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And thou, O fairest princess under sky,
"It was not, however, solely from an unmeaning and a wanton spirit of refinement, that the fashion of resolving every thing into allegory, so universally prevailed. The same apology may be offered for cabalistical interpreters, both of the classics and of the old romances. The former, not willing that those books should be quite exploded which contained the ancient mythology, laboured to reconcile the apparent absurdities of the pagan system to the Christian mysteries, by demonstrating a figurative resemblance. The latter, as true learning began to dawn, with a view of supporting for a while the expiring credit of giants and magicians, were com
* B. ii. Introd. St. vi.
pelled to palliate those monstrous incredibilities, by a bold attempt to unravel the mystic web which had been wove by fairy hands, and by shewing that truth was hid under the gorgeous veil of Gothic invention *."
* WARTON. Introductory Disser. See Hist. of E. Poetry. Vol. 3. p. xciv. et seq. I cannot omit observing here, that in the opinions which I have hazarded, I am led by no presumptuous feeling to condemn those who think differently. I deprecate every suspicion to the contrary. While I am anxious to elucidate and establish my own sentiments, I retain the utmost respect and deference for those whose research, judgment, critical acumen and ability, there is little merit in frankly avowing. And I take this opportunity of acknowledging the assistance I have derived from the invaluable labors of Mr. Douce, and Mr. Ellis-not to mention a fund of information from Mr. Warton, which the reader will readily observe. The latter writer, whose inaccuracies have been the theme of every pen, it seems to me, has not been justly appreciated. That he is frequently incorrect is certain-but he is blamed by those, who have not repaired his deficiencies, while they have forgot the difficulty of his undertaking, and the impossibility of preventing typographical errors in a work of such extent. A slight blunder, which I should think must have been unintentional, (Isumbras for Ippotis) causes Ritson to accuse him of an "Infamous lie!" See Diss. on Romance and Minstrelsy; passim.
POMPEY * was a wise and powerful king. He had an only daughter, remarkable for her beauty, of whom he was extremely fond. He committed her to the custody of five soldiers; and charged them, under the heaviest penalties, to preserve her from every possible in
*The fair Reader who has not condescended to notice my prolegomena (and I hope the suspicion is not treasonable !) may require to be informed that " GESTÀ ROMANORUM" supplies a very inadequate idea of the contents of these volumes. The Romans have little to do in the matter, and King Pompey must not be confounded with Pompey the Great, though they are unquestionably meant for the same person. Such blunders are perpetual.
jury. The soldiers were on guard night and day; and before the door of her bed-chamber, they suspended a burning lamp, that the approach of an intruder might be the more easily detected. And, to omit no means of security, a dog, whose watchfulness was unremitting, and whose bark was clamorous and piercing, maintained its station near the threshold of the apartment. From all these circumstances, it would appear, that every precaution had been taken: but, unhappily, the lady panted for the pleasures of the world. She longed to mingle in the busy scenes of life, and to gaze upon its varied shows. As she was one day looking abroad, a certain duke passed by, who regarded her with impure and improper feelings. Observing her beauty, and ascertaining that she was the reputed heir to the throne, he became enamoured; and used numerous devices to accomplish his treacherous designs. He promised her every species of gratification; and at length prevailed with her to overturn the lamp, destroy the guardian dog which had protected her, and elope with him, during the night.
In the morning, however, enquiries were set on foot; and messengers despatched in pursuit of her. Now there was at that time in the
Emperor's palace, a champion of remarkable prowess, and with whom the execution of justice was never dilatory. When he understood the contempt and ingratitude which the lady had exhibited towards her parent, he armed himself, and hastened after the fugitives. A battle speedily ensued, in which the champion triumphed, and decapitated the seducer on the spot. The lady he conveyed back to the palace; but being refused admittance to the presence of her father, thenceforward she passed her time in bitterly bewailing her misdeeds. It happened that a wise person in the Emperor's court heard of her repentance. On all occasions when his services were required, he had proved himself an active mediator between majesty and its offenders; and being now moved with compassion, he reconciled her to her indignant parent, and betrothed her to a powerful nobleman. He afterwards made her several valuable presents. In the first place, he presented a tunic, which extended to the