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becomes prolix, and yet we are never weary ed itself into a little republic. . This change of it, so matchless is the charm of the lan- in the government of states, and the conguage, and so airy the lightness of the nar- dition of their citizens, must have had a rative ; an almost dramatic developement of tendency to render the relations of society characters and passions, of speeches and re- every day more and more prosaic. The old plies ; and an almost historical fidelity in heroic tales must have by degrees become the description of incidents the most minute. foreign to the feelings of the people, and It is perhaps to this last peculiarity, which there can be little doubt that this universal distinguishes Homer so much, even among revolution of governments must have mainly the poets of his own country, that he is in- contributed towards bringing Homer into debted for the name by which he is known that sort of oblivion, out of which he was
For Homeros signifies, in Greek, a first recalled by the efforts of Solon and Pi. witness or voucher, and this name has pro
sistratus. bably been given to him on account of his His account of the Greek dramatists, truth,—such truth I mean as it was in the historians, and philosophers, is equally power of a poet-especially a poet who ce
excellent: with regard to the last set lebrates heroic ages, to possess. To us he of writers, however, we suspect his is indeed a Homer-a faithful voucher, an unfalsifying witness, of the true shape and observations are much better fitted for fashion of the heroic life. The other ex.
German than for English readers. planation of the word Homeros' a blind With the exception of the unhappy man'—is pointed out in the often repeated young gentlemen who are drilled into and vulgar history which has come down to à superficial and mechanical knowledge us of the life of a poet, concerning whom of some part of Aristotle's writings at we know absolutely nothing, and is without Oxford and Cambridge, the whole doubt altogether to be despised. In the subject of ancient philosophy is, we poetry of Milton, even without the express verily believe, as little known in Engassertion of the poet himself, we can dis.
land as in Iceland. Even the most discover many marks that he saw only with the internal eye of the mind, but was de tinguished of our philosophical writprived of the quickening and cheering in- ers, Mr Dugald Stewart, never touches fluence of the light of day. The poetry of upon it, without betraying ignorance Ossian is clothed, in like manner, with a unworthy of his great genius. We hope melancholy twilight, and seems to be the day is not far distant, when the wrapped, as it were, in an everlasting cloud. example of the Germans, more lateIt is easy to perceive that the poet himself ly, of the French themselves, may prowas in a similar condition. But he who duce an important and happy change, can conceive that the Iliad and the Odyssey, in this particular, among a set of men the most clear and luminous of ancient poems, were composed by one deprived of who are far too good to be thrown ahis sight, must, at leasť in some degree, way upon the vain work of doing over elose his own eyes, before he can resist the again things that were as well underevidence of so many thousand circumstances stood two thousand years ago as they which testify, so incontrovertibly, the re
As a specimen of the view which “ In whatever way, and in whatever cen
our author takes of the history of the tury, the Homeric poems might be created and fashioned, they place before us a time literature of the Romans, we extract when the heroic age was on the decline, or
the following very original, and, we had perhaps already gone by. For there think, satisfactory account of their are two different worlds which both exist drama. together in the compositions of Homer, - In the drama the Romans were perpethe world of marvels and tradition, which tually making attempts, from the time of still however appears to be near and lively Ennius downwards. In truth, however, before the eyes of the poet ; and the living they have left nothing in that department circumstances and present concerns of the of poetry except translations from the Greek, world 'which produced the poet himself. -more or less exact, but never executed This commingling of the present and the with sufficient spirit to entitle them even to past (by which the first is adorned and the the less servile name of imitations. The second illustrated), lends, in a pre-eminent lost tragedians, Pacuvius and Attius, were degree to the Homeric poems, that charm mere translators; and the same thing may which is so peculiarly their characteristic. be said of the two comic poets, Plautus and
“ Of old the whole of Greece was ruled Terence, whose writings are in our hands. by kings who claimed descent from the heroic That old domestic species of bantering co
This is still the case in the world of medy, which was known by the Oscian Homer. Very soon, however, after his name of fabula atellana, was not however time, the regal form of government was en- entirely laid aside. It still preserved its tirely laid aside, and every people which place as an amusement of society in the had power enough to be independent, erect- merry meetings of the nobles; who, in the
midst of all their foreign refinements, were borrowed, from these very sources, many willing, now and then, to revive in this way subjects of a highly poetical nature, and, at their recollections of the national sports and the same time, far from being unsusceptible diversions of their Italian ancestry.-With of dramatic representation, such as the the exception of this low species of buffoon combat of the Horatii, the firmness of Bru. writing, the Romans never possessed any tus, the internal conflict and changed spirit thing which deserved to be called a drama- of Coriolanus,-restoring in this way to tic literature of their own. With regard to poetry what was originally among the most their translations from the Greek tragedians, rightful of her possessions. To find a satisone principal cause of their stiffness and factory solution of this difficulty, we must general want of success was this, that the examine into the nature of these neglected mythology, which forms the essence of these themes.—The patriotic feelings embodied compositions, was in fact foreign to the Ro- in these traditions, were too much a-kin to man people. It is very true that the gene- the feelings of every Roman audience, to ral outline of Roman mythology was origi- admit of being brought forward upon a nally copied from that of the Greeks, but stage. The story of Coriolanus may serve the individual parts of the two fabrics were as an example. How could a Roman poet altogether different and local.
