페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

domestic enemies; and reposes at last, and for would have left Ulysses quietly with Penelope life, in the bosom of his family.

after all his sufferings, had he known them as The lesser poets, however, could not let him described in Homer. The old Florentine, alone. Homer leaves the general impression though wilful enouglı when he wanted to disupon one's mind, as to the close of his life ; but pose of a modern's fate, had great veneration there are plenty of obscurer fables about it for his predecessors. At all events, he was still. We have specimens in modern times of not acquainted with Homer's works. They this propensity never to have done with a did not make their way back into Italy till a good story ; which is natural enough, though little later. But there were Latin writers not very wise ; nor are the best writers likely extant, who might have informed him of the to meddle with it. Thus Cervantes was other stories relative to Ulysses; and he saw plagued with a spurious Quixote ; and our nothing in them, to hinder him from giving circulating libraries have the adventures of the great wanderer a death of his own.

. to

writers on the present subject, availing them- nature, made him impatient of staying at selves of an obscure prophecy of Tiresias, who home, after a life of such adventure and tells Ulysses on his visit to hell, that his old excitement. But we will relate the story in enemy the sea would be the death of bim at his own order. He begins it with one of his last, bring over the sea Telegonus, his son by most romantic pieces of wildness. The poet the goddess Circe, who gets into a scuffle with and his guide Virgil are making the best of their the Ithacans, and kills his father unknowingly difficult path along a ridge of the craggy rock It is added, that Telegonus afterwards return- that overhangs the eighth gulf of hell ; when ed to his mother's island, taking Penelope ard Dante, looking down, sees the abyss before his half-brother Telemachus with him ; and him full of fickering lights, as numerous, he here a singular arrangement takes place, says, as the fire-flies which a peasant, reposing more after the fashion of a modern Catholic on a hill, sees filling the valley, of a hot evendynasty, than an ancient heathen one : for ing. Every flame shot about separately; and while Edipus was fated to undergo such he knew that some terrible mystery or other dreadful misfortunes for marrying his mother accompanied it. As he leaned down from the without the knowledge of either party, Minerva rock, grasping one of the crags, in order to herself comes down from heaven, on the pre- look closer, his guide, who perceived his earsent occasion, to order Telegonus, the son of nestness, said, “ Within those fires are spirits ; Ulysses, to marry his father's wife; the other every one swathed in what is burning him.” son at the same time making a suitable match Dante told him, that he had already guessed with his father's mistress, Circe. Telemachus as much : and pointing to one of them in parseems to have had the best of this extraordinary ticular, asked who was in that fire which was bargain, for Circe was a goddess, consequently divided at top, as though it had ascended from always young; and yet to perplex these wind the funeral-pile of the liating Theban brothers. ings-up still more, Telemachus is represented “ Within that,” answered Virgil,“ are Diomed by some as marrying Circe's daughter, and and Ulysses, who speed together now to their killing his immortal mother-in-law. Nor does own misery, as they used to do to that of the character of the chaste and enduring others.". They were suffering the penalty of Penelope escape in the confusion. Instead of the various frauds they had perpetrated in waiting her husband's return in that patient concert; such as the contrivance of the Trojan manner, she is reported to have been over- horse, and the theft of the Palladium. Dante hospitable to all the suitors ; the consequence entreats, that if those who are within the of which was a son called Pan, being no less sparkling horror can speak, it may be made to a personage than the god Pan himself, or

Virgil says it shall ; but begs the Nature ; a fiction, as Bacon says, “ applied Florentine not to question it himself, as the very absurdly and indiscreetly." There are spirits, being Greek, might be shy of holding different stories respecting her lovers ; but it discourse with him. When the flame has is reported that when Ulysses returned from come near enough to be spoken to, Virgil Troy, he divorced her for incontinence; and addresses the “two within one fire ;” and that she fled, and passed her latter days in requests them, if he ever deserved anything of Mantinea. Some even go so far as to say, that them as a poet, great or little, that they would her father Icarius had attempted to destroy not go away, till one of them had told him how her when young, because the oracle had told he came into that extremity. him that she would be the most dissolute of At this, says Dante, the greater horn of the the family. This was probably invented by old fire began to lap hither and thither, murthe cornic writers out of a buffoon malignity ; muring ; like a flame struggling with the wind. for there are men, so foolishly incredulous The top then, yearning to and fro, like a tongue with regard to principle, that the reputation trying to speak, threw out a voice, and said : of it, even in a fiction, makes them impatient. “ When I departed from Circe, who withdrew

