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So when our work in this our sphere was done,
Your recompense may be eternity.”
A long inexplicable solution follows. Thirty-five paragraphs, or stanzas, made up of cyphers, with an alphabet key at the end. Every letter has a variety of representatives ; and as the pursuit of that, which when found would be wholly worthless, gives little encouragement to patient industry, (though life itself is, alas ! but too crowded with shadows, chaced with an earnestness equal to their unsubstantiality), no busy idler has been yet found to open the door of this sacred arcanum-an arcanum richer than Potosi, or the caves of Sinbad.
Finido esta obra por nuestra horizonte
Though no ancient poet made Alexander the Great the subject of an epic, his marvellous history. has been frequently sung
in more modern time; and the remoteness of the distance has only served to give more activity to fiction, and to clothe in extravagant absurdity the events, which, marvellous in themselves, become monstrous, when blended with the exaggerations of fabulous inventions.
The history of Alexander, which bears the name of Quintus Curtius, is so overloaded with ornament, that its genuineness has been doubted as much on that account, as from the fact, that he is not quoted nor even noticed by any ancient author. His diction resembles, in some respects, that of the early romances; and this circumstance, we suppose, led one of his sceptical critics to deny his antiquity, and to attribute the production in question to some learned Italian of modern times. One of the justifications of his seeming credulity, or incorrectness, is rather curious, and has been adopted by Mariana, while describing the miracles of Spanish history. “ Equidem plura transcribo quam credo: nam neque affirmare sustineo de quibus dubito, neque subducere quæ accepi.”
It was hardly likely that the conquest of Persia by Alexander should be forgotten or unreferred to by the historians of that country, even though their wars with the Greeks in Europe seem not to have been the theme of any Persian writer. The important changes which affect mankind, in the seat of their domestic sympathies and national affections, live long in the spirit of tradition, and get, at last, permanently transferred to the tome of recorded story. Alexander has become one of the heroes of Persian song, and many and many a fable has been invented to conceal the disgrace of Darius's defeat. Truth is no friendly ally to him who is determined to find the phantom of national glory in the mists of former days; so some of the orientals have made Alexander the son of the Persian monarch himself: others, less daring in their misrepresentations, have adhered more closely to historical accuracy, but have embellished and obscured its facts with oriental adornings. On the whole, the best as well as the most celebrated Persian poem on this subject, is the Sekander Nameh of Nizami, who is said to rank next to Ferdusi in “ loftiness of thought.” Though the adventures of the hero are wrapped round and round with a tissue of falsehood, till they can scarcely be recognized, yet direct historical tradition has been the source of a great part of the poet's descriptions; and Sir William Ouseley has announced his intention of illustrating this period of the Persian annals from the works of Nizami. Though we have great doubts of his success, we expect, with much interest, the results of his investigations.
Walter de Castellon's Epic obtained in its day no small portion of praise. It is filled with puerilities. The ten books begin with the first ten letters of his Christian name, Guillermus. There is a constant strain at antithesis, and a wearisome and childish trickery of words. Among a great variety of poets who have treated of Alexander's history, Lambert li Cors translated into provençal Alexandrines some Latin production.
“ Lambert li Cors l'escrit,
The Spanish Alexandro el Magno, of which we are now about to speak, was first published in 1782 by Sanchez, from a MS. copy, apparently of the fourteenth century. Of the author's history, nothing is known. He has given us his name in one of his verses.
“ Joan Lorenzo bon clerigo e ondrado
His Castillian is purer than that of Gonzalo de Berceo, in consequence probably of his being farther removed from the influence of the French and Lemosin dialects.