Iphigenia have dared to represent this haughty patria and Orestes were always more or less for- cian in the full strength of his disdain and eigners to a Roman audience; and the scorn of plebeians, at the time when the whole drama in which these and similar Gracchi were straining every nerve to set personages figured, never attained in Rome the plebeians free from the authority of the any more healthy state of existence, than nobles ? What effect must it have had, to that of an exotic in a green-house, which is introduce the banished Coriolanus upon a only preserved from death by the daily ap- Roman stage, reproaching, in his merited plication of artificial heat and unsatisfying indignation, with bitter words and dearlabour. The names of the individual tra- bought mockery, the jealous levity of his gedies, which were supposed to be the best countrymen at a time when the noblest of their kind in the time of Augustus, may and most free-spirited of the last Romans, suffice to shew us how narrow was the circle Sertorius, from his place of exile, among in which the Roman dramatists moved, and the unsubdued tribes of Spain and Lusita. how soon their tragic art has reached the ter- nia, meditated more complete revenge 2mination of its progress. The same thing gainst similar ingratitude, and was laying may easily be gathered from a consideration plans for the destruction of the old, and the of those orations in dramatic form which foundation of a second Rome? Or how are commonly ascribed to Seneca.--In like could a Roman audience have endured to manner the representation of the foreign see Coriolanus represented as approaching manners of Athens, which perpetually oc- Rome at the head of an hostile and victori. cupied the Roman comedy, must have ap- ous army, at the time when Sylla was in peared to Roman spectators at once cold reality at open war with his country; or and uninteresting. It is no difficult matter even at a somewhat later period, when the to perceive the reasons why the witehery of principal events of his history must have pantomime and dance soon supplanted at still been familiar and present to the recolRome every other species of dramatic spec- lection of his countrymen ? Not in these tacle.
instances alone, but in the whole body of " There is one of a still more serious na- the early traditions and history of Rome, ture, upon which I have not yet touched the conflict between patricians and plebeians The Roman people had by degrees becoine occupied so pre-eminent a place, as to renaccustomed to take a barbarous delight in der Roman subjects incapable of theatrical the most wanton displays of human violence representation during the times of the reand brutal cruelty. Hundreds of lions and public. Much more does this apply to the elephants fought and bled before their eyes; age of Augustus and his successors, when, even Roinan ladies could look on, and see indeed, Brutus and the ancient consular crowds of hireling gladiators wasting energy, heroes could not have failed to be the most valour, and life, on the guilty arena of a unwelcome of all personages. circus. It is but too evident, that they who find sufficient illustrations of these remarks could take pleasure in spectacles such as in the history of the modern drama. For, these, must very soon have lost all that ten- although Shakspeare has not hesitated to derness of inward feeling, and all that sym- represent the civil wars of York and Lanpathy for inward suffering, without which caster on the English stage, we must obnone can perceive the force and beauty of a serve, that before he did so, these wars had tragic drama. Still, however, it may un- entirely terminated ; and the recurrence of questionably appear a strange thing, that, similar events could not easily have been since the Romans did make any attempts at foreseen by one living in the pacific times of the composition of tragedies, they should James. With regard to our German dranever have chosen their subjects from the ma, it is true that our tragic poets have ancient history or traditions of their coun- chosen many of these most interesting subtry ;-more particularly, when we consider jects from our civil tumults-particularly that the tragedians of modern times have from the thirty years war; but even here VOL. III.
