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and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and smitten through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down; . . . where he bowed, there he fell down dead. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window and cried through the lattice, "Why is his chariot long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariot?" Her wise ladies answered her, yea she returned answer to herself: "Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey—to every man a damsel or two, to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework? ... So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord !"'
Here is the pure war spirit, not softened but heightened by religion, and heightened to an extraordinary degree. There is not an Arab in all Arabia who would not condemn the treacherous murder of Sisera, both because it is contrary to the wildest morality to offer hospitality to a man and then slay him in his sleep, and because there was 'peace 'between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber 'the Kenite.' Heber, like Piet de Wet, had 'severed his 'tent from the Kenites.' Did Heber, we wonder, approve of Jael's act, as much as did the singers, Deborah and Barak? Women were ever less restricted by law than men, and break it more readily either for a good cause or a bad one.
The pure delight in battle and in utter destruction of the foe resounds in the Homeric poems, though in them the harshness of war is tempered by a certain religious chivalry, such as Achilles showed towards Priam, which is not found in Semitic war. As Art arose, with its instinctive abhorrence of brutalities, the poetry of war became more abstract. Virgil's fights are anaemic reproductions of those in the Iliad. One feels that war was altogether repugnant to his gentle, civilised, and profound spirit:—
'Nos alias hinc ad lacrymas eadem horrida belli
The horror of the miserable half-century between Sulla's march on Rome and the battle of Actium is audible, like a sigh, in those words. Horace, though a man of peace, had seen some real fighting, and had seen it with disgust. His references to war are often fine, but they are of the distant landscape kind, and he avoids details as sedulously as a well-bred poet of the reign of Anne.
In the chants of the barbarians returns the voice of those who delight in war. The bards of the Norsemen and Danes, and of the unconverted Saxons, were as ruthless in song as were their folk in fight and massacre and devastation. The Christian religion softened the people and the song. Chivalry was the compromise between delight in war and a religion of love and forgiveness of enemies. War in the Middle Ages was still cruel, as we learn from Froissart: not only the burning and pillaging of a country, but worse brutalities were the incidents of any English expedition into France in the reign of Edward III. Yet war was bound by some rules, and was tempered by pity. The English and Lowland Scotch fighting was between near cousins, and was carried on in a sportsmanlike spirit:—
'The Percy leaned upon his brand
'" To have saved thy life, I would have given
Three years' rental was a handsome valuation of a foeman's merit.
Here we are far indeed from the spirit of Jews in the days of the Judges, from that of Danes and pagan Saxons, or from that of the Indian Mutiny. English and Scottish opponents, Froissart tells us, were wont to exchange congratulations after a satisfactory encounter. There was more ferocity in Scottish family feuds than in Warden raids, and these feuds inspired the most vivid poetry. Their savage spirit lives in the sixteenth-century ballad of 'Edom of Gordon,' perhaps the strongest of its kind. How firmly the note of approaching woe is struck in the first stanza:
'It fell about the Martinmass,
When the wind blew shrill and cauld,
That hot Northern blood which in later times, following the channels opened for it by great Englishmen, has found its vent in every quarter of the world, drove its possessors, so long as it was pent up at home by Southron force, into many a stormy love passion, and many a bloody deed of hate and revenge. Every glen had its tale of * dule and 'sorrow.' The Gaelic chants of the Highland clans have vanished, but the incessant broils of the Lowlands have
VOL. 0X0VI. NO. COCCI. D
left as fine a stock of ballads as any country has to show. They came from the heart of the people, a race as poetic as the southern Anglo-Saxon is the reverse. What a Homeric spirit breathes in the ballad of ' Kinmont Willie'! The wrath of the 'bold Lord keeper in Branksome Hall 'where that he lay ' when he hears that Lord Scroope 'has 'ta'en the Kinmont Willie' recalls the wrath of Achilles for the slaying of Patroclus:
'He has ta'en the table wi' his hand,
He garred the red wine spring on hie;
'" 0, is my basnet a widow's curch?
