網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

which he discharged six arrows at the Christian with such unerring skill, that the goodness of his harness alone saved him from being wounded in as many places. The seventh shaft apparently found a less perfect part of the armor, and the Christian dropped heavily from his horse. But what was the surprise of the Saracen, when, dismounting to examine the condition of his prostrate enemy, he found himself suddenly within the grasp of the European, who had had recourse to this artifice to bring his enemy within his reach! Even in this deadly grapple, the Saracen was saved by his agility and presence of mind. He unloosed the sword-belt, in which the Knight of the Leopard had fixed his hold, and thus eluding his fatal grasp, mounted his horse, which seemed to watch his motions with the intelligence of a human being, and again rode off. But in the last encounter the Saracen had lost his sword and his quiver of arrows, both of which were attached to the girdle which he was obliged to abandon. He had also lost his turban in the struggle. These disadvantages seemed to incline the Moslem to a truce. He approached the Christian with his right hand extended, but no longer in a menacing attitude.

"There is truce betwixt our nations," he said, in the Lingua Franca 19 commonly used for the purpose of communication with the Crusaders; "wherefore should there be war betwixt thee and me ? — Let there be peace betwixt us."

"I am well contented," answered he of the Couchant Leopard; “but what security dost thou offer that thou wilt observe the truce?” "The word of a follower of the Prophet was never broken," answered the Emir. "It is thou, brave Nazarene, from whom I should demand security, did I not know that treason seldom dwells with courage." The Crusader felt that the confidence of the Moslem made him ashamed of his own doubts.

66

"By the cross of my sword," he said, laying his hand on the weapon as he spoke, I will be true companion to thee, Saracen, while our fortune wills that we remain in company together."

"By Mohammed, Prophet of God, and by Allah, God of the Prophet," replied his late foeman, "there is not treachery in my heart toward thee. And now wend we to yonder fountain, for the hour of rest is at hand, and the stream had hardly touched my lip when I was called to battle by thy approach."

The Knight of the Couchant Leopard yielded a ready and courteous assent; and the late foes, without an angry look, or gesture of doubt, rode side by side to the little cluster of palm-trees.

NOTES TO THE TALISMAN.

THE extract given is the first chapter of "The Talisman." It well illustrates Scott's largeness of style, and his powers of graphic description.

The events narrated in "The Talisman "are supposed to have occurred during the Third Crusade. This was undertaken by Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor of Germany, with the support of Phillip II. of France, and Richard I., surnamed Cœur de Lion, of England. It accomplished nothing farther than the establishment of a truce with Saladin, during which the privilege of visiting the holy places of Palestine was accorded to Christians.

"The Talisman " was Scott's first attempt to treat an Eastern theme. In this field he had been preceded by other distinguished English writers. Southey in his "Thalaba," Moore in his "Lalla Rookh," and Byron in several of his romantic tales, had treated Oriental scenes and characters with eminent success. Scott felt a hesitancy, as he tells us, about entering into rivalry with his illustrious contemporaries, especially as he had never had an opportunity to observe the landscape and people that he undertook to describe. The result, however, showed his fears to be groundless, and served only to increase his overshadowing reputation.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

2. A name derived from the ancient classical writers. In Lat. Lacus

Asphaltites.

3. Accursed cities

=

Sodom and Gomorrah. See Gen. xix. 24, 25.

4. This name is taken from Gen. xiv. 10.
5. See Deut. xxix. 23.

6. These features are exaggerated.

smell nor noxious vapor arises from the lake.

Birds abound; and no noisome

7. Naptha contains no sulphur; hence the adjective must be taken as referring only to color.

8. Barred helmet. See Webster.

9. Hauberk

[ocr errors]

= a shirt of mail formed of small steel rings interwoven. The "coat of linked mail" referred to above. See Webster.

[blocks in formation]

II. Pennoncelle = a small flag or streamer borne at the top of a lance. Called also pencel.

[merged small][ocr errors]

the long and flowing drapery of knights, anterior to the

introduction of plate armor.

[blocks in formation]

armorial device or coat of arms.

the plume of feathers, or other decoration, worn on a

=

15. Panoply complete armor.

plement of war, harness.

From Gr. pan, all, and hoplon, im

16. Caftan = a Persian or Turkish vest or garment. 17. Saracen cavalier

Kurdistan.

=

Sheerkohf, the Lion of the Mountain, from

18. Emir =an Arabian prince. As he informed Sir Kenneth afterwards, ten thousand men were ready to take the field at his word.

19. Lingua Franca = a kind of corrupt Italian, with a considerable admixture of French words.

LORD BYRON.

No other poet has so embodied himself in his poetry as Byron. Had he not possessed a powerful individuality, his works would long since have perished. He was utterly lacking in the independent creative power of Shakespeare, who never identified himself with his characters. Throughout Byron's many works, we see but one person—a proud, misanthropic, sceptical, ungovernable man. Whatever exaggerations of feature there may be in the portrait, we recognize the essential outlines of the poet himself.

His poetry is largely biographical, and his utterance intense. Without the careful artistic polish of many minor poets, his manner is rapid, stirring, powerful. He was, perhaps, the most remarkable poetic genius of the century; yet his powers were not turned to the best account. He lacked the balance of a noble character and a well-regulated life. On reading a collection of Burns's poems, he once exclaimed: "What an antithetical mind! - tenderness, roughness delicacy, coarseness sentiment, sensuality soaring and grovelling — dirt and deity — all mixed up in that one compound of inspired clay." The same antitheses might be applied with equal truth to himself.

[ocr errors]

His place in literature is not yet fixed. "In my mind," wrote Carlyle," Byron has been sinking at an accelerated rate for the last ten years, and has now reached a very low level." On the other hand, Taine declares that "he is so great and so English, that from him alone we shall learn more truths of his country and his age than from all the rest put together."

When the final verdict is made up, the Scotchman will probably be nearer the truth than the Frenchman. The finest

strains of poetry are not to be found in his productions; and the moral sense of the world has become too strong to approve his flippant scepticism or condone his shameful immoralities. He once called himself, "The grand Napoleon of the realms of rhyme." The comparison is not unjust; but in both cases. alike, the glamour of brilliant achievement has been stripped off, and the forbidding personal character brought to light. Byron was endowed with extraordinary ability; but in large measure he used his powers to vent his misanthropy, to mock at virtue and religion, and to conceal the hideousness of vice.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, was born in London, Jan. 22, 1788. His ancestry runs back in an unbroken line of nobility to the time of William the Conqueror. His father was an unprincipled and heartless profligate, who married an heiress to get her property, and who, as soon as this was squandered, abandoned her. His mother was a proud, passionate, hysterical woman, who alternately caressed and abused her child. At one moment treating him with extravagant fondness, at the next she reproached him as a "lame brat," and flung the poker at his head. "Your mother's a fool," said a school companion to him. "I know it," was the painful and humiliating answer. With such parentage and such rearing, it becomes us to temper somewhat the severity of our judgment of his character.

He was sent to school at Harrow. "I soon found," wrote the head-master soon afterwards, "that a wild mountain colt had been submitted to my management." Byron did not take much interest in the prescribed studies, and never became an accurate scholar. His reading, however, was extensive, and he learned French and Italian. He formed a few warm friendships. During one of his vacations, he fell in love with Mary Ann Chaworth, whose father the poet's grand uncle had slain. in a tavern brawl. He was fifteen, and she was two years older. Looking upon him as a boy, she did not take his attachment seriously, and a year later married another. To Byron, who loved her with all the ardor of his nature, it was a grievous disappointment; and years afterwards, when he him

« 上一頁繼續 »