« PreviousContinue »
it is written with uncommon spirit and freedom, and appears so completely naturalised, that we apprehend nothing but the mere outline of the story can have been imitaled from the French. Gottsched has collected a chapter full of “ lestimonies" in favour of the Reynke, although he entertains some doubts whether James Gulielmus Laurenbergius actually held it to be the next best book to the Bible. Whatever James Gulielmus Laurenbergius may have thought, the English reader will best appreciate its value, when he is told that it nearly equals the humour of the Nonnes Preeste's Tale. The general altack on Bruin the bear (Reynke de Vos, b. i. c. 9.) when the priest and the priest's housekeeper, and Rustcoyl's household and neighbours, swarthy Sanders, and bandy-legged Slobbe, sally forth to assail the luckless beast, who escapes by overturning poor Mistress Jutt in the horse-pond, to the inexpressible dismay of her reverend master, can only be surpassed by the whim and bustle of Chaucer's hue and cry.
Caxton translated from the ancient Dutch or Flemish “Reynaert de Vos." We have compared the first chapters, which agree pretty closely. It was afterwards re-composed and enlarged again and again, in French, and in German, and in Latin, and in English, so that the “ most pleasant and delectable history of Reynard the Fox" bears only a resemblance to Alkmaar's poem, which we consider as the original of all the prose works. The opinion which has been advanced, that he imitated either the Dutch or English prose, appears wholly untenable. Sebastian Brand's Ship of Fools was translated into half the languages in Europe. The preacher, John Gieler of Keysersburg, composed one hundred and ten sermons upon the follies of the world, which he delivered at Strasburg, taking the illustrations of his text, “ Stultorum infinitus est numerus," from Brand's ample cargo. Geiler gives many minute and whimsical pictures of the time, and is more humourous than the Chancellor of Strasburg, who writes, however, with plain good sense, and honestly confesses that he deserves the cap and bells full as much as the crew which he has shipped to Narragonia.
Bouterwek remarks, that “ the rude inseriority of the German poetry, during the sixteenth century, forms an unpleasing contrast to its state in Italy and Spain, where the Germans might easily have acquired a taste for elegant literature, if they had been gifted with any perception of its beauties. The military and political relations which Charles the Fifth had with Italy, led crowds of the German nobility into that country. The same monarch introduced numbers of distinguished Spaniards into Germany, where the Spanish language became well known. And yet, in the age of Ariosto and Cervantes, Hans Sachs continued to rank as the first of German poets; and the only dignified epic which Germany possessed was the stiff allegory of Melchior Pfuitzing". However low the adventures of the honourable, valorous, and far-famed knight, Sir Tewrdaunekbs,” may rank as a romantic poem, it is nevertheless a valuable specimen of the typographical luxury of the Germans,—a taste which was justly encouraged by Maximilian, by whom the graphic arts were employed to transmit to posterity the memorials of the unexampled magnificence of his court. Maximilian, like Francis the First, prided bimself in being a “preux chevalier.” At the diet of Worms, he did not think it beneath his rank to descend into the lists, and break a lance with the boastful Frenchman who had proffered defiance to the knights of Germany. This monarch showed his partiality for chivalry in the library as well as in the field. He formed a curious collection of ancient manuscripts, which were deposited in the castle of Ambras in the
Tyrol, and which were afterwards removed to the Imperial library at Vienna. When“ Tewrdaunek bs” first appeared, the known taste of the Emperor gave rise to the supposition that he was the author of the work. This question has been long debated. The authority of Cuspinian, who ascribes it to him, has been considered of great weight; and in the Imperial library there is a rough draught of the first seventy-four chapters in Maximilian's handwriting; in the margin of which he has given careful instructions for the composition of the engravings which ornament the printed copies. This manuscript, however, differs materially from the printed text; and the most probable opinion is, that the Emperor sketched out the plan of the poem, but that it owes its present shape lo Melchior Psuitzing, ihen provost of St. Sebold's church at Nuremberg. In the course of time, the well-known bibliographer Panzer succeeded to the parsonage of St. Sebold's, and became the inhabitant of the deanery which Pluitzing had " rebuilt at his own expense." The worthy historian of printing adds, that he often “ looked up with pleasure to the inscription on the little stone tablet over his library