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observe, did “not in any way propose to show whether the Evening News was right or wrong;" did not propose, that is, to inquire whether the journal, for which sympathy was claimed, had any title to sympathy. It would be superfluous, however, to traverse the contentions of those who addressed that meeting; suffice it now to remark that, although the full power of the Press was exertedalthough the Sydney public had served up to them the “opinions” of every print published in Australia, from the Argus of Melbourne down to the veriest rag, of, say, some brisk township boasting of a brace of “hotels” and a smithery—the churning process was a failure. The judgment evolved, as I began by saying, was only partially coagulate; and as soon as the Press passed to other business the judgment of the public liquefied and disappeared. The whole affair is pregnant with teaching for the Press; and I trust the members of that institution will be the more inclined to study that teaching, since the suggestion is proffered by one who conceives it to be an honour to be one of them.
JOHN WARDE, Sydney.
THE SONG OF ROLAND.*
The famous Chanson de Roland, the great ballad of the Middle Ages, which Mr. John O'Hagan has rendered into chaste and spirited English verse, lay concealed for a lengthened period in a single manuscript copy, which was given by Sir Kenelm Digby, in 1643, to the Bodleian Library, in Oxford. Its existence did not become publicly known till the year 1837, when it was transcribed and published at the expense of the French Government. Welcomed with enthusiasm in France and Germany, it passed through many editions, and became the subject of many learned and copious commentaries. It has been several times translated into German, and even into French, for Frenchmen of the present day do not easily understand the obsolete langue d'oil in which it is written. This is the first translation that has appeared in English, and the poem which has been read with so much eagerness, interest, and pleasure on the Continent, cannot fail to meet with a warm reception in the British Isles, and wherever the English language is spoken. The translator, an eminent lawyer, like his father-in-law, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, has done his work so perfectly that his book will probably become a classic in the language, and the French may well feel thankful for his able interpretation of a poem which many of their writers compare with the Iliad. The appearance of Mr. O'Hagan's version has created a good deal of interest in literary circles, and very favourable and elaborate reviews of it have been given in the Athenæum, the Academy, the Spectator, and other important journals.
Mr. O'Hagan has adopted the metre in which “ Christabel” and the “Bridal of Triermain" are written. He confesses that it is
* The Song of Roland, translated into English verse by John O'Hagan, M. A., one of Her Majesty's counsel (London: C. Kegan, Paul and Co., 1 Paternoster Square, 1880).
open to the reproach of being a lilting metre, but he chose it because its facile and elastic character admits of the introduction of the many rugged proper names with which the poem abounds. The choice was a happy one. The verse has a ring and easy flow, which convey admirably to the reader the spirit of the noble original.
Many topics of interest are suggested in connection with the Chanson (the translator treats of several in his graceful preface), but I omit them to pass to the subject matter of the poem. The “Song of Roland” is founded on a historical event, which occurred about eleven hundred years ago. In 778, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, marched against the Moors of Spain. Passing through the Pyrenees, by the valley of Roncesvalles, he took the town of Pampeluna, and shortly after laid siege to Saragossa. Unable to capture it, he concluded a peace with the Moslems, and marched back into France. During the passage through the mountains, the rear-guard of the army, commanded by Count Roland, Charlemagne's nephew, was attacked by the Basques in Roncesvalles, and was totally destroyed. On receiving the news, Charlemagne returned, but he could take no vengeance on foes who disappeared so rapidly that not a trace of them could be found. Such are the facts as related by Eginhard, but the poem changes them in many important particulars. It represents Charlemagne not as king merely, but as emperor, not in the prime of life, but as an old, though vigorous man, with white hair and beard. It makes Charlemagne's campaign in Spain last seven years, and it declares that the rear-guard perished, not through the sudden onslaught and wild valour of the Basques, but through the treachery of Ganelon, his brother-in-law, and the step-father of Roland, who betrayed Roland to the Moslems. Several other circumstances, not warranted by history, are to be found in the “Song.” They increase the interest of the story, and add more pathos to the catastrophe. A brief analysis of the poem will point them out.
The “Song of Roland” is divided into three parts, The Treason of Ganelon, Roncesvalles, and The Reprisals. It opens with the announcement that Charlemagne has warred in Spain with great
In Saragossa, which the Emperor is unable to capture, the Moslem king, Marsil, takes counsel with his courtiers, the sagest of whom, Blancandrin, advises him to send costly presents to the Franks, and deceive them with false promises of submission and conversion to the Christian faith. His advice is followed, and he is
sent himself as ambassador to Charlemagne. He finds the Frankish king in Cordres city, which was most probably some town in the Pyrenees, though many editors of the Chanson say that by it was meant Cordova. He beholds the Emperor
Seated underneath a pine,
and approaching with due observance, delivers his message thus :
“ Marsil, our king, doth his greeting send,
Much hath he mused on the law of grace,
The Emperor consults his peers. Roland, the bravest of the brave, advises him to continue the war, and bids him put no trust in Marsil, who once before made the same offers, but slew the two Christian knights sent to arrange with him the terms of submission. Ganelon gives opposing counsel, and most of the others are of opinion that it is best to accept Marsil's overtures. Roland then recommends Ganelon as well fitted to be the envoy to Marsil. Ganelon believes that this is done to compass his destruction, and a hot dispute ensues between him and Roland. However, he accepts the mission, and departs, cherishing the secret desire of betraying Roland into the hands of the Saracens. He delivers Charlemagne's message, not without peril to his life, so enraged is Marsil when he hears the haughty summons. However, Marsil makes him reparation for the insult, and converses peacefully with him about Charlemagne and the Frankish wars. Ganelon declares that the Emperor will never refrain from war till Roland breathes no more, and finally he agrees with the Moslems to have that celebrated knight appointed to guard the rear of the retiring army with twenty thousand men, and thus give Marsil the opportunity of lying in ambush with an overwhelming host in the mountain passes, and setting suddenly upon
Roland's command. Ganelon returns, bearing presents and hostages to Charlemagne. He succeeds in getting Roland named as commander of the rear-guard. Under Roland's banner march Olivier, his inseparable companion and brother-in-arms (to whose sister, Alda, Roland is betrothed), Archbishop Turpin, and ten of Charlemagne's chosen peers. During the preparations of the Franks for their departure, the Moslem army advances secretly to the pine-clad mountains.
Alas! the heathen host the while,
The Franks retire through the passes, and the van reaches the fields of Gascony before the rear-guard quits the Spanish marches. Olivier discovers the Moslem army advancing, and earnestly entreats Roland to sound his horn, and give Charlemagne notice of the danger, but Roland proudly refuses. Olivier still urges him.
“Roland, Roland, yet wind one blast!
And the Franks will return on their path full fast.”
“I will not sound on mine ivory horn:
The Saracens flock but to find a grave." Before the fray begins, Archbishop Turpin addresses the Franks, and bids them fight bravely for the succour of Christendom against the heathen foe. He assoils them, and the sole penance he enjoins is—to smite their best. A long and animated account of the heroic deeds done in the battle follows. A hundred thousand of the
* The name of his sword, well-known to the readers of Orlando Furioso.