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mud, and especially the commentary upon it, abound with fables, composed in some respects of the materials worked up by the Scalds, but long anterior in date to their compositions, so far as they are known.
Dr. Percy contends, that “old writers of chivalry appear utterly unacquainted with whatever relates to the Mahometan nations, and represent them as worshipping idols, or adoring a golden image of Mahomet'.” This, I should conceive, would naturally be the
It was the aim of Christian writers to represent the infidels in the worst light possible. They thought them the most wretched beings in creation; and they might, therefore, artfully pervert their creed, and exaggerate their vices. Most frequently, such would be the genuine result of their abhorrence:-just
1 Rel. of A. E. Poetry, Ibid.
as popular superstition pictures the “ foul fiend," with horns, and cloven feet, and a hideously distorted countenance-not because it is really accredited, but because nothing is thought too vile or too fearful for the Evil One. The hostility which the crusades excited and nourished; nay, the very difference of religious feeling, would necessarily call out the whole virulence of an age, not remarkable for its forbearance; and it is absurd to suppose, that the intercourse so long maintained between the two continents (both previous to these expeditions, and subsequent), should not have given them a sufficient acquaintance with the Saracen belief, and mode of worship. If the great Saladin required and received knight-hood from the hands of the Christians', it argued a degree of intimacy with European customs on the one side, which it would be unfair and arbitrary to deny the other.
1 See“ Gesta Dei per Francos,” page 1152. Joinville (p. 42) is cited by Gibbon for a similar instance..
That the Scalds added some circumstances to the original matter, and rejected others, is extremely probable. The traditions which conveyed the fable, would, of course, be corrupted; not only from the mode of conveying it, but from the dissimilarity of customs and ideas among those by whom it was received. All I contend for, is the original ground, upon which they, and other nations have built; and this, I think I shall be able to demonstrate, purely oriental. But it is objected, that if the northern bards had derived their systems from the East, they would have naturalized them as the Romans did the stories of Greece. It is thought that they must have adopted into their religious rites the same mythology, and have evinced as strong a similitude, as the nations of classical celebrity. There is, in truth, no basis for such an assertion to stand upon. The long intercourse between these nations, their vicinity to each other, and more than all, the original similarity of their worship, prepared the Romans to receive the devotional system of a conquered country, without hesitation. They understood, and valued Grecian literature, and consequently found an additional motive for the reception of Grecian theology. It accorded with preconceived notions ; it was, in fact, a part of their own.
Besides, the Romans 'were rising in civilization, and caught at every shadow of improvement. The people of the North were totally the reverse. They were the children of Nature of Nature yet unbetrothed to Art. They were not, therefore, prepared by any thing analogous to produce a similar effect: and could but seize the most prominent features that were presented to them, upon which to engraft their own wild and terrible stories.
Warton has written a long dissertation to prove that the Arabians, who had been for some time seated on the northern coasts of Africa, and who entered Spain about the beginning of the eighth century, " disseminated those extravagant inventions which were so peculiar to their romantic and creative genius?." This hypothesis Bishop Percy has endeavoured to refute; and, according to Mr. Ellis ’, he has entirely succeeded. The argument advanced on this occasion is, that were it true,
the first French romances of chivalry would have been on Moorish, or at least Spanish subjects, whereas the most ancient stories of this kind, whether in prose or verse, whether in Italian, French,
1 Hist. of Eng. Poetry, Diss. 1. 2 Specimens of Anc. Met. Romances, Vol. i. p. 31.