented to his obfervation or to his fancy.
Milton's fondness for the old romance, is demonftrated by his poems. That he even had it in contemplation to employ his Mufe on that part of our fabulous hiftory which includes the exploits of King Arthur, he exprefsly tells us in his Epitaphium Damonis. It were useless now to inquire what diverted him from the execution of a work, the plan of which he seems to have projected our business is rather to inquire how far Mr. Hole may be confidered as compenfating for the lofs.
Mr. H. carries us back to thofe Gothic times of which our immortal bard purposed to have fung; and we have no doubt, had his object been to have delineated the Arthur of the old hiftories and romances, that he would have been found equal to the tafk: but it must be obferved that the Arthur of Mr. Hole's poem is an ideal perfonage, and that his atchievements are groundless and imaginary; they are not, therefore, to be examined at the bar of hiftoric truth, but of poetic credibility. Mr. Hole further adds, at the conclufion of his preface, his performance is chiefly referred to the tribunal of fancy, and if there condemned, it makes no farther appeal.'
Of its condemnation, there is no fear. If not intitled to the first praife, it has, however, confiderable merit; in the appretiation of which, it is requifite to advert to the author's
His poem, then, is defigned as an imitation of the old metrical Romance, with fome of its narfher features foftened and modified, the incidents in this poem are extravagant, and its heroes rather thofe of Ariolto than of Homer; not because the defultory wildness of the one, is preferred to the correct fancy of the other, for nothing new, probably, can be added to improve the plan of the regular epic as conceived by the latter, and every imitation must fall fhort of the original.-To follow his fteps clotely, would, however, fhow but little genius; and to deviate widely from the path chalked out by him, as little judgment.-But the old Gothic fables exhibit a pe
a peculiarity of manners and fituation, which, if not from their intrinfic excellence, may, from their being lefs hackneyed, afford more materials for the writer's imagination, and contribute more to the reader's entertainment. Some paffages in these tales are, indeed, evidently derived from the claffics, but most probably through the medium of Arabian authors; who, when Europe was funk in ignorance, cultivated literature, and were no lefs remarkable for invention and fancy, than the Greeks and Romans for tafte and judgment.'
The Weird Sifters, or the Northern Parca, occupy a confpicuous place in Mr. Hole's poem, and, indeed, cause the hero double, double, toil and trouble: but it is obferved, that the idea given of them is neither confiftent with the Scandinavian mythology, in which they are reprefented as beautiful virgins, dwelling in Afgard, the city of the gods; nor with the witches. in Macbeth; of whom they are evidently the prototypes: it is rather formed out of both, and adapted, as well as the author could adapt it, to the genius of his poem.
The action of the poem might be faid to arife from the enmity which thefe potent dames bore to Arthur, and from their partiality to his opponent, Hengift, the Saxon King. "This Tale of other days,' commences with a defcription of these Weird Sifters in myftic dance on the mountain Conagra, in the Western Ifles, raifing a ftorm:
Three female forms appear'd; in myftic rite
Engag'd, they traced the mountain's dizzy height
Th' afpiring mountain to its bafe profound
. From ev'ry point of heav'n red meteors glide
Ivar, fon of Melafchlen, chief of the Ebudæ, or Weftern Ifles, as he was walking, toward night, by the fea-fhore, be
Their names are Urda, Valdandi, and Skulda. vian resembles the Grecian mythology in the number of the Parcæ, but, in their names, there is no fimilarity.
holds thefe Parcæ; and, at the fame time, views a fleet at a diftance-a tempeft, in confequence of their incantations, enfues:-on a warrior's being caft on fhore, the tempest subfides: Ivar approaches him in a friendly manner; invites him to the hall of Melafchlen, where he was then feafting with his chiefs:-Melafchlen endeavours to confole his guest, who informs him that he is Arthur, heir to the throne of Britain, perfecuted by the enmity of men and demons:--he repines at Providence-a dark cloud involves the room :-Merlin appears, rebukes him for his rafhness and credulity, in giving way to magic illufions, againft which he had been forewarned; affures him that his fleet was in fafety; and recommends refignation and fortitude: -the prince, in obedience to him, retires to rest.
Such is the opening of this poetical romance, by which it might be perceived, that Merlin is to affift prince Arthur against the demons and Weird Sifters, who oppofe his happinefs.
The following portrait of Merlin is too well drawn to be paffed over in filence:
For lo! in fudden gloom
Full on the prince he turn'd their piercing light,
The poet is happy in ftyling grey hairs, the wreath of honoured age; and alfo in the line, p. 72, which defcribes the introduction of Chriftianity into the North:
• And Sion's facred fong burft from the Celtic lyre.'
Arthur, in confequence of having broken his promife, by deferting the troops collected to oppofe Hengift, is informed by Merlin, that he must traverse Britain, if he preferred glory to falety, unattended, and expofed to the wiles and the force of men
and demons. Arthur accepts the offer; and hence the hero, in the progrefs of the poem, is thrown into fome perilous and alarming fituations. Like the knights of Ariofto and Taffo, he attacks a caftle defended by demons, and fhews his prowess in war. At last, after having been perfecuted by the Weird Sifters, he is informed by Merlin, that their malice, which was defigned to retard, has, in fact, advanced, his happiness; that they were doomed to the caverns of Hecla; and that he was fecure of poffeffing his mistress Inogen.
All epic writers make a point of trying their fill in the exhibition of a battle. Mr. Hole has imitated their example :the following lines, extracted from Book V. will evince with what degree of fuccefs:
Norwegia's leader thundering thro' the field,
Th' impetuous bolt defcends, the blow he fped
Thy warriors diftant tremble at the fight.
But generous Sweno marks thee lowly laid,
And haltes with pious valour to thy aid.
Maronan, Adamar, reluctant yield.
Oft lion-like they turn, and, in the strife,
Gore the proud hunters that pursue their life.
Lo! darting thro' the plain, in arms whofe blaze