תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

sopher and Edric' his son, never printedo, written by Peter Alphonsus, a baptized Jew, at the beginning of the twelfth century, and collected from Arabian fables, apothegms, and examples '. Some are also borrowed from an old Latin translation of the CALILAH U DAMNAH, a celebrated fett of eastern fables, to which Alphonsus was indebted.

On the whole, this is the collection in which a curious enquirer might expect to find the original of Chaucer's Cam

buscan :

Or,-if aught else great bards beside
In sage and folemn tunes have sung,
Of turneys and of trophies hung,
Of forests and inchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear 9.

Our author frequently cites Gesta ROMANORUM, the title of his own work. By which I understand no particular book of that name, but the Roman History in general. Thus in the title of the SAINT ALBANS CHRONICLE, printed by Caxton, Titus Livyus de Gestis ROMANORUM is recited. In the

year 1544, Lucius Florus was printed at Paris under the same title?. In the British Museum we find - Les FAIS DE ROMAINS jusques a la fin de l'empire Domician, selon “ Orose, Justin, Lucan, &c." A plain historical deduction '. The ROMULEON, an old manuscript history of Rome from the foundation of the city to Constantine the Great, is also called de GESTIS ROMANORUM. This manuscript occurs both in Latin and French : and a French copy, among the royal ma-.

* EDRIC was the name of Enoch among the Arabians, to whom they attri. bute many fabulous compofitions. Herbe. lot, in v. Lydgate's CHORLE and The BIRD, mentioned above, is taken from the CLERICALIS DISCIPLINA of Alphonsus.

• MSS. HAŘL. 3861. And in many other libraries. It occurs in old French verse, MSS. Dign. 86. membran. Le

“ Romaunz de Peres Aunfour coment il aprift " et chastia fon fils belement." (See fupr. vol. ä. EMEND. and Add. at pag. 103.)

P See Tyrwhitt's CHAUCER, vol. iv. p. 325. seq. 9 Milton's IL PENSEROSO.

Apud Vascofan. 4to. s MSS. REG. 20 C i.

nuscripts,

nuscripts, has the title, “ ROMULEON, ou des FAIS DE Ro“ MAINS!.” Among the manuscript books written by Lapus de Castellione, a Florentine civilian, who flourished about the year 1350, there is one, De Origine URBIS ROMÆ et de Gestis ROMANORUM". Gower, in the Confessio Amantis, often introduces Roman stories with the Latin preamble, Hic secundum GESTA. Where he certainly means the Roman History, which by degrees had acquired simply the appellation of Gesta. Herman Korner, in his CHRONICA NOVELLA, written about the year 1738, refers for his vouchers to Bede, Orofius, ValeTius Maximus, Josephus, Eusebius, and the Chronicon et Gesta ROMANORUM. Most probably, to say no more, by the CHRONICON he means the later writers of the Roman affairs, such as Ifidore and the monkish compilers; and by GESTA the antient Roman history, as related by Livy and the more established Latin historians.

Neither is it possible that this work could have been brought as a proof or authority, by any serious annalist, for the Roman story.

For though it bears the title of Gesta ROMANORUM, yet this title by no means properly corresponds with the contents of the collection : which, as has been already hinted, comprehends a multitude of narratives, either not historical ; or, in another respect, such as are either totally unconnected with the Roman people, or perhaps the most preposterous misrepresentations of their history. To cover this deviation from the promised plan, which, by introducing a more ample variety of matter, has contributed to encrease the reader's entertainment, our collector has taken care to preface almost every story with the name or reign of a Roman emperor ; who, at the same time, is often a monarch that never existed, and who seldom, whether real or fuppofitious, has any concern with the circumstances of the narrative.

· MS, 19 E. v.

u See fupr, vol. ii. p. 19.

But

But I hasten to exhibit a compendious analysis of the chapa ters which form this very singular compilation : intermixing occasional illustrations arising from the subject, and shortening or lengthening my abridgement of the stories, in proportion as I judge they are likely to interest the reader. Where, for that reason, I have been very concise, I have yet said enough to direct the critical antiquarian to this collection, in case he should find a similar tale occurring in any of our old poets. I have omitted the mention of a very few chapters, which were beneath notice. Sometimes, where common authors are quoted, I have only mentioned the author's name, without specifying the substance of the quotation. For it was necessary that the reader should be made acquainted with our collector's track of reading, and the books which he used. In the mean time, this review will serve as a full notification of the edition of 1488, which is more comprehensive and complete than some others of later publication, and to which all the rest, as to a general criterion, may be now comparatively referred.