door” which recorded Pfuitzing's liberality. We can enter into his feelings; for the early editions are certainly amongst the finest specimens of printing which the art has ever produced, although the woodcuts of Hans Schausselin, to which the Emperor was so attentive, have been rather overrated. The poem acquired just celebrily, although it is dreadfully tedious. It contains an allegorical biography of its repuled author. In the character of Tewrdaunekhs, which when divested of Pfuitzing's spelling, and written Theuerdank, appears a little less terrific, he is represented as wooing the Princess Ehrenreich, daughter of King Romreich, under which names we are to recognise Mary of Burgundy, and Charles the Bold, her father. Theuerdank is led into manifold perils by the treacherous advice of the three ministers of Romreich's kingdom, “ Furvilling," or Presumption; " Unfalo," or Calamity; and “ Neidelhait,” or Envy. And it is a joyful event to arrive at the conclusion of the poem, when the whole Cabinet is thus disposed of,—one is hanged; another beheaded; and the third has his neck broken, by being thrown from the top of a high wall.
Poetry long continued thus degraded. The learned lived in Germany like Roman colonists, and looked down upon the barbarous language of the nation with as much contempl as the prefect of Augusta Vindelicorum could have done. The nobility were not devoid of a thirst for knowledge : it was an age of polemics; and those who had embraced the Reformation were anxious to be able to repel the objections of their opponents. Public affairs could not be managed without a knowledge of the civil law. But no flowers grew in the paths which they had chosen. There was no opportunity of cultivating composition or oratory. The provincial states held their meetings with closed doors : and, in the general diet of the Empire, their altenlion was mainly engrossed by deciding who should sit on a chair, and who on an arm-chair; or in devising such acute expedients for allaying the heartburnings of offended dignity, as that which placed the Prince Bishop of Osnaburgh on the Quer-banck. An insuperable barrier was raised between the nobility and the roturiers (we must be allowed to use the French word, and to exult in observing, that no corresponding term can be found in English) ;-but if it could have been passed, ihey would have profited little by being bound 'prentices to the Nuremberg Master-singers. And if any genius arose amongst these industrious professors, their regulations were sure 10 repress it into dull mediocrity. Amidst all these discouragements, a
SELECTIONS FROM THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.
pleasing ray of poetical feeling may be discovered in these humble productions, the popular song and ballad, by which same was neither earned nor sought for. The most valuable portion now extant of these compositions, was composed in the sixteenth century. But their history can be traced much higher. The style and manner of our own Border ballads may be reckoned as a portion of the inheritance which we derive from our ancestors, whether they wandered in the Hercynian forest or the wilds of Scandinavia : and in the Lay of Hildebrand we can discover the phraseology of our latest minstrelsy.
Her furlaet in lante luttila sitten
The singular and striking analogy existing between the Danish and Scottish ballads was first discovered by Mr. Jamieson ; and in the present work he has resumed the enquiry on a more extended scale.
“The songs mentioned by Tacitus, in his account of the Germans, those collected by the order of Charlemagne, and those which the Goths brought with them out of the East, are now not to be found ; yet it is more than probable that much more of them is preserved, in however altered a form, than we are aware of,- in the elder Northern and Teutonic romances, the Danish and Swedish, Scottish and English popular ballads, and those which are sung by old women and purses, and hawked about at fairs, in Germany. To show the intimate connection which these have with each other is the principal object in view in this publication; and the materials brought forward for this purpose have in general one merit at least, that of being altogether new, in any form whatever, to most, if not all, of our readers.
“ As to the execution of the part of this work assigned to the present writer, he begs leave to observe, that he wishes himself to be considered rather as a commentator and editor, than a poetical translator; for his translations themselves have been done, to the best of his ability, in such a manner as to supersede the necessity of illustration; and such pieces have been selected as might best illustrate each other, as well as the general subject of our ballad romance and traditionary poetry. Where there seemed to be occasion for throwing light upon, or preserving the memory of, peculiar usages, superstitions, &c. notes have been subjoined."