Now it is impossible to say, whether Dante me to her for more than a year in the neigh

come near.

bourhood of Gaieta, before Æneas had so (sul di tanto offesi)! A sufficing misery, it must named it, neither the sweet company of my be allowed ; but compared with the horrors he son, nor pious affection of my old father, nor fancies for heretics and others, undoubtedly a the long-owed love with which I ought to have great relief. Dante, throughout his extraordigladdened Penelope, could conquer the ardour nary work, gives many evidences of great that was in me to become wise in knowledge natural sensibility; and his countenance, as of the world, of man's vices and his virtue. I handed down to us, as well as the shade-struck put forth into the great open deep with only gravity of his poetry, shows the cuts and disone bark, and the small remaining crew by quietudes of heart he must have endured. whom I had not been left. I saw the two But unless the occasional hell of his own shores on either side, as far as Spain and troubles, and his consciousness of the mutaMorocco ; and the island of Sardinia, and the bility of all things, helped him to discover the other isles which the sea there bathes round brevity of individual suffering as a particular, about. Slowly we went, my companions and and the lastingness of nature's benevolence as I, for we were old ; till at last we came to that a universal, and thus gave his poem an intennarrow outlet, where Hercules set up his pillars, tion beyond what appears upon the surface, that no man might go further. I left Seville we must conclude, that a bigoted education, on the right hand : on the other I had left and the fierce party politics in whi

he was a Ceuta. O brothers, said I, who through a leader and sufferer, obscured the greatness of hundred thousand perils are at length arrived his spirit. It is always to be recollected, howat the west, deny not to the short waking day ever, as Mr. Coleridge has observed somewhere that yet remains to our senses, an insight into in other words, that when men consign each the unpeopled world, setting your backs upon other to eternal punishment and such-like the sun.

Consider the stock from which ye horrors, their belief is rather a venting of sprang : ye were not made to live like the present impatience and dislike, than anything brute beasts, but to follow virtue and know which they take it for. The fiercest Papist or ledge. I so sharpened my companions with Calvinist only flatters himself (a strange flatthis little speech on our way, that it would tery, too!) that he could behold a fellowhave been difficult for me to have withheld creature tumbling and shrieking about in them, if I would. We left the morning right eternal fire. He would begin shrieking himself in our stern, and made wings of our oars for in a few minutes ; and think that he and all the idle flight, always gaining upon the left. heaven ought to pass away, rather than that The night now beheld all the stars of the one such agony should continue. Tertullian other pole ; while our own was so low, that it himself, when he longed to behold the enemies arose not out of the ocean-floor. Five times of his faith burning and liquefying, only meant, the light had risen underneath the moon, and without knowing it, that he was in an excessive five times fallen, since we put forth upon the rage at not convincing everybody that read great deep ; when we descried a dim mountain him. in the distance, which appeared higher to me than ever I had seen any before. We rejoiced, and as soon mourned : for there sprung a

XVIII.-FAR COUNTRIES. whirlwind from the new land, and struck the foremost frame of our vessel. Three times, IMAGINATION, though no mean thing, is not with all the waters, it whirled us round ; at a proud one. If it looks down from its wings the fourth it dashed the stern up in air, and upon common-places, it only the more perceives the prow downwards ; till, as seemed fit to the vastness of the region about it. The others, the ocean closed above our heads." infinity into which its flight carries it, might

indeed throw back upon it a too great sense of Tre volte il fè girar con tutte l'accue:

insignificance, did not Beauty or Moral Justice, A la quarta levar la poppa in suso, E la prora ire in giù, come altrui piacque,

with its equal eye, look through that blank Infin ch 'l mar fu sopra noi richiuso.

aspect of power, and re-assure it; showing it

that there is a power as much above power Why poor Ulysses should find himself in

itself, as the thought that reaches to all, is to hell after his immersion, and be condemned to the hand that can touch only thus far. a swathing of eternal fire, while St. Dominic, But we do not wish to get into this tempting who deluged Christianity with fire and blood, region of speculation just now. We only intend is called a Cherubic Light, the Papist, not the to show the particular instance, in which poet, must explain. Hle puts all the Pagans in imagination instinctively displays its natural hell, because, however good some of them may humility: we mean, the foudness which imahave been, they lived before Christ, and could ginative times and people have shown for what not worship God properly—(debitamente). But is personally remote from them ; for what is he laments their state, and represents them as opposed to their own individual conscious suffering a mitigated punishment: they only | ness, even in range of space, in farness of situlive in a state of perpetual desire without hope ation.

