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which has already produced three crops in a short year. Let him be admonished by the fate of the more recent productions of the great Scotch novelist, how great the peril is, not only of over-tasking the most affluent powers of invention with too frequent requisitions, but what is worse, of exhausting the patience of the public by crude and hasty speculations for the bookseller. It scarcely admits of a doubt in our minds, that the cause of sound literature suffers more from the extravagant compensation now paid for the exercise of literary talent, than it did in the time of Milton and Dryden, from the niggardliness of a comparatively unreading age. Fifteen hundred pounds every three months for the copy-right of a novel, written with scarcely a mouth's labour, are a pernicious stimulus to an overproduction quite as injurious in letters as in commerce. At all events, it leads to an utter neglect of that "price of immortality," which it is the selected duty of posterity to pay.
A regard for our own gratification would induce us to refrain from prescribing Horace's rigid maxim of probation to the gifted author of "Devereux," but let him learn a lesson from that material world, whose mysterious motions and eternal beauties he has described with such success. The most abundant harvests are those which are the result of an early vernal seed-time, and a long and careful summer culture. Let him give to his generation an annual offering, and bestow upon one work the labour which he expends on three. His publisher may pay him less, but posterity will pay him more.
Having said so much on the subject of prose fictions, it might very naturally be supposed that we were not inclined to quit this topic, without one word at least in favour of the purposes of amusement and instruction, to which they are subservient. But this word shall be better than our own. In a beautiful speculation on a kindred topic, in one of the papers of the Tatler, the writer says "The most active principle of our mind is the imagination. To it a good poet makes his court perpetually, and by this faculty takes care to gain it first. Our passions and inclinations come over next, and our reason surrenders itself with pleasure in the end. Thus the whole soul is insensibly betrayed into morality, by bribing the fancy with beautiful and agreeable images of those very things that in the books of the philosophers appear austere, and have at best but a kind of forbidding aspect. In a word, the poets do, as it were, strew the rough paths of virtue so full of flowers, that we are not sensible of the uneasiness of them, and imagine ourselves in the midst of pleasure and the most bewitching allurements, at the time we are making progress in the severest duties of life." These remarks,
eminently just in regard to epic and dramatic poetry, are even more applicable to prose fiction, which, both as a source of instruction and amusement, occupies the next place to history, in compass and variety. We do not admit the objection that those who read novels, will read nothing else; on the contrary, we believe that a taste for reading, (a habit more valuable than the wealth of the Indies) is often created by an early fondness for fictitious narratives. The habit once formed, the mind loves to banquet as well on what is solid and substantial, as upon that which is light and piquant. But after all, we may rest satisfied that those who will read nothing else but novels, if they had not novels to read, would find in real life a much less harmless excitement, than in the most alluring of these dreams of pleasure. But how widely is the case altered, when the imagination summons virtue to her aid, when all that is great, generous and noble in our kind, is represented alone with a scrupulous fidelity to nature, and in the beautiful colouring and the grand lineaments and proportions of the ideal? May we not apply to pictures like these, what Milton says of those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is soft and pleasant?"That it were an injury and sullenness against nature, not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicings with heaven and earth."
ART. V.-Memoires sur l'Ancienne Chevalerie. Par M. DE LA CURNE DE SAINTE PALAYE. 2 vols. 12mo. Paris.
LONG before the ages of chivalry, the love of poetry distinguished the rude inhabitants of Northern Europe. The kings, leaders, and nobles of Germany had their bards, as the Scandinavian chieftains their scalds, who attended them in peace, and followed them to battle. The common themes of these poets, were the praises of the gods and the valour of contemporary, as well as ancient heroes. They preserved in their songs, some of which have come to posterity by tradition, the legends of former and the history of later ages, and the genea logies of their kings and noble families.
With the introduction of christianity, these poets disappeared from princely courts, because the church condemned all pagan songs. Their joyous airs were soon forgotten, when there were none at festivals to sing them,* and only a few martial airs, of the olden times of paganism, were for a while retained, and sung on the march to battle, to animate the soldier to deeds of glory. But on the other hand, christian heroes gave to other bards new subjects for heroic song, and Charlemagne, and the Paladins, who with Roland fel in the vale of Roncesvalles, long occupied the poets of the empire of Franconia. And when there existed an abundant store of christian songs, not less romantic nor less animating to the brave, the martial lays of the Pagans, which were already antiquated, fell more and more into disuse, and new strains were heard, particularly the air of Roland, which was for a long time the battle song of the Franconians. In the course of time, however, these martial airs, in their turn, lost their popularity, and were exchanged for others still more new, chaunted by poets in commemoration of later events, and a younger race of warriors. Minstrels succeeded to the ancient bards, and like them before battle excited the chiefs to combat, and afterwards, in leisure moments, rehearsed the exploits of their leaders and the glories of their country.
