Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

they checked, rather than forwarded, the maturity of Europe.' Mr. Berington's opinion, we apprehend, does not overstep the truth ; namely, that they were utterly sterile with respect to * the arts, to learning, and every moral advantage.' The representations of Warburton and Warton, that the holy wars were the means of introducing into the west, new and inexhaustible materials for poetry and romance, have been disproved by Ritson and Dunlop ; and Mr. Mills has shewn that the opinion espoused by Mezerai, who is for deriving romance from the Crusades, is not only gratuitous, but involves an anachronism. The council of Clermont, by which the first crusade was de creed, was not held till November 1095; Jerusalem was not taken till 1099; long before which time that impulse had been communicated to society, of which the progress of the Albigenses and the rise of the Troubadours or Provençal school were the results. The earliest Provençal poem known to be extant, dates, we have seen, anterior to the year 1000; and the opinions of Berengarius had already spread very widely in Italy, Germany, France, and England, when the council of Tours was summoned in 1055. In thus connecting circumstances having apparently so little relation to each other as the spread of certain religious opinions and the formation of a poetical school and language, we shall not be understood as intimating that the heresy (so deemed) and the literature of the gay court of Provence had any affinity either in their character or as cause and effect; but we view them respectively as indications of that rising spirit of civil and religious freedom, which the Inquisition and the Crusade against the Albigenses were set on foot by the Holy Alliance of those days to extinguish. The question now before us is, How came Provence to be distinguished as the land of liberal institutions, the nursery of freedom and letters ?

• Massieu,' remarks the present Writer,' imports the Arabic • poetry, with Warton's fiction, by sea at Toulon and Marseilles; for he tells us, that, by the convenience of these

ports, it passed with the commerce between Spain and • France. This importation of Arabian poetry, we have seen, is a mere reverie of the learned writer's. But Warton appears to us to have unconsciously approximated the true solution of the question, when he fixes on commerce as the real source of that influx, not of poetry and romance indeed, but of liberal ideas, productive industry, and wealth, to which the revival of learning must be ascribed. The shores of the Mediterranean still commanded and concentrated at that time the commerce of the world, and in the wake of commerce, Christianity, freedom, literature, and the arts, have uniformly followed. The Italian republics derived their riches and their greatness from the commerce of the Levant; and to the same cause the maritime capitals of Provence and Catalonia owed their commercial and political greatness. Barcelona was recovered from the Moors by Louis the Debonair early in the ninth century. For seventy years after, it was governed by French viceroys'; till at length, in 874, it was acknowledged as an independent earldom. From the earliest times, there appears to have been a close connexion between the Catalonian capital and Marseilles. In ihe former city, great numbers of Jews are said to have found shelter, bringing with them their well known habits of mercantile enterprise. Refugees and adventurers of all nations would naturally be attracted to those free and populous cities, which held out at once religious toleration and encouragement to industry. The effect of commerce upon internal trade and manufactures needs not be pointed out. The manufactures of Barcelona were famous in the thirteenth century, and are probably more ancient, while those of Marseilles were equally, if not more considerable. It is remarkable, that the Cathari or Puritans, who began to attract attention early in the twelfth century, and whom there is good reason to identify with the Albigenses and Vaudois, are said to have been called in France Tisserands, Weavers, because numbers of them were of that occupation ;-a singular coincidence, that the Protestants, the Hugonots of that day, should be distinguished by a name that recals the origin of our own silk-manufactures, for which we are indebted to the edict of Nantz! It is not, therefore, a mere hypothesis, but an historical fact, that the first buddings of literature after the dreary winter of the dark ages, the first kindlings of intellectual and moral life, took place in the immediate neighbourhood of those great maritime cities which furnished at once a vent and mart for the pro-, ductions of industry, and an inlet to knowledge as well as to wealth and every humanizing influence.

The reciprocal connexion between productive industry, mercantile wealth, and civil and religious freedom, their active and re-active operation, and their influence in extending every species of useful knowledge, are illustrated by the whole course of modern history. Why then need we look any further for a solution of the problem which has so long employed the speculations of learned writers, respecting the revival of learning ? To the Arabians and to the Christian monks, literature is deeply indebted for the preservation and transmission of the stores of Greek learning ; but it would not be more absurd to ascribe its revival to the institution of monasteries, than to the Moorish conquest of Spain. And as literature and civil liberty seemed to spring up at the same time, so they declined, and for the time appeared to perish together. The once brilliant school, and even the language of the South of France were consigned to oblivion by the bloody wars against the Albigenses; and the southern provinces, stripped of their independence, were one by one annexed to the crown of France. The rising courts of Naples and Sicily became the resort of the votaries of the gay science, and the dialect of the Norman princes superseded that of Toulouse and Provence. In Germany, the iron reign of ecclesiastical power had the same blighting influence on the nascent literature. In Spain, the joint despotism of the monarchy and the Inquisition was established on the ruins of all that had formed the national greatness. In that ill-fated country, the experiment of intolerance has been fully tried, and the genuine effects of unmitigated Popery have been unequivocally displayed. Learning, commerce, manufactures, population, every thing has declined. The expulsion of the Moors, a measure as impolitic as it was iniquitous, gave a shock to the political system from which it has never recovered. A population of twenty millions was, within two centuries, reduced by misgovernment to less than a third of that number.* And the present frightful condition of this fine country presents an awful instance of that retributive justice, with which, even in this world, nations and communities are visited. The blood of the martyrs of the sixteenth century, the victims of the Inquisition, still cries out to heaven; and though that engine of priestly fury no longer exists, the infernal spells are not yet reversed, by which the execrable Dominick succeeded in enthralling the devoted nation.