Chap. i. Of a daughter of king Pompey, whose chamber was guarded by five armed knights and a dog. Being permitted to be present at a public shew, she is seduced by a duke, who is afterwards killed by the champion of her father's court. She is reconciled to her father, and betrothed to a nobleman : on which occasion, she receives from her father an embroidered robe and a crown of gold, from the champion a gold ring, another from the wise man who pacified the king's anger, another from the king's son, another from her cousin, and from her spouse a seal of gold. All these presents are inscribed with proverbial sentences, suitable to the circumstances of the princess.

The latter part of this story is evidently oriental. The feudal manners, in a book which professes to record the achievements of the Roman people, are remarkable in the introductory circumstances. But of this mixture we shall see many striking instances. CHAP. ii. Of a youth taken captive by pirates. The king's

daughter

daughter falls in love with him; and having procured his escape, accompanies him to his own country, where they are married.

Chap. vi. An emperor is married to a beautiful young princess. In case of death, they mutually agree not to survive one other. To try the truth of his wife, the emperor going into a distant country, orders a report of his death to be circulated. In remembrance of her vow, and in imitation of the wives of India, he prepares to throw herself headlong from a high pre.. cipice. She is prevented by her father ; who interposes his paternal authority, as predominating over a rash and unlawful promise.

CHAP. vii. Under the reign of Dioclesian, a noble knight had two sons, the youngest of which marries a harlot.

This story, but with a difference of circumstances, ends like the beautiful apologue of the Prodigal Son.

CHAP. viii. The emperor Leo commands three female ftatues to be made. One has a gold ring on a finger

pointing forward, another a beard of gold, and the third a golden cloak and purple tunic. Whoever steals any of these ornaments, is to be punished with an ignominious death.

This story is copied by Gower, in the Confessio AMANTis: but he has altered some of the circumstances. He supposes a statue of Apollo.

Of plate of golde a berde he hadde,
The wiche his brest all ovir spradde :
Of golde also, without fayle,
His mantell was, of large entayle,
Besette with perrey all aboute:
Forth ryght he straught his fynger oute,
Upon the whiche he had a rynge,
To seen it was a ryche thynge,
A fyne carbuncle for the nones
Moste precious of all stones".

# Lib. v. fol. 122. b.

b

VOL. III.

In

In the sequel, Gower follows the substance of our author.

CHAP, X. Vespasian marries a wife in a diftant country, who refuses to return home with him, and yet declares she will kill herself if he goes. The emperor ordered two rings to be made, of a wonderous efficacy; one of which, in the stone, has the image of Oblivion, the other the image of Memory : the ring of Oblivion he gave to the empress, and returned home with the ring of Memory.

CHAP. xi. The queen of the south sends her daughter to king Alexander, to be his concubine. She was exceedingly beautiful, but had been nourished with poison from her birth. Alexander's master, Aristotle, whose fagacity nothing. could escape, knowing this, entreated, that before she was admitted to the king's bed, a malefactor condemned to death might be fent for, who should give her a kiss in the presence of the king. The malefactor, on kissing her, instantly dropped down dead. Aristotle, having explained his reasons for what he had done, was loaded with honours by the king, and the princess was disinissed to her mother.

This story is founded on the twenty-eighth chapter of Ariftotle's SECRETUM SECRETORUM: in which, a queen of India is said to have treacherously sent to Alexander, among other costly presents, the pretended testimonies of her friendship, a girl of exquisite beauty, who having been fed with serpents from her infancy, partook of their nature". If I recollect right, in Pliny there are accounts of nations whose natural food was poison. Mithridates, king of Pontus, the land of venomous herbs, and the country of the forceress Medea, was supposed to

y (See fupr. vol. i. p. 132.] This I now cite from a Latin translation, without date, but evidently printed before 1500. It is dedicated to Guido Vere de Valen. cia bishop of Tripoly, by his most humble Clerk, Philippus: who says, that he found this treatise in Arabic at Antioch, quo. carebant Latini, and that therefore, and

because the Arabic copies were scarce, he translated it into Latin.

This printed copy does not exactly correspond with MS. BODL. 495. membr. 4to. In the last, Alexander's miraculous horn is mentioned at fol. 45. b. In the former, in ch. lxxii. The dedication is the same in both.

eat

« הקודםהמשך »