the case is very different from what it would moral excellence or of political happiness. have been among the Romans. The Ger- We are well aware that the true and happy mans are indeed countrymen, but they are age of Roman greatness long preceded that not all subjects of the same state. And of Roman refinement and Roman authors; yet with us, the poets who handle such to- and I fear there is too much reason to suppics at much length, have a very difficult pose that, in the history of the modern natask to perform ; they have need of much tions, we may find many examples of the delicacy to avoid wounding or perhaps re- same kind. But even if we should not at viving the feelings of parties, and thus de- all take into our consideration these higher stroying the proper impression which their and more universal standards of the worth poetry should make.
and excellence of ages and nations, and al* Such are the reasons why the Romans though we should entirely confine our athad no national tragedies; and why, in tention to literature and intellectual cultiva. general, they liad no such thing as a theatre tion alone, we ought still, I imagine, to be of their own.”
very far from viewing the period of the midAfter running, in this manner, over
dle ages with the fashionable degree of self
satisfaction and contempt. the whole of the literature of classical
If we consider literature in its widest antiquity, he passes into the consider
sense, as the voice which gives expression ation of that of the Persians, the In- to human intellect--as the aggregate mass dians, and other ancient peoples,—the of symbols in which the spirit of an age or nature and character of which are to the character of a nation is shadowed forth, be gathered not from monuments, but —then indeed a great and accomplished li. from hints. The beautiful lecture on terature is, without all doubt, the most vathe spirit of the old Indian philosophy luable possession of which any nation can must be highly interesting to all read boast. But if we allow ourselves to narrow
the meaning of the word literature so as to ers. It is the first intelligible view
make it suit the limits of our own prejudices, which has been given of that subject; and expect to find in all literatures the same indeed Schlegel appears to us to be the sort of excellencies, and the same sort of first worthy successor that Sir William forms, we are sinning against the spirit of Jones has hacł in his most favourite all philosophy, and manifesting our utter department of learning.
ignorance of all nature. Every where, in But by far the more full and inter- individuals as in species, in small things as esting part of the work is that which in great, the fulness of invention must pre
cede the refinements of art-legend must refers to the history of the middle ages
go before history, and poetry before criti. -the rise and developement of the
cism. If the literature of any nation has different nations among which Europe had no such poetical antiquity before arrivis divided—the circumstances which ing at its period of regular and artificial dehave forwarded in some, and retarded velopement, we may be sure that this litera. or thrown back in others, the pro- ture can never attain to a national shape and gress of refinement, and the excel- character, or come to breathe the spirit of lence of literature. At the outset of originality and independence. The Greeks this part of his work, our author has possessed such a period of poetical wealth a good deal of rubbish to elear away.
in those ages (ages certainly not very re
markable for their refinement either in li. “ We often think of and represent to our- terature, properly so called, or in science) selves the middle age, as a blank in the his- which elapsed between the Trojan adventory of the human mind an empty space tures and the times of Solon and Pericles, between the refinement of antiquity and the and it is to this period that the literature of illumination of modern times.
Greece was mainly indebted for the variety, willing to believe that art and science had originality, and beauty of its unrivalled entirely perished, that their resurrection, af. productions. What that period was ter a thousand years sleep, may appear some- Greece, the middle age was to modern Eu. thing more wonderful and sublime. Here, rope; the fulness of creative fancy was the as in many others of our customary opin. distinguishing characteristic of them both. ions, we are at once false, narrow-sighted, The long and silent process of vegetation and unjust; we give up substance for gau- must precede the spring, and the spring diness, and sacrifice truth to effect. The must precede the maturity of the fruit. fact is, that the substantial part of the know- The youth of individuals has been often ledge and civilization of antiquity never called their spring-time of life ; I imagine was forgotten, and that for very many of we may speak so of whole nations with the the best and noblest productions of modern same propriety as of individuals. They al. genius, we are entirely obliged to the in- so have their seasons of unfolding intellect ventive spirit of the middle age. It is, up- and mental blossoming. The age of cruon the whole, extremely doubtful whether sades, chivalry, romance, and minstrelsy, those periods which are the most rich in li. was an intellectual spring among all the natcrature possess the greatest share either of tions of the west.'
