Page images
PDF
EPUB

The meeting of the lovers is beautifully described, and Arthur, having spent the succeeding day with his hospitable host, takes his departure, directing Lionel and Cradoc to rejoin the Galician forces, whilst he, in obedience to the decrees of Heaven, pursues his way alone towards the mountains of Cambria.

The fourth book, at its commencement, reverts to some events which had taken place during Arthur's voyage to collect succours, and introduces us to Lancelot, the bosom friend of the prince, and one of the most intrepid defenders of the British crown. He is represented as walking in deep abstraction on the cliffs near Milford Haven, having escaped from Carlisle, after cutting his way, with great havoc, through the camp of Hengist, who, despising a contest with warriors pent up in walls, was then invading Scotland; and who, on his return, hearing of this achievement of Lancelot, is preparing to take revenge, when he is ordered by the Weird Sisters to retire into and defend the enchanted castle, whose destruction by Arthur we have witnessed in the preceding book.

Lancelot who, ignorant of what had occurred to Arthur, had been for some time anxiously expect

ing the arrival of the prince in the bay with his auxiliary forces, now rushes impatiently to the seaside, when, to his great joy, he beholds the wishedfor sails emerging from the horizon ; but, alas ! no sooner are the chiefs landed than he hears from them a relation of the supposed death of Arthur, whom they believe to have perished, when, deceived by Urda, they saw him plunge into the sea. Grief at these tidings spreads through the ranks of the British, whilst their allies, not only sorrow-struck, but desponding, talk of re-embarking for their native soils, an intimation which calls forth from the indignant Lancelot the following strain of impassioned eloquence:

Can cold dismay, thus Britain's knight addrest
The warriors, quench the fire in valour's breast !
Leaders of battle, low the mighty lies !
But blood, not tears, must grace his obsequies.
Like wave on wave impell’d in yonder bay,
The race of man successive rolls away:
Unnoted pass the feeble, but the brave
Survive to glory, and defy the grave.
If such was Arthur, such your generous aim,
Avenge him, warriors ! emulate his fame!
But if through terror vain those tears are shed,
Disgraceful to yourselves, and of the dead
Unworthy :-know, though you your aid deny,
The sons of Britain shall the combat try.

Their country's wrongs, their Arthur's sacred shade,
Will nerve each arm, and edge th' avenging blade.
And when our death or conquest reach your ear-
For only death or conquest now is dear-
Then, warriors, touch'd with generous shame too late,
Our fame you 'll envy, or lament our fate.

B. iv. p. 114.

The appeal is not made in vain ; for the respective leaders now vie with each other in seconding the enthusiasm of the British chief ; and, eager to avenge the apprehended death of Arthur, march instantly in search of the enemy.

Meanwhile, Valdemar, king of Denmark, who, greatly to the umbrage of Hacon, the Norwegian monarch, had been appointed by Hengist, during his absence, chief in command, holds a feast at Carlisle ; and, whilst all is revelry and mirth, some singing to the lyre their country's fame, or boasting of their own exploits, but by far the greater part immersed in dissonance and riot, their orgies are most appallingly broken in upon by the appearance of Odin, the Scandinavian god of war, whose form Urda had assumed for the purpose of inciting them to march instantly against the British chieftains, now rapidly approaching.

The picture which Mr. Hole has, in this place,

given of the northern deity, and the address which he attributes to him, are at once splendid and characteristic, whilst the description of the joys of Valhalla, the paradise of the Scandinavians, will be found in strict conformity with the representations of the Edda.

Sudden, dark clouds the rafter'd dome o'ercast :
Upwards they turn their anxious eyes aghast;
And through the quick disparting shades behold
Dread Odin, seated on his throne of gold.
Black vapours, such as clothe the wintry night,
His footstool form’d; a meteor's vivid light
His brows encircled; radiant arms he wore,
And shook his flaming lance distain'd with gore.
Loud, as when thunder roars, he silence broke-
The vast dome trembled as the phantom spoke.

Offspring of heroes ! famed in fields of fight,
Who sport in danger, and in death delight,
Does this become you, sons of battle! say,
To wear in shameful sloth the hours away?
Is this a time to feast in bower or hall,
When foes, advancing, to the combat call ?
The host you deem'd beneath the roaring main
O’erwhelm'd defies you to the listed plain.
The cloud of war on Cambria's height impends
No more, but darkly-lowering hither bends.
Awake, arise, and in your might confide!
Rush on, and let destruction be your guide !

Think on your father's fame, your own renown,
My favour, who with joys perpetual crown
The chiefs who boldly in the combat fall,
And guide their spirits to my lofty hall,
* O'er-arch'd with golden shields, whose dazzling blaze
Exceeds the mid-day sun's unclouded rays.
There shall each hero share, a welcome guest,
The foaming goblet, and perpetual feast.
Again their souls with martial fire shall burn,
And host conflicting adverse host o'erturn :
While bright Valkeries, blue-eyed nymphs, shall crown
With plausive smiles their actions of renown.
Be conquest yours, and fame's unfading wreath,
Or, more than victory, a glorious death !"-B. iv. p. 118.

With this animated representation of Odin may I be permitted to compare two descriptions of the same deity from the unpublished Epic of Alfred, by Mr. Fitchett, a poem to which I have already

*“ The Scandinavian Valhalla, like the Mahometan paradise, was supposed to have been roofed with shields. The Valkeries were employed by Odin to choose in battle those who were to perish, and, like the Houries, to wait on the selected heroes. These Posters of the sea and land’ have been confounded by other writers, as well as Shakspeare, with the northern Parcæ or Destinies : but the latter, according to Scandinavian mythology, had their abode near the great ash Ydrasil in Asgard, or city of the gods. Skulda only, the youngest of them, is mentioned in the Edda, as

« PreviousContinue »