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Thou see'st him oft the crouching slave oppress,
Swift from his bow the hero loos'd his dart,
Proud of his victory, Rustem, scoffing, cried,
My single dart has finish'd all the fight,
And quench'd for ever is thy glory's light;
Fall'n is thy crest, and low thy head lies here;
In vain thy mother sheds the anxious tear.'
Thus Rustem, taunting, spoke; but long the chief
Then slowly rising, with undaunted heart
And steady hand, he pluck'd the streaming dart."
After vanquishing Isfendiar, which is almost the last of his actions recorded, Rustem himself falls into disgrace with his sovereign, and dies; and with his disappearing from the scene, the interest of the poem declines. This circumstance and the length of our remarks will sufficiently excuse us from pursuing our account any farther. The reader will perhaps have no very clear idea of the plan of that part of the work which we have noticed, as our abstract of its contents has, from the extent of the whole, been necessarily much abridged. To those, however, who have not attended to the Persian history as reported by themselves, it would have been wholly uninteresting to chronicle the events in a dry series of the reigns of their kings, while such as are acquainted with the eastern annalists will find no difficulty in following our sketch historically.
As to the general merits of this poem, we would observe, that, since an epic poem is the highest reach of the poet's art, we think that Ferdusi is indisputably entitled to take his station in this first order of the "sons of song." The Shah-námeh, considered as a whole, is certainly liable to the same objection as the Pharsalia and Thebaid, which are called, not epic, but historical poems. And this objection is of even greater force
when applied to Ferdusi, as the great length of time which he occupies, extending, on the shortest calculation, to three thousand seven hundred years, violates the unity of action in a much greater degree than the series of events detailed by Lucan and Statius. We have, however, mentioned an instance of the possibility of detaching from the great work a poem on the defeat of Afrasiab, which would suffer no injury by the separation, but would, in almost every particular, answer to the rules of heroic poetry. In addition to the unity of action, it is required, that an epic poem should contain a moral, which is said, in the Iliad, to be an exemplification of the evils attending a misunderstanding between confederated princes. If both the rule and this instance of its application are not absurd, we may be satisfied, that Ferdusi is correct on this head, in the lesson he gives in the punishment inflicted upon the Tartar king, for his unjust invasion, by the patriotic armies of the injured kingdom.
Though the plan of some parts of the Shah-námeh is strictly epic, it must be admitted, that its execution is inferior to its design. In comparison with the great bard of Greece, with whom he is, notwithstanding, worthy to be ranked, he fails decidedly on this point. But allowance must be made for the different tastes and habits of thinking of the different people of the earth; and, after such allowance, there will be discovered a greater resemblance between Homer and Ferdusi, than would appear at first sight. There is, indeed, a very material variety of opinion in those writers who have mentioned the Persian poet with regard to his merits; but certainly some of those, whose education and prejudices would have predisposed them to judge him with severity, have been most unequivocal in their expressions of enthusiastic admiration. Sir William Jones, especially, says, in speaking of his noble work-"profecto nullum est ab Europæis scriptum poëma, quod ad Homeri dignitatem et quasi cœlestem ardorem propius accedat" and adds, that he intended, if he had leisure, to discuss its excellencies in a separate volume, and, perhaps, to edit the whole; an intention which, unhappily, he was never able to fulfil. The most successful parts of the Shah-námeh are its descriptions. These abound in every page, and are, sometimes, as in the Ihad, the pictures of battles, or of the encounters of the heroes in single combat, and, sometimes, of royal feasts, or of the splendours of palaces; here are painted the scenes of riot and carnage, and there the quiet retreats of innocence and peace. Ferdusi, also, pleases us as much by the variety he throws into his sketches of the opening day, with which he perpetually begins a new adventure or story: some minute peculiarity distinguishes every instance, and we should be tempted to exhibit
some of them to the reader, if our object were not rather to excite his wishes for a further acquaintance with the Persian Homer, than to give him a surfeit of quotations. In these we might fail both to satisfy him and to do justice to the poet, but we may confidently refer to the original to confirm all that has been said in his praise, whatever may be thought of the selection of passages which we have here translated.
ART. III. Distractions, or the Holy Madnesse, fervently, not fu riously, inraged, against evill men; or against their evills: wherein the naughty are discovered to themselves and others; and may here see, at once, who they are; what they are; what they doe; and how they ought. Somewhat delightfull, but fruitfull, altogether: as ordered to please a little, but aymed to profit much. By John Gaule, utriusque olim academiæ. London, printed by John Haviland, for Robert Allot, 1629. pp. 520. die
If the invitation, which an author hangs out in his title page, were a sure sign of the fare within, John Gaule would be likely enough to arrest the steps of the literary traveller, with the expectation of a dainty refreshment. Although "good wine needs no bush," and a promising title page, frequently, only serves to bring us to the lure, without affording in the end either profit or pleasure, yet it is politic in an author, especially a middling one, to hold out the hope of good entertainment, whatever be his hopes of gratifying it; for we are, in general, willing enough to give credit to a winning appearance, and whet our appetite with a ready credulity of an agreeable assertion. It was a notable scheme of our author, to affect madness, in order that he might promote the sanity of his readers; but so it is-John Gaule hath actually lashed himself into a fury, for the increase of mo, rality, and promotion of piety. He kicks and plunges against pride, and covetousness, and anger-he thunders forth a torrent of hard names and abusive epithets, till he foams at the mouth, with the excess of his vituperations-and all this in excellent merriment, that, like boiling water, he may make the black lob ster of iniquity red, and blush for shame. As the device was singularly new, one would hope, for the sake of the good cause he espoused, it was equally effective, and that these pleasant disdains" proved weighty arguments, with the evil doers of the time. We must, indeed, do the author the justice to say, that he has performed one part of his promise, at least; and that his
work is "somewhat delightfull, and ordered to please a little." That it was also "aimed to profit much," we may not dispute. How far it succeeded, or is likely to succeed, we shall not attempt to determine, and shall hardly enable our readers to judge, as we intend, rather to extract what the author meant to please a little, than to profit much. John Gaule seems to have thought that the art of pleasing was wrapt up in a pun, or in marshalling an overpowering collection of epithets in "battallous array.' His miscarriages of puns are almost as frequent as his conceptions, and if a bad one were really the most excellent, he would be the most delectable punster that ever ran after those will oʻ the wisps. Pun-hunting is something like fly-catching—a man makes a prodigious effort to secure a pleasant looking trifle, which, when he opens his hand, he finds has escaped him, and left nothing but the bare imagination of a treat behind. With all this, however, we are disposed to be pleased with the descriptive parts of John Gaule's "distractions;" and for this very reason-that in all kinds of madness, whether holy or unholy, there is an earnestness and warmth, that is generally attractive, and, although our author's is but a feigned madness, an "unreal mockery," he labours, in his assumed vocation, with as much fervour, as if he were mad indeed.
