Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

“conferred in the way of investiture, and accompanied “ with the solemnity of an oath, and other ceremonies," was of later date, and sprung out of the feudal constitution, as an elegant writer has clearly shewn *. But the ideas of Chivalry prevailed long before in all the Gothic nations, and may be discovered as in embrio in the customs, manners, and opinions of every branch of that people f. That fondness of going in quest of adventures, that spirit of challenging to single combat, and that respectful complaisance shewn to the fair sex (so different from the manners of the Greeks and Romans), all are of Gothic origin, and may be traced up to the earliest times among all the Northern nations I. These existed long before the feudal ages, though they were called forth and strengthened in a peculiar manner under that constitution, and at length arrived to their full maturity in the times of the Crusades, só replete with romantic adventures ß.

* Letters concerning Chivalry, evo, 1763. of | Mallet.

$ The seeds of Chivalry sprung up so naturally out of the original manners and opinions of the Northern nations, that it is not credible they arose so late as after the establishment of the Feudal System, much less the Crusades. Nor, again, that the Romances of Chivalry were transmitted to other nations, through the Spaniards, from the Moors and Arabians. Had this been the case, the first French Romances of Chivalry would have been on Moorish or at least Spanish subjects : whereas the most ancient stories of this kind, whether in prose or verse, whether in Italian, French, English, &c. are chiefly on the subjects of Charlemagne, and the Paladins; or of our British Arthur, and his Knights of the Round Table, &c. being evidently borrowed from the fabulous Chronicles of the supposed Archbishop Turpin, and of Jeffery of Monmouth. Not but some of the oldest and most popular French Romances are also on Norman subjects, as Richard Sans-peur, Robert Le Diable, &c.; whereas I do not recollect so much as one in which the scene is laid in Spain, much less among the Moors, or descriptive of Mahometan manners. Even in Amadis de Gaul, said to have been the first Romance printed in Spain, the scene is laid in Gaul and Britain; and the manners are

Freuch :

[ocr errors]

Even the common arbitrary fictions of Romance were (as is hinted above) most of them familiar to the ancient Scalds of the North, long before the time of the Crusades. They believed the existence of Giants and Dwarfs *; they entertained opinions not unlike the more modern notion of Fairies †; they were strongly possessed with the belief of spells and inchantment I; and were fond of inventing combats with Dragons and Monsters $.

The opinion therefore seems very untenable, which some learned and ingenious men have entertained, that the turn for Chivalry, and the taste for that species of romantic fiction were caught by the Spaniards from the Arabians or Moors after their invasion of Spain, and from the Spaniards transmitted to the Bards of Armoricall, and thus diffused through Britain, France, italy,

French: which plainly shews from what school this species of fabling was learnt and transmitted to the Southern nations of Europe.

* Mallet, North. Antiquities, vol. I. p. 36; vol. II. passim.

+ Olaus Verel. ad Hervarer Saga, pp. 44, 45. Hickes's Thesaur. vol. II. p. 311. Northern Antiquities, vol. II, passim.

Ibid. vol. 1. pp. 69, 374, &c. vol. II. p. 216, &c. & Rollof's Saga. Cap. 35, &c.

li It is peculiarly unfortunate that such as maintain this opinion are obliged to take their first step from the Moorish provinces in Spain, without one intermediate resting-place, to Armorica or Bretagne, the province in France from them most remote, not more in situation than in the manners, habits, and language of its Welsh inhabitants, which are allowed to have been derived from this island, as must have been their traditions, songs, and fables ; being doubtless all of Céltic original. See p. 3 of the “ Dissertation on the Origin of Romantic Fic“tion in Europe,” prefixed to Mr. Tho. Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. I. 1774, 4to. If any pen could have supported this darling hypothesis of Dr. WARBURTON, that of this ingenious critic would have effected it. But under the general term ORIENTAL he seems to consider the ancient inhabitants of the North and South of Asia as having all the same manners, traditions, and fables; and because the secluded people of Arabia took the lead under the religion and empire of Mahomet,

therefore

Germany, and the North. For it seems utterly incredible that one rude people should adopt a peculiar taste therefore every thing must be derived from them to the Northern Asiatics in the remotest ages, &c. With as much reason, under the word OCCIDENTAL, we might represent the early traditions and fables of the North and South of Europe to have been the same; and that the Gothic mythology of Scandinavia, the Druidic or Celtic of Gaul and Britain, differed not from the classic of Greece and Rome.

