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other man's wife, but it is to make her his own. The
Provençal will hardly fall, and will never stay, in
love with any one who is not another's. In savagery
there is not so very much to choose: it requires a
calculus, not of morals but of manners, to distinguish
accurately between carving the blood-eagle on your
enemy and serving up your rival's heart as a dish
to his mistress. In passion also there may be less
difference than the extreme advocates of both sides
would maintain. But in all things external the con-
trast, the hackneyed contrast, of South and North
never could have been exhibited with a more artistic
completeness, never has been exhibited with a com-
pleteness so artistic. And these two contrasting parts
were played at the very same time at the two ends of
Europe. In the very same years when the domestic
histories and tragedies (there were few comedies) of
Iceland were being spun into the five great sagas and
the fifty smaller ones, the fainter, the more formal,
but the not less peculiar music of the gracious long-
drawn Provençal love-song was sounding under the
vines and olives of Languedoc. The very Iceland-
ers who sailed to Constantinople in the intervals of
making the subjects of these sagas, and sometimes of
composing them, must not seldom have passed or
landed on the coasts where camsos and tensos, lai
and sirvente, were being woven, and have listened to
them as the Ulyssean mariners listened to the songs
of the sirens. -
It is not, of course, true that Provençal only sings

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of love and Icelandic only of war. There is a fair


amount of love in the Northern literature and a fair room.... amount of fighting in the Southern. And ture of this time it is not true that Icelandic literature is "** wholly prose, Provençal wholly poetry. But it is true that Provençal prose plays an extremely small part in Provençal literature, and that Icelandic poetry plays, in larger minority, yet still a minor part in Icelandic. It so happens, too, that in this volume we are almost wholly concerned with Icelandic prose, and that we shall not find it necessary to say much, if anything, about Provençal that is not in verse. It is distinctly curious how much later, catteris paribus, the Romance tongues are than the Teutonic in attaining facilities of prose expression. But there is no reason for believing that even the Teutonic tongues falsified the general law that poetry comes before prose. And certainly this was the case with Icelandic—so much so that, uncertain as are the actual dates, it seems better to relinquish the Iceland of poetry to the first volume of this series, where it can be handled in connection with that Anglo-Saxon verse which it so much resembles. The more characteristic Eddaic poems— that is to say, the most characteristic parts of Icelandic poetry—must date from Heathen times, or from the first conflicts of Christianity with Heathenism in Iceland; and this leaves them far behind us.” On the other hand, the work which we have in Provençal before the extreme end of the eleventh century is not finished literature. It has linguistic interest, the interest of origins, but no more. * Iceland began to be Christian in 1000. Y

Although there is practically as little doubt about the antiquity of Icelandic literaturel as about its

pinosities interest, there is unusual room for guess

*** work as to the exact dates of the documents which compose it. Writing seems to have been introduced into Iceland late; and it is not the opinion of scholars who combine learning with patriotism that many, if any, of the actual MSS. date further back than the thirteenth century; while the actual composition of the oldest that we have is not put earlier than the twelfth, and rather its later than its earlier part. Moreover, though Icelanders were during this period, and indeed from the very first settlement of the island, constantly in foreign countries and at foreign courts — though as Vikings or Varangians, as merchants or merely travelling adventurers, they were to be found all over Europe, from Dublin to Constantinople — yet, on the other hand, few or no foreigners visited Iceland, and it figures hardly at all in the literary and historical records of the Continent or even of the British Isles, with which

* It is almost superfluous to insert, but would be disagreeable to omit, a reference to the Sturlunga Saga (2 vols., Oxford, 1879) and the Corpus Poeticum Boreale (2 vols., Oxford, 1883) of the late Dr Wigfusson and Professor York Powell. The first contains an invaluable sketch, or rather history, of Icelandic literature: the second (though one may think its arrangement a little arbitrary) is a book of unique value and interest. Had these two been followed up according to Dr Wigfusson's plan, practically the whole of Icelandic literature that has real interest would have been accessible once for all. As it is, one is divided between satisfaction that England should have done such a service to one of the great mediaeval literatures, and regret that she has not done as much for others.


it naturally had most correspondence. We are therefore almost entirely devoid of those side-lights which are so invaluable in general literary history, while yet again we have no borrowings from Icelandic literature by any other to tell us the date of the borrowed matter. At the end of our present time, and still more a little later, Charlemagne and Arthur and the romances of antiquity make their appearance in Icelandic; but nothing Icelandic makes its appearance elsewhere. For it is not to be supposed for one moment that the Nibelungenlied, for instance, is the work of men who wrote with the Volsunga-Saga or the Gudrun lays before them, any more than the Grettis Saga is made up out of Beowulf. These things are mere examples of the successive refashionings of traditions and stories common to the race in different centuries, manners, and tongues. Except as to the bare fact of community of origin they help us little or not at all. The reasons why Icelandic literature, in its most peculiar and interesting form of the saga, did not penetrate abroad are clear enough; and the remoteness and want of school-education in the island itself are by no means the most powerful of them. The very thing which is most characteristic of them, and which in these later times constitutes their greatest charm, must have been against them in their own time. For the stories which ran like an epidemic through Europe in the years immediately before and immediately after 1200, though they might be in some cases concerned directly with national heroes, appealed without exception to

The Saga.

international and generally human interests. The slightest education, or the slightest hearing of persons educated, sufficed to teach every one that Alexander and Caesar were great conquerors, that the Story of Troy (the exact truth of which was never doubted) had been famous for hundreds and almost thousands of years. Charlemagne had had directly to do with the greater part of Europe in peace or war, and the struggle with the Saracens was of old and universal interest, freshened by the Crusades. The Arthurian story received from fiction, if not from history, an almost equally wide bearing; and was, besides, knitted to religion—the one universal interest of the time—by its connection with the Graal. All Europe, yet again, had joined in the Crusades, and the stories brought by the crusaders directly or indirectly from the East were in the same way common property. But saga-literature had nothing of this appeal. It was as indifferently and almost superciliously insular monority as the English country-house novel itself, "s” and may have produced in some of the very few foreigners who can ever have known it originally, something of the same feelings of wrath which we have seen excited by the English countryhouse novel in our own day. The heroes were not, according to the general ideas of mediaeval Europe, either great chiefs or accomplished knights; the heroines were the very reverse of those damsels “with mild mood” (as the catch-word in the English romances has it) whom the general Middle Age liked or thought it liked. An intricate, intensely local,

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