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the poet couches the difficulties of an ardent lover in attaining the object of his passion, under the allegory of a rose, which is gathered in a delicious but almost inaccessible garden. The theologists proved this rose to be the white rose of Jericho, the new Jerusalem, state of grace, divine wisdom, the holy Virgin; or eternal beatitude, at none of which obstinate heretics can ever arrive. The chemists pretended, that it was the philosopher's stone; the civilians, that it was the most consummate point of equitable decision; and the physicians, that it was the infallible pa
In a word, other professions, in the most elaborate commentaries, explained away the lover's rose into the mysteries of their own respective science. In conformity to this practice, Tasso allegorized his own poem; and a flimsy structure of morality was raised on the chimerical conceptions of Ariosto’s ORLANDO. In the year 1577, a translation of a part of Amadis de Gaule appeared in France ; with a learned preface, developing the valuable stores of profound instruction, concealed under the naked letters of the old romances, which were discernible only to the intelligent, and totally unperceived by common readers; who, instead of plucking the fruit, were obliged to rest contented with le simple FLEUR de la Lecture litterale. Even Spenser, at a later period, could not indulge his native impulse to descriptions of chivalry, without framing such a story, as conveyed, under the dark conceit of ideal champions, a set of historic transactions, and an exemplification of the nature of the twelve moral virtues. He presents his fantastic queen with a rich romantic mirrour, which shewed the wondrous achievements of her magnificent ancestry.
And thou, O fairest princess under sky,
“ It was not, however, solely from an unmeaning and a wanton spirit of refinement, that the fashion of resolving every thing into allegory, so universally prevailed. The same apology may be offered for cabalistical interpreters, both of the classics and of the old romances. The former, not willing that those books should be quite exploded which contained the ancient mythology, laboured to reconcile the apparent absurdities of the pagan system to the Christian mysteries, by demonstrating a figurative resemblance. The latter, as true learning began to dawn, with a view of supporting for a while the expiring, credit of giants and magicians, were com-' pelled to palliate those monstrous incredibi. lities, by a bold attempt to unravel the mystic web which had been wove by fairy hands, and by shewing that truth was hid under the gorgeous veil of Gothic invention *"
* B. ü. Introd. St. vi.
* WARTON. Introductory Disser. See Hist. of E. Poetry. Vol. 3. p. xciv, et seq. I cannot omit observing here, that in the opinions which I have hazarded, I am led by no presumptuous feeling to condemn those who think differently. I deprecate every suspicion to the contrary. While I am anxious to elucidate and establish my own sentiments, I retain the utmost respect and deference for those whose research, judgment, critical acumen and ability, there is little merit in frankly avowing. And I take this opportunity of acknowledging the assistance I have derived from the invaluable labors of Mr. Donce, and Mr. Ellis--not to mention a fund of information from Mr. Warton, which the reader will readily observe. . The latter writer, whose inaccuracies have been the theme of every pen, it seems to me, has not been justly appreciated. That he is frequently incorrect is certain—but he is blamed by those, who have not repaired his deficiencies, while they have forgot the difficulty of his undertaking, and the impossibility of preventing typographical errors in a work of such extent. A slight blander, which I should think must have been unintentional, (Isumbras for Ippotis) causes Ritson to accuse him of an “ Infa. mous bie!” See Diss. on Romance and Minstrelsy; passim.
TAL E I.
Pompey * was a wise and powerful king. He had an only daughter, remarkable for her beauty, of whom he was extremely fond. He committed her to the custody of five soldiers; and charged them, under the heaviest penalties, to preserve her from every possible in
* The fair Reader who has not condescended to notice my prolegomena (and I hope the suspicion is not treasonable !) may require to be informed that “Gesta ROMANORUM” supplies a very inadequate idea of the contents of these volumes. The Romans have little to do in the matter, and King Pompey must not be confounded with Pompey the Great, though they are unquestionably meant for the same person. Sach blanders are perpetual.