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For lyke as he aloftè dyd expresse
So craftely they could them w transfygure. * It is added, that these plays, or rytes of tragedyes old, were acted at Troy, and in the theatre halowed and yholde, when the months of April and May returned.
In this detail of the dramatic exhibition which prevailed in the ideal theatre of Troy, a poet, placed on the stage in a pulpit, and characteristically habited, is said to have recited a series of tragical adventures; whose pathetic narrative was afterwards expressed, by the dumb gesticulations of a set of masqued ac
Some perhaps may be inclined to think, that this imperfect species of theatric representation, was the rude drama of Lydgate's age. But surely Lydgate would not have described at all, much less in a long and laboured digression, a public shew, which from its nature was familiar and notorious. On the contrary, he describes it as a thing obsolete, and existing only in remote times. Had a more perfect and legitimate stage now subsisted, he would not have deviated from his subject, to communicate unnecessary information, and to deliver such minute definitions of tragedy and comedy. On the whole, this formal history of a theatre, conveys nothing more than an affected display of Lydgate's learning; and is collected, yet with apparent inaccuracy and confusion of circumstances, from what the antient grammarians have left concerning the origin of the Greek tragedy. Or perhaps it might be borrowed by our author from some French paraphrastic version of Colonna's Latin
Among the antient authors, beside those already mentioned, cited in this poem, are Lollius for the history of Troy, Ovid for the tale of Medea and Jason, Ulysses and Polyphemus, the Myrmidons and other stories, Statius for Polynices and Eteocles, the venerable Bede, Fulgentius the mythologist, Justinian
themselves. y Colonna calls him, ille FABULARIUS * Lib. ii. cap. x. See also, B. iii. c. Sulmonensis,-fabulose commentans, &c. xxviii.
Signat. b. 2.
with whose institutes Colonna as a civilian must have been well acquainted, Pliny, and Jacobus de Vitriaco. The last is produced to prove, that Philometer, a famous philosopher, invented the game of chess, to divert a tyrant from his cruel purposes, in Chaldea; and that from thence it was imported into Greece. But Colonna, or rather Lydgate, is of a different opinion; and contends, in opposition to his authority, that this game, so sotyll and so marvaylous, was discovered by prudent clerkes during the siege of Troy, and first practised in that city. Jacobus de Vitriaco was a canon regular at Paris, and, among other dignities in the church, bishop of Ptolemais in Palestine, about the year 1230.
This tradition of the invention of chess is mentioned by Jacobus de Vitriaco in his ORIENTAL AND OCCIDENTAL HISTORY? The anecdote of Philometer is, I think, in Egidius Romanus on this subject, above mentioned. Chaucer calls Athalus, that is Attalus Philometer, the same person, and who is often mentioned in Pliny, the inventor of chessa.
I must not pass over an instance of Lydgate's gallantry, as it is the gallantry of a monk. Colonna takes all opportunities of satirising the fair sex; and Lydgate with great politeness declares himself absolutely unwilling to translate those passages of this severe moralist, which contain such unjust and illiberal misrepresentations of the female character. Instead of which, to obviate these injurious reflections, our translator enters upon a formal vindication of the ladies; not by a panegyric on their beauty, nor encomiums on those amiable accomplishments, by which they refine our sensibilities, and give elegance to life; but by a display of that religious fortitude with which some women have suffered martyrdom; or of that inflexible chastity, by means of which others have been snatched up alive into heaven, in a state of genuine virginity. Among other striking examples which the calendar affords, he mentions the transcendent grace of the eleven thousand virgins who were martyred at Cologne in Germany. In the mean time, female saints, as z in three books.
DREME, p. 408. col. 2. edit Urr.
I suspect, in the barbarous ages were regarded with a greater degree of respect, on account of those exaggerated ideas of gallantry which chivalry inspired: and it is not improbable that the distinguished honours paid to the virgin Mary might have partly proceeded from this principle.
Among the anachronistic improprieties which this poem contains, some of which have been pointed out, the most conspicuous is the fiction of Hector's sepulchre, or tomb: which also merits our attention for another reason, as it affords us an opportunity of adding some other notices of the modes of antient architecture to those already mentioned. The poet froin Colonna supposes, that Hector was buried in the principal church of Troy, near the high altar, within a magnificent oratory, erected for that purpose, exactly resembling the Gothic shrines of our cathedrals, yet charged with many romantic decorations. ,
With crafty archys raysyd wonder clene,
Fret ful of stonys rich and precious, &c. The structure is supported by angels of gold. The steps are of crystall. Within, is not only an image of Hector in solid gold; but his body embalmed, and exhibited to view with the resemblance of real life, by means of a precious liquor circulating through every part in golden tubes artificially disposed, and operating on the priciples of vegetation. This is from the chemistry of the times. Before the body were four inextinguishable lamps in golden sockets. To complete the work, Priam founds a regular chantry of priests, whom he accommodates with mansions near the church, and endows with revenues, to sing in this oratory for the soul of his son Hector
tomb of Hector, in his brilliant descrip¢ B. iii. c. xxviii. Joseph of Exeter tion of the mausoleum of Teuthras. lib. in his Latin poem entitled ANTIOCHEIS, iv. 451. I have quoted the passage in or the Crusade, has borrowed from this the Second DISSERTATI0%.
