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I am now chiefly concerned, is a PROMPTUARY, or ample repository, of examples for composing sermons; and in the Prologue to this part the author says, that saint Dominic always abundabat exemplis in his discourses, and that he constantly practised this popular mode of edification. This part contains a variety of little histories. Among others, are the following. Chaucer's Friar's tale. Aristotle falling in love with a queen, who compels him to permit her to ride upon his back. The boy who was kept in a dark cave till he was twelve years of age; and who being carried abroad, and presented with many striking objects, preferred a woman to all he had seen P. A boy educated in a desert is brought into a city, where he sees a woman whom he is taught to call a fine bird, under the name of a goose : and on his return into the desert, desires his spiritual father to kill him a goose for his dinner. These two last stories Boccace has worked into one. The old woman and her little dog". This, as we have seen, is in the Gesta RoMANORUM'. The son who will not shoot at his father's dead body'. I give these as specimens of the collection. The third part contains stories for sermon-writers, consisting only of select miracles of the Virgin Mary. The first of these is the tale of the chaste Roman empress, occurring in the Harleian manuscripts of the Gesta, and versified by Occleve; yet with some variation'. This third part is closed with these words, which also end the volume. “Explicit tabula Exemplorum in tractatulo de Exemplis gloriose Virginis Mariecontentorum.” I quote from the first edition, which is a clumsy folio in a rude Gothic letter, in two volumes; and without pagings, signatures, or initials. The place and year are also wanting; but it was certainly printed before 1480", and probably at Nuremburgh.
• EXEMPL. lxvii. sub litera M. “ De CH. xxviii. regina quæ equitavit Aristotelem.” He " This is alao in the GESTA, CH. xlv. cites Jacobus de Vitriaco. (See supr. -EXEMPL. viii. Lit. B. p. cxciv.)
See supr. p. cclv. P EXEMPL. xxiv. sub Litera L.
u For the second edition is at Nurem• Ibid. Exempl. xxiii. (See supr. burgh, 1482. fol. Others followed, bep. ccxxiv.)
fore 1500. ' EXEMPL. xii, sub lit. V.
The same author also wrote a set of sermons called Sermones de tempore". In these I findx Alphonsus's story, which in the Gesta ROMANORUM is the tale of the two knights of Egypt and Baldach'; and, in Boccace's DECAMERON, the history of Tito and GESIPPO: Parnell's HERMIT2: and the apologue of the king's brother who had heard the trumpet of Deatha: both which last are also in the GESTA". Such are the revolutions of taste, and so capricious the modes of composition, that a Latin homily-book of a German monk in the fifteenth century, should exhibit outlines of the tales of Boccace, Chaucer, and Parnell !
It may not be thought impertinent to close this discourse with a remark on the MORALISATIONS subjoined to the stories of the GESTA ROMANORUM. This was an age of vision and mystery: and every work was believed to contain a double, or secondary, meaning. Nothing escaped this eccentric spirit of refinement and abstraction: and, together with the bible, as we have seen, not only the general history of antient times was explained allegorically, but even the poetical fictions of the classics were made to signify the great truths of religion, with a degree of boldness, and a want of a discrimination, which in another age would have acquired the character of the most profane levity, if not of absolute impiety, and can only be defended from the simplicity of the state of knowledge which then prevailed.
Thus, God creating man of clay, animated with the vital principle of respiration, was the story of Prometheus, who formed a man of similar materials, to which he communicated
"The only edition I have seen, with also early impressions of his SERMONES the addition of the SERMONES DE SANC- QUADRAGESIMALES, and of other pieces TIs, and the PROMPTUARIUM EXEMPLO- of the same sort. All his works were RUM above mentioned, was printed by published together in three volumes, M. Flaccius, Argentin. 1499. fol. But Mogunt. 1612. 4to. The EXAMPLES there is an earlier edition. At the close appeared separately, Daventr. 1481. of the last Sermon, he tells us why he Colon. 1485. Argentorat. 1489. 1490. chose to be styled DISCIPULUS. Be- Hagen. 1512. 1519. fol. cause, non subtilia per modum MA * Serm. cxxi. col. ii. Signat. C. 5. GISTRI, sed simplicia per modum Disci V Ch. clxxi. 2 Serm. liii. PULI, conscripsi et collegi." I have seen Serm. cix, • Ch. lxxx. cxlii.