“. As to the dialect (the ancient Scottish) ado; ted in these versions, he is under considerable Anxiety, being aware that it may be received with diffidence, and its propriety questioned. They were written in Livonia, after a residence of upwards of twelve years in England, and four on the Continent; and it will with justice be concluded, that he must have lost much of the natural facility in the use of his native dialect, which is above all necessary for poetical narrative. Of this he is himself sufficiently sensible; and therefore would never have attempted to adapt it to original composition; at the same time that he is far from considering it as a valid objection to his undertaking his present task. Having cultivated an intimate acquaintance with the Scottish language in all its stages, so far back as any monuments of it remain, he miglit be supposed to have scme confidence in his use of it. Jf in his translations he has blended the dialects of different ages, he has at least endeavoured to do judiciously what his subject seemed to require of him, in order to preserve as entire as possible, in every particular, the costume of his originals. This is one of the strongest features of resemblance between the Northern and Scottish ballad, in which there is found a phraseology w hich has long been obsolete in both countries, and many terms not understood by those who recite them, and for the meaning of which we nust refer to the Norse or Icelandic of the eighth and ninth centuries. On the other points of resemblance, it will not be necessary to say any thing, as they must strike every attentive observer; nor can the style which has been adopted be more satisfactorily justified, than by informning the reader, that the general cast of structure, diction, and idiom, has been só sedulously followed, that, for whole slanzas together, hardly any thing has been altered but the orthography.” P. 245, 246.
The lay of Trazemund, which has been edited by Messrs. Grimm, and illustrated with their usual learning and acuteness, is a very ancient specimen of the German ballad. The song of this mysterious pilgrim, who had
wandered through seventy-two kingdoms," and the dark enigmas which he unravels, display the mythological colouring of the Icelandic poetry. In the fourteenth century, the reappearance of the lay of Hildebrand as a narrative ballad evinces the stubborn vitality of popular poetry. And the Noble Meringer," together with other ballads in simple stanzas, and bearing a nearer resemblance to the English style, continue the history of these compositions in the following age.
The verse, by which leisure is assisted, and work is cheered,—which soothes the cares of the high-born damsel, and makes the spinning-wheel of the cottage maid whirl with redoubled velocity, although usually comprehended under the name of popular poetry, -should be considered as distinct from the narrative ballad. It seems that, in Germany, no specimens of this species of poetry have survived, anterior to the fragments which John Gansbein, the town-clerk of Limburg, has saved from the general wreck, by inserting them in his chronicle. Amongst other particulars, he has carefully noted, that in the year 1360 a general change took place in the fashion of popular song, when the musicians also learned to “pipe" in a better style than had been hitherto used. The historian inserts a portion of “the Complaint of the Wanton Nun," "as it was sung and piped by the people;" and also preserves the memory of a bare-footed monk, a poor lazar, who, according to the severe but necessary laws of those times, was banished from society," but who was the best song-writer in the Rheinland.”
The war songs of the Swiss are written in a fine strain of genuine ballad poetry. Halb Suter's song on the battle of Sempach (1386), in which Duke Leopold of Austria was defeated and slain, may be given as an instance. The ballad begins in admirable keeping with the omen which warns the husbandman of the approach of the unbidden guests; the description of the Castle of Willison in flames; and the boasts of the invaders :
“ Die Biene kam geflogen, macht in der Lind ihi nest,
Es redet der gemline Mann, das dentet frem de Gåst.
The wars of Burgundy established the military fame of the Swiss. Their successes raised their patriotism to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; and the same warriors who had fought in the ranks, afterwards caused their cottages to resound with the strains of honest exultation. The ballads of Veit Weber, who was born out of the pale of the Helvetic confederacy, but who supported the cause with the loyalty of a native, are written wiih all the flush of victory. He hurries over the field of battle, and points out the flying Burgundians “ driven into the lake, and dyeing it with their blood, or climbing into the high trees, from which they are shot down by the Swiss cross-bow men.'
