« PreviousContinue »
"bear, in every thing which respects religious belief, a nearer resemblance to the Hebrews, than to any other people, the poetical part of their mythology is extremely similar to the northern theology, and their manners have many points of coincidence with those of the Germans." The Runic characters found in Helsingia, in the North of Sweden, bear a stronger resemblance to those on the Ruins of Chelminar (Persepolis), than to any others; while the Runic Letters of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, are found likewise in Northern Tartary. And John Elichman, whom Salmasius thought the best Persian scholar that Europe had ever produced, or perhaps ever would, and who was perfectly skilled in sixteen languages, held the opinion, that German and Persian were cognate.
Several considerations seem, however, to oppose the conclusion drawn by Sismondi, and apparently sustained by such authorities as the above. If rhyme was brought from the east, how comes it to pass, that we find no evidence of its existence prior to the modern Persian and Arabic languages? It is to be recollected here, that while the Pleiades of the Greeks consisted of their latest poets, those of the Arabians comprised their oldest, selected as such, though possessed of very little merit. (1st Andrès, p. 204) "Questi ad imitazione de Greci vantano la loro plejade Arabica, ma di sette poeti de'più antichi, no come i Greci di sette de'più moderni. Que' primi poeti sono i Livj e Pacuvj degli Arabi tenuti in rispetto per la loro antichità, ma non letti da' posteri, nè stimati pe' loro pregi poetici." Now, those poems belong to the commencement of the seventh century. Again, how is it, that although Greece was settled from Asia, no vestige of rhyme appears in the literature of that country? The Bible, which is the best index to the earliest state of things in the east, has no traces of rhyme, though it has of rhythm. The address of Lamech (Gen. iv. 23) is in hemistichs, in the original. The greater part of Job is in verse: and St. Jerome, in his preface to Job, says, that it is written in heroic verse. Josephus tells us, that the song of Moses is ev ET PAI Tova; and Scaliger is of the same opinion; though neither of them refers to the classic hexameter. And yet, in none of the above instances, nor in the Psalms, nor in Isaiah, nor in any other part, is rhyme to be found in the Scriptures. May not rhyme then have come into use, among eastern nations, with the modern Persian and Arabic tongues; and, therefore, beyond any rational doubt, after the supposed emigration of the Goths from Asia to Northern Europe?* We cannot, therefore, accede to the opinion, which ascribes the origin of rhyme, among the nations of the North of Europe, to such an ancient source.
The second opinion is, that the true origin of the rhymed poetry of Modern Christian Europe, is to be found in the rhymed poetry of the Hispano-Arabians, tracing the communication through the Spaniards first, and afterwards through the Troubadours. The great advocate of this theory is the Abbé Andrès. His reputation justifies, indeed requires, a very full and careful examination, before we reject his opinion.
When the Mohammedan power arose with Mahomet, (A. D. 622, the Hegira) we are to remember, that rhyme was perfectly familiar in eastern poetry. We may safely concede with La Harpe, (vol. iv. Cours. de Lit. p. 209) "que la rime chez les Arabes etait de la plus haute antiquité ;" and with Sismondi, (vol. i. p..52) "que cette nation seule a produit plus de poetes, que toutes les autres reunies."+ We may admit, that their language is endowed with a copiousness, which makes even the Greek appear desolate ; and we may believe with Andrès, (vol. i. pp. 206-207) that no epic or dramatic poetry is found in Arabic literature, though Sir William Jones and Professor Carlyle think otherwise, as to Persian. We may grant with Andrès, (vol. i. p. 214) that the first romance was written (in Spain,
The Persian language flourished from the third to the seventh century. Omar burnt all the books in that language, but two, both in prose. The modern Persian is a compound of the old Persian and Arabic. The oldest Persian poem known to Sir William Jones, is the Scháh-namah, in 60,000 distichs, written by Ferdhuzi, who died in the year 411, of the Hegira. As to the Arabians, they claim for their language an antiquity as high as that, which Urquhart, a Scottish gentleman, arrogated for his family; since they both ascend to Noah. But it is not probable that the Koreish dialect, or classic Arabic of the Koran, was in existence at the supposed departure of the Goths; or if it was, that the people, who spoke it, could have ever had any intercourse with the emigrants, when it was their boast to King Demetrius, that they loved, for the sake of independence, the silence of their deserts, and when four successive empires, the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian and Roman had separated them for centuries from the Goths in question, who dwelt between the Caspian and Euxine.
Sir William Jones says the same of the Persians, especially in poetry. (Vol. iv. Works, p. 540.) And in the early part of the seventeenth century, a work was published at Constantinople, containing the finest verses of 549 Turkish poets. Such prolific genius places at an immeasurable distance the collection of Provençal poetry, by M. Curne de St. Paylaye, in 25 folios; and the lives of 142 by Millot; as well as the instances given by Andrès of the lives of 131 Arabic poets, and of the “Teatro de' Poeti,” in 24 volumes.