There is no surer mark of a vain people than them a map of the earth, they inquired for their treating other nations with contempt, China; and on finding that it only made a especially those of whom they know least. It little piece in a corner, could not contain their is better to verify the proverb, and take every derision. They thought that it was the main thing unknown for magnificent, than predeter- territory in the middle, the apple of the world's mine it to be worthless. The gain is greater. | eye. The instinct is more judicious. When we

On the other hand, the most imaginative mention the French as an instance, we do not nations, in their nighest times, have had a mean to be invidious, Most nations have their respect for remote countries. It is a mistake good as well as bad features. In Vanity Fair to suppose that the ancient term barbarian, there are many booths.

applied to foreigners, suggested the meaning The French, not long ago, praised one of we are apt to give it. It gathered some such their neighbours so highly, that the latter is insolence with it in the course of time; but suspected to have lost as much modesty, as the the more intellectual Greeks venerated the forroer gained by it. But they did this as a countries from which they brought the elements set-off against their own despots and bigots. of their mythology and philosophy. The When they again became the greatest power philosopher travelled into Egypt, like a son to in Europe, they had a relapse of their old see his father. The merchant heard in Phoeegotism. The French, though an amiable and nicia the far-brought stories of other realms, intelligent people, are not an imaginative one which he told to his delighted countrymen. The greatest beight they go is in a balloon. It is supposed, that the mortal part of Mentor They get no farther than France, let them go in the Odyssey was drawn from one of these where they will. They“ run the great circle voyagers. When Anacharsis the Scythian and are still at home," like the squirrel in his was reproached with his native place by an rolling cage. Instead of going to Nature in unworthy Greek, he said, “ My country may their poetry, they would make her come to be a shame to me, but you are a shame to your them, and dress herself at their last new toilet. country." Greece had a lofty notion of the In philosophy and metaphysics, they divest Persians and the Great King, till Xerxes came themselves of gross prejudices, and then think over to teach it better, and betrayed the softthey are in as yraceful a state of nakedness as ness of their skulls. Adam and Eve.

It was the same with the Arabians, at the At the time when the French had this fit time when they had the accomplishments of upon them of praising the English (which was the world to themselves ; as we see by their Devertheless the honester one of the two), delightful tales. Everything shines with them they took to praising the Chinese for number in the distance, like a sunset. What an amiless unknown qualities. This seems a contra- able people are their Persians !

What a diction to the near-sightedness we speak of: wonderful place is the island of Serendib! but the reason they praised them was, that the You would think nothing could be finer than Chinese had the merit of religious toleration : the Caliph's city of Bagdat, till you hear of a great and extraordinary one certainly, and “ Grand Cairo ;” and how has that epithet not the less so for having been, to all appear and that name towered in the imagination of ance, the work of one man. All the romance all those, who have not had the misfortune to of China, such as it was,-anything in which see the modern city? Sindbad was respected, they differed from the French,—their dress, like Ulysses, because he had seen so many their porcelain towers, their Great Wall,—was adventures and nations. So was Aboulfaouris nothing. It was the particular agreement the Great Voyager, in the Persian Tales. His with the philosophers.

very name sounds like a wonder. It happened, curiously enough, that they

With many a tempest had his beard been shaken. could not have selected for their panegyric a nation apparently more contemptuous of others;

It was one of the workings of the great or at least more self-satisfied and unimaginative. Alfred's mind, to know about far-distant counThe Chinese are cunning and ingenious ; and tries. There is a translation by him of a book have a great talent at bowing out ambassadors of geography ; and he even employed people who come to visit them. But it is somewhat to travel : a great stretch of intellectual muni. inconsistent with what appears to be their ficence for those times. About the same general character, that they should pay period, Haroun al Raschid (whom our manhood strangers even this equivocal compliment; for is startled to find alınost a less real person under a prodigious mask of politeness, they are than we thought him, for his very reality) not slow to evince their contempt of other wrote a letter to the Emperor of the West, nations, whenever any comparison is insinuated Charlemagne. Here is Arabian and Italian with the subjects of the Brother of the Sun romance, shaking hands in person. and Moon. The knowledge they respect in us The Crusades pierced into a new world of most is that of gun-making, and of the East- remoteness. We do not know whether those Indian passage. When our countrymen showed were much benefited, who took part in them;

romance.

were

Or let me die!

