« AnteriorContinuar »
the mythology of the Teutonic tribes, into order and system; to show their analogies and connections with each other; to snatch facts from beneath the adventitious garb which time and error had given them; to make ceremonies and superstitions of a later period guide back to the substance of which they were only the shadow. This is what James Grimm has undertaken, and he has done it completely and satisfactorily. His Deutsche Mythologie is a store-house of facts, and of discoveries, relating to every part of this curious subject.
The first eleven chapters (something more than 200 pages of the book) are devoted to that branch of the subject which, with the exceptions of a few stray traces, belonged more exclusively to the period when Paganism reigned undisturbed over the minds of our forefathers. They treat of the gods and goddesses of their temples, their priests, and their worship. One of these, Irmin, the Eormen of the Anglo-Saxons, the same name that the Romans called Arminius, has an important connection with our own national antiquities. Like all the names of the Saxon gods and heroes, that of Eormen is very frequently used in composition in the proper names of our forefathers, as Eormenred, Earmenburh, Eormenhild, &c. As early as the time of Tacitus, a German name was Hermunduri. We have met with an instance where an Anglo-Saxon prince gave to all his four daughters names beginning with Eormen. It is also found in the composition in the names of plants, &c. as Eormen-leaf, a name found in one of the old glosses for the malva-erratica. The head seat of the worship of this god was the district about Lower Saxony, where his name was in modern times preserved in nursery rhymes, as, for example, the following, which is peculiar to Saxon Hesse :
“ Hermen, sla dermen,
Will bang Hermen up.” Grimm thinks, with much probability, that this rhyme is part of some old song on the destruction of the great temple of Irmen (the Irmenseule), by the Frankish emperor Charles. What, however, is the most interesting to us, is the circumstance that the name is given to one of our great ancient roads, the Ermingstreet (which Somner very absurdly derives from Here-manstræt, via strata militaris). It also seems probable that the name of another of these great ways, the Watling-street, has a similar derivation. And, what is particularly curious, the same name of Watling-street was formerly given to the milky way.
“ Chaucer (House of Fame, 2, 427) describing that region of the heavens, says:
“Lo there (quod be), cast up thine eye,
se yondir, lo, the galaxie,
algate his fathirs carte and gie.” " In the Complaynt of Scotland, p. 90, it is said of the comet : “ it aperis oft in the quhyt circle, callit circulus lacteus, the qubilk the marinalis callis Vatlantstreit.” In the Virgil of Gawin Douglas, p. 85 :
“ Of every sterne the twynkling notis he,
that in the still hevin move cours we se,
the feirs Orion with his golden glave." Wætlinga is the gen. pl. ;* who the Wætlingas were, how they came to give their names to a street in earth and heaven, we know not. Chaucer, who could perhaps have told us, chose rather to introduce the Grecian legend of Phaeton.”—Grimm, p. 213, 214.
In his twelfth and thirteenth chapters, Grimm carries us through the families of the wise women, wood nymphs, fairies, and the wights and elves, and dwarfs, nickers and kobolds, in all their shapes and varieties. Most of our readers will have learnt, that in the transformation of the elves and fairies of our forefathers into devils, by the monkish legends, the names were sometimes retained, and very curiously applied. Our popular name for the evil one, Old Nick, is a word of this class.' The nickers held a conspicuous place in German romance and story—they are frequently spoken of in the Anglo-Saxon Romance of Beowulf. They were water fairies, and dwelt in the lakes and rivers, as well as in the sea. So late as the fifteenth century, a MS. dictionary in English and Latin explains nicker by sirena.' At present, in our island, the word is only preserved in the name of the devil, Old Nick. The fourteenth chapter of the Mythologie
* Probably not, here: the final syllable is evidently the Greek, Latin, O. Pers., Zend, 0. Celt., Ch., Poly., Alg., in fact everywhere, the principle of existence.-- ED.
interspersed with several curious inedited scraps. The first section treats of the state of the sciences in the middle ages, introductory to the numerous legendary fables connected with them. In the second, we have an essay on what he terms the Sacred Legends, including the fables which took rise during the dark ages relating to the persons and circumstances mentioned in the Old Testament, to Christ and his disciples and apostles, and to the saints of the middle ages. The third division of the work is to be devoted to the legends relating to celebrated men of ancient and modern times. With the exception of a few curious legends, this division of the work will be, to our taste, the least interesting. The writers of the middle ages often knew more about the ancient heroes, and other celebrated men, than they had any good grounds for. Benoît de Sainte-More wrote a long poem in AngloNorman on the Siege of Troy, in which he speaks of Homer as but a contemptible authority, and gives us a curious anecdote, for which we may look in vain elsewhere. “ Homer," says he,
was a wonderful poet; he wrote on the siege and destruction of Troy, and why it was deserted and has never since been inhabited. But his book does not tell us the truth, for we know without any doubt, that he was born a hundred years after the great army was assembled, so that he certainly was not a witness of the events he describes. When he had finished his book, and it was brought to Athens, there was a wonderful contention about it. They were on the point of condemning him, and with reason, because he had made the gods fight with mortal men, and the goddesses in the same manner; and when they recited his book, many refused it on that account; but Homer was such a great poet, and had so much influence, that he ended by prevailing on them to receive his book as good authority.”