There are a number of absurd and ill-placed digressions ; abstruse discussions of scholastic philosophy—the pagan my. thology and the catholic calendar are blended in monstrous disorder : all laws of time and place are constantly violatedmonks, and convents, and benedictine nuns—churches, and altars, and vigils, and confessions, and masses-Mahomet and the Moors-grace and original sin-are mixed up with the wildest dreams and visions. There are long and ridiculous astronomical and geographical details-he makes his hero express a wish to see Toledo and Seville—the antipodes he talks of with incredulous scorn, for he says " I do not choose to lie”-yet he narrates the fable of the phonix as a matter of sober history—he protests that in Alexander's time a man's voice might be heard at the distance of a three days' journey--he introduces the Acephali as real personages,
with their heads in their bosom--and of the griffins, “ those valiant birds,” gives very satisfactory details.
The quadernated versification, as the author calls it, and on which he seems to have prided himself not a little,
“ La quaderna via A sillabas cuntadas ca es grant maestria,” is not always preserved. When perplexed by his pentameters, he creates a word at will, thus, for rhyme's sake, he calls Ulysses, Ulixero, and Philip, Philippon. He changes the con
jugation of verbs, latinizes Castillian words that were current, or the reverse, at his good pleasuremhe alters the accent; he
proper names continually, some of which cannot be at all recognized in their disguise — Plutus he calls Pulto; Astyanax, Astemiata ; Talestris, Calextrix; he has Europa instead of Au- . rora; India for Judea. Nothing is more amusing than his titles - he has Count Don Demosthenes; the Emperor Jupiter; and divers dukes and duchesses, and viscounts; Don Bacchus, Our Redeemer; Don Love, Don Phoebus, Lady Fortune, and Lady Philosophy. Alexander's confession of faith is quite Catholic;.
“ La su misma figura adoro al criador
Que es Rey è Obispo è Abbat è Prior;" and his death as orthodox and devout as that of any Christian saint; yet there is often a spirit of sympathy and benevolence, triumphing over superstition and intolerance, as, for instance, when he introduces Alexander seeking counsel from heaven.
“He was a pagan—but God heard his prayer.'
All the prodigies which fable has associated with Alexander's birth, he has wrought into his history : “ Know that it is recorded,” says he, “ and doubt it not. The air was changed and the sun was darkened; the ocean stormed; the earth trembled; the world was ready to perish; stones fell from the clouds; two eagles fought over the door where he was born; a lamb spoke, and a fowl brought forth an angry serpent.' There are some fine comparisons.
“ As a young hungry lion, when he sees
In stanzas 1635-6, there is a curious portraiture of national character.
“ Impetuous and light are the citizens of Spain,
* “ Pero era pagano ful de Dios oida.”
Quando jaz en la cama e vee la venacion
And always in the van, are the young men of Champagne,
The Bretons are renown'd for their zealous love of art
Among the descriptions, many of which are really pictorial, there is a very curious one of Babylon ; a city, says the poet, abundant beyond all abundance-rich in the gifts of ages-safe from disease and distress—perfumed by nutmegs and nardwhere all faces are joyous—and the three holy rivers flow over costly stones, some of which dispense a beautiful light, and others give health and strength. There is the emerald, brighter than a mirror—the jasper which preserves from poisonthe garnet which casts out demons and destroys serpentsmagnets which rule over iron—the diamond, which can only be affected by the blood of kids—the topaz which gives its own colour to all it approaches-the galuca which makes its possessor happy and rich—the melocius which discovers thieves -the idropicus which deprives the moon of its colour, and makes its possessor invisible—the sagita which calls down the clouds--the coral which wards off the thunderbolt and preserves from violent death-the hyacinth of the colour of day, that cures all disease—the margarita formed of dews-the peorus whose colour cannot be described--the calatides which makes bitterness sweet—the solgoma (solis gemma) that creates the lightning, and the selenite that waxes and wanes with the moon -the agate that stops the course of rivers-the absinth which once heated preserves its fires-in a word, every precious stone that possesses miraculous virtue, according to the learned assurances of Albertus Magnus, or the devout credulity of Saint Isidore or Father Bartholomew Anglicus.
The description of Alexander's tent has a great deal of rude magnificence about it.
* " Los pueblos D'Espanna muchos son ligeros
Parecen los Franceses valientes caballeros
Cuemos precian mucho por artes los Bretones