but for the imaginative persons remaining at In childhood, the total ignorance of the home, the idea of going to Palestine must world, especially when we are brought up in have been like travelling into a supernatural some confined spot, renders everything beyond world. When the campaign itself had a good the bounds of our dwelling a distance and a effect, it must have been of a very fine and

Mr. Lamb, in his Recollections of highly-tempered description. Chaucer's Knight | Christ's Hospital, says that he remembers when had been

some half-dozen of his school-fellows set oft,

“ without map, card, or compass, on a serious Sometime with the lord of Palatie Agen another hethen in Turkie :

expedition to find out Philip Quarll's Island.” And evermore he had a sovereign price;

We once encountered a set of boys as romantic. And though that he was worthy, he was wise, It was at no greater distance than at the foot And of his port as meek as is a mayde.

of a hill near Hampstead; yet the spot was so How like a return from the moon must have perfectly Cisalpine to them, that two of them been the re-appearance of such travellers as

came up to us with looks of hushing eagerSir John Mandevile, Marco Polo, and William

ress, and asked “whether, on the other side de Rubruquis, with their news of Prester

of that hill, there were not robbers ;" to which, John, the Great Mogul, and the Great Cham

the minor adventurer of the two added," and of Tartary! The long-lost voyager must have

some say serpents.” They had all got bows been like a person consecrated in all the

and arrows, and were evidently hovering quarters of heaven. His staff and his beard

about the place, betwixt daring and apprehenmust have looked like relics of his former sion, as on the borders of some wild region.

We smiled to think which it was that husself. The Venetians, who were some of the

banded their suburb wonders to more advanearliest European travellers, have been remarked, among their other amiable qualities, tage, they or we: for while they peopled the for their great respect for strangers.

The place with robbers and serpents, we peculiarity of their position, and the absence peopling it with sylvans and fairies. of so many things which are common-places to “ So was it when my life began ; other countries, such as streets, horses, and

So is it now I am a man ; coaches, add, no doubt, to this feeling. But a

So be it when I shall grow old, foolish or vain people would only feel a con

The child is father to the man ; tempt for what they did not possess. Milton,

And I could wish my days to be in one of those favourite passages of his, in

Bound each to each by natural piety." which he turns a nomenclature into such grand meaning and music, shows us whose old footing he had delighted to follow. How he enjoys the distance; emphatically using the words XIX.-A TALE FOR A CHIMNEY CORNER. fur, farthest, and utmost !

A man who does not contribute his quota Embassies from regions far remote,

of grim story now-a-days, seems hardiy to be In various habits, on the Appian road, Or on the Emilian ; some from farthest south,

free of the republic of letters. He is bound to Syene, and where the shadow both way falls,

wear a death's-head, as part of his insiguia. Meroe, Nilotick Isle ; an

If he does not frighten everybody, he is nobody.

If he does not shock the ladies, what can be From the Asian kings, and Parthian among these;

expected of him? From India and the golden Chersonese, And utmost Indian isle Taprobane.–Parad. Reg, b. iv.

We confess we think very cheaply of these

stories in general. A story, merely horrible One of the main helps to our love of remote- or even awful, which contains no sentiment ness in general, is the associations we connect elevating to the human heart and its hopes, is with it of peace and quietness. Whatever a mere appeal to the least judicious, least there may be at a distance, people feel as if healthy, and least masculine of our passions,they should escape from the worry of their fear. They whose attention can be gravely local cares. “O that I had wings like a dove ! arrested by it, are in a fit state to receive any then would I fly away and be at rest.” The absurdity with respect ; and this is the reason, word far is often used wilfully in poetry, to why less talents are required to enforce it, than render distance still more distant. An old in any other species of composition. With English song begins

this opinion of such things, we may be allowed In Irelande farre over the sea

to say, that we would undertake to write a There dwelt a bonny king.

dozen horrible stories in a day, all of which

should make the common worshippers of power, Thomson, a Scotchman, speaking of the western

who were not in the very healthiest condition, isles of his own country, has that delicious

turn pale. We would tell of Haunting Old line, full of a dreary yet lulling pleasure ;- Women, and Knocking Ghosts, and Solitary As when a shepherd of the Ilebrid isles,

Lean Hands, and Empnsas on One Leg, and Placeu fur amid the melancholy main.

Ladies growing Longer and Longer, and Ilorrid

more to west, The realm of Bocchus to the Black-moor sea ;

no

Eyes meeting us through Key-holes, and be, in his complete steel. His visor is raised ; Plaintive Heads, and Shrieking Statues, and and the same fine face is there ; only, in spite Shocking Anomalies of Shape, and Things of his punishing errand and his own sufferings, which when seen drove people mad ; and In- with digestion knows what besides. But who would

A countenance more in sorrow than in anger. measure talents with a leg of veal, or a German sausage ?