He only levels his vituperations against three of the deadly sins-pride, anger, and covetousness. This is the description he gives of one Sir Haughty Heart, or Pride.
"See-see! A sheepe in a golden fleece: howsoever he thinkes of his fleece, I will thinke him but a sheepe. Hee prances most statelily in his gay trappings, but I would be loth to buy, or use an horse, that is only so valued. It is for him to prize a faire outside, that knowes he hath nothing within worthy more esteeme. How curiously hee glances upon himselfe : hee thinkes hee is for other eyes than his owne, to be so broadly gazed at. Why cringes he so to his coat? unlesse he would in good earnest, what the philosopher did in jest— honour that, that honours him. Bucephalus is now royally trapt, and flings at all but Alexander himselfe : disbarbe but the jade, and every stable-groome may bestride him. Many men are proud to seeme what they are not; it only debases them to be seene, and knowne what they are. The asse carries painted and polished Isis upon his back; and Lord! how the vulgar worship him! A wise man will judge of the tree, by the fruit or bulke; he is a foole that doth value it, by the barke or huske.
"A proper squire hee seemes neare at hand; and (you marke him) well dight up. Beside a spruce shape, and gay glosse, hee hath about him, see, what a lofty port and gesture hee carries with him; hee stalkes on in state:-I should say, he marches most majestickly. All his pace is measures, and his hands, accordingly, keepe time, to the tune of his feet. His bever cocks, feather waggs, locks hover, and beard stands in print; his band spreading (like a net) about his necke, his
cloake displayd (as a flagge) upon his arme, his doublet hanging by gimmers upon his shoulders, and his breeches buttoned about him; his boots ruffle, spurrs gingle, and his long rapier (which he is often tied to) confronts him at the hilt; and, toward the point, answers his heeles with a grace. What a supercilious looke he hath; I warrant you, the very blast or sound of his speech would make you start. How he reares in the necke, struts at the stomacke, and traces with his armes a kemboll; he trips with his toes on the earth, and waves his hand, as he would touch the heavens with his finger. He hath one part and propertie of a man, which is to looke upwards; hee thinks this same doth preferre him with reasonables, when we know it doth but distinguish him from bruites: he'ele set his leggs upon the last, rather than lose an inch of his height. I will say one good word for him, and 'tis the best I know by him: than this man in his way, no man walkes more uprightly: marke how he heaves, as though hee almost scorn'd to tread; hee casts up his nose into the wind, looks beyond the clouds, mantles against the moone, and busies himselfe, wholly, to build castles in the aire. What an Alderman's pace he comes; hee prolongs the pageant for the beholders' sake; and hurries not on too hastily, lest most eyes finde no leisure to looke upon him. See-see! he stops and turnes in the midway, at but the apprehension of a lost labour. Oh, doe him not the wrong to looke beside him, for if you see him not, hee comes by to no purpose."
"Not a motion of his-not a faculty, which smells not of affectation. Not so much but he sits, and spits, with a grace; and so he walks and talks. He speaks, never, but with a noise; and always laughs with a kind of derision; commands, also, with arrogance; and rebukes with disdaine. He talkes all with interrogations, as though his words were of authority to question every thing. That you enter his threshold, is more than a common courtesie; but that you approach his presence, is a great vouchsafement. What shall I call him? a Thraso, a Polyphemus? To whom shall I liken him? to Maximianus, that made his senatours kisse his feet? to Domitian, that would be stiled a God? or to those divers Popes, that were guilty of both? or to Lucifer, the father of them all? To what shall I compare him? but to a cocke, that claps and crowes upon his owne dunghill; a peacocke, that ruffles in his owne feathers; a toad, that swells with his owne poison; an asse, that hath gotten on a lion's skinne, and now he is a companion for none, but such as he seemes; an ape, that is enamoured of his own ugly puppet; a cameleon, that gapes after the aire; a bladder, full of wind; a shallow river, and bubbling; an empty caske, and sounding; an addle egge, and swimming; a thinne eare, and blasted, that out-tops the fat and full corne; a cypresse tree, that hath faire leaves, but no fruit; a wine bush, that never betokened good liquor; a disordered member, swoln so bigge through its owne corruption."
-We must, for the edification of our female readers, give hist