The Arabians boast that they have eighty words to signify honey, two hundred for a serpent, five hundred for a lion, and one thousand for a sword. Berington, however, discredits this philological prodigy. (Hist. of Mid. Ages, p. 643.) Probably they were nothing more than paraphrastical forms of expression, like the twenty eight forms, under which Cadmon describes the Ark. (2d Turn. Ang. Sax. p. 280.)
Huet denies to the Arabians the merit of inventing the Romance. Sharon Turner also has denied it indirectly, by declaring it to be his opinion, that “we must consider the monks as the great inventors of narrative fiction." (Vol. ii. Hist. Ang. Sax. p. 321, 4to.) That the ecclesiastics of those ages greatly cultivated the art of narrative invention, and were successful in their efforts, we see from their legends. Gregory's Dialogues, (e. g.) translated by Alfred, are nothing but legends or tales
says Ockley) by the Arabian, Abu Jaafar Ebn Tophail, (about 1198, Ockley's Preface to his Translation.) We may even grant, that the romances of Alexander the Great, written in Christian Europe, were borrowed from Arabian Tales, founded on the Persian fiction of Escander, (1 Wart. 132.) We may venture also to grant, as an established maxim of modern criticism, (1 Wart. 1st Diss.) that the fictions of the East were communicated to Europe, through the medium of the crusades; and we may admit with Andrès (vol. i. pp. 201-202, &c.) that there are many points of resemblance (to be hereafter considered) between the Arabic, and the Spanish and Provençal literature; yet we are not prepared, even after all these admissions, to credit the opinion of Andrès, contradicted as we think it is, by many facts and reasons.
There is much weight of authority we are aware, against us. La Harpe (vol. iv. p. 209) holds the opinion of Andrès. Sir William Jones, in his French dissertation on oriental poetry, says, "La rime est très ancienne chez les Arabes, desquels les poetes Provençaux et Castillans l'ont reçue." The learned Huet says, "Ex Arabibus, meo quidem judicio, versuum simili sono concludendorum artem accepimus." The Abbé Massieu, in his history of French poetry, is of opinion, that the Spaniards borrowed rhyme from the Moors, and the South of France from the Spaniards. Quadrio adopts the same sentiment, and the Quarterly Review (No. xxi. p. 7) coincides.
Let us first survey concisely our historical ground, in a literary point of view. The Mussulmans, in the beginning of the eighth century, possessed themselves of many of the Greek authors, (1 Wart. 2d Diss.) and set the highest value on the physics, mathematics, and metaphysics of the Greeks. But their poetry, oratory, history, politics and ethics were despised and neglected. (1 Wart. 1st Diss. 1 Andr. 202.) After the revival of the Greek philosophy by the Saracens, Aristotle and Euclid were very common in Europe, through the medium of Moorish literature long before Homer and Pindar. And yet Florian tells us that Averroes, who flourished A. D. 1150, was the first who
of the miraculous actions of the Italian saints. They are as complete a specimen of fictitious narration, as any book of fairy tales. Every nation of Europe, after the fall of the Roman Empire, abounded with such narratives of supernatural agency. Nor is this at all remarkable, when we consider, that Ovid was not only the great favourite of the Troubadours, Rambaldo Vacheiras and Bernardo di Ventadour, but was more frequently cited by the authors of the dark ages, than any other ancient poet. From such devotion to the marvellous of heathen mythology, we are not astonished at the growth of these monkish legends to 100 thick folios. May we not say of them, as Hallam does of the works of Roscelin, Peter Lombard, Aquinas, "et id genus omne," "Few, very few, for a hundred years past, have broken the repose of the immense works of the schoolmen." (Vol. iv. Mid. Ages, p. 387.)
communicated to the Moors a taste for Greek literature. He first translated Aristotle into Arabic, and acquired by his annotations, the emphatic title of "The Commentator."*" The European schools may have done nothing for many ages but translate, &c. Arabic books. Gerbert, Leonardo, Morley, Gerard, Campanus, Athelard, and a crowd of other European scholars, may have gone from England, France and Italy, to study in the Saracen Universities of Spain. Charlemagne may have had great numbers of Arabic works translated into Latin; but the books thus rendered, and the studies thus pursued by Christian scholars in Spain, were confined to physical, mathematical and metaphysical science. No Christian ever went thither to study poetry or eloquence. Nor is there the slightest evidence, that they ever brought away with them any information or improvement of mind, except in the above mentioned departments. "Non trovo chi andasse alle loro scuole ad apprendere la poesia e la eloquenza, come molti vi si portavano per imparare le matematiche; non vedo tradotti in latino i loro poeti ed oratori, come tradotti furono da principio i matematici e i medici." "Non che i fonti della nostra eloquenzia, e poesìa nati sieno dalle Arabiche scuole, non che i loro libri sieno statì ì modelli a nostri poeti ed oratori." We must, therefore, conclude irresistibly, that the schools of Saracen Spain, had no influence on the rise, progress and character of European literature (considered as distinguished from science) in France or Italy. And may we not fearlessly assert, that they had as little influence on the Spanish, when we look at the remarkable fact, that, after a period of 400 years, the early language and authors of the peninsula, instead of resembling the Arabian, themselves so rich, various and accomplished, belong beyond controversy, in sentiment and thought, in style and taste, to the same class of half-formed dialects and infant literature, with those of France and Italy?
