« PreviousContinue »
And how felt he, the wretched man
And hope and feeling which had slept
Fresh o'er him, and he wept—he wept !
Moore was the author of another romantic poem which may be briefly mentioned here. It is entitled The Loves of the Angels, and is founded upon the following passage in Genesis vi.: "And it came to pass in those days that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all they chose.” This poem is decidedly inferior to Lalla Rookh. The remoteness of the time in which the action is represented to have occurred, and the peculiar character of the actors, prevent us from entering into sympathy with the thoughts and feelings expressed in the poem, and serve to destroy entirely our interest in the narrative. Byron's "Mystery,” entitled Heaven and Earth, published in 1822, is very similar in conception, being founded upon the same passage of Scripture. Charles Lamb ridiculed it in a burlesque poem called Satan in Search of a Wife (1831).
In our study of Poetical Romances we have wandered with our poets to many lands and among many peoples. With the rude versifiers of the Middle Ages we have listened to the legendary lore of the Danes and Saxons, and to the marvelous stories of the returned Crusaders; with Tennyson and the host of King-Arthur rhymesters we have become acquainted with the delightful myths of Wales and of early Britain; with Scott we have studied the wild but beautiful traditions of the Scottish highlands; with Byron we have rambled among the enervating scenes and listened to the voluptuous stories of Oriental life; with Moore we have viewed the gorgeous splendors of the far East and been entranced with its impassioned music. Let us close this study by turning with the poet, William Morris, to the grand old hero-legends of our Scandinavian ancestors and kinsmen.
The Story of Sigurd the Volsung, by William Morris, was published in 1876. It is a romance derived from the Eddas and the old Norse Sagas. The metre of the poem is peculiar, and the language is exceedingly beautiful. Alliteration is frequently employed with striking effect, and there are but few words in the entire work which are not of Anglo-Saxon derivation. The following is the opening stanza, describing the dwelling-place of King Volsung:
There was a dwelling of kings ere the world was waxen old;
gold; Earls were the wrights that wrought it, and silver nailed its doors; Earls' wives were the weaving-women, queens' daughters strewed its
floors, And the masters of its song-craft were the mightiest men that cast The sails of the storm of battle adown the bickering blast. There dwelt men merry-hearted, and in hope exceeding great Met the good days and the evil as they went the way of fate; There the gods were unforgotten, yea whiles they walked with men, Though e'en in that world's beginning rose a murmur now and
again Of the midward time and the fading and the last of the latter days, And the entering in of the terror, and the death of the People's
The first book relates the story of the Volsungs and how Sigmund, the father of Sigurd, was slain. The second tells of the birth and the childhood of Sigurd, how he slew Fafnir the dragon, and awoke Brynhild upon the Hindfell mountain. The third book describes the meeting of Sigurd with the Niblungs, his deceiving of Brynhild, his marriage with Gudrun, and closes with his own death and that of Brynhild. The fourth book relates the subsequent fortunes of the Niblungs, and how, through Gudrun's influence, they were destroyed and Sigurd was avenged. The following passages will be of special interest to the student:
How Sigurd getteth to him the horse that is called Greyfell. Book II.
Regin's story of the treasure on Gnita Heath. Book II.
The dialogue between Sigurd and the Face of Terror. Book II.
Of the slaying of Sigurd the Volsung. Book III.
They are gone the lovely, the mighty, the hope of the ancient
Earth: It shall labor and bear the burden as before that day of their
birth: It shall groan in its blind abiding for the day that Sigurd hath
sped, And the hour that Brynhild hath hastened, and the dawn that
waketh the dead : It shall yearn, and be oft-times holpen, and forget their deeds no
more, Till the new sun beams on Balder and the happy sealess shore.
In Sismondi's History of the Literature of Southern Europe is a chapter on the literature of the Trouvères and Troubadours. Also in Van Laun's History of French Literature. See also Troubadours and Trouvères, by Ilarriet W. Preston. (New York, 1876.)
For further information regarding the metrical romances of the Transition Period, consult
Ellis's Early English Metrical Romances, in Boha's Antiquarian Library.
Warton's History of English Poctry.
Ritson's Ancient English Metrical Romances.
Many of these old romances are included in the publications of the Early English Text Society. (Information in regard to these may be had of Prof. F.J. Child, Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., who is the American Secretary for the Society.)
For the romances of Arthur, see the works already mentioned; also
Read also, in this connection, the history of Scotland from the earliest period to the reign of James V., and especially that part relating to the time of Bruce. For lighter reading, the student will be interested in
Miss Porter's The Scottish Chiefs.
Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy; Fair Maid of Perth; Old Mortality; and The Legend of Montrose.
Barbour's Gestes of King Bruce was reprinted in 1869.
An American edition of Sigurd the Volsung was published in New York in 1879. The student who wishes to know more of the grand old myth upon which this romance is founded is referred to Mallet's Northern Antiquities ( Bohn); to Lettsom's Fall of the Vibelungers (London, 1876); to Auber Forestier's Echoes from Mist Land (Chicago, 1878); and to Anderson's Norse Mythology.
Geoffrey Chaucer—The Canterbury Tales—The Knight's Tale The
Clerk's Tale, etc.—Criticisms on Chaucer--Difficulties in Reading Chaucer-No Story.Telling Poetry in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—Scott's Shorter Narrative Poems-Rokeby—Bridal of Triermain-Harold the Dauntless-Byron-Mazeppa—The Prisoner of Chillon-George Crabbe-Phebe Dawson-Strolling PlayersWilliam Wordsworth—The White Doe of Rylstone-Peter Bell Samuel Taylor Coleridge—The Ancient Mariner—Christabel—Southey -Leigh Hunt's Story of Rimini-Keats—Eve of St. Agnes—Isabella -Thomas Campbell-Walter Savage Landor-Mrs. Hemans—Mrs. Browning-Lady Geraldine’s Courtship—Tennyson—The PrincessMaud-Enoch Arden-Aylmer's Field-William Morris-Earthly Paradise-Longfellow—Tales of a Wayside Inn-Evangeline-Miles Standish-Hiawatha-Short Stories-Miscellaneous.
First and chief among the story-tellers in English poetry was Geoffrey Chaucer. The age in which he lived was the most important in the intellectual history of England. Including, as it did, the last years of the Transition Period and the first of the new and more settled order of things, it was the dividing line which marked the beginning of a brighter era in the literary, political, and social annals of the English people. For this reason, therefore, a study of Chaucer's relations with the times in which he lived and with the society in which he moved becomes doubly interesting and important. We shall learn how he was directed and influenced by the intellectual tendencies of his age, and how he, in turn, shaped and controlled those tendencies. “A genuine product of the union of Saxon genius and Norman enterprise,” he did more than any other man to harmonize the discordant elements which had been so long warring with each other, and to establish firmly the national language and literature.