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As to what follows, I mean that speculation of learned men, that “All is for the best,” this, too, we meet in the same philosopher, annexed (as it were) to the sentiment just alleged.
Η φύσις ούθεν δημιουργεί μάτην, ώσπερ είρηται πρότερον, αλλά πάντα προς το βέλτιον εκ των ενδεχομένων: “ Nature (as has been said before) creates nothing in vain, but all things for the best, out of the contingent materials.""
It may be fairly doubted, whether Chaucer took this from the original Greek; it is more probable he took it from the Latin version of the Spanish Arabic version, which Latin was then current, and admitted through Western Europe for the Aristotelic text.
The same thought occurs in one of our most elegant modern ballads; though whence the poet took it, I pretend not to de
How can they say, that nature
Has nothing made in vain ?
Do hideous rocks remain ?
Which lurk beneath the deep,
To wreck, &c. But to return to Chaucer.
If in the tale we have just quoted, if in the tale of the Nun's Priest, and in many other of his works, there are these sprinklings of philosophy; if to these we add the extensive knowledge of history, mythology, and various other subjects, which he everywhere shews: we may fairly, I think, arrange him among our learned poets, and take from him an estimate of the literature of the times, as far at least as possessed by men of superior education.
After having mentioned (as we have lately done) Petrarch and some of the Italians, I can by no means omit their countryman Sannazarius, who flourished in the century following, and whose eclogues in particular, formed on the plan of fishing life instead of pastoral, cannot be enough admired both for their Latinity and their sentiment. His fourth eclogue, called Proteus, written in imitation of Virgil's eclogue called Silenus, may be justly valued as a master-piece in its kind. The following slight sketch of it is submitted to the reader.
“Two fishermen sailing during a dark night from Caprea into the bay of Naples, as they silently approach the promontory of Minerva, hear Proteus from the shore, singing a marvellous narrative of the strange events of which those regions had been the well-known scene. He concludes with the unhappy fate of the poet's friend and patron, Frederic, king of Naples, who, having been expelled his kingdom, died an exile in France."
h De Animal, incessu, c. 12.
If I might be pardoned a digression, it should be on the elegance of the numbers by which this unfortunate part of the tale is introduced.
Addit tristia fata, et te, quem luget ademptum
Italia, &c. The omission of the usual cæsura, in the first of these verses, naturally throws it into that anapæstic rhythm, so finely suited to solemn subjects.
Addit-tristia— fata et-te quem, &c.' It may be observed, also, in how pathetic, and yet, withal, in how manly a way Sannazarius concludes. Frederic died in a remote region, and was buried where he died. “It is pleasing," says Proteus, " for a man's remains to rest in his own country, and yet for a tomb every land suffices.”
Grata quies patriæ, sed et omnis terra sepulcrum. Those who know how much sooner Italy emerged from barbarity than the rest of Europe, may choose to place Sanpazarius rather at the beginning of a good age, than at the conclusion of a bad one. Their opinion, perhaps, is not without foundation, and may be extended to Fracastorius, Politian, Poggius, and many other eloquent authors, which that century then produced, when eloquence was little known elsewhere.
Before we quit poetry, we shall say something upon its lowest species, upon acrostics, chronograms, wings, altars, eggs,
These were the poor inventions of men devoid of taste, and yet absurdly aiming at fame by these despicable whims. Quitting the paths of simplicity and truth, (of which it is probable they were wholly ignorant,) they aspired, like rope-dancers, to merit, which only lay in the difficulty. The wings, the axes, the altars, &c. were wretched forms into which they tortured poor words, just as poor trees in our gardens were formerly mangled into giants, flower-pots, peacocks, obelisks, &c.
Whoever remembers that acrostics, in versification, are formed from the initial letter of every verse, will see the force and ingenuity of the following description.
Firm and compact, in three fair columns wove,
With limbs gigantic and superior size. Chronograms, by a different conceit, were not confined to initial letters, but, as they were to describe dates, the numeral letters, in whatever part of the word they stood, were distinguished from other letters by being written in capitals.
i nótvia—Béa uni-uvé 1666--xbeo. 'Hom. Odyss. E. 215.
For example: I would mark by a chronogram the date 1506. I take for the purpose the following words,
Feriam sidera vertice; and by a strange elevation of capitals, I compel even Horace to give me the date required.
FeriaM siDera VertIce-MDVI.
Not thus the looser chronograms prepare ;
The chieftains mingling with the vulgar band.
On the same motive I conclude this chapter with selecting a few more lines from the same ingenious poem.
To join these squadrons, o'er the champain came
On their fair standards, by the winds display'd,
PAUL THE VENETIAN, AND SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE, GREAT TRAVELLERS
-SIR JOHN FORTESCUE, A GREAT LAWYER-HIS VALUABLE BOOK
It was during this middle period lived those celebrated travellers, Paul the Venetian, and our countryman, sir John Mandeville.
We have mentioned Chaucer before them, though he flourished after both; for Chaucer lived till past the year 1400, Paul began his travels in the year 1272, and Mandeville began his in the year 1322. The reason is, Chaucer has been arranged with the poets already spoken of.
