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measures were not carried through. We cannot help remembering that it was the plebeian aristocracy – that is to say, itself a part of the class actually privileged with respect to the use of the domain — which proposed the new regulations, and that one of their originators himself, Caius Licinius Stolo, was found among those first condemned for exceeding the maximum of land; and we cannot help proposing the question whether the lawgivers acted quite honorably, and did not rather designedly avoid such a settlement of the troublesome question of the public lands as should be beneficial to all." (p. 274.) However this may be, the coalition lasted no longer than was necessary to secure the desired results; the old patrician and plebeian aristocracy soon united again, and, as nobles or optimates, ruled the republic until its downfall.
We have thus given an imperfect view of some of the most striking portions of Prof. Mommsen's History, and have been led, by the importance of the subject and the generally erroneous ideas which prevail upon it, to enter more fully into the subject of the social questions which agitated the Roman republic in its early years than we at first intended. It is not too much to say that every chapter shows the same rich scholarship, and clear and masterly tracing of cause and effect, with those we have examined; he touches nothing on which he does not throw some new light. If his style were as simple and clear as his ideas are at once deep and brilliant, we do not know what quality of an historian he could be said to lack.
Art. IV. — LITERATURE OF THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR.
1. La Mort d'Arthure. The History of King Arthur and of the
Knights of the Round Table. Compiled by Sir Thomas MA-
Russell Smith. 1858. 2. The Age of Chivalry. Part I. King Arthur and his Knights.
Part II. The Mabinogeon. By Thomas BULFINCH. Boston:
Crosby, Nichols, & Co. 1859. 3. King Arthur. By Sir EDWARD Bulwer Lytton, Bart. Phila
delphia: Ilogan and Thompson. 1851. 4. Idyls of the King. By ALFRED Tennyson. Boston: Ticknor
and Fields. 1859.
MR. SHARON TURNER, in his admirable History of the AngloSaxons, gives, with the conscientious care which distinguishes his research, all that can be authentically settled about King Artlur. It seems that he lived in the first half of the sixth century, a prince of the south of Britain, and head of a confederation of British kings. His claim to distinction is that he fought against invading Saxons, and was successful in staying for a while, though he could not prevent, their advance. He was a patriot and a brave warrior in his own little region, and has a place in its local history. He was mortally wounded, A. D. 542, in a battle with his nephew Medrawd, who had seduced from him the affections of his wife, Gwenhyfar; and he died in Glastonbury, whither his friends had carried him from the field of Camlan to be healed of his hurt. There, six centuries later, by command of Henry II., they searched in the cemetery of the monastery, and found his bones, enclosed in hollowed oak, under a leaden cross which bore the inscription, “ Hic jacet sepultus inclytus Rex Arthurus, in insula Avallonia.” The skull showed how good a fighter he had been, for it bore the marks of nine closed wounds, beside the open cleft which had let in death. In the same grave were the bones of his wife, with her yellow hair perfect in form and color to the sight, but falling into dust in the hands of the monk who laid hold of it. This petty sovereign of South Wales was the actual Arthur.
The spurious Arthur is the work of Jeffry of Monmouth, in his lying chronicle, where, under the pretext of historical fact, the prince of a small district and barbarous tribe of South Britain is made the king of the whole land, conqueror of the Saxons, invader of Europe, and adversary of Rome. He drives foreign enemies from the island and makes them tributary, adds to his kingdom Ireland, Iceland, and the Orkneys, subdues Norway and Gaul, takes Paris, and is crossing the Alps, on his way to the Imperial City, when the news of his nephew's revolt reaches him, and he returns home to be killed in Cornwall and buried in Avalon.
But the real Arthur is the Arthur of romance. More real he than the actual historic king. For what the mind imagines has often more reality for it than what it believes. What it forms in itself is apt to be more to it than what is proved from outside. It holds closer intimacy and nearer relation with its own creations than with the supplies of the senses or the guests of the understanding. It draws a magic circle, where the finer intellect realizes things which the grosser part may not apprehend. In this charmed region Fancy revels in those
“lucent syrops tinct with cinnamon, And spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon,” which are always more fresh and delicious than the coarse flavors of common life to the taste; and here those
Or Cytherea's breath,” woo us with a perfume above the fragrance of mortal gardens. Here, too, Imagination, that master faculty of the soul, brings us into such close relation with some grand play or stress of human power and passion, that Cordelia and Hamlet, Beatrice and Faust, become henceforth more real to the mind than our nearest neighbors and companions.
