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Norway, Denmark, and Friesland, did not carry to England a complete and national history, but merely separate traditions of different colonies and families. The more modern poetry of the Anglo-Saxons partly revived their ancient poems, mingled with them the elements of Christianity, and partly selected the deeds of their kings, as the object of historical poems; we cite the Battle of Brunabourg, (p. 937,) the poems on king Athelstan, of which William of Malmesbury gives many fragments, and the exploits of Beorthnoth, who fell in battle against the Danes 990. But under William the Conqueror, the people were animated with a new spirit, which became dominant under their new rulers. The heroic songs of a people who were now subjugated could not satisfy, especially as they recalled the memory of Paganism.
"We have already mentioned why these times and circumstances were favourable to Breton Minstrels and Raconteurs, enabling them to throw a new splendour over Arthur, and to present him in this guise to the allied Normans. The Celtic imagination, which could only be compared to that of the East, awed the Normans and French, who listened with admiration, as Giraldus, and Geoffrey, have proved by translations from British books. Henry II. one of England's most powerful kings, (1154-1189,) was the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, and Matilda, daughter of Henry I. His eminent talents early displayed themselves under the excellent guidance of the wise and learned Robert of Gloucester, whom Geoffrey in his Chronicle terms his protector. He became Duke of Normandy, and at the death of his father, Count of Anjou, Tourraine, and Maine. He married the celebrated Eleanor of France, who after having been repudiated by Louis le Jeune, (1151,) brought him the sovereignty of Guienne, Poitou, and Saintonge. She was grand-daughter of William IX. of Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine, who was equally celebrated as a poet and a warrior, (1071-1127.) This acquisition of a great part of France, and especially of the countries where the Langue d'oc (or Provençal) was spoken, would necessarily have the greatest influence not only over the manners, tastes, and opinions of the nobility and knighthood of the united countries, mingling the tribes and uniting their poets and minstrels at the English court, but it would naturally attach the separate interests of the kings of England and France to the cause of literature. If Henry and his court delighted in hearing the tales of Arthur, would not the French and Provençal poets make themselves masters of these tales? Henry liberally rewarded such efforts, and he gave Robert Wace a prebendal stall in the Cathedral of Bayeux, for the dedication of his Roman du Rou. Geoffrey of Monmouth also eulogizes the young prince in his Chronicle. Other poets addressed him in a still more flattering strain."
The Professor treats of Arthur in connexion with the fable of the Sangraal, as constituting a not less fertile source of romance in the twelfth century than the traditions of the Welsh hero and his Round Table; this union and combination occupying a third period.
Some have supposed that the fable in question is also of Welsh origin, and belongs to that of Arthur. But the author of the present essay is of a different opinion, maintaining that it did not at
first exist in those countries which preserved the Arthurian traditions, viz. Britain, France, and Ireland, and calling it the Primitive Fable of Provence, in opposition to the change which it afterwards underwent in the North of France. This change, he says, evinces so much connexion with the Order of Templars, that it must have taken place after the institution of that body.
The Graal included many mysteries and sacred symbols. "It is the impenetrable mystery of faith," at one time; the Graal even becomes the divinity himself; "Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table represented temporal knighthood; the Templars of the Graal the spiritual knighthood," the heroes in a Christian chivalry, expressing miracles, mysteries, and doctrines, by attaching them to poetical and historical traditions, and using strange symbols. There is the holy Cup, the miraculous Vase. It presents eastern mysterious emblems, and some of its elements must have passed westward through Spain. This miraculous mystery Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are represented as having set out to discover. But the search proved always in vain excepting to such as were ordained to it. The castle of the Graal was sometimes found out, and the mystery would appear in resplendent glory, and would even feast the knights with most exquisite delicacies. But every thing is done in the most forced manner, and the romancing poets could make the Graal perform nothing but "sans rime et sans raison."