Or my lance a wand of the willow tree?
That an English lord should lightly me?
'" And have they ta'en him, Kinmont Willie,
Against the truce of Border tide?
So long as Europe was bound together by a common Church and by the cosmopolitan order of chivalry, there was much to mitigate war. The sixteenth century saw the break-up of this regime, and for a time, till a new order of things had established itself, there was a return towards the more savage and pagan spirit of war. Episodes in the Catholic and Protestant wars in the Low Countries and in Germany, the sack of Antwerp for instance, or that of Magdeburg, were worse than anything that had happened among Christians during the preceding centuries. Even in these islands we could make small boast of our superior civilisation. In Ireland a deep difference of race led in the Tudor days, when the bond of a common faith was broken, to campaigns almost of savage extermination. England was full of poets during the second half of the sixteenth century, but they paid little attention in verse to the wars of their day. The ballad of the 'Brave Lord Willoughby' was, perhaps, the best of those which referred to contemporary events. It opens finely:
'The fifteenth day of July,
With glistering spear and shield,
It is a stout old poem throughout, with that curious relish
for exact, no doubt, but unpoetic statement of fact which has in all ages marked the true English popular poetry:
'To the soldiers that were maimed
And wounded in the fray,
Of fifteen pence a day,
She quit and set them free;
Of brave Lord Willoughby.
'Then courage, noble Englishmen,
And never be dismayed;
We will not be afraid
And set our country free.
Of brave Lord Willoughby.
The honest old sea-ballad of the fight made by the good ship the 'Angel Gabriel' of Bristol against a Spaniard belongs to the same time. The metre must have suggested to Macaulay that of his famous 'Armada '—
'Attend you, and give ear awhile, and you shall understand
Here is another of the spirited stanzas:
• Our Captain to our Master said, " Take courage, Master bold!" Our Master to the seamen said, " Stand fast, my hearts of gold!" Our Gunner unto all the rest, "Brave hearts, be valiant still; Fight on, fight on, in the defence of our Angel Gabriel!"'
One can hear the hoarse sea-voices chanting this, the last lines in chorus, in old taverns of Bristol Port.
We owe much in Milton's 'Paradise Lost' to the civil wars in England, but little surviving poetry directly relates to that brave encounter between the aristocracy aud the middle class. There is on one side an heroic sonnet or two by Milton, on the other a gallant love and war poem or so, like Lovelace's perfect 'Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,' and there is MarvelPs extremely judicious ' Ode to Crom'welL' None of these is exactly war-poetry.
Nor did the wars which lasted, with one short break, from 1689 to 1712, inspire any great English poem. Addison's * Campaign ' stands as far on one side of the line which divides idealism from realism, or, rather, the abstract from the concrete, in this field, as Mr. Kipling's 'Barrack-room 'Ballads' stand on the other side. Its most famous passage is worth quoting, as a type of the best poetry in this kind. The battle of Blenheim has begun:
'But oh ! my Muse, what numbers wilt thou find
These are noble lines in their way, and deserving of perpetual remembrance. Yet perhaps there is more vitality in a line of a French song—' Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre.' The Seven Years' War made us paramount in India and America, but its heroes, like the brave who lived before Agamemnon, found no immortalising poets. There was David Garrick's admirable 'Hearts of Oak,' produced in a pantomime in that year of wonders, 1759:
'Come, cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer,
But what else? In 1775 began a war in which, under a dark cloud of disgrace on land but amid a finishing blaze of glory at sea, half the British Empire disappeared. Perhaps no Englishman had the heart to celebrate either such a victory as Long Island or such a defeat as Saratoga, and the Americans did not grow fine poetry. Besides, the world was not yet escaped from a long commercial and unlyrical period.
Next came wars which were indeed of a kind to inspire poetry, especially when the tremendous power of Napoleon