As with the individual, so with nations, this power of making things that are not as if they were, stores mind and heart with persons, scenes, and events of its fashioning, whose reality, for pleasure and for good use too, experience may not
match in its own kind. The men and deeds of national legend and of ethnic myths come home to the wits, affections, humors, of the people. It is a blood-relationship; they are never alien, but always welcome in their old and natural haunts. It is with reason that a nation's ballads have been put, for living influence over social and civic life, above its laws. And it is in ballads, Volkslieder, and fables, songs of minstrelsy and the annals of story-tellers, that the life and fame of the real Arthur are set forth. They are the royal archives from whose records his chivalric glory and goodness draw the popular interest and liking, throughout a boundless realm of pleasant imaginings and day-dreams. Here, among the mind's marvels and the heart's delights, he holds a sovereignty beside which the remote and dim state of that petty British chief makes no show. The prophecy of his.epitaph is fulfilled, “Rex quondam, rexque futurus," “Once king, and king to be;" for here he continually rules in the full splendor of his court and bravery of his Round Table, a real presence to all children of Saxon and British stock, and to as many of their elders as are fortunate or wise enough to retain still something of the child in their hearts, and to carry along with them a little of that happy credulity which, in the nursery, heard with favor,
“When as King Arthur ruled the land,
He was a goodly king," and which, cultured to a more delicate fancy, enables them to read with delight these new Idyls, where his goodliness and gracious times are so fairly set forth. Here he is always “Flos Regum," — the Flower of Kings, – in comparison with whose splendid bloom many historic potentates are but “ kings of shreds and patches."
With this real Arthur the books at the head of this article have to do. Jeffry of Monmouth may be supposed to have gathered up in A. D. 1147, after his tedious way, and with feeble romancing of his own, a good deal of the floating story which for six centuries had been collecting around the name of the historic Arthur, and with fond exaggeration perpetuating the fame of his patriotism. This foolish chronicle of his seems, however, to have done much good in this, that it set the fancy of singers and story-tellers to work. For shortly after his time many romances appear, written, for the most part, in the Anglo-Norman dialect, telling the tale of the “Queste du St. Graal,” “ Lancelot du Lac,” and the “ Morte d'Arthure," with the life and deeds of Merlin the enchanter, and of many knights and dames like Tristan and Galahad, Isoude and Guinevere. These romances, and a mass of legendary verse and prose on the same theme of Arthur and his chivalry, furnish to one Sir Thomas Malory, in 1470, material for the compilation of a book “oute of certeyne bookes of Frensshe and reduced into Englysshe," which William Caxton, in 1485, printed in the Abbey of Westminster, with the title “La Mort Darthur." of this book many reprints have been made, the most famous of which is the elegant quarto edited by Southey. Beside these, certain translations of it into modern and readable English have appeared. Of these, the edition of 1634 furnishes Mr. Thomas Wright the basis of his handsome book, published last year in that “ Library of Old Authors” in which the London publisher, Smith, has given us old Chapman's Homer, and many ancient books of worth, in a shape which fitly renews something of the quaintness of the original imprint.
This “ La Morte d’Arthure” is the treasury of information concerning the king, his brave knights and lovely ladies, feasts, tourneys, wars, enchantments, and all the brilliant haps and sad mishaps of his life, court, and renowned Round Table. It is from this source that book-makers, story-writers, fabliasts, balladists, and poets have drawn their stories of Sir Tristram and his devotion to La Beale Isoude, and how Sir Lancelot and the queen joined their guilty loves, - of the young and pure knight, Sir Galahad, who was blessed with the sacrament from the holy chalice of the very blood shed by the Lord upon the cross, and how the Lady of Shalott died for love of Lancelot, and crafty Viviane shut up Merlin for herself, — with many other fables of strange adventure and
, magical fortune, fit to lead and please the fancy.
Yet it does not merely feed the childish appetite for marvels, but answers the more mature wish, which exacts of fic