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The History of Romantic Fabling is enveloped in much perplexity ; nor is it diminished by the various conjectures which have been started and upheld. The labours of ingenuity are not always convincing; and perhaps the very fact of their plausibility leads us to mistrust. Discussion upon remote history is ever attended with difficulty; and arguments that rest upon the basis of refined deduction—that are artfully designed to pull down one system while they support another 'equally imaginative, may have a well-founded
claim to admiration, but not upon the score of truth. It is singular how the mind loves to grasp at mystery, and to disport itself in the chaos of departed time. It springs undauntedly forward, unappalled by the numberless shadows which flit in “dim perspective” before it, and undeterred by the intricacies of the way. It would seem like a captive escaped from confinement, wantoning in the excess of unaccustomed liberty. And the more boundless the subject, the less timid we find the adventurer; the more perilous the journey, the less wary are his movements. Boldness appears to constitute success; as if, because the faint heart never attained the fair lady, modest pretensions, and unassuming merit, never secured the lady TRUTH. It is a libel upon the head and the heart; and canpot be too speedily abandoned.
Of the theories already advanced, none, it
seems to me, is perfect; and none, without some portion of accuracy. They each go part of the way, but stop before they touch the mark. Bishop Percy, after Mallet, attributes the invention of romance to the ancient Scalds or Bards of the North. They believed the existence of giants and dwarfs; they enter. tained opinions not unlike the more modern notion of fairies; they were strongly possessed with the belief of spells and enchantments, and were fond of inventing combats with dragons and monsters '." Now this is unequivocally nothing less than the entire machinery employed in all the Arabian Tales, and in every other oriental fiction. Such a coincidence no one will suppose the result of accident; nor can it for a moment be believed, that the warm imaginations of the East--where
1 Reliques of Ancient Eng. Poetry, Vol. 3. p. xiä.
Nature brightens the fancy equally with the flowers-borrowed it from the colder conceptions of the Northern bards. Many parts of the Old Testament, demonstrate familiarity with spells ; and Solomon (which proves a traditional intercourse, at least, between the Jews and other people of the East) by universal consent, has been enthroned sovereign of the Genii, and lord of the powerful Talisman. In David and Goliah, we trace the contests of knights with giants.: in the adventures of Sampson, perhaps, the miraculous feats attributed to the heroes of chivalry. In the apocryphal book of Tobit, we have an angel in the room of a SAINT ; enchantments, antidotes, distressed damsels, demons, and most of the other machinery of the occidental romance'. Parts of the Pentateuch ; of Kings,
1 In the application of the 10th Tale, Vol. 1, the book of Tobit, is referred to.
&c. &c. appear to have been amplified, and rendered wild and fabulous; and were the comparison carried' minutely forward, I am persuaded that the analogy would be found as striking as distinct. I mean not that this has always been the immediate source: I am rather inclined to suppose, that certain ramifications, direct from the East, already dilated and improved, were more generally the origin. But Scripture, in many cases, furnished a supernatural agency without pursuing this circuitous route; as well as heroes with all the attributes of ancient romance. In the old French prose of Sir Otuel, Chap. XXIV. we have the following exclamations on the death of the knight Roland, which partly confirm my observation.
Comparé à Judas Machabeus
par ta valeur et prouesse; ressemblant à Sanson, et pareil à Jonatas fils de Saul par la fortune de sa triste morte!" The Jewish Tal.