But let us now consider, whether the effect could have been produced through the medium of the people. The first caliph, who patronised literature was Ali, and he began to reign A. D. 655. The Saracens entered Spain A. D. 711, and soon
*In the middle of the twelfth century, says Andrès, (vol. ii. p. 185) there was no copy of Homer in all France; whilst the Greek Philosophy and Metaphysics were familiar, through the means of the Arabians. It is true, the whole character of the Saracen poetry shows, that the Mahometans never studied or imitated the Greek poetry; yet Theophilus of Edessa, a Maronite, translated Homer into Syriac, about the year 770; and about 750, both Pindar and Homer were turned into Arabic. a 1 Wart. 2 Diss. b Andrès, vol. ii. p. 34. pp. 27--32.
1 Wart. 2 Diss. Andrès, vol. ii. d Andrès, vol. ii. pp. 135--137. VOL. II.-No. 3.
e Andrès, vol. i. p. 187.
conquered all but the northern and north-western provinces: but we cannot believe, that they ever produced any great radical change in the people, except in the south and southeast, for the following reasons. The original inhabitants of Spain lost their languages and religion in those of the victorious Romans; but we know that the Goths, though conquerors, yielded their's to the influence of the conquered in Italy, France and Spain; especially after Euric, towards the end of the fifth century, had united the Alani, Suevi and Vandals, under one crown. They became a Latin Christian people; but the Saracens preserved their own language and religion, and so did the Spaniards. The language of Spain, as far back as we can trace it (with the exception of the Biscayan, doubtless a relict of the Cantabrian) is as much a dialect of Latin, as the Italian, and was less affected by the Arabic, than by the Gothic.
The facts that the Moors adopted Cordova as their capital, and not some central city, such as Toledo, the Gothic capital, and
* This is true of the Gothic, but not of the Moorish parts of Spain: that is, of the south as compared with the north, on a general survey of Spain, for several centuries after the battle of Xeres. As late as the eleventh century, A. D. 1039, it was necessary to transcribe an Arabic version of the Acts of the Spanish Councils, for the use of the Bishops and Clergy in the Moorish kingdoms. Spain had, in a few generations, in the South at least, imbibed the manners of the Arabians-they had submitted to circumcision, and to the legal abstinence from wine and pork: the name of Mozarabes (adscititii) derived from Musa, their conqueror, marked their civil and religious conformity; but it was not till the middle of the twelfth century, that the worship of Christ, and the succession of Pastors was abolished in the kingdoms of Seville and Cordova, of Grenada and Valencia;-and when Ferdinand of Castile, retook Seville, &c. no Christians, except captives, were found. (9th Gibbon, c. 51, p. 486, &c.) Abderame the First, (756 to 787) though he did not persecute his Christian subjects yet deprived the cities of their Bishops, and the Churches of their Priests. (Gonzalva, of Cordova, vol. i. p. 39, Summ. Hist. of Moors.) It is a remarkable fact, in connexion with the question of Moorish influence, that the Castilian or classic Spanish, is the appropriate dialect of New Castile, the ancient Moorish kingdom of Toledo, which was not taken from the Moors, until 1085; and yet a dominion of 374 years, left but few vestiges of the supposed predominance of the Arabic language and literature. Nor let us forget, that Sismondi himself, (vol. i. p. 38, N) assigns the reign of Ferdinand the Great, A. D. 1037, to 1065, as the æra of the origin of the Castilian, the literary language of all Spain, ancient and modern. This must, of course, have sprung up and pursued its own progress towards maturity, uninfluenced by the Moors; and must have displaced the Moorish dialect, in Toledo and throughout New Castile generally, as speedily and thoroughly, as the Anti-Episcopal Biscayans, who would never permit a Bishop to set foot within their territory, compelled Ferdinand of Castile, to send away one, whom he had inadvertently brought with him! and having gathered the very earth that he had trod upon, burnt it and scattered the ashes to the winds.
The Biscayans speak that language, but write the French or Spanish, according to the kingdom, to which they belong. As we are on the subject of rhyme, we may mention, as a curious fact, that the first four lines of the Lord's Prayer, in the language of Biscay, are rhymed, at least if we judge by the practice of French poets:
"Gure Aita, ceruëtan aicena,
f Del: de l'Esp. et du Portug. tom. v. p. 873.