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accomplished by the accession of Queen Elizabeth. Yet these obvious inferences have escaped the commentators of Spenser.
The affection of Timias for Belphsebe, is allowed on all hands, to allude to Sir Walter Raleigh's pretended admiration of Queen Elizabeth; and his disgrace, on account of a less Platonic intrigue with the daughter of Sir Nicolas Throgmorton,t ogether with his restoration to favour, are plainly pointed out in the subsequent events. But no commentator has noticed the beautiful insinuation by which the poet points out the error of his friend, and of his friend's wife. Timias findsAmoret in the arms of Corflambo, or sensual passion ; he combats the monster unsuccessfully, and wounds the lady in his arms. We have not time to go through many other minute circumstances alluding to the history and intrigues of Queen Elizabeth's reign. Many of them are noticed in Upton's notes; but, we think, without sufficiently detailing the authorities on which he grounds his explanation. The fiery spirit of the unfortunate Earl of Westmoreland is detected under the personage of Blandamour, fickle both in friendship and in love, and easily heated into brawls, even when an exile in the Prince of Parma's court; of which the instance in the note might with propriety have been quoted. Mr Todd has, however, added nothing to what Upton has done, in explanation of Spenser's historical allusions, although that poet himself hath told us,
"Of faery lond yet if he more inquire,
By certain signs, liere art in sundry place,
He rany it find ; ne lei him then admire,
But yield his sense to be too blunt and base,
But there is another, and perhaps still more interesting source of enquiry, opened by the perusal of Spenser's poem. We allude to the state of Italian literature at the period when he wrote. That country had awakened from the sleep of barbarous ignorance, at least three centuries before the rest of Europe, and had already decorated, with classical imagery and allusions, many a story of Gothic origin. It would be necessary to plunge deep into the history of their poetry to explain the extent to which Spenser has made it the object of his imitation ; and in this Mr Todd appears to us to have failed in research or in success. In fact, that gentleman's ambition seems to have been limited to the humble task of choosing betwixt contested readings, in which he is generally guided by sound judgment, and in explaining obsolete words, in which he is sometimes insufferably and unnecessarily prolix. For example, the common word port, applied to personal carriage, is authorized by a note about the port and countenance of the lord mayor of London. There is another long note about the expression "hurly-burly," which elegant phrase he does us the honour to deduce from Scotland. There is also a prodigious long quotation from Don Qujxote, to verify the fact, that knightserrant, like most other people, bestowed names upon their horses. We have also tedious discussions, not the less dull for being backed with classical authority, upon such questions as, whether Spenser did write, or ought to have written Acidalian, or Aridalian; and not a heathen god or goddess escapes, without a full account of their breed and generation, for which, perhaps, the reader might have been briefly referred to Tooke's Pantheon. On the other hand, many obscure references, which do not fall within the course of general study, are left unexplained, or perhaps the perplexed reader is coolly referred to some work of rare occurrence for the solution. Thus, for the prophecy concerning the "fatal Welland," we are in a great measure turned over to the instruction of Anthony a Wood; and no information at all is given concerning the ancient fabulous history of Britain, which Spenser so often refers to, and upon which every day is now throwing more light.
But it was chiefly in that very curious and interesting tract, the View of the State of Ireland, that Spenser required the aid of a commentator to elucidate his positions as a historian and antiquary, and very frequently to correct his answers. Hardly any picture is more interesting than that of the poet reviewing at once with fear and with some degree of respect, the manners of the rude natives by whom he was surrounded; and it is a shame to literature that nothing has been added worth noticing to what Sir James Ware has long since said on so curious a subject.
To conclude, we are well aware that the trade find their advantage in publishing what are technically called Variorum editions of celebrated authors. It saves copy money, saves trouble, saves every thing but the credit of the unfortunate poet. Where the poet and commentator are fairly opposed to each other, the former has at least some chance of coming off victorious; but five to one would be odds even against Gully or the Game Chicken; and it is impossible that an ordinary reader can form a just judgment of the text, which is absolutcl^t)orne down and overwhelmed by the dull, dubious, and contradictory commentaries of so many uncongenial spirits. Their regard for the author is expressed like the gratitude of the Gauls, who overwhelmed with their bucklers the virgin to whom they were indebted for the conquest of a city.
[From the Edinburgh Review, 1806. On "Miscellaneous Poetry." By the Honourable W. Herbert, 3 vols. (too. 1805.]
