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“ Quel horrible spectacle offrez-vous à mes yeux?
Arrêtez, malheureux !
Can. I. p. 14, XXII.
This description does not suffer by a comparison with the forcible entry of the Gauls among the conscript Fathers. Our limits do not allow us to insert two stanzas descriptive of the vacillations of the minds of the soldiery, between pity, reverence, and ferocity; the latter of which prevails, and the venerable prelate expires with peace and forgiveness on his lips. It
may, perhaps, be expedient to remind some of our readers, that at the period of history at which the action of the poem begins, there prevailed in Constantinople a fanatical sect, known by the title of Iconoclasts, or breakers of images. They looked upon the representation of our Saviour upon the cross as an abomination : such were the assassins of Vilfrid. In the second Canto, which begins at the close of the seventh day, we find ourselves at Paris, at a splendid fete given by the royal lover in honor of his bride Armélie, alias Hermengarde, alias Berthe, alias Désidérade, for we learn from the Notes that the lady was entitled to all these names; and we have the opportunity of renewing our acquaintance with our former sovereign Egbert, of whose abolition of the Heptarchy honorable mention is made by Lucien ; and also with the celebrated Orlando, who appears as mad, and as heroic, as in the amusing pages of Ariosto, and is by far the most interesting figure upon the canvas. He espouses warmly the cause of the repudiated queen, and of course makes himself many enemies among the admirers of the reigning goddess of Charlemagne's idolatry. In the Third Canto we touch upon holy ground; the argument fearlessly announces, “ Cantique des tribus célestes. Les douze disciples. Message d'Elie. Cloître du mont Cassin.” The peculiar tenets of the Popish faith are clearly discernible in many passages, and especially in the high station and influence allotted to the Virgin Mary. The sacrilege of Didier is engraved upon the eternal records, and the prophet Elias chosen the messenger from heaven, to touch and turn the heart of Charlemagne. So far all is well; but how shall we translate the description of the attire of the sainted messenger.
“ La laine à plis épais forme ses vêtemens,
Can. IIl. p. 79, XVI.
Surely this minute detail of the woollen gårb of the embodied spirit is in very bad taste; the dress of heroic personages in a poem should be what it is in a first-rate historical picture, drapery and nothing but drapery; any accurate discrimination of the quality of the stuff destroys the sublimity of the general effect.
The Fourth Canto begins with the night of the seventh day, and opens with some very fine imagery. Charlemagne, touched with compunction at his adulterous league with the enemies of his faith, determines on visiting the tombs of his ancestors, a pious observance which he had long neglected. He found that
“L'herbe du péristile a couvert les degrés,
Cette ombre auguste et chère
Can. IV. p. 99, VIII. The holy Adelard finds the king in these pious dispositions, and the royal penitent abjures his errors with all the enthusiasm of a heart raade for virtue, and led away by ardent passions. The party of Armelia nevertheless continues strong; but the loyal and geneTous Orlando lends of course the prowess of his arm to the support of the injured queen, whose partizans are aided by the lover of the young Emma, daughter to Charlemagne and Adelinde, and who is introduced to the notice of the reader in some very pretty lines,
The Fifth Canto. takes in the time from the eighth to the tenth day, and relates the Derniers efforts d'Armélie : incertitudes de Charlemagne : triomphe de L'Hymen : adieux d'Armélie. Le doitre d'Adelinde. The adieus of guilty lovers are sometimes highly pathetic; witness the parting of Margaret, queen to Henry the Sixth, and her paramour the Duke of Suffolk, as given by Shakespeare. But our author, who, to do him justice, never loses sight of la haute morale, has taken care not to make his usurping beauty too interesting: a lady who presumptuously raises to heaven, « Des regards enflammés de haine et de vengeance,"
Cản. V. p. 136, xxx. excites little sympathy for her sorrows. Some traits of naturen, however, awaken pity, when she bewails her inconstancy to her first love, Rodamir, the son of Vitikind, Can. V. p. 187, XXXIII. Adelinde is re-instated on the throne of France, and in the heart NO. I. Aug. Rev. VOL. I.
of Charlemagne, whose wanderings she forgives as good wives must do-- when they can. Charlemagne is all tenderness and devotion; and, with what may appear to the peaceable followers of the gospel, a monstrous anomaly of images and feelings, takes up the sword and shield, and undertakes, in the name of God, a war of extermination against the enemies of the Holy See.
Argument of the Sixth Canto :- Tardes délivrée par Roland. Fuite des Maures. Trahison de Théodcbert duc de Gascogne. Songe de Rémistan. Vallée de Roncevaut. In this warlike Canto, Stanza xlv. p. 169, describes the inissile warfare, and stones and rocky fragments, to which Ruggiero, Orlando, Oliver, and the rest of the noble Paladins, are exposed in the pass of the Pyrenees. These brothers in arms at last perish together in the Valley of Roncevalles.
The argument of the seventh canto announces the Conseil des chefs alliés. Chaumière des laboureurs. Départ de Laurence et de ses fils. Jonction de Didier et d'Ezelin.
