« PreviousContinue »
former lord. In the sixth Canto, Tardetz: is delivered by Ro.
lando ; the Moors fly in consternatiou and dismay: but the un-
happy warrior is overwhelmed in the pass of Roncesvalles, by
the treason of Theodebert the duke of Gascony. This tragical
event has formed the argument of more poems than one; in
our language it has given birth to a very beautiful and classical
production entitled “Orlando in Roncesvalles, by Mr. Merivale,
with a sketch of which we presented our readers a few months
since. The episode is here introduced with much success; it
is not too long, but aptly coincides with the style and the events
of the poem. The following stanza is worthy of record.
“ Ye hapless warriors, thus to death consigned,
Would that your glories, in my song enshrined,
Might live, that ages yet unborn might crown,
With homage ever new, your high renown:
Full well ye proved, that honour's brightest flame
brave souls to deeds of noblest fame,
While they, your recreant foes, in dark disguise
Shrouded their murderous treasons from your eyes :
O let my verse produce to light again
Your deeds, that long in time's abyss have lain!" Vol. I. P. 161.
In the seventh Canto we are conducted into the presence of Didier, king of the Lombards, who glows with resentment at the 'disgrace and abandonment of his daughter by Charlemagne. His peers assemble, and by the advice of the crafty Longin they resolve to march to Rome, to avenge themselves on the Pontiff, who is considered as the author of the divorce. Near the frontiers of Italy, Rodmir meets with Armelia in her fight, she throws herself into his arms, he swearing never to rest, till he has laid the head of Charlemagne at her feet.
We are now transported to Rome, whose inhabitants are busy in defending the city against the attack threatened by the united armies of Didier and Ezelin the duke of Salernum, who had married a younger sister of Armelia. In the the eight Canto, Charles leads his army towards the frontiers of Italy. In this place is introduced, according to the establighed usage of the the epic, the catalogue of the Paladins, which is neither wanting in variety or spirit. The army ascend the Alps, they meet the hermit of Mount Jove, who relates to Charles the cruelties of Ezelin, and the death of Adelard, whose murder the monarch vows to avenge. The passage of the Alps is forced, and Charles purses the enemy who guarded it along the plains beneath.
In the ninth Canto Dr. Butler resigns the wand of translation to Mr. Hodgson, and though highly satisfied with our former conductor, we pevertheless feel no ordinary pleasure in sub.
mitting ourselves to his guidance. The argument of this
canto is given in one tremendous word HELL. The opening
stariza is an adınirable presage of what we are to expect froin
Mr. Hodgson's pen.
* What suddden madness bears soul
Far from my sight have vanished earth and day:
Hell opens deep ;.... O'er all her chaos dire
Ragcs an ocean of eternal fire.
- What shall uphold me through this gulph of shade ?
Daughter of Heaven, I supplicate thine aid,
High, holy Faith! thou guardian of the just,
Though dread of guilt, to me my lamp entrust,
And shed o’er conscious crime an awful light,
And bare the abyss of torture and of night.” Vol. I. P. 239. Lucien reprobates the Miltonian idea of regal splendour in a place of penal woe, and instead of placing Satan 5 High on a throne of state," he introduces him amidst the corses of those whom he has deceived, pursuing a restless path through the burning regions of Hell. As he rises through the black chaos to the earth, a voice is heard from Heaven.
6. AGAINST THE CHURCH, WEAK MAN SHALL NEE'R PREVAIL;
AGAINST THE CHURCH THE GATES OF HELL SHALL FAIL!
The immortal sanction, in tremendous tones,
Shakes angry Tartarus ;-the dark air groans ;-
And Lucifer recoils that echo dread
Lingers and vibrates o'er his guilty head;
One moment, hovering o'er the abyss, he stays,
And rage impels, and fear his flight delays ;
Then to its lowest depth the gulf divides,
And drags him, struggling, down its fiery sides.
« On calcined rocks, where lava's boiling stream
Swelled up, and sank, and glared with frightful gleam,
Lay the cursed angel: overwhelmed, ashamed,
Pallid with rage, he shuddered, and exclaimed,
• Dread voice of God! thy menacing decree
Shall shake these blazing caves unceasingly;
Shall echo o'er these rocks, by thunder riven,
And deepen my despair of conquering Heaven,
Sole torment that I fear, avenging word!
Spare me thy terrors, be no longer heard."! Vol. I. P. 241. The wretched inhabitants of these gloomy shades now .pass before usatyrants : murderers. The following stanzas breath
the true spirit of poetry, and the sudden burst at the beginning
of the second ṁay be considered one of the most splendid pas-
sages in the Poem.
Bound, overwhelmed, by torture's heaviest chains,
What bloody phantoms in night's utmost plains
Beneath those burning rocks for ever lie?
The murderers those....a mournful company;
Their darker doom apportioned to their crime,
Most odious tenants of that odious clime,
Trembling each moment at some foe's attacks,
Sharp on their hand they feel the falling axe;-
Their hand revives.
....new wounds, with new alarm,
Again divide ¡t from the quivering arm.
$ ....Up stands the horrid hair of shrieking Cain!....
His brow yet blushes with the bloody stain :
Where is thy brother, Cain ?.... Reply!!....that sound
In icy fetters every sense has bound...