There is not room here for a full examination of the minuter arguments, or rather slight coincidences, by which our agreeable Dissertator endeavours to maintain and defend this favourite opinion of Dr. W. who has been himself so completely confuted by Mr. Tyrwhitr. (See his notes on “Love's Labour Lost,” &c.) But some of his positions it will be sufficient to mention: such as the referring the Gog and Magog, which our old Christian Bards might have liad from Scripture, to the Jaguiouge and Magionge of the Arabians and Persians, &c. (p. 13.]—That “we may venture to affirm, that this [Geoffrey of .“ Monmouth's] Chronicle, supposed to contain the ideas of the “ Welsh Bards, entirely consists of Arabian inventions.” (p. 13.)-And that, “as Geoffrey's History is the grand repository “ of the Acts of Arthur, so a fabulous History, ascribed to Tur

pin, is the ground-work of all the Chimerical Legends which “ have been related concerning the conquests of Charlemagne “ and his twelve peers. Its subject is the expulsion of the Sara“ cens from Spain; and it is filled with fictions evidently con“ genial to those which characterize Geoffrey's History.” [p. 17.)--That is, as he afterwards expresses it, “lavishly decorated

by the Arabian Fablers.” (p. 58.)--We should hardly have expected that the Arabian Fablers would have been lavish in decorating a history of their enerny; but what is singular, as an instance and proof of this Arabian origin of the Fictions of Turpin, a passage is quoted from his JVth chapter, which I shall beg leave to offer, as affording decisive evidence that they could not possibly be derived from a Mahometan source. Sc. " The Christians under Charlemagne are said to have found in

Spain a golden idol, or image of Mahomet, as high as a bird

can fly.---It was framed by Mahomet himself of the purest “ metal, who, by his knowledge in necromancy, had sealed up “ within it a legion of diabolical spiritsIt held in its hand a “ prodigious club; and the Saracens had a prophetic tradition, “ that this club should fall from the hand of the image in that

year when a certain king should be born in France, &c." (Vid. p. 18, Note]

and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and manner of writing or thinking from another, without borrowing at the same time any of their particular stories and fables, without appearing to know any thing of their heroes, history, laws, and religion. When the Romans began to adopt and imitate the Grecian literature, they immediately naturalized all the Grecian fables, histories, and religious stories; which became as familiar to the poets of Rome as of Greece itself. Whereas all the old writers of chivalry, and of that species of romance, whether in prose or verse, whether of the Northern nations, or of Britain, France, and Italy, not excepting Spain itself*, appear utterly unacquainted with whatever relates to the Mahometan nations. Thus with regard to their religion, they constantly represent them as worshiping idols, as paying adoration to a golden image of Mahomet, or else they confound them with the ancient Pagans, &c. And indeed in all other respects they are so grossly ignorant of the customs, manners, and opinions of every branch of that people, especially of their heroes, champions, and local stories, as almost amounts to a demonstration that they did not imitate them in their songs or romances: for as to dragons, serpents, necromancies, &c. why should these be thought only derived from the Moors in Spain so late as after the eighth century? since notions of this kind appear too familiar to the Northern Scalds, and enter too deeply into all the Northern Mythology, to have been

* The little narrative songs on Morisco subjects, which the Spaniards have at present in great abundance, and which they call peculiarly Romances (see vol. I. Book III. No. XVI. &c.) have nothing in common with their proper Romances (or Histories) of Chivalry; which they cal] Historias de Cavallerias : these are evidently imitations of the French, and shew a great ignorance of Moorish manners: and with regard to the Morisco, or Song-Romances, they do not seem of very great antiquity: few of them appear, from their subjects, much earlier than the reduction of Granada, in the fifteenth century: from which period, I believe, may be plainly traced, among the Spanish Writers, a more perfect knowledge of Moorish customs, &c.

transmitted

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

transmitted to the unlettered Scandinavians, from so distant a country, at so late a period. If they may not be allowed to have brought these opinions with them in their original migrations from the North of Asia, they will be far more likely to have borrowed them from the Latin poets after the Roman conquests in Gaul, Britain, Germany, &c. For I believe one may challenge the maintainers of this opinion to produce any Arabian poem or history, that could possibly have been then known in Spain, which resembles the old Gothic romances of chivalry half so much as the Metamorphoses of Ovid.

But we well know that the Scythian nations situate in the countries about Pontus, Colchis, and the Euxine sea, were in all times infamous for their magic arts : and as Odin and his followers are said to have come precisely from those parts of Asia, we can readily account for the prevalence of fictions of this sort among the Gothic nations of the North, without fetching them from the Moors in Spain, who for many centuries after their irruption lived in a state of such constant hostility with the unsubdued Spanish Christians, whom they chiefly pent up in the mountains, as gave them no chance of learning their music, poetry, or stories ; and this, together with the religious hatred of the latter for their cruel invaders, will account for the utter ignorance of the old Spanish romancers in whatever relates to the Mahometan nations, although so nearly their own neighbours.

On the other hand, from the local customs and si, tuations, from the known manners and opinions of the Gothic nations in the North, we can easily account for all the ideas of chivalry, and its peculiar fictions*. For, not to mention their distinguished respect for the fair sex, so different from the manners of the Mahometan nations t, their national and domestic history so naturally assumes all the wonders of this species of fabling, * See Northern Antiquities, passim.

[ocr errors]

that

f Ibid.

« PreviousContinue »