Page images
PDF
EPUB

pressions, which are foreign both to the spirit and style of his original; but in general it is closer than the modern translation to the literal meaning of Camoens. Altogether, Fanshawe's representation of the Portuguese poem may be compared to the wrong side of the tapestry. Mickle, on the other hand, is free, flowery, and periphrastical; he is incomparably more spirited than Fanshawe; but still he departs from the majestic simplicity of Camoens' diction as widely as Pope has done from that of Homer". The sonorous and simple language of the

1

A happy example of this occurs in the description of De Gama's fleet anchoring by moonlight in the harbour of Mozambique.

“ The moon, full orb’d, forsakes her watery cavé,
“ And lifts her lovely head above the wave;
The snowy splendours of her modest ray
“ Stream o'er the glistening waves, and glistening play:
Around her, glittering on the Heaven's arch'd brow,
“ Unnumber'd stars enclosed in azure glow,
“ Thick as the dewdrops in the April dawn,
“Or May flowers crowdiug o'er the daisy lawn.
“ The canvas whitens in the silvery beam,
“ And with a mild pale-red the pendants gleam ;
“ The mast's tall shadows treinble o’er the deep,
The peaceful lines a holy silence keep;

The watchman's carol, echoed from the prows,

Alone, at times, awakes the still repose.” In this beautiful sea-piece, the circumstance of “ the mast's tall shadow. trembling on the deep,” and of the “ carol of the watchman echoed from the prows,” are touches of the translator's addition. Mickle has, however, got more credit for improving the Lusiad than he deserves.

VOL. VI.

[ocr errors]

Lusitanian epic is like the sound of a trumpet; and Mickle's imitation like the shakes and flourishes of the flute.

Although he was not responsible for the faults of the original, he has taken abundance of pains to defend them in his notes and preface. In this he has not been successful. The long lecture on geography and Portuguese history, which Gama delivers to the King of Melinda, is a wearisome interruption to the narrative; and the use of Pagan mythology is a radical and unanswerable defect. Mickle informs us, as an apology for the latter circumstance, that all this Pagan machinery was allegorical, and that the gods and goddesses of Homer were allegorical also;

; an assertion which would require to be proved, before it can be admitted. Camoens himself has said something about his concealment of a moral meaning under his Pagan deities; but if he has any such morality, it is so well hidden that it is impossible to discover it. The Venus of the Lusiad, we are told, is Divine Love; and how is this Divine Love employed? For no other end than to give the poet an opportunity of displaying a scene of sensual gratification, an island is purposely raised up in the ocean; and Venus conducts De Gama and his fola lowers to this blessed spot, where a bevy of the nymphs of Venus are very goodnaturedly prepared to treat them to their favours; not as a trial, but as a reward for their virtues! Voltaire was certainly justified in pronouncing this episode a piece of gratuitous indecency. In the same allegorical spirit no doubt, Bacchus, who opposes the Portuguese discoverers in the councils of Heaven, disguises himself as a popish priest, and celebrates the rites of the catholic religion. The imagination is somewhat puzzled to discover, why Bacchus should be an enemy to the natives of a country, the soil of which is so productive of his beverage; and a friend to the Mahometans, who forbid the use of it: although there is something amusing in the idea of the jolly god officiating as a Romish clergyman.

Mickle's story of Syr Martyn is the most pleasing of his original pieces. The object of the narrative is to exbibit the degrading effects of concubinage, in the history of an amiable man, who is reduced to despondency and sottishness, under the dominion of a beldam and a slattern. The defect of the moral is, that the same evils might have happened to Syr Martyn in a state of matrimony. The simplicity of the tale is also, unhappily, overlaid by a weight of allegory and of obsolete phraseology, which it has not importance to sustain. Such a style, applied to the history of a man and his housekeeper, is like building a diminutive dwelling in all the pomp of Gothic architecture.

FROM SYR MARTYN.

Fleet past the months ere yet the giddy boy
One thought bestowd on what would surely be;
But well his aunt perceiv'd his dangerous toy,
And sore she feard her auncient familie
Should now be staind with blood of base degree:
For sooth to tell, her liefest hearts delight
Was still to count her princely pedigree,
Through barons bold all up to Cadwall hight,
Thence up to Trojan Brute ysprong of Venus bright.

“ But, zealous to forefend her gentle race From baselie matching with plebeian bloud, Whole nights she schemd to shonne thilke foull dis

grace, And Kathrins bale in wondrous wrath she vowd: Yet could she not with cunning portaunce shroud, So as might best succede her good intent, But clept her lemman and vild slut aloud; That soon she should her gracelesse thewes repent, And stand in long white sheet before the parson

shent."

So spake the wizard, and his hand he wavd,
And prompt the scenerie rose, where listless lay

knight in shady bowre, by streamlet lavd, While Philomela soothd the parting day:

Here Kathrin him approachd with features gay,
And all her store of blandishments and wiles ;
The knight was touchd-but she with soft delay
And gentle teares yblends her languid smiles,
And of base falsitie th' enamourd boy reviles.

Amazd the boy beheld her ready teares,
And, faultring oft, exclaims with wondring stare,
“ What mean these sighs ? dispell thine ydle feares;
And, confident in me, thy griefes declare.”
“And need," quoth she, “need I my heart to bare,
And tellen what untold well knowne mote be?
Lost is my friends goodwill, my mothers care-
By you deserted-ah! unhappy me!
Left to your aunts fell spight, and wreakfull crueltie.”

My aunt!" quoth he, “ forsooth shall she.com

mand? No; sooner shall yond hill forsake his place," He laughing said, and would have caught her hand; Her hand she shifted to her blabberd face, With prudish modestie, and sobd, “ Alas! Grant me your bond, or else on yonder tree These silken garters, pledge of thy embrace, Ah, welladay! shall hang thy babe and me, And everie night our ghostes shall bring all Hell to

thee.”

Ythrilld with horror gapd the wareless wight,
As when, aloft on well-stored cherrie-tree,

« PreviousContinue »