The ages which preceded the establishment of the institutions of chivalry, had, in common with the following centuries, many errors, prejudices, superstitious opinions and habits; the same contempt of peril and death; the same inclination to war and private combat. Their poetry had consequently a common tendency, though not always the same spirit and refinement. Chivalry added to the manners and opinions of former times, gallantry, wild and perilous adventures, a belief in giants and dwarfs, in dragons and hypogriffs, in wizzards and their enchantments, and in the interference of the spiritual world with all the transactions of life. The poetry which was cultivated after the prevalence of chivalry, under the influence of these new creeds, breathed the wild heroism of romance-hence arose in the history of poetry a new epoch.
Another change was taking place. The love of poetry which hitherto had amused and inspired some of the nobility, now seized on all ranks, as the institution of chivalry united in itself
"Yet other national airs very soon succeeded them. The French women sung at processions during the pauses Nugaies Cantilenes; the people in Germany sung pastoral songs, as well as airs on the pleasures of drinking and the griefs of lovers.Even the nuns dared to sing the airs of the old bards. Ottfried composed verses only for the pious purpose of discarding these profane songs.
every thing to awaken the feelings and fancy; the lofty opinions of the worth and dignity of the order which the members imbibed from their infancy; the religious character and seeming devotion of all its ceremonies, giving even to the most trifling form an air of solemn importance; the sleepless nights passed in the church by moonlight or the glimmering lamp, in fasting and in prayer; the veneration for all those who had voluntarily sacrificed wealth and life for the oppressed, for their country or for the church; the retirement of the feinale sex in castles encircled by moat and towers; the long separation of the warrior from the mistress at whose hands he had received prizes and other tokens of favour, from whose lips he had heard praises and thanks, and to whom in his distant expeditions he could render homage only in his thoughts; the variety of his own adventures in foreign climates and among unknown people; all this and much more that depended upon accident aroused, nourished, strained and winged the imagination of the knights, and instead of the chaunts with which they formerly sung themselves hoarse and weary, they gained new themes for the play of the imagination-love and enterprize and gallantry consecrated by religion.
And imagination soon began to show its power to beguile, to flatter, and to please; to pass from the light and soft airs of love, to the serious strife of arms, from witty enigmas to amusing tales; from real deeds to the fancied imaginary combats of monsters, even the languages of Europe gradually submitted to its power. The rhymes and cadences of poetry softened the roughness of the most barbarous tongue.
Encouragement on all sides awaited the poet. He was every where respected, honoured and admired. The women whose virtues and charms he sung, rewarded him with courtesy, sometimes even with tenderness. In the greater as well as the smaller courts of Europe, poets found fortune and flattering applause. The princes and kings of Arragon and Poitou, Thoulouse and Provence; the emperors of Swabia, the Dukes of Austria, the Landgraves of Thuringia, and the Norman Kings of England emulated each other in heaping on their minstrels honour and rewards. The gratitude of the poets in turn grew loud, and their songs more enthusiastic. Even princes at length mingled in their ranks; and emperors and kings, as well as barons and knights, contended not only with lance, but in the song of love and of war for the thanks or the smiles of the fair.
A poetical epidemic seized then on all Europe. The whole world rhymed; knights, squires, and pages, clergy and lay
men, monks and students, gambollers and musicians. They turned everything into poetry; they versified real and imaginary events, chronicles and legends, merry impromptus and prayers to the divine mother. Everything which could be written was rhymed; the bible and the mass, the rules of St. Augustin and the feodal laws, ancient history and the latest fables. Gates and walls, furniture and windows, tombstones and pillars were covered with verse; in short, it appeared as if plain prose could no longer exist.
This universal rage for versifying, ridiculous as it was in itself, had yet some useful consequences. Language and expression, the mechanism and rhythm of the verses, abstract ideas and the representation of real objects, were by these frequent trials improved, and even solid mental culture made some advances; on one hand, beauty and elegance of expression were introduced, on the other, neatness and energy. The strains of fiction were elevated by poetry or pointed by wit; the heart was flattered with sentiments, and the reason by wisdom; ideas were improved and augmented by mental exertion, and by exercise in expression, they became more clear and definite. The objects of poetry also became more manifold, and the classes of poetical composition increased; the constant practice also led gradually to rules, and poetry was no longer dependent on chance or blind habit. On the other hand, this universal passion could not exist without some bad consequences. Many addicted themselves to poetry, without plan and with an empty head. Without any poetical gifts, only for fashion or for fortune's sake, they rhymed awkwardly and ridiculously. Kings and princes rhymed that they might not fall behind their nobles, and often set bad examples. The better poets soon exhausted their genius, but as they were obliged to write, they became hyberbolical in matter and expression, or enigmatical, in order to attract attention. Good taste came slowly. The very manner of composing was an obstacle to its progress.
The subjects of their favourite songs, were, according to the genius of the age, war and love, religion and chivalrous emprize. In most of them, these subjects were united, though sometimes they were separately treated. But the minstrel chiefly dedicated his lays to the female sex. The mistress of his heart was placed before him in sweet and tender strains, in all her beauty and grace. Penetrated and charmed with the dignity of her birth and her character, the poet sung all her virtues and her charms, and sighed for her favours. The whole of these airs will seldom satisfy a severe taste, yet many are remarkable for