« ZurückWeiter »
We may judge, from this passage, of the state of the language. Master Eustache has been particularly careful to mark the time in which he lived and wrote, by his t\Vo concluding lines:
L'an mil cent cinquante—-cinq ans
I-will take leave to add, that the second poem, now remaining, in the French language, 'was entitled, The Romance of Alexander the.Great. It was the confederated work of four authors, famous in their time. Lambert le Court, and Alexander of Paris, sung the exploits of Alexander; Peter de Saint Clost, wrote his will "in verse; the writing the will of a hero being then a common topic; and John le Nivelois added a book concerning the manner in which his death was revenged. It is remarkable, that before this time, all the Romans had been composed in verses of eight syllables; but in this piece, the four authors first used verses of Twelve syllables, as more solemn and majestic. And this was the Origin, though but little known, of those verses
T4 which which we now call Alexandrines, the French heroic measure; the name being derived from Alexander, the hero of the piece, or from Alexander, the most celebrated of the four poets concerned in this work. These were the most applauded poets of that age. Fauchet highly commends this poem; particularly a passage where a Cavalier is struck to the ground with a lance, who, says the old bard,
Du long comme il etoit, mesura la campagtte.
Which is not inferior to Virgil's
Hesperiam metire jacens.—
One would not imagine this line had been written so early as the middle of the twelfth century. A great and truly learned antiquary has remarked, for the honour of our country, that about this time, ll60, appeared the first traces of any theatre. "A monk called GeofFry, who was afterwards abbot of St. Alban's in England,, employed in the education of youth, made his
pupils pupils represent, with proper scenes and dresses, tragedies of piety. The subject of the first dramatic piece, was the miracles of saint Catharine, which appeared long before any of our representations of the MYSTERIES.*
OF THE EPISTLE OF SAPPHO TO PHAON, AND OF ELOISA TO ABELARD.
It is no small merit in Ovid, to have invented * this beautiful species of writing epistles under feigned characters. It is a high improvement on the Greek elegy; to which its dramatic nature renders it greatly superior. It is, indeed, no other than a passionate soliloquy, in which the mind gives vent to the distresses and emotions under which it labours: but, by being directed and addressed to a particular person, it gains a degree of propriety, that the best conducted soliloquy in a tragedy must ever want. Our impatience under any pressures of grief,
* Propertius, however, has one composition of this sort, entitled, Epistola Arethusae ad Lycotam. Lib. iv. Eleg. 3. Vulpius observes, that Horace never once mentions Propertius .with approbation, but glances at him with ridicule in the passage, Guis nisi Callimachus. Ep. 2. L. 2. v. 100.
and disorder of mind, makes such passionate expostulations with the persons supposed to cause such uneasinesses, very natural. Judgment is chiefly shewn, by opening the interesting complaint just at such a period of time, as will give occasion for the most tender sentiments, and the most sudden and violent turns of passion, to be displayed. Ovid may, perhaps, be blamed for a sameness of subjects in these epistles of his heroines, whose distresses are almost all occasioned by their lovers forsaking them. His epistles are likewise too long; which circumstance has forced him into a repetition and languor in the sentiments. It would be a pleasing task, and conduce to the formation of a good taste, to shew how differently Ovid, and the Greek tragedians, have made Medea, Phaedra, and Deianira speak, on the very same occasions. Such a comparison would abundantly manifest the Fancy and Wit of Ovid, and the Judgment and Nature of Euripides and Sophocles. If the character of Medea was not better supported in the tragedy which Ovid is said to have produced, and of which Quintilian speaks so advantageously,