In the Bodleian library, there is a prodigious folio manuscript on vellum, a translation of Colonna's Trojan HISTORY into versed; which has been confounded with Lydgate's TroyeBOKE now before us. But it is an entirely different work, and is written in the short minstrel-metre. I have given a specimen of the Prologue above. It appears to me to be Lydgate's TROYE-BOKE divested of the octave stanza, and reduced into a measure which might more commodiously be sung to the harp. It is not likely that Lydgate is its author: that he should either thus transform his own composition, or write a MSS. Laud. K. 76. fol.
Fful of semely-rennyng welles, € Supr. vol. i. p. 123.
As the ROMAUNCE the sothe telles, It may, however, be thought, that Withoute the cite that ther sprong. this poem is rather a translation or imi. Ther was of briddes michel song, tation of some French original, as the Thorow al the zers and michel cry, writer often refers to The Romance. If Of al joyes gret melody. this be the case, it is not immediately To that citè (of) Eetes formed from the TroyE-BOKE of Lydgate, Zode Jason and Hercules, as I have suggested in the text. I be- And al the ffelawes that he hadde lieve it to be about Lydgate's age; but In clothe of golde as kynges he cladde, there is no other authority for supposing &c. it to be written by Lydgate, than that,
Afterwards, the sorceress Medea, the in the beginning of the Bodleian manuscript now before us, a hand-writing, of king's danghter
, is thus characterised. about the reign of James the First, assigns Sche couthe the science of clergy, it to that poet. I will give a few lines And mochel of nigramauncy.from the poem itself: which begins with Sche coude with conjurisouns, Jason's expedition to Colchos, the con
With here schleyght", and oresouns, stant prelude to the Trojan story in all The day, that was most fair and lyght, the writers of this school.
Make as darke as any nyght:
Sche couthe also, in selcouthe wise, In Colkos ile a cite was,
Make the wynde both blowe and rise, That men called hanne Jaconitas;
And make him so loude blowe,
All weders, and the firmament, &c.
The reader, in some of these lines,
observes the appeal to The romance for With his baronage, and his meynė,
authority. This is common throughout Dwelleden thanne in that citè:
the poem, as I have hinted.
But at the Ffor al aboute that riche toun
close, the poet wishes eternal salvation to
the soul of the author of the Romaunce. Stode wodes, and parkis, enviroun, That were replenysched wonderful
And he that this romaunce wroght and Of herte, and hynd, bore, and bul,
made, And othir many savage bestis,
Lord in heven thow him glade.
trical one of Benoit, to whom, I believe,
new piece on the subject. That it was a poem in some considerable estimation, appears from the size and splendour of the manuscript: and this circumstance induces me to believe, that it was at a very early period ascribed to Lydgate. On the other hand, it is extraordinary that the name of the writer of so prolix and laborious a work, respectable and conspicuous at least on account of its length, should have never transpired. The language accords with Lydgate's age, and is of the reign of Henry the Sixth: and to the same age I refer the hand-writing, which is executed with remarkable elegance and beauty.
Colonna is much indebted; but perhaps Dares the heraud is Dares Phrygius, and from some later French romance, which Dites Dictys Cretensis. copied, or translated, Colonna's book. This poem, in the Bodleian manuThis, among other circumstances, we script aforesaid, is finished, as I have may collect from these lines.
partly observed, with an invocation to Dares the heraud of Troye says,
God, to save the author, and the readers, And Dites that was of the Gregeis, &c.
or hearers; and ends with this line, And after him cometh maister Gy,
Seythe alle Amen for charite. That was of Rome a notary.
But this rubric immediately follows, at This maister Gy, or Guy, that is Guido the beginning of a page : “ Hic béllim of Colonna, he adds, wrote this history, de Troye ffinii et Greci transierunt versus In the manere I schall telle.
patriam suam. Then follow several
lineated pages of vellum, without writThat is “my author, or romance, fol. ing. I have never seen any other malows Colonna." See supr. vol. i. p. 129. nuscript of this piece.