תמונות בעמוד

* Berchorius was constituted grammatical preceptor to the novices of the Benedićtine Congregation, or monastery, at Clugni, in the year 134o'. At which time he drew up his Notes on the Prosody, and his Commentary on Ovid, for the use of his scholars. About the same time, and with a view of rendering their exercises in Latinity more agreeable and easy by an entertaining Latin story-book, yet resoluble into lessons of religion, he probably compiled the Gest A : perpetually addressing the application of every tale to his young audience, by the paternal and affectionate appellation of CARIssi Mi". There was therefore time enough for the GE's TA to become a fashionable book of tales, before Boccace published his DECAMERo N. The action of the Dec AMER on being supposed in 1348, the year of the great pestilence, we may safely conjećture, that Boccace did not begin his work till after that period. An exact and ingenious critic has proved, that it was not finished till the year 1358 ". I have just observed, that Berchorius probably compiled this work for the use of his grammatical pupils. Were there not many good reasons for that supposition, I should be induced to think, that it might have been intended as a book of stories for the purpose of preachers. I have already given instances, that it was antiently fashionable for preachers to enforce the several moral duties by applying fables, or exemplary narratives: and, in the present case, the perpetual recurrence of the address of CARIss IMI might be brought in favour of this hypothesis. But I will here suggest an additional reason. Soon after the age of

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

Berchorius, a similar collečtion of stories, of the same cast, was compiled, though not exačtly in the same form, professedly defigned for sermon writers, and by one who was himself an eminent preacher: for, rather before the year 148o, a Latin volume was printed in Germany, written by John Herolt a Dominican

friar of Basil, better known by the adopted and humble appella

tion of DiscIPULUs, and who flourished about the year 1418. It consists of three parts. The first is entitled “ Incipiunt Ser“ mones pernotabiles Discipuli de Sanétis per anni circu“, lum.” That is, a set of Sermons on the Saints of the whole year. The second part, and with which I am now chiefly concerned, is a PRomPTUARY, or ample repofitory, 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 practiced this popular mode of edification. This part contains a variety of little histories.

Among others, are the following. Chaucer's Friar's tale. Aris

totle 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

[ocr errors]

woman, to all he had seen ". 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 Gest A Rom AN or UM". The son who will not shoot at his father's dead body'. I give these as specimens of the collection. The third part contains 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 objećt 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 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, a 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 Leółure 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 transačtions, and an exemplification of the nature of the twelve moral virtues. He presents his fantastic queen with a rich romantic mirrour, which shewed the wonderous achievements of her magnificent ancestry.

* Exampl. lxvii. Sub litera, M. “ De * Ibid. Exempl. xxiii. [See supr. p. 1.]

“ regina quae equitavit Aristotelem.” He * Exempl. xii. Sub. lit. W. cites Jacobus de Vitriaco. [See supr. P. . . Ch. xxviii. xix.] - * This is also in the Gesta, ch. xlv. * Exe MPL, xxiv. Sub Litera, L. . -Exempl. viii. Lit. B, stories

[ocr errors]

. . . - . . . . . . . . . ~ * - - ! And

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 absurdities 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 mystic web which had been wove by fairy hands, and by shewing that truth was hid under the gorgeous veil of Gothic invention.

* B. ii. In trop. St. vi.

Vol. III. f)

« הקודםהמשך »