The murderer shudders at his brother's sight!
Abel before him floats in clouds of light;
Abel again he seeks in quenchless strife,
And aims, infuriate, at his second life':
The glorious shade, escaping from his aim,
Fortures hịs heart with envy's heightened fame." Vol. I. P. 249.
Among the ancient, Atreus, Thyestes, Clytemnestra, Orestes, pccupy the station allotted to the murderous band. Then Ros mulus, Alexander, Aụgustus. The reader may perhaps be asstonished at the place assigned to the latter : But
“The blissful reign of many a year of rest,
By noblest bards, in rays of glory drest,
Bids the triumvirs' foutress be forgiven,
But murder ne'er escapes the wrath of Heaven !?
Both the Bruti are here also to be found. Among the mo.
derns Clothaire, Chilperiç, Fredegonde, and Athalia. Many
scriptural characters are also here iutroduced, Saul, Doeg, Abis
milech, Herod. Next follow Galerius, Diocles, Alaric, Attila.
The following stanza is finely conceived by the poet, and admi .
gably expressed by his translator.
These ravenous tigers, whose abhorred offence
Martyred fair youth and virgin innocence,
Cry out for ever from the caves of woe,
Disturb the black-immensity below;
Fixed by a lake of blood, in horror stand,
Where the red waves resounding rush to land,
Strike restless on their sides, and fiercely pour
Down their pale forms in-floods of streaming gore."
Vol. I. P. 256
Nor must we omit the sublime description of Iscariot.
* The deicide apostle crowns the band,
Who sold his Saviour to the murderer's hand ;
Led the blind Hebrew to the garden's shade,
And with a kiss the Lord of life betrayed,
Satan admires and gazes on his son !
Their matchless guilt, their punishment is one ;
Both from a rank almost divine they fell,
Both in their bosoms bear the whole of Hell.
" On a rock's point extended Judas lies :
With savage shouts of triumph o'er him flies
A livid phantom, that with fleshless fangs
Holds down the wretch, and still renews his pangs...
Blood-dripping hands and teeth bis entrails tear,
And throw the smoking remnants into air ;
In vain he rages, and in vain blasphemes,
And shakes the rocks with agonizing screams ;
Lured by his cries, and glorying in his pain,
Remorse, pale spectre, seeks her prey again !" Vol. I. P. 25% In the tenth Canto Satan up-springs to the earth, and directs his flight to the forest of Eresbourg, in Germany, where human victims are sacrificed before the shrine of Irmensul, The de scription of the sacrifice is both grand and animated. While „Rodmir hopes to spare the Christian victims, Satan causes the statue of Irmensul to shake, upon which omen a general slaughter ensues. The troops march onward, breathing vengeance agaiņst France and Rome. In the mean time the troops of Chailes who had forced the passage of the Alps, enter Milan, while the scattered Lombards retreat tu: Pavia; they are pursued by Charles, who prepares for an assault upon the city. Satan now assumes the form of Timantius, an ainbassador from Didier, and from Armelia, whom he represents to have died with grief, and in her last moments to have entreated that Charles, for her sake would spare her father and the Lombards. The stratagem succeeds, and Charles retreats for a while to Milan. Satan now directs the ship of Laurentia, the widow of Carloman, the younger brother of Charles, to the coast of Spain, Laurentia apd her children are brought captives to the coast of
Marsilius, the Moorish prince, who is persuaded by Longin
to place the child of Laurentia on his paternal throne of Aus-
trasia, which Charles had accepted to his prejudice. Laurentia
at first refuses, but soon after.yields to the designs of Marsilius,
and accepts the offer of his assistance. Charlemagne is now
made acquainted with the treachery of the false Timantius, and
with the invasion of France by Didier, and the victory of the
Saxons. The vow of the monarch is finely expressed.
* Though ceaseless war should still my life infest,
And rouse against me all the raging West,
Didier shall fall!....By Him, the living God,
I swear to break the Lombard's impious rod,
And tread his lawless banner in the dust. .
Free from the thraldom of a guilty lust,
I ask nor peace, nor respite, nor repose,
But fighting, one by one, Heaven's countless foes,
My voice, my sword, shall prop the Christian cause,
And spread throughout the world my God's eternal laws."?
Vol. I. P. 338. Charles in the beginning of the thirteenth Canto returns to France to embody new troups, which flock in from every quarter. The rebellion of Gaiffre of Aquitania is pext described, who arrives at Oria time enough to witness the parental honours paid by Laurentia to the body of the brave Roland. The praison funebre of the priest is worthy of attention.
How frail is human bliss !
How brief the honours of a world like this!
Roland, the terror of the embattled plain,
Against whose sword war's ramparts rose in vain;
Roland, the pride of arms, the knightly flower,
Whose countless labours, whose unequalled power,
With fabulous renown have filled the earth,
Falls in his prinse!....where now his valorous worth,
His conquering strength? the fame to Roland given,
What is its weight before the King of Heaven.
* Light as the scattered blossom of the heath,
That summer chases with her evening breath,
The phrenzied passions, and the power of man,
And crested pride, that triumphs for a span,
Before eternal Justice disappear!
Let transitory glory's bright career