From this revolting picture, it is pleasing to turn to the songs of emancipated 'Greece.

And here, again, we may trace the same connexion between the stimulus supplied by commerce and the first movements of liberty, that we have pointed out in the case of the Italian Republics and the Provençal and Catalonian states, to which might have been added Holland, the Hanseatic republics, and England herself.

Towards the latter end of the eighteenth century, Marseilles almost monopolized the commerce of the Levant. France was the only power in favour with the Divan; her consuls maintained throughout the dominions of the Porte

* At the close of the fourteenth century, the population of Spain is stated by several native writers to have amounted to nearly two and twenty millions. In 1688, it did not amount to twelve, and under Philip V. it had sunk to six millions.

her commercial ascendancy; and the French language was, in Turkey, in Syria, and in Greece, the only medium of commercial intercourse. Since Malta has been in our possession, the sovereignty and guardianship of the Mediterranean have been virtually in the hands of Great Britain. Italian vessels are now no longer deterred from keeping the sea through fear of the Barbary corsairs. But the Greeks more especially have, from being mere pirates, become active merchants, and bid fair to share with England the commerce of the Levant. For several years before the present insurrection broke out, between four and five hundred Greek ships were employed in the commerce of the Black Sea ; and a great part of the internal maritime trade of Turkey was in their hands. It is remarkable, too, that the formation of colleges and the revival of learning in Greece have kept pace with the increase of their commerce ; and the same causes are bringing on, in the nineteenth century, the regeneration of society at the eastern extremity of Europe, which were instrumental in rolling away the Gothic darkness from the western nations.

But we must hasten to give some account of the volumes which have suggested this train of remarks. The extracts which we have given from the preliminary dissertation prefixed to the Lays of the Minnesingers, will have shewn the taste and ability with which the critical department is executed. The volume is a joint production, the translations being by another hand. The first specimen is an ode on the merry month of May by Count Conrad of Kirchberg, who sang in the latter part of the twelfth century. It begins thus :

• May, sweet May, again is come,
May that frees the land with gloom;
Children, children, up and see
All her stores of jollity!
On the laughing hedgerow's side
She hath spread her treasures wide ;
She is in the green-wood shade,
Where the nightingale hath made
Every branch and every tree
Ring with her sweet melody.
Hill and dale are May's own treasures.
Youths rejoice! In sportive measures

Sing ye, join the chorus gay!

Hail this merry, merry May,' &c. This, it must be admitted, is simple and natural enough, þut the namby-pamby versification does not strike us as doing justice to the original. The following is a 'mood of my own mind,' which, in its style of sentiment, reminds us of Wordsworth.

('Twas summer,--through the opening grass

The joyous flowers upsprang,
The birds in all their different tribes

Loud in the woodlands sang ;
Then forth I went, and wander'd far

The wide green meadow o'er ;
Where cool and clear the fountain play'd,

There stray'd I in that hour.
• Roaming on, the nightingale

Sang sweetly in my ear;
And by the greenwood's shady side,

A dream came to me there;
Fast by the fountain, where bright flowers

Of sparkling hue we see,
Close shelter'd from the summer heat,

That vision came to me.
All care was banish'd, and repose

Came o'er my wearied breast;
And kingdoms seem'd to wait on me,

For I was with the blest.
. Yet, while it seem'd as if away

My spirit soar'd on high,
And in the boundless joys of heaven

Was wrapt in ecstasy,
E'en then, my body revel'd still

In earth's festivity;
And surely never was a dream

So sweet as this to me,

• Thus I dream'd on, and might have dwelt

Still on that rapturous dream,
When hark! a raven's luckless note

(Sooth, 'twas a direful scream,)
Broke up the vision of delight;

Instant my joy was past :
O, had a stone but met my hand,

That hour had been his last.' A fragment by the same minstrel, Walter Vogelweide, describes in a very natural and pathetic manner, the feelings with which he revisited the scenes of his youth on his return from the holy land.

• Ah! where are hours departed fled ?

Is life a dream, or true indeed ?
Did all my heart hath fashioned

From fancy's visitings proceed ?

« PoprzedniaDalej »