When Donne the poet, in his thoughtful Mere grimness is as easy as grinning; but it eagerness to reconcile life and death, had a requires something to put a handsome face on figure of himself painted in a shroud, and laid a story. Narratives become of suspicious merit by his bedside in a coffin, he did a higher thing in proportion as they lean to Newgate-like than the monks and hermits with their skulls. offences, particularly of blood and wounds. A It was taking his humanity with him into the child has a reasonable respect for a Raw-head-other world, not affecting to lower the sense and-bloody-bones, because all images whatso- of it by regarding it piecemeal or in the frameever of pain and terror are new and fearful to work. Burns, in his Tam O'Shanter, shows the his inexperienced age: but sufferings merely dead in their coffins after the same fashion. physical (unless sublimated like those of Phi- He does not lay bare to us their skeletons or loctetes) are common.places to a grown man.

refuse, things with which we can connect Images, to become awful to him, must be sympathy or spiritual wonder. They still are removed from the grossness of the shambles. flesh and body to retain the one ; yet so look A death's-head was a respectable thing in the and behave, inconsistent in their very consishands of a poring monk, or of a nun compelled tency, as to excite the other. to avoid the idea of life and society, or of a Coffins stood round like open presses, hermit already buried in the desert. Holbein's Which showed the dead in their last dresses : Dance of Death, in which every grinning

And by some devilish cantrip sleight,

Each, in his cauld hand, held a light. skeleton leads along a man of rank, from the pope to the gentleman, is a good Memento Re-animation is perhaps the most ghastly of Mori ; but there the skeletons have an air of all ghastly things, uniting as it does an appearthe ludicrous and satirical. If we were ance of natural interdiction from the next threatened with them in a grave way, as spec- world, with a supernatural experience of it. tres, we should have a right to ask how they Our human consciousness is jarred out of its could walk about without muscles. Thus self-possession. The extremes of habit and many of the tales written by such authors as newness, of common-place and astonishment, the late Mr. Lewis, who wanted sentiment to meet suddenly, without the kindly introducgive him the heart of truth, are quite puerile. tion of death and change ; and the stranger When his spectral nuns go about bleeding, we appals us in proportion. When the account think they ought in decency to have applied appeared the other day in the newspapers of to some ghost of a surgeon. His Little Grey the galvanized dead body, whose features as Men, who sit munching hearts, are of a piece well as limbs underwent such contortions, with fellows that eat cats for a wager.

that it seemed as if it were about to rise up, Stories that give mental pain to no purpose, one almost expected to hear, for the first time, or to very little purpose compared with the

news of the other world. Perhaps the most unpleasant ideas they excite of human nature, appalling figure in Spenser is that of Maleger : are as gross mistakes, in their way, as these, (Fairy Queen, b. 11. c. xi.) and twenty times as pernicious : for the latter become ludicrous to grown people. They ori

Upon a tygre swift and fierce be rede,

That as the winde ran underneath his lode, ginate also in the same extremes, of callous

Whiles his long legs nigh raught unto the ground: ness, or of morbid want of excitement, as the Full large he was of limbe, and shoulders brode, others. But more of these hereafter. Our But of such subtile substance and unsound, business at present is with things ghastly and

That like a ghost he seemed, whose grave-clothes were

unbound. ghostly.

A gbost story, to be a good one, should unite, Mr. Coleridge, in that voyage of his to the as much as possible, objects such as they are brink of all unutterable things, the Ancient in life, with a preternatural spirit. And to be Mariner (which works out however a fine sena perfect one,-at least to add to the other timent), does not set mere ghosts or hobgoblins utility of excitement a moral utility,— they to man the ship again, when its crew are dead ; should imply some great sentiment,- -some- but re-animates, for a while, the crew themthing that comes out of the next world to selves. There is a striking fiction of this sort remind us of our duties in this ; or something in Sale's notes upon the Koran. Solomon dies that helps to carry on the idea of our humanity during the building of the temple, but his body into after-life, even when we least think we remains leaning on a staff and overlooking the shall take it with us. When “the buried ma- workmen, as if it were alive ; till a worm jesty of Denmark” revisits earth to speak to gnawing through the prop, he falls down. The his son Hamlet, he comes armed, as he used to contrast of the appearance of humanity with

« 이전계속 »