But we shall not further detain our readers with an abstract of parts of the Essay relative to Arthurian traditions, and the transformations to which they were subjected. These traditions and changes belonged to certain conditions of society and developments of the human mind, till at length such extravagant romances were no longer credited or relished. We quote a specimen of our author's theory, philosophy and manner concerning fable, especially the Mabinogion, which Lady Charlotte Guest's translations have in some measure made known in our pages.-
"In recapitulating the results at which we have so far arrived, we should say that the immediate influence of the Welsh traditions upon the literature of France was effected by their passage through that country, where they became imbued with the spirit of French chivalry, and formed a perfectly new style, of which the tendency was to represent the true life and spirit of chivalry. But there is also another equally important element, which passed into France with these traditions, and like them became diffused over Europe; this is the ancient popular belief of the Welsh and the Bretons, the ancient Celtic mythology it may be called, the wonderful and interesting World of Celtic Tales. For, the beneficent fairies who educated Lancelot du Lac, the giants conquered by Owain, Tristan, and Peredur, the enchanted fountains, the miraculous trees, the dragons and serpents, the magic rings, the sorcerer Merlin, the Fay Morgana sister of
Arthur, these aërial spirits which once more resumed their power under Shakspeare, do not come from the North nor from the East-they are Celtic and all these powers and beings which are still religiously preserved in the poetic memory of the people of Brittany and of Wales, who have always been so remarkable for their attachment to their ancient literature, are of a nature totally different from those which have passed from Asia to the West. In the German and Scandinavian religion, belief takes an animated nature, which shows itself even after the introduction of Christianity. In them nature and genius are not yet separated, and, in this primitive union, nature appears poetic from the mountains and rivers down to animated life. The miraculous beings of the East form still more a world apart, and foreign to man; magic does not exist as an elementary spirit in nature, these superhuman beings represent less the powers of nature than human passions; trees and flowers do not in themselves possess an intellectual life, but they shade the dwelling of the God, or serve to express these mysteries to man; they are symbols, but they are not beings; we see throughout less of internal life than of exterior marvels.
"Supposing that, after the twelfth century, this style had entered by Spain from the East into the ideas of the people and the chivalric poems, and that these elements had given a certain tinge mingled with these ancient fabulous beings, and with the belief of the Celts, still we must decidedly deny that all is of oriental origin. This cannot be conceded, expect in so far as that the Celts, like all other nations in Europe, had their primitive home in Asia, and might have brought with them certain remembrances, of which they partook equally with their brethren of the East.
"A belief in superhuman and demoniacal beings, in hidden powers of nature and means to possess oneself of them, is common to every people, and penetrates harmlessly more or less into every religion, if it be not perverted by repulsive superstition. Jacob Grimm, in his unappreciable work on German Mythology, has shown in what manner this imaginative World, of which we speak, and which is here called the Fabulous Kingdom of Tales, had its first origin, and a well founded and reasonable meaning in ancient paganism; how, at first, notwithstanding the bloody baptism by the sword of Charlemagne, christianity insensibly bordered on pagan ideas, how places sacred to the pagans were chosen for christian chapels, how they gradually made the pagan divinities subordinate to the one true God of christianity, degrading them to powerless demons and diabolical beings, or to goblins and gnomes, and how, at last, the ancient belief in these beings was discarded by more enlightened minds, and dismissed to the nursery, to people the fresh and infantile imagination with those changeable and ethereal beings which we meet with in these tales. We do not doubt that we could demonstrate a similar progress of the ancient belief from the altar of nature to the nursery, amongst the Cymry and Bretons, and that we should find amongst these people, described to us as possessing such lively imagination, and delighting always in fantastic speculations and curious philosophisms, many more documents than among the Germans, where the sources are very scarce, and are often derived from the Scandinavians; although such a research would present another peculiar difficulty, viz. that the Celts
very early experienced a Roman, German, and Scandinavian influence, which produced a picture much more varied and complicated than in Germany, and we feel assured that the ancient pagan belief was transformed among the Celts much earlier in the Children's Tales, because christianity penetrated much sooner into Wales and Armorica than into Germany and Scandinavia.
"But we must not here enter more largely into the history of this civilization, we must confine ourselves to unravelling these stories only as far as they are mixed with the traditions of Arthur; for it is those traditions that have occasioned the circulation of these tales throughout Europe. We find that this species of poetry is, at first, exclusively displayed in the most ancient continental poems, of which the subject is the achievements and adventures of Arthur's Knights. These poems correspond so entirely with those Welsh stories called Mabinogion, that we have only to resolve the question whether the Mabinogion are the origin of the French romances, or vice versa, that is to say, feeble imitations of those eminently poetic creations of the period when chivalry was at its height.
