תמונות בעמוד

an expedition ;-a circumstance which also contributed to give a variety to the stories. · And for a number of persons in their situation, so natural, so practicable, so pleasant, I add so rational, a mode of entertainment could not have been imagined.

The CANTERBURY Tales are unequal, and of various merit. Few, if any, of the stories are perhaps the invention of Chaucer. I have already spoken at large of the Knight's TALE, one of our author's noblest compositions. That of the CANTERBURY Tales, which deserves the next place, as written in the higher strain of poetry, and the poem by which Milton describes and characterises Chaucer, is the SQUIER's TALE. The imagination of this story consists in Arabian fiction engrafted on Gothic chivalry. Nor is this Arabian fiction purely the sport of arbitrary fancy: it is in great measure founded on Arabian learning. Cambuscan, a king of Tartary, celebrates his birth-day festival in the hall of his palace at Sarra, with the most royal magnificence. In the midst of the solemnity, the guests are alarmed with a miraculous and unexpected spectacle: the minstrells cease on a sudden, and all the assembly is hushed in silence, surprise, and suspence.

While that this king sit thus in his nobley,
Herking his ministralles hir thinges pley,
Beforne him at his bord deliciously :
In'at the hallè dore, al sodenly,
Ther came a knight upon a stede of bras ;
And in his hond a brod mirroùr of glas :
Upon his thombe he had of gold a ring,
And by his side a naked swerd hanging.
And up he rideth to the highe bord:
In all the halle ne was ther spoke a word,
For mervaille of this knight; him to behold

Ful besily they waiten yong and old.a • The reader will excuse my irregu

V. 96.

See a fine romantic story of larity in not considering it under the a Count de Macon: who, while revelCANTERBURY TALES. I have here given ling in his hall with many knights, is the reason, which is my apology, in the suddenly alarmed by the entrance of a text.

gigantic figure of a black man, mounted

These presents were sent by the king of Araby and Inde to Cambuscan in honour of his feast. The Horse of brass, on the skillful movement and management of certaîn secret springs, transported his rider into the most distant region of the world in the space of twenty-four hours; for, as the rider chose, he could fly in the air with the swiftness of an eagle: and again, as occasion required, he could stand motionless in opposition to the strongest force, vanish on a sudden at command, and return at his master's call. The Mirrour of glass was endued with the power of shewing any future disasters which might happen to Cambuscan's kingdom, and discovered the most hidden machinations of treason. The Naked Sword could pierce armour deemed impenetrable,

“ Were it as thicke as is a braunched oke." And he who was wounded with it could never be healed, unless its possessor could be entreated to stroke the wound with its edge. The Ring was intended for Canace, Cambuscan's daughter; and, while she bore it in her purse, or wore it on her thumb, enabled her to understand the language of every species of birds, and the virtues of every plant.

And whan this knight hath thus his tale told,
He rideth out of halle and doun he light:
His Stede, which that shone as-sonnè bright,
Stant in the court as stille as any ston.
This knight is to his chambre ladde anon,
And is unarmed, and to the mete ysette :
Thise presents ben ful richelich yfette,
This is to sain, the Swerd and the Mirroùr,
And borne anon into the highe tour,
With certain officers ordained therfore:
And unto Canace the Ring is bore

Solempnely, ther she sat at the table. on a black steed. This terrible stranger, rious tone, orders the count to follow without receiving any obstruction from him, &c. Nic. Gillos, chron. ann. 1120. guards or gates, rides directly forward See also Obs. Fair. Qu. S v. p. 146. to the high table; and, with an impe


[ocr errors]

v. 188.

I have mentioned, in another place, the favorite philosophical studies of the Arabians. In this poem the nature of those studies is displayed, and their operations exemplified: and this consideration, added to the circumstances of Tartary being the scene of action, and Arabia the country from which these extraordinary presents are brought, induces me to believe this story to be one of the many fables which the Arabians imported into Europe. At least it is formed on their principles. Their sciences were tinctured with the warmth of their imaginations; and consisted in wonderful discoveries and mysterious inventions.

This idea of a horse of brass took it's rise from their che, mical knowledge and experiments in metals. The treatise of Jeber a famous Arab chemist of the middle ages, called LAPIS PHILOSOPHORUM, contains many curious and useful processes concerning the nature of metals, their fusion, purification, and malleability, which still maintain a place in modern systems of that science. The poets of romance, who deal in Arabian ideas, describe the Trojan horse as made of brassh. These sages pretended the power of giving life or speech to some of their compositions in metal. Bishop Grosthead's speaking brazen head, sometimes attributed to Bacon, has its foundation in Arabian philosophy. In the romance of VALENTINE and ORSON, a brazen head fabricated by a necromancer in a magnificent chamber of the castle of Clerimond, declares to those two princes their royal parentagek. We are told by William of Malmesbury, that Pope Sylvester the Second, a profound

Diss. i. ii.