Armelia, sent back to her father, who is more intent upon avenging the affront offered to his house, than on consoling her sorrows, finds a champion in her former lover, the paladin Roda. mir, who promises to her vengeance the head of Charlemagne. The eighth canto extends in point of time from the thirty-sixth to the thirty-ninth day, and advances the history by the following steps. Propositions de paix repoussées par les Lombards. Marche des Français. Dénombrement des preux. Solitaire du mont Jove. Passage et combat des Alpes. The opening possesses a considerable degree of descriptive merit.
The principal part of this division of the poem is occupied by a catalogue raisonnée of the chiefs who fight under the banners of Charlemagne.
The ninth canto begins the thirty-ninth day, and bears for its argument merely this tremendous word, L'Enfer. As might have been expected, the finest traits in this canto are drawn directly from the source of the Inspired Writings; it is not however disfigured by the jumble of sacred and profane story, which disgraces the Divina Commedia of Dante ; the historical details present salutary warnings, and the punishment of Judas is not more disgusting
than the fiero pasto of Ugolino, who makes his eternal dinner of the reeking head of his persecutor! We are glad «6 evadere ad auras,” and to be conducted from Hell, by the tenth canto, into La forêt d'Eresbourg. Le culte d'Irmensul. Les captifs suèves à l'autel des druides. Some critics might object to the following lines, their plagiarism of Milton, but we must in charity abserve that it would have been very difficult to avoid it.
Lucifer s'élevant sur la sphère brûlante,
Can. 10. p. 263. 1. The barbarous rites of the worship of Irmensul occupy the greatest part of this canto. The eleventh extends from the thirtyninth to the fiftieth day, and contains the Message de Timance. L'Erargue en Espagne. Naufrage de Laurence. L'Alcasar.
In this canto the unsuspicious temper of Charlemagne is prac. ticed upon by the artifices of Irmensul, and believing in the penitence of Armelia, he consents to a peace with her father; the supernatural agency of Lucifer accomplishes the shipwreck and consequent captivity of Laurence (the widow of Carloman) with her children, and the machinery of the piece thus continues in play and interweaves itself with the human agents of the events narrated.
The twelfth canto begins on the fiftieth day, and contains Le combat des trois chefs. Victoire des saxons. Désespoir du paladin Raimond. Serment de Charlemagne. With this canto, followed by about fifty pages of notes, the first volume closes, and before we enter upon our analysis of the second, we may perhaps be allowed to make some comment on what we have already perused. Although it is acknowledged by the author, that some of the details rest solely upon the testimony of the ancient romanciers (antecedent to the troubadours, whose simple and affecting lays kept alive so long among the southern nations of Europe the flame of heroic enthusiasm), we have not been shocked by any glaring departure from established facts. The poem would have possessed more dramatic interest, had the interlocutors been less numeroas, and their hold upon the memory would have been more secure, had their names been less barbarous. We cannot pass orer, without the just tribute of our commendation, the melody and correctness of his versification, and the appropriate coloring of his descriptions: the manners of the poem are uniformly unexCeptionable, and the tendency of it is at once pious and moral ; qualities which the perverse ingenuity of some sectaries would divide, but which mutually aid and support each other, and cannot maintain their purity in a state of disunion.
But we must at the same time observe, that we never entered upon the perusal of a work, which had less power of fixing the attention : the eye passes over many lines, and the ear receives the cadence of many stanzas, which excite no corresponding perception in the mind. The first volume contains a very fine engraving from a bust of Lucien Buonaparte, and the second has for its
frontispiece a map of Rome and its environs. The thirteenth canto conducts the reader from the fiftieth to the sixty-eighth day and contains the Retour de Charlemagne. Félonie de Gaiffre d' Aquitaine. Honneurs funèbres rendus à Roland.
The fourteenth canto contains two days, and relates Le pont d'Argente. Combat du paladin Isolier et du Scandinave Edgard. Captifs français délivrés. Le rocher de Roland. Charlemagne, in the true spirit of a crusader, of those self-appointed defenders of the faith, who make the edge of the sabre the medium of conversion, and mangle the body to persuade the mind, exclaims,
La mort ou le baptême ! A cet arrêt terrible
Can. 14. p. 42. xxxi.
argument of the sixteenth canto runs thus, Chêne et bứcher d'Irmensul. Le fils d'Héral. Apparition de la religion chrétienne: Vision prophétique des descendants de Vitikind.
The seventeenth canto takes up the space of seven days and relates the Campement des Huns. Combat des Ringues. Dépouilles des Huns. Tassillon de Baviere aux pieds de Charlemagne. Ar. melia appears again upon the scene, escorted by her lover and ehampion Rodamir, but the canto closes with the successes of les preux and Charlemagne.
In the beginning of the eighteenth canto, the princely author for the first time speaks in his own person, after giving the example of a forbearance which writing people will know how to estimate :
Quel orage a brisé les cordes de ma lyre?
Rome offrait à mes yeux