These little volumes contain a variety of translations from the Norse, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, etc., with a few original pieces. Those by which we have been most interested, are contained under the title of " Select Icelandic Poetry," being versions of celebrated passages in the Edda of Ssemundar, and other specimens of Scaldic poetry. These translations form the first part of the first volume, and the second part of the second; a confused and capricious arrangement, which we wish had been avoided. They are, to a certain degree, a novelty in our literature; for although translations of many of these very pieces have been made by poets of different degrees of merit, from Gray to Amos Cottle, yet it has happened, ra- ther perversely, that not one of these translators understood the original Icelandic, but contented themselves with executing their imitations from the Latin version, and thus presenting their readers with the shadow of a shade. We can only estimate the injustice which the old Scalds sustained in this operation, by considering what sort of translation could be made of any Greek poet from the Latin version. Mr Herbert has stepped forward to rescue these ancient poets from this ignominious treatment; and his intimate acquaintance with the languages of the North is satisfactorily displayed in an introductory address to the Hon. C. Anker, Director of the Danish East India Company, executed in Danish poetry, as welhjs by many learned criticisms scattered through the work. We do not pretend any great knowledge of the Norse; but we have so far "traced the Runic rhyme," as to be sensible how much more easy it is to give a just translation of that poetry into English than into Latin; and, consequently, how much is lost by the unnecessary intermediate transfusion. Indeed, the double difficultytof first rendering the Norse into the Latin, and then the Latin into the English, and thus interposing a version in a foreign and uncongenial tongue, between the original and the English, although this last is a kindred language, very similar, in its more ancient idiom to the Icelandic, has led to many, and some very absurd errors, in what has hitherto been
given as Scaldic poetry. For example, in the famous death-song of Regnar Lodbrog, that renowned warrior has been made to assert, that the joy of a bloody battle, which he had just described, was superior to that of sleeping with a young virgin, and in another passage, he is made- to aver yet more specifically, that the pleasure of battering the helmet with the keen falchion, was like that of kissing a young widow reclining upon a high seat. Now, whatever partiality Regnar might entertain for the sport of swords, the dance of Hilda, and for his favourite amusement of hacking with helmets, he had too much taste to give the preference imputed in these passages, which are thus justly rendered by Mr Herbert.
"Bucklers brast, and men were slain,
"where falchions keen
Such was the real and unbiassed opinion of Regnar with the Hairy Breeches; and truly we heartily join in it. The elegant Mason, as well as Bishop Percy, fell into a similar blunder in translating the love-song of Harold the valiant, which they understood to be a complaint, that, notwithstanding all the great deeds which he had performed, "a Russian maiden scorned his love." Now, this burden is accurately rendered by Mr Herbert, after Perinskiold,
"With golden ring in Russian land.
Having noticed these gross errors, it is unnecessary to say how much of the spirit of poetry, which is so much more volatile, must necessarily have escaped in versions, where even plain sense and meaning is so sadly corrupted. We therefore hail with pleasure an attempt to draw information from the fountain-head, especially where it is interesting both in point of intrinsic poetic merit, and as a curious source of historic investigation.
The character of the ancient Scaldic poetry is various. It is often, especially when mythological, so extremely obscure, that it defies interpretation. This seems to proceed chiefly from the metaphorical and paraphrastic style, which was considered as an high ornament in such compositions. Instead of giving the name of a person mentioned, it is the fashion to call him the son of such a one, or the brother or the spouse of such another; and as the said father, brother, or wife, had probably fifty names, it becomes extremely difficult, in many cases, to hit upon the individual who is intended. In like manner, a ship is the sea-serpent, or the rider of the wave, or tho a$k or water-newt, or something elso which still less readily conveys the meaning. In poems composed in this style, it seems to have been the object of the poet to convert every line into a sort of riddle, for the exercise of the ingenuity of the hearer, who was thus obliged to fight his way from one verse to another, having, for his sole reward, the pleasure of penetrating mystery, and conquering studied obscurity. Great part of the Edda of Saemund is involved in this artificial darkness, and is therefore positively untranslateable. But in the more popular poetry, the romances, war-odes, and songs sung to the great in their festivals, when their Honours, like Mungo in the farce, probably wished to hear something which they could understand, another and more simple kind of poetry was adopted. The following very singular poem affords a curious specimen of this latter kind of composition ; for though the personages are mythological, yet the tale is romantic, and the style of a simple kind, adapted to general comprehension. It is called the song of Thrym, or the Recovery of the Hammer, from the principal personage and incident. This hammer was a sort of sceptre or mace, used by Thor, the Mars of the Scandinavians, and on which much of his power depended. It was probably like those maces of arms which were used in war as low as the middle of the seventeenth century.* The translation is so admirably executed, that it might be mistaken for an original.
M Wrath waxed Thor. when his sleep was flown,
* JJthgow, the Scottish traveller, mentions maces as used by the English at the siege ol Newcastle, in 1646, of which he gives a very curious account.