After an aceount of the mode of we have as yet been considering; they had education adopted in those under-rated no acquaintance either with the social or the ages, he proceeds as follows:
scientific refinements of the Romans. Such
were the Franks in Gaul, and the Saxons in “ The reproach, then, which is common- Britain. If we must fix upon some period iy thrown out against the Teutonic nations as that of complete void,-as a time of igthat they introduced barbarity and ignor- norance, darkness, and destruction-we shall ance into all those provinces of the Roman find the nearest approxiination to what we empire to which their victories reached, is, wish in the age which elapsed between the at least in the extent which is commonly reigns of Theodorick and Charlemagne. given to it, altogether false and ungrounded. But while Italy remained bowed down unTo none, however, of all these nations is it der the barbarous oppression of Byzantium, applied with so much injustice as to the the light of knowledge had found its refuge Goths, who lived at the time of the first in the cloisters of Ireland and Scotland; and northern inroads. For many centuries be- no sooner had the Saxons in England received fore these expeditions coinmenced, the Goths the first rudiments of knowledge along with had been already Christians; they were well their Christianity, than they at once carried acquainted with the importance of regular all branches of science to a height of perfeclaws, and with the relations of the learned tion at that time altogether unrivalled among and religious orders of society; and the the nations of the west. By them this light truth is, that, far from promoting any work was carried into France and Germanyof destruction in the Roman provinces, they there never more to be extinguished. were indefatigable, so far as their powers from this time knowledge was not only sysand circumstances admitted of it, in for- tematically preserved, but unweariedly cultiwarding and maintaining the interests of vated and extended, insomuch that the proscience. The only exception to this is to per period of revival should, I think, be plabe found in those times when the Gothic ced, not in the time of the crusades, but in tribes entered Italy under the guide of a that of Charlemagne. But even in the dark. foreign, a savage, and a heathen conquer- est period of all, that between the sixth cenor; or when in soine particular instances tury and the eighth, the foundations were they were exasperated by party-hatred and already laid for that mighty engine of inArian bigotry, to take too severe revenge struction which was afterwards perfected by against the equal hatred and bigotry of their the wisdom of Charlemagne. The estabCatholic opponents.
Even the last flourish- lishment of learned cloisters and brothering era of what still might be called ancient hoods had already commenced. It is to the Roman literature, took place under Theo- after extension of these spiritual corporadorick; and never did the mock patriotism tions, by whose exertions lands were renderof Italians take up a more ridiculous idea ed fruitful, and peoples civilized, and scien." than in the favourite theme of their later ces useful, and states secure, that Western poets—the deliverance of Italy from the Europe is indebted for
the superiority which power of the Goths. In the time of Theo- she attained over the Byzantines on the one dorick, and under the government of the hand, who were possessed of more hereditary Goths, Italy was just beginning to enjoy the knowledge, and the Arabs on the other, who opening of a new period of happiness. The had every advantage that external power true misery and the true barbarism began and proselytizing enthusiasm could afford when the Goths were expelled, and Italy them. That the result should have been submitted her neck once more to the dead. what we now see it, could scarcely, I should ening tyranny of Byzantine Eunuchs and suppose, have been believed to be within the Satraps. Let us also compare for a mo- reach of possibility by any contemporary specment the activity and life of Western Eu. While Alfred lived almost in the porope,-her nationalities, her adventures, verty, of a poet, and while Charlemagne and her chivalrous poetry-with the long practised in his own palace the frugality of and mortal sleep under which the Eastern à monk, how must their attempts in the Empire lay for a thousand years and we cause of science have been limited by the shall have no difficulty in deciding where narrowness of their means? and what, on the charges of sloth and ignorance ought to the contrary, would have been too much for fall. And yet the Byzantines were in pos- Haroon al Ruscheed to perform living as session of much greater literary riches, and he did in the midst of the untroubled splenof several useful invențions, with which the dour of Bagdad, and having it in his power west was entirely unacquainted. The mat- to forward the cause of science by all the ter of chief importance in all civilization aids which ingenuity could invent, or magand all literature is not the dead treasures nificence supply ? The result may give us we possess, but the living uses to which we an important lesson, and teach us not to reapply them.
pose our confidence in the munificence of But the effect was beyond all comparison kings. Science is not made to be cultivated more unfortunate in the case of those wan- in obedience to the command of a monarch. dering and conquering Teutonic nations He lends it indeed a temporary favour, but which were not yet Christians; these were it is only that it may increase his own fame, much more rude in their manners than those and throw additional lustre around his
throne. Caliphis and Sultans attempted in sistent. When we wish to depict the cor. vain to effect what was slowly and calmly ruption of the clergy, we inveigh against accomplished in the unpretending cloisters them for tyrannizing over kingdoms and of the west.