* See Lydgate's Troye Boke, B. iv. & The Arabians call chemistry, as C. 35. And Gower's CONF. AMANT. B. treating of minerals and metals, SimiA. i. f. 13. b. edit. 1554. “A horse of brasse From Sim, a word signifying the veins thei lette do forge.' of gold and silver in the mines. Her i Gower, Confess. Amant. ut supr. belot, Bibl. Orient. p. 810. b. Hither, L. iv. fol. lxiiji. a. edit. 1554. among many other things, we might refer Merlin's two dragons of gold finished

For of the greate clerke Groostest

I red, how redy that he was with most exquisite workinanship, in Geoffrey of Monmouth, I. viii. c. 17.

Upon clergy a Head of BRASSE
See also ibid. vii. c. S.

To make, and forge it for to telle
Where Merlin

Of such things as befell, &c.
prophesies that a brazen man on a brazen
horse shall guard the gates of London.

Ch. xxviii. seq.

mathematician who lived in the eleventh century, made a brazen head, which would speak when spoken to, and oracularly resolved many difficult questions! Albertus Magnus, who was also a profound adept in those sciences which were taught by the Arabian schools, is said to have framed a man of brass; which not only answered questions readily and truly, but was so loquacious, that Thomas Aquinas while a pupil of Albertus Magnus, afterwards an Angelic doctor, knocked it in pieces as the disturber of his abstruse speculations. This was about the year 1240m. Much in the same manner, the notion of our knight's horse being moved by means of a concealed engine, corresponds with their pretences of producing preternatural effects, and their love of surprising by geometrical powers. Exactly in this notion, Rocail, a giant in some of the Arabian romances, is said to have built a palace, together with his own sepulchre, of most magnificent architecture, and with singular artifice: in both of these he placed a great number of gigantic statues, or images, figured of different metals by talismanic skill, which, in consequence of some occult machinery, performed actions of real life, and looked like living men". We must add, that astronomy, which the Arabian philosophers studied with a singular enthusiasm, had no small share in the composition of this miraculous steed. For, says the poet,

He that it wrought, he coude many a gin,
He waited many a constellation

Or he had don this operation.
I De Gest. Reg. Angl. lib. ii. made with spirits in chemical operations.
Compare Maj. Symbolor. Aurea Men. But all these belong to the Arabian phi-
sæ, lib. x, p. 453.

losophy, and are alike to our purpose. m Delrio, Disquis. Magic. lib.i. cap. 4. In the Arabian books now extant, are

" Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. V. Rocail. the alphabets out of which they formed p. 717. a.

Talismans to draw down spirits or an• v. 149. I do not precisely under- gels. The Arabian word Kimia, not stand the line immediately following. only signifies chemistry, but a magical And knew ful many a sele and many bound spirits to their will and drew from

and superstitious science, by which they a bond.

them the information required. See Sele, i. e. Scal, may mean a talismanic Herbelot, Dict. Orient. p. 810. 1005. sigil used in astrology. Or the Herme. The curious and more inquisitive reader tic seal used in chemistry. Or, con- may consult Cornelius Agrippa, De Vanected with Bond, may signify contracts nit. Scient. cap. xliv. xlv. xlvi.

сар. .


Thus the buckler of the Arabian giant Ben Gian, as famous among the Orientals as that of Achilles among the Greeks, was fabricated by the powers of astronomy P. And Pope Sylvester's brazen head, just mentioned, was prepared under the influence of certain constellations.

Natural magic, improperly so called, was likewise a favorite pursuit of the Arabians, by which they imposed false appearances on the spectator. This was blended with their astrology. Our author's FRANKELEIN's Tale is entirely founded on the miracles of this art.

For I am siker that ther be sciences,
By which men maken divers appearances,
Swiche as thise subtil tregetoures' play:
For oft at festes, have I wel herd say,
That tregetoures, within an hallè large,
Have made come in a watir and a barge,
And in the hallè rowen up and doun:
Somtime hath semid come a grim leoun,
And somtime floures spring as in a mede;
Somtime a vine, and grapes white and rede;

Somtime a castel, &c. S Afterwards a magician in the same poem shews various specimens of his art in raising such illusions: and by way of diverting king Aurelius before supper, presents before him parks and forests filled with deer of vast proportion, some of which are killed with hounds and others with arrows. He then shews the king a beautiful lady in a dance. At the clapping of the magician's hands all these deceptions disappear'. These feats are said to be performed by consultation of the stars 4. We

P Many mysteries were concealed in a manner, that for the space of one week, the composition of this shield. It de- " it semid all the rockis were away.' stroyed all the charms and enchantments ibid. 2849. By the way, this tale appears which either demons or giants could to be a translation. He says, “ As the make by goetic or magic art. Herbelot, boke doth me remember.” v. 2799. And ubi supr. V. GIAN. p. 396. a.

“ From Garumne to the mouth of Seine." juglers.

The Garonne and Seine are v. 2700. Urr

rivers in France. ? But his most capital performance is See Frankel. T. v. 2820. p. 111. Urr. to remove an immense chain of rocks The Christians called this one of the from the sea-shore: this is done in such diabolical arts of the Saracens or Ara




v. 2778.


« הקודםהמשך »