Imágenes de páginas

Omen of death and havock: his huge shield
Was black, but studs of gold emblazed the shield.

pose, that after the battle of Camlan, in which Mordred was slain, and Arthur grievously wounded, a fairy conveyed his body to Glastonbury to be cured; whence he was, in process of time, to return, and be restored to his former regal authority. Of his body's having been really found there, in Henry the Second's time, we have the testimony of Giraldus Cambrensis, who affirms that he saw his bones in an oaken coffin, which contained a leaden cross with this inscription :

* Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arturius in insula Avalonià.’

“Radulphus Dicetus, in his History of the British Kings, says: “Quia Britannica historia de ejus morte mil certum tradidit, Britones adhuc eum vivere delirant.” Fordun, likewise, in his history of Scotland, mentions his having heard the same report, and that the following inscription was placed on his tomb:

* Hic jacet Arturus rex quondam, reargue futurus.’

“In Selden's Illustrations on the third book of Drayton's Poly-olbion, a translation is given of a passage in Taliessen (Arthur's cotemporary) to the same purpose. Lydgate, according to the fictions of the Welsh bards, declares—

* He is a king crowned in Faerie,
With sceptre and sword, and with his royally
Shall resort as lord and sovereigne
Out of Faerie, and reigne in Brytaine.’

“Milton, I suppose, must allude to this strange legend,


(Heaven's pendant spangles thus with mingled light
Adorn th’ expanded canopy of night.)
And the bright boss appear'd a splendid sun;
The proud device—“Unequall'd and alone.”

where he says, though I know not with what authority as to the geographical situation of the land of Faerie,

* Arthurumque etiam sub terris bella moventem.’

“The credulity of the old Britons, in this respect, was at last so much the object of ridicule among other nations, that it became proverbial:

Quibus si credideris
Expectare poteris
Arthurum cum Britonibus.

“In regard to the idea, therefore, of Arthur's reviving and repossessing his throne, the knight appears to have had sufficient historical evidence in his peculiar line; but it is not so easy to ascertain whence he derived the intelligence of his having been metamorphosed into a raven. Certain, however, it is, to whatever cause we may ascribe it, that our country people in most parts of England scrupulously abstain from killing that bird. As we have no account of their being considered as ominous by the Druids, we may presume that the reverence in which the vulgar now hold them is derived from our Gothic ancestors. It is well known that the Danes attributed many marvellous qualities to their standard reafan. The Swedes, Mr. Pennant informs us, and possibly the other northern nations, now pay a superstitious kind of respect to this bird, which was considered by their ancestors as peculiarly sacred to Odin, who is styled in the Edda, corvorum deus.”—Hole.

Vast as the pine on Norway's storm-beat shore,
By lightning blasted, was the lance he bore.
High mounted on a coal-black steed he rode,
And the bridge shook beneath the mighty load.
B. iii. p. 82.

An animated description of the combat ensues, which is long contested, until Arthur, perceiving that the mail of his antagonist is impassive both to sword and spear, impels his shield against him with prodigious strength, and hurls him senseless to the ground. At this moment, and whilst he is preparing to follow up the blow, Hengist is involved in a cloud by the intervention of Urda, and snatched from his vengeance. The disappointed hero vents his anger on the unhallowed agents by whom this rescue has been effected, taunting them, and exclaiming, that they must find a mightier champion for their cause, or he will soon lay yon lofty turrets low. Their reply, the description of their hideous forms, and of the mode by which they strive to deter him from attempting to enter the castle, are finely and graphically given in the following very powerful lines:

“Long, Arthur, long these towers shall brave the sky 1’’

Ten thousand voices suddenly reply,

Loud screaming from the rampart's height; amazed,
Not terrified, the hero upwards gazed,
And saw th’ extended walls, the turrets crown'd
With hideous objects: wheeling wide around,
The screeching owl, the raven of the night,
With notes ill-omen'd, urge their crowded flight.
Harpies obscene their direful forms unfold;
And dragons, arm'd in scales of burnish'd gold,
Beat the resounding air with outstretch'd wings,
Like rushing storms, and shake their pointed stings.
Sulphureous torrents roll the moat around
In liquid flame; the boiling waves resound,
And lash the rugged walls: before his eyes
The bridge, the portal fades; black vapours rise,
And fiery flakes shoot through the dusky skies.
Infernal spirits on the walls appear;
Here the sword blazes, there the threat'ning spear;
Here, like a meteor, levell'd at his heart,
Gleams on the bending string the flame-tipp'd dart;
From each red eye-ball glanced the sparks of ire;
Each dismal front seem'd scathed with livid fire,
With wrath o'ercast, and horror's blackest hue;

While wreathing on the winds their snaky tresses flew.
B. iii. p. 87.
Unappalled by this tremendous array against
him, Arthur hurls a bold defiance to the fiends,
and, stretching out his shield and spear before him,
clears the moat at one bound, when instantly, whilst

thunders rock the ground, the infernal spell is broken, and the castle, with all its demon defenders,

melts into thin air.

[ocr errors]

Of this piece of machinery Mr. Hole has ingemiously availed himself to account, in a manner highly poetical, for the mysterious structures on Salisbury plain ; as satisfactory an hypothesis, perhaps, as any which has yet arisen from the conflicting dreams of antiquarian enthusiasm.

Destructive time, with unresisted sway,
Mankind, and all their labours, sweeps away;
Exalts the valley, sinks the mountain low,
And bids the rapid torrent cease to flow:
Thro' him, where once enchanted structures graced
The cloud-topp'd hill, now glooms a lonely waste.
Yet still, memorial of their site, remain
The circling stones that rise on Sarum's plain;
The wondrous rocks, by power of magic laid
To form its deep foundation, undecay'd
By him who all consumes, are known to fame,
And still retain the mighty Hengist's" name.
B. iii. p. 90.

One of the first results of Arthur's courage and perseverance is the liberation of two of his friends, Lionel and Cradoc, from a loathsome dungeon, into which they had been thrown by the command of Hengist, and where they had endured the horrors

of famine, and the apprehensions of a lingering

* Stone-henge.

« AnteriorContinuar »