Marc Paul, who is the first writer of any note concerning the Eastern countries, travelled into those remote regions as far as
į See the Scribleriad (book ii. 151, &c.) of my valuable friend, Mr. Cambridge of Twickenham.
the capital and court of Cublai Chan, the sixth from that tremendous conqueror, Jingiz Chan. Paul is a curious and minute relator of what he saw there.
He describes the capital, Cambalu, to be a square, walled in, of six miles on every side, having to each side three gates, and the several streets rectilinear, and crossing at right angles.
The imperial palace, he tells us, was inclosed within a square wall of a mile on every side, and was magnificently adorned with gilding and pictures. It was a piece of state, that through the grand or principal gate no one could enter but the emperor himself.
Within the walls of this square there were extensive lawns, adorned with trees, and stocked with wild animals, stags, goats, fallow deer, &c. not to mention a river, which formed a lake, filled with the finest fish.
Besides this, at a league's distance from the palace, he describes a small mountain, or hill, planted with evergreens, in circumference about a mile. “Here (he tells us) the emperor had all the finest trees that could be procured brought to him, employing his elephants for that purpose, as the trees were extracted with their roots.
“ The mountain, from its verdure, was called the Green Mountain. On its summit stood a fine palace, distinguished also by its green colour, where he (the great Chan) often retired to enjoy himself.”
Speaking of the person of Cublai, the then monarch, he thus describes him.
“He is remarkably handsome; of a moderate stature; neither too corpulent, nor too lean; having a countenance ruddy and fair ; large eyes; a beautiful nose; and all the lineaments of his body formed in due proportion."
We here quit our traveller, only observing, as we conclude, that learned men have imagined this Cambalu to be Pekin in China, founded there by Jingiz Chan, soon after he had conquered it.
When we consider the immense power of this mighty conqueror, who in a manner subdued the vast tract of Asia, we are the less difficult in believing such marvellous relations. The city, the palace, and the territory around, teach us what was
* See Abulpharagius, from p. 281 to 306. For the imperial palace, lawns adjoining,
1 The preceding extracts are taken from and the Green Mountain, see p. 66, 67. I. a Latin edition of Paulus Venetus, pub- ii. c. 9. lished, in a small quarto, Coloniæ Branden- m Rex Cublai est homo admodum pulcher, burgicæ, ex officina Georgii Schulzii, anno statura mediocri, no nimis pinguis, nec 1679.
nimis macilentus, faciem habens rubicunAs the book is not rare, nor the style dam atque candidam, oculos magnos, nasum curious, we have only given the several pulchrum, et omnia corporis lineamenta pages by way of reference.
debita proportione consistentia. Mar. Pauli, For the capital, Cambalu, see p. 68. 1. ii. I. ii. c. 8. p. 65.
the taste of him and his family, whose boundless empire could admit of nothing minute.
It is, too, an additional argument for credibility, that though the whole is vast, yet nothing appears either foolish, or impossible.
One thing is worthy of notice, that though Paul resided in China so long, he makes no mention of the celebrated wall. Was this forgetfulness? or was it not then erected?
As to our countryman, sir John Mandeville, though he did not travel so far as Marc Paul, he travelled into many parts of Asia and Africa; and, after having lived in those countries for thirty-three years, died at Liege, in the year 1371.
He wrote his travels in three languages, Latin, French, and English ; from the last of which languages we quote, taking the liberty, in a few instances, to modernise the words, though not in the minutest degree to change the meaning.
We confine ourselves, for brevity, to a single fact.
Travelling through Macedonia, he tells us as follows: “In this country was Aristotle born ; in a city that men call Strageris," a little from the city of Tragie, or Trakys; and at Strageris is Aristotle buried; and there is an altar at his tomb, where they make a great feast every year, as though he was a saint. Upon this altar the lords (or rulers) hold their great councils and assemblies, for they hope, that, through the inspiration of God and of him, they shall have the better counsel.”
Such was the veneration (for it was more than honour) paid by the Stagirites to their countryman, more than eighteen hundred years after his death.P
From these times we pass over the triumphant reign of Henry the Fifth (a reign rather of action than of letters) to that of his unfortunate son. This was a period disgraced by unsuccessful wars abroad, and by sanguinary disorders at home. The king himself met an untimely end, and so did his hopeful and highspirited son, the prince of Wales. Yet did not even these times keep one genius from emerging, though plunged by his rank into their most tempestuous part. By this I mean sir John Fortescue, chancellor of England, and tutor to the young prince, just mentioned. As this last office was a trust of the greatest importance, so he discharged it not only with consummate wisdom, but (what was more) with consummate virtue.
His tract in praise of the laws of England, is written with
Its ancient name in Greek was Etá- Monboddo, which work he styles Ancient yelpa, whence Aristotle was often called, Metaphysics, published in quarto at Edinby way of eminence, the Stagirite, as being burg, 1779. a citizen there.
4 This book, which he styles De Laudibus • See Mandeville's Voyages, chap. 2. Legum Angliæ, is written in dialogue, be
p Those who desire a taste of this great tween himself and the young prince his man's philosophy in English, may find their pupil, and was originally in Latin. The curiosity amply gratified in the last work great Selden thought it worthy of a comof that learned and acute Grecian, lord mentary; and since that it has been pub