The fourth division of M. Le Roux de Lincy's book is to comprise legends relating to peoples and towns; the fifth, legends relating to countries, forests, mountains, and waters ; the sixth, legends relating to precious stones, plants, &c.; the seventh, legends relating to animals. The eighth division begins the wonderful world, comprising spectres, ghosts, &c.; the ninth treats on giants and dwarfs; the tenth comprises the elves; the eleventh, the fairies; and the twelfth, the Loups-Garoux. We may add, that the appendix to the first volume contains some very curious extracts from early manuscripts, illustrative of various subjects mentioned in the text. We must confess that the introductory volume of this work has created in us a desire to see the rest.
Art. V.-Congrès de Verone ; Guerre d'Espagne, Négociations ;
Colonies Espagnoles. Par M. de Chateaubriand. 2 tom. 8vo.
Leipzig, 1838.* M. CHATEAUBRIAND must pardon us if in going through this his latest work, we do not always bear in mind that which is obviously its principal object, namely, to elevate the importance of M. Chateaubriand himself, and set forth the part which he has had in the great events of his time. We are obstinate Englishmen, and our purpose in examining this work is to see how it illustrates the policy and interests of England. We have adopted a tone, in treating of our affairs abroad, which repeated and anxious consideration satisfies us is the most conducive to the honour and advantage of England. One of our earliest efforts in this line had a special regard to the transactions which our French contemporary now relates, and of which our two countries took a different view ; let us see whether the new light thrown upon them by him who was Minister of Foreign Affairs at Paris during the period, should alter the position in which we conteinplate them.
Our preliminary remarks shall be but few. One peculiarity in the events of 1822,--for that, as our title indicates, is the period to be considered, --is noticed, we believe, for the first time; the foreign ministers of the three countries, England, France, and Spain, were all poets. This is a bare fact, an unfruitful coincidence; we expected it to be followed up by an averment that the ministers took a poetical view of affairs, or that the similarity of their tastes led to an assimilation of their systems; but we are only told (from Montaigne) that a true poet would prefer to be the father of the Æneid than of the finest boy in Rome.
Mr. Canning's poetry was a secondary qualification, and a secondary sentiment. His mind sometimes conceived very poetical images, but they are more striking in his speeches than in any poem which he wrote. If his prose was thus sometimes poetical, his verse was a litle prosaic. It had all the merits of his prose, --precision, vigour, point, and chasteness ; but it had not the qualities which would lead one to say, this is indeed a poet.
Although sensible that we are digressing, we will here mention one similarity in the histories of Chateaubriand and Canning,somewhat curious, and much more characteristic than their poetry. Chateaubriand was elected a member of the National Institute,
* Sold in London by Black and Armstrong.
+ Vol. i. ch. ii. p. 37. VOL. XXI. NO, XLII.
in the room of Chenier. The rules required that he should pronounce an eulogy upon his predecessor :-" reversing," as we have formerly said,* “ the disobedience of Balaam, he turned the panegyric into an anathema," and thereby lost the appointment.
When Canning was at Christchurch, it was on some public occasion his duty to pronounce an oration in praise
of the founder and benefactors of the College or University. By appointment or choice (we forget which) his hero was Daniel Finch, Earl of Nottingham. Our recollection of this youthful composition enables us to pronounce it full of all the merits which afterwards characterized his speeches; and it was in one sense a panegyric upon the memory of the pious founder, because it proved in forcible terms that the profligacy of Nottingham was not quite so eminent as that of Sunderland, and of other statesmen of his time, whose respective demerits were marked by epithets appropriate and severe. The big-wigs were shocked and offended, ,-or pretended to be so; however, young Canning did not lose his studentship.t
Passing over a brilliant interval, let us now contemplate Mr. Canning addressing, not the doctors of Oxford, but the crowned heads of Europe, assembled in congress at Verona; where it was his task to oppose, and, so far as he could, to counteract the counsels of our present author.
One object of the book before us is, to show that the French invasion of Spain was not the work of the allies, but of France alone, and most particularly and eminently of the Viscount de Chateaubriand. I
We bave no desire to rob M. Chateaubriand of the glory of the Spanish war. M. Villele, we believe with him, was much more pacifically inclined. The Duc Mathieu de Montmorency, it is true, was even more chivalrously bent upon war than our viscount, and it was for some cause connected with these matters that he lost his office of Foreign Minister. M. Chateaubriand slid into it, with the same sentiments, at that time more cautiously disguised or managed; and unwilling perhaps to identify the dismissed with the promoted minister, he represents the cause of the dismissal as still a mystery. Chateaubriand furnishes no reason for disputing Mr. Canning's version,ş which was this: Montmorency wished to make the Spanish war an European concern; Chateaubriand certainly desired to make it
* Vol. X. p. 298. + We are surprised that this paper, which we know to be extant, is not published. $ Ch. xiii. p. 50. Ś Parl. Deb. viii. 1495.