life by fire stolen from heaven. Christ twice born, of his father God and of his mother Mary, was prefigured by Bacchus, who was first born of Semele, and afterwards of Jupiter. And as Minerva sprung from the brain of Jupiter, so Christ proceeded from God without a mother. Christ born of the Virgin Mary was expressed in the fable of Danae shut within a tower, through the covering of which Jupiter descended in a shower of gold, and begot Perseus. Acteon, killed by his own hounds, was a type of the persecution and death of our Saviour. The poet Lycophron relates, that Hercules in returning from the adventure of the Golden Fleece was shipwrecked ; and that being devoured by a monstrous fish, he was disgorged alive on the shore after three days. Here was an obvious symbol of Christ's resurrection. John Waleys, an English Franciscan of the thirteenth century, in his moral exposition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses", affords many other instances equally ridiculous; and who forgot that he was describing a more heterogeneous chaos, than that which makes so conspicuous a figure in his author's exordium, and which combines, amid the monstrous and indigested aggregate of its unnatural associations,
Sine pondere habentia pondusd. At length, compositions professedly allegorical, with which that age abounded, were resolved into allegories for which they were never intended. In the famous RoMAUNT OF THE Rose, written about the year 1310, the poet couches the difficulties of an ardent lover in attaining the object of his passion, under the allegory of a Rose, which is gathered in a delicious but almost inaccessible garden. The theologists proved this rose to be the white rose of Jericho, the new Jerusalem, a state of grace, divine wisdom, the holy Virgin, or eternal beatitude, at none of which obstinate heretics can ever arrive. The chemists
& METAM. l. i. 20.
I have before mentioned Bercho. rius's OviD MORALISEV.
pretended, that it was the philosopher's stone; the civilians, that it was the most consummate point of equitable decision; and the physicians, that it was an infallible panacea. In a word, other professions, in the most elaborate commentaries, explained away the lover's rose into the mysteries of their own respective science. In conformity to this practice, Tasso allegorised his own poem: 'and a flimsy structure of morality was raised on the chimerical conceptions of Ariosto's ORLANDO. In the year 1577, á translation of a part of Amadis de Gaule appeared in France; with a learned preface, developing the valuable stores of profound instruction, concealed under the naked letter of the old romances, which were discernible only to the intelligent, and totally unperceived by common readers; who, instead of plucking the fruit, were obliged to rest contented with le simple FLEUR de la Lecture litterale. Even Spenser, at a later period, could not indulge his native impulse to descriptions of chivalry, without framing such a story, as conveyed, under the dark conceit of ideal champions, a set of historic transactions, and an exemplification of the nature of the twelve moral virtues. He presents his fantastic queen with a rich romantic mirrour, which showed the wondrous achievements of her magnificent ancestry.
And thou, O fairest princess under sky,
And thine own realmes in Lond of Faery, And in this antique image thy great ancestry“. It was not, however, solely from an unmeaning and a wanton spirit of refinement, that the fashion of resolving every thing into allegory so universally prevailed. The same apology may be offered for the cabalistical interpreters, both of the classics and of the old romances. The former not willing that those books should be quite exploded which contained the antient mythology, laboured to reconcile the apparent ab
• B. ii. INTROD. St. vi.
surdities of the pagan system to the christian mysteries, by demonstrating a figurative resemblance. The latter, as true learning began to dawn, with a view of supporting for a while the expiring credit of giants and magicians, were compelled to palliate those monstrous incredibilities, by, a bold attempt to unravel the mystíc web which had been wove by fairy hands, and by showing that truth was hid under the gorgeous veil of Gothic invention.