"The word Mabinogion is translated Tales for Children, or by Tales in general; and Lady Charlotte Guest, in a very pleasing letter, has dedicated her translation of the Mabinogion to her own children, but we doubt whether this title would have been employed in the twelfth century in the same Tradition and fables are always supposed to contain faith and doubt. A tale is a dream of truth, with the full consciousness that it is but a dream. The relater knows that he repeats an imaginative poem. The manners of nations are reflected in the lives of individuals, and as, in mature age, man can only return to the fancies and pleasures of childhood and youth as to a dream, so, in like manner, a people cannot look upon their past history and historical traditions as fables, until they have long since passed that period, and have advanced to a much higher degree of civilization. In the poems of the most ancient bards, we find Owain. Peredur, Geraint, and others, mentioned as warriors, fighting with Arthur against the Saxons; these persons belong to history equally with Arthur. In the Mabinogion their historical character is annihilated with that of Arthur, who here appears in the same light as in the French romances, a spectator of the exploits of his companions; his court is the rendezvous of his heroes, whose adventures no longer appear as patriotic expeditions. So long as the people faithfully believed in the truth of the traditions of Arthur and his heroes, these Mabinogion could not have been composed. But we are aware of the tendency of tradition to amplification. This tendency does not show itself capriciously, but follows the general laws of nature, and only operates when the mind and body are satisfied. It consequently appears in this case, that tradition could not proceed to separate and enlarge on the histories of persons who had hitherto only acted a secondary part, until the glory of Arthur had attained its height, and the people began to find a monotony in the constantly repeated history of one person, and sought to replace it by fresh subjects. The bards and minstrels would then endeavour to revive their feelings with respect to this ancient personage by the addition of new facts, over which they diffused a higher interest, by interweaving them with ancient and celebrated occur
rences. We have already seen, from the testimony of Nennius, the manner in which, as early as the ninth century, the original Arthur and his histories are amplified. In the Welsh Archaiology p. 167, 175, &c. we find dialogues between Arthur, Kai, and Glewlwyd, between Arthur and Gwenhwyvar, between the latter and Eliwlod, and between Tristan and Gwalchmai, which the learned Turner places in the tenth and eleventh centuries; they prove that these historical heroes, like their chief, often received a fabulous glory, but we do not find any trace of those elements of chivalry which we shall hereafter describe more minutely. While traditions were thus added to, the Celtic fables and tales would also require a greater extension, as well as a poetical worship, for a stationary condition cannot be imagined where a real existence is demonstrated; it is only in Wales, or perhaps in Brittany also that authentic proofs could be produced, of where and at what time they were combined with ancient historical remembrances. In the Mabinogion in general, the opposition still exists, -Christianity and Paganism are completely opposed to each other. The giants and black men, those savage, sanguinary and inhuman beings who so often appear, belong to Paganism, while the heroes of the tale are always good Christians, but the dogmatic tincture of Christianity is always wanting in these stories, and if their antiquity and purely Welsh origins, were not even still more evident from the intimate connexion with the localities, manners, and customs of the country, we should say that one of the strongest proofs of it existed in our inability any where to discover in them the hand of a priest or even of a monk. Courage and strength form the basis of chivalry; faith, honour and love, only serve to give it a higher vocation or consecration. Strength and courage are also the characteristic traits of the heroes of the Mabinogion, but Faith remains at the bottom, even more than in our own Niebelungelied; it never forms the motive of actions; Honour is not yet very sensitive or refined, it is only introduced into the Mabinogion to prove strength and courage; and with regard to Love, the women appear more exacting than the men, who constantly say that there is no lady whom they love more than such a one, or such a one, but do not always prove it by their actions. In the Mabinogion we can, therefore, only discover the first slight traces of the dawn of Chivalry. These Heroes are called Marchawg, which Lady C. Guest, in speaking of Owain, translates, and, no doubt justly, Knight. But they are knights before whom the Seraphim of the Crusades had not yet carried the cross, -Knights whose hearts had not yet been softened by the soft gales of Provence and Spain, although they were more prepared to receive them than the bards of the sixth century, who knew nothing of this species of adoration. In the ninth century the bards had probably exhausted in the histories of the deeds of Arthur, the interest which this avidity for achievements and physical strength had excited, but they gained a variety by recalling this ancient world of fable: there they found giants and dragons to combat, demoniacal powers to contend with, fairies to amuse them; in short, a world made expressly for these indefatigable and invincible warriors. In this consisted the interest that procured for these tales, which must, of necessity, have existed in the eleventh century, that extraordinary reception from the French and the Normans, who were their