Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

“ It may not be thought impertinent to close this discourse with a remark on the MORA LISATIONS subjoined to the stories of the Gesta ROMANORUM. This was an age of vision and mystery: and every work was believed to contain a double, or secondary, meaning. Nothing escaped this eccentric spirit of refinement and abstraction; and, together with the Bible, as we have seen, not only the general history of ancient times was explained allegorically, but even the poetical fictions of the classics were made to signify the great truths of religion, with a degree of boldness, and a want of discrimination, which, in another age, would have acquired the character of the most profane levity, if not of absolute impiety, and can only be defended from the simplicity of the state of knowledge which then prevailed.

Thus, God creating man of clay, animated with the vital principle of respiration, was the story of Prometheus, who formed a man of similar materials, to which he communicated life by fire stolen from heaven. Christ twice born, of his Father, God, and of his mother, Mary, was prefigured by Bacchus, who was first born of Semele, and afterwards of Jupiter. And as Minerva sprung from the brain of Jupiter, so Christ proceeded from God without a mother. Christ born of the Virgin Mary was expressed in the fable of Danäe shut within a tower, through the covering of which Jupiter descended in a shower of gold, and begat Perseus. Actæon, killed by his own hounds, was a type of the persecution and death of our Saviour. The poet Lycophron relates, that Hercules, in returning from the adventure of the golden fleece, was shipwrecked ; and that being devoured by a monstrous fish, he was disgorged alive on the

shore after three days. Here was an obvious symbol of Christ's resurrection. John Waleys, an English Franciscan of the thirteenth century, in his moral exposition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, affords many other instances equally ridiculous; and who forgot that he was describing a more heterogeneous chaos, than that which makes so conspicuous a figure in his author's exordium, and which combines, amid the monstrous and indigested aggregate of its unnatural associations,

Sine pondere habentia pondus.

“ At length, compositions professedly allegorical, with which that age abounded, were resolved into allegories for which they were never intended. In the famous ROMAUNT Of The Rose, written about the year 1310,

Mit. L. i. 20.

the poet couches the difficulties of an ardent lover in attaining the object of his passion, under the allegory of a rose, which is gathered in a delicious but almost inaccessible garden. The theologists proved this rose to be the white rose of Jericho, the new Jerusalem, a state of grace, divine wisdom, the holy Virgin, or eternal beatitude, at none of which obstinate heretics can ever arrive. The chemists pretended, that it was the philosopher's stone; the civilians, that it was the most consummate point of equitable decision; and the physicians, that it was the infallible panacea. In a word, other professions, in the most elaborate commentaries, explained away the lover's rose into the mysteries of their , own 'respective science. In conformity to this practice, Tasso allegorized his own poem; and a flimsy structure of morality was raised on the chimerical conceptions of Ariosto's

ORLANDO. In the year 1577, a translation of a part of Amadis de Gaule appeared in France; with a learned preface, developing the valuable stores of profound instruction, concealed under the naked letters of the old romances, which were discernible only to the intelligent, and totally unperceived by common readers; who, instead of plucking the fruit, were obliged to rest contented with le simple Fleur de la Lecture litterale. Even Spenser, at a later period, could not indulge his native impulse to descriptions of chivalry, without framing such a story, as conveyed, under the dark conceit of ideal champions, a set of historic transactions, and an exemplification of the nature of the twelve moral vir

He presents his fantastic queen with a rich romantic mirrour, which shewed the wondrous achievements of her magnificent ancestry.

tues.

« AnteriorContinuar »