The fluctuating fortunes of the Protestants under Charles the Fifth alsorded malter for innumerable ditties. The doleful “ Lament of the Electress Dame Sybilla of Saxony," and the “ Complaint of the Landgrave of Hesse,” may be contrasted with others of a less desponding nature; such as were sung by the well-armed lansquenct, playing cards on the drumhead all the while; or, as animated the sturdy citizens of Frankfort and Magdeburg, when they had cleared the churches of papal trumpery, and bade defiance to the Emperor and his Spaniards.
A history of German music is yet wanting. In the few tunes of the “ Master-singers” which are published, we cannot distinguish any national or characteristic melody. Some very ancient tunes of Danish ballads have been recovered and collected by Nyerup and Rahbeck. They possess a full and plaintive harmony, although we do not find in them any vestiges of the “ symphonious singing" which Giraldus imagined the Northumbrians had borrowed from the Danes and Norwegians. Vocal music became a favourite accomplishment in Germany in the sixteenth century, during which several collections of song were published. Italian composers came to the assistance of the native amateurs, amongst whom are mentioned the names of Orlando di Lasso, Raynardi, and Mancini. Song wriling, unfettered by the rules of the “ Masters,” thus found encouragement. It was necessary, of course, to suit every taste; and the good wine of the Rheinland, which, by the way, appears to have been the most poetical tract in Germany, came in for its full share of praise. The old German songs, in general, have a pleasing simplicity, and often show a degree of delicacy of sentiment--we do not mean sentimentalily-of which there are not the slightest traces in the more bulky productions of the later part of the sixteenth century. But the few good writers who appeared, perverted their vigorous talents, and employed themselves in coarse and clumsy satires and travesties. At the commencement of the seventeenth century, some altempts were made for the refinement of the German language, and the preservation of ils purity. Academies, the old nostrum, were founded : these produced little benelit; but Martin Opitz (1620) in the north of Germany, and his little knot of poetical disciples and Weckherlin (1618) in the south, rose far above mediocrity.
After the peace of Westphalia, solid learning and the sciences flourished in no ordinary degree; but the art of composition in the vernacular tongue seemed wholly lost. The Germans held an honourable station in the republic of letters ; but, until the modern school of poetry and literature was created by Halus and Hagedorn and Gellert, -their stern jurists covered with learned dust,—their philologists and theologians, each wrapped in an ambient atmosphere of tobacco smoke,-their chemists, worn down and parched with the heat of the laboratory, and all speaking a barbarous form of a dead language-formed an uncouth group by the side of the polished and courtly wits of France, and the graceful dignity of their English rivals.
THE POETRY OF RUSSIA, BATAVIA, SPAIN, POLAND, SERVIA,
AND OF THE MAGYARS.*
The translator is to poetry what the adventurous merchant is to commerce. He circulates the produce of thought, varies our intellectual banquet, teaches us that some accession to our stores may be derived even from those quarters which we had regarded as the most sterile and unpromising, and thus adds another link to the chain of social and kindly feelings which should bind man to his fellows. In this commerce of mind few have laboured more assiduously than Dr. Bowring. At one time " he hath an argosy bound for Tripoli, another for the Indies, a third for Mexico, a fourth for England" --ventures, in short, “ enough to bear a royal merchant down' and yet, with the exception of one cargo under Dutch colours, where he appears to have had a partner, he seems to trust entirely to his own
*. l. Specimens of the Russian Poets. Translated by John Bowring. LL.D. 2. Batavian Anthology, or Specimens of the Dutch Poets. By John Bowring, LL.D. 3. Ancient Poetry and Romances of Spain. Selected and translated by John Bowring, LL.D. and H. S. Van Dyk. 4. Specimens of ihe Polish Poels By John Bowring, LL.D.' 5. Servian Popalar Poeiry. Translated by John Bowring, LL.D. '6. Poetry of the Magyars. By John Bowring, LL.D.Vol. lü. p. 322. January, 1831.