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mar at Toulouse were directed by statutes of the University, dated 1328, to read to their pupils "De Historiis Alexandri." In England, during the reign of Henry the Third, the sheriff was ordered to procure the Queen's chamber at Nottingham to be painted with the history of Alexander, -"Depingi facias historiam Alexandri circumquaque."2 Chaucer, in his "House of Fame," places Alexander with Hercules, and then again shows the universality of his renown:
"The storie of Alexandre is so commune,
That every wight that hath discretioun
Hath herd som what or all of his fortune." 4
We have the excellent authority of the poet Gray for the remark, that the Alexandrine verse, which" like a wounded snake drags its slow length along," took its name from an early poem in this measure, called “La Vie d'Alexandre." There was also the "Roman d'Alexandre," contemporary with the "Alexandreïs," which Gray thinks was borrowed from the latter, apparently because the authors say that they took it from the Latin. There was also "The Life and Actions of Alexander the Macedonian," originally written in Greek, by Simeon Seth, magister, and protovestiary or wardrobekeeper of the palace at Constantinople, in 1070, and translated from Greek into Latin, and thence into French, Italian, and German. Other forms have been perpetuated by the bibliographical care of the Roxburghe Club and the Bannatyne Club. Arabia contrib
1 Warton, History of English Poetry, Vol. I. p clxix.
2 Madox, History of the Exchequer (London, 1769), Vol. I. p. 377.
8 Book III. 323.
4 The Monk's Tale: Alexander.
5 Observations on English Metre: Works (London, 1843), Vol. V. p. 258,
6 Warton, History of English Poetry, Vol. I. pp. 133, 134.
uted her stories, and the Grecian conqueror became a hero of romance. Like Charlemagne, he had his twelve peers; and he also had a horn to proclaim his word of command, which took sixty men to blow, and was heard sixty miles, - being the same which Orlando sounded afterwards at Roncesvalles. That great career, which was one of the epochs of mankind, which carried in its victorious march the Greek language and Greek civilization, which at the time enlarged the geography of the world, opening the way to India, and which Plutarch in his "Morals " makes so Christian, was overlaid by an incongruous mass of fable and anachronism, so that the real story disappeared. Times, titles, and places were confounded. Monks and convents, churches and confessors, were mixed with achievements of the hero; and in an early Spanish History of Alexander, by Juan Lorenzo Segura, we meet such characters as Don Phoebus, the Emperor Jupiter, and the Count Don Demosthenes, and others with the constant prefix of Don; and the mother of Achilles is represented as placing him, when a child, in a convent of Benedictine nuns, thus subjecting the early hero as the later to the same jumble of Heathen and Christian mythology.1
Philip Gaultier, with all his genius, has incongruities and anachronisms; but his poem is founded substantially upon the History of Quintus Curtius, which he has done into Latin hexameters, with the addition of long speeches and some few inventions. Aristotle is represented with a hideous exterior, face and body
1 Poema de Alexandro Magno, Coplas 190, 275, 342, 387; also Prólogo, § 38: Sanchez, Coleccion de Poesias Castellanas anteriores al Siglo XV. (Madrid, 1782), Tom. III.
lean, hair neglected, and the air of a pedant exhausted by study. The soldiers of Alexander are called Quirites, as if they were Romans. The month of June in Greece is described as if it were in Rome:
"Mensis erat, cujus juvenum de nomine nomen." 1
Events connected with the passion of Jesus Christ are treated as having already passed in the time of Alexander.
The poem is divided into ten books, corresponding to the number in the original of Curtius,2 and the ten initial letters of the books, when put together like an acrostic, spell the name of the Archbishop, Guillermus, the equivalent for William at that time, the patron of the poet. Besides this conceit, there is a dedication both at the beginning and the end. Quantity, especially in Greek or Asiatic words, is disregarded; and there are affectations in style, of which the very beginning is an instance:
"Gesta ducis Macepûm totum digesta per orbem,
In the same vein is the verse,
"Inclitus ille Clitus," etc.; 4
and another verse, describing the violence of the soldiers after victory:
"Extorquent torques, et inaures perdidit auris." 5
A rapid analysis will at least exhibit the order of events in the poem, and its topics, with something of its character.
1 Lib. I. 249.
2 Vossius (De Poetis Latinis, Cap. VI.) is mistaken in saying that it had nine books, instead of ten.
See also Menagiana, Tom. I. p. 174.
8 Lib. I. 11-15.
5 Lib. III. 237.
Alexander appears, in the first book, a youth panting for combat with the Persians, enemies of his country. and of his father. There also is his teacher, Aristotle. Philip dies, and the son repairs to Corinth for coronation. Under the counsels of Demosthenes, the Athenians declare against him. The young king arrives under the walls of Athens. Demosthenes speaks for war; Æschines for peace. The party of peace prevails; and the Macedonian turns to Thebes, which he besieges and captures by assault. The poet Cloades, approaching the conqueror, chants in lyric verses an appeal for pardon, and reminds him that without clemency a kingdom is unstable :
"Instabile est regnum quod non clementia firmat."1 And the words of this chant are still resounding. Alexander, angry and inexorable, will not relent. He levels the towers, which had first risen to the music of Amphion, and delivers the city to the flames, — thus adding a new act to that tragic history which made Dante select Thebes as the synonym of misfortune.2 Turning from these smoking ruins, he gathers men and ships against Persia. Traversing the sea, he lands in Asia; and here the poet describes geographically the different states of that continent, — Assyria, Media, Persia, Arabia, with its Sabaean frankincense and its single phoenix, ending with Palestine, where a God was born of a Virgin, at whose death the world shook with fear. Commencing his march through Cilicia and Phrygia, the ambitious youth stops at Troy, and visits the tomb of Achilles, where he makes a long speech.
The second book opens with the impression on the
1 Lib. I. 352.
2 Inferno, Canto XXXIII. 89.
mind of Darius, menaced by his Macedonian enemy. He writes an insolent letter, which Alexander answers by moving forward. At Sardes he cuts the Gordian knot, and then advances rapidly. Darius quits the Euphrates with his vast army, which is described. Alexander bathes in the cold waters of the Cydnus, is seized with illness, and shows his generous trust in the physician that attended him, - drinking the handed cup, although said to be poisoned. Restored to health, he shows himself to his troops, who are transported with joy. Meanwhile the Persians advance. Darius harangues. Alexander also. The two armies prepare for battle.
The third book is of battle and victory at Issus, described with minuteness and warmth. Here dies Zoroas, the Egyptian astronomer, than whom nobody was more skilled in the stars, the origin of winter's cold or summer's heat, or in the mystery of squaring the circle, — "circulus an possit quadrari."1 The Persians are overcome. Darius seeks shelter in Babylon. His treasures are the prey of the conqueror. Horses are laden with spoils, and the sacks are so full that they cannot be tied. Rich ornaments are torn from the women, who are surrendered to the brutality of the soldiers. Only the royal family is spared. Conducted to the presence. of Alexander, they are received with the regard due to their sex and misfortune. The siege and destruction. of Tyre follow; then the expedition to Egypt and the temple of Jupiter Ammon. Here is a description of the Desert, which is said, like the sea, to have its perils, with its Scylla and its Charybdis of sand : —
1 Lib. III. 157. This is the passage translated into blank verse by the early English poet, Nicholas Grimoald. See Ritson, Bibliographia Poetica, p. 228.