conducting negotiations ; but if we talk of The exertions of Charlemagne in securing their works, then they were all ignorant, the independence, and diffusing the estab- slothful Monks, who knew nothing of the lishment of religious houses, have entitled world, and therefore could not possibly him to the warmest gratitude of Europe, write histories. Perhaps the very best of and the admiration of every cultivated age. all situations for a writer of history is one But we must net conceal from ourselves, not widely differing from that of a Monkthat great as were the merits of Charle. one in which he enjoys abundant opportumagne, both in regard to the vernacular and nities of gaining experimental knowledge of the Latin literature of Europe, they were men and their affairs, but is at the same still inferior to those of Alfred. That wise time independent of the world and its transand virtuous monarch was not only like actions, and has full liberty to mature in Charlemagne, the unwearied patron of learn- retirement his reflections upon that which he ing in all its branches ; he was himself a
Such was the situation of many scholar and a philosopher, and he even con- of those German historians who flourished tributed more than any other individual to- in the days of the Saxon Emperors. The wards the elegant formation of the Anglo- more the study of history advances, the saxon tongue. But the successful expedi. more universally are their merits recognised, tions of the Danes threw back the progress But if Germany had the advantage in hisof England; and the literary establish- tory, the superiority of France and England ments founded by Charlemagne in France was equally apparent in philosophy. These and Southern Germany were disturbed, in countries, indeed, had already produced setheir infancy, by the attacks made on the veral distinguished philosophical writers, one part of his empire by the Normans, and even before the influence of the Arabians on the other by the Hungarians. The li- had introduced the monopolizing despotism terature which flourished soon afterwards of Aristotle. In the 9th century there arose under the Saxon Emperors was in every that profound inquirer who, as it is doubt* respect far superior to that of the days of ful whether he was a Scotsman or an IrishAlfred or Charlemagne. At that time Ger- man, is now known by the reconciling name many was rich above all other things in of Scotus Erigena. No less profound, good writers of history, from Eginhard, the though somewhat more limited in their apsecretary of Charlemagne, down to Otto von plication, were the views of Anselm. Abe. Freysingen, a prince of the house of Baben- lard was both a thinker and an orator ; his berg, who was son to St Leopold, and grand- language was elegant, and his knowledge of son to the great Barbarossa, of the imperial antiquity extensive,-praises which he shares family of Hohenstaufen. Her riches in this with his illustrious scholar, John of Salisrespect were indeed greater than those of any bury.” other country in Europe, nor is the circum- We have scarcely room to quote any stance to be wondered at, for she was in part of the two lectures in which fact the centre of all European politics. It Schlegel enlarges upon the poetry of is a very common thing to hear all those the middle age-above all the love Latin histories of the middle age, which were written by clergymen, classed together poetry or gaye science of the provinunder the same contemptuous appellation cials, and the mynnelieder of his own of " Monkish Chronicles.” They who in- countrymen.
The whole subject of dulge in such ridicule, must, beyond all romance is discussed in a very lively, doubt, be either ignorant or forgetful, that though, considering its importance, in these Monkish writers were very often men perhaps too concise a manner. The of princely descent ; that they were intrust. infiuence of the crusades is among ed with the most important affairs of go- other things presented, we think, in a vernment, and therefore could best explain them; that they were the ambassadors and very striking light. We extract only travellers of the times ; that they often pe
the concluding paragraphs, in which netrated into the remote East, and the still he gives something like a summing up more obscure regions of the North, and were of the conclusions to which his mind indeed the only persons capable of describ. has come. ing foreign countries and manners ; that in “ If we compare the old French tales and general they were the most accomplished fabliaus with the Arabian tales, we shall and intelligent men whom the world could have no difficulty in perceiving that the then produce; and that, in one word, if we greater part of these fictions had been were to have any histories at all of those brought from the East into Europe, in a ages, it was absolutely necessary they should great measure, it is probable, by the oral be written by the Monks. The reproaches narratives of the Crusaders. The small vawhich we cast out against the men and the riations which have been introduced, and manners of the middle age, are indeed not the colouring of European manners which unfrequently altogether absurd and incon- has so carefuily been thrown over them,