Page images
PDF
EPUB

Partenopex having disembarked from his magical conveyance, approached and entered a castle of marvellous extent and beauty, which stood near the harbour. In the saloon, which was lighted by diamonds,' he finds prepared an exquisite repast, but no one appears. Attendance could

1 Truth is stranger than fiction. It would be perfectly possible to realize approximately this idea by the aid of modern science. In a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution on April 4, 1879, Mr. William Crookes, F.R.S., exhibited the phosphorescent phenomena of diamonds and rubies in glass vessels from which the air had been nearly exhausted, and the remaining atmospheric molecules set in movement by electricity. One diamond shone with a brilliant blue light, anothers with as much light as a candle, phosphorescing of a bright green.” Mr. Crookes considered the diamond the most sensitive substance he had met with “ for ready and brilliant phosphorescence. Next to the diamond the ruby is one of the most remarkable stones for phosphorescing.” At the same lecture a small heap of these stones was exhibited, “ shining with a brilliant rich red colour, as if they were glowing hot.”. See, supra, Huon of Bordeaux, p. 307. See also the story, from the Gesta Romanorum, entitled De Imagine cum digite dicente, and note upon it. The belief in the inherent luminosity of certain stones seems to have been widely diffused ; at all events luminous gems are an important property in legendal and imaginative literature. According to an Eastern story the pit into which Joseph was cast by his brethren was illumined by a jewel (Weil, Bible, Koran, and Talmud-Story of Joseph). The Eastern ruby especially seems to have been credited with the power of giving light. The Persians called it “ Torch of the Night” (Chardin, Voyages, Paris, 1811). Mahomet's tomb was feigned to be illuminated by such a stone.

Une lampe de cristal cler;
Devant la tombe de Mahon pent.
Il n'a riens dedens, et si rent
Tel clarte k'il saule qu'ele art;
Elle i fut assise par art.
Chil qui l'uevre sutilia
Auchune piere mise i a,
Prope a escarboucle fine
Qui la lampe enlumine.

Roman de Mahomet, v. 1934, ed. Du Pont, p. 81. Prope (pyrope) is a name given to the ruby on account of its supposed luminosity, just as carbunculus refers to an incandescant coal. Cf. also the following verses of the mediæval sequence, Ave Virgo Nobilis, etc. :

" Approbat carbunculus,
Lucens nocte oculus,
Longe, late, largiter
Laudis tuæ jugiter

Famam dilatari.”
See, further, Add. Note on Luminous Stones.

be the better dispensed with, as the dainties placed themselves of their own accord on his lips. After he had taken advantage of their hospitality, a lighted torch showed him the way to his bed-chamber, where he was undressed by invisible hands. The notion of such a palace, like many other incidents in this romance, must have been suggested by the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius. A similar fiction has been adopted by the earliest romantic poet of Italy: in the second canto of the Morgante Maggiore, that giant comes with his master Orlando to a splendid and mysterious castle, in which the apartments are richly furnished, and the table spread with every sort of wines and provisions. After the guests have partaken of a sumptuous repast, they retire to rest on rich couches prepared for their repose, no one having appeared in the course of the entertainment.

When Partenopex had gone to bed, and the lights had been extinguished, a lady entered the apartment, who, after some tedious expostulation on the freedom he had used in usurping the usual place of her repose, evinced a strong determination not to be put out of her way. In the course of the night his companion acquaints him that she is Melior of Constantinople, who, it will be remembered, was a great empress and a fairy at the same time. Having fallen in love with Partenopex, on report of her emissaries, she had contrived the enchantments he had lately witnessed. She farther intimated, that he was to remain at her castle, but that he would forfeit her affections if he attempted to obtain a sight of her person before the lapse of two years ; a deprivation for which she seemed disposed to compensate by the most ample gratification of his other

In the morning the most splendid habiliments were brought him by Uracla, the sister of the empress fairy. Having dogs and horses at his command, he usually spent the day in hunting, and in the evenings was entertained by a concert from invisible musicians.

Anxious, at length, to revisit his native country, which he learned had been attacked by foreign enemies, Partenopex hazarded an exposition of his wishes to his mistress, who, after exacting a promise of return, accommodates him with the magic sloop in which he had arrived, and

senses.

which in a short while conveys him to France. On the evening he landed he sets out for Paris, and on his way meets with a knight, whom he discovers to be Gaudin, the lover of Uracla. The strictest intimacy arises between these two persons after a dreadful combat; a mode of introduction, which, though now fallen into disuse, was the usual commencement of friendship in those chivalrous ages :

Deux Chevaliers qui se sont bien battus,
Soit à Cheval, soit à la noble escrime,
Avec le sabre ou de longs fers pointus,
De pied en cap tout couverts, ou tout nus,
Ont l'un pour l'autre une secrete estime;
Et chacun d'eux exalte les vertus
Et les grands coups de son digne adversaire,
Lorsque surtout il n'est plus en colere:
Mais s'il advient, après ce beau conflit,
Quelque accident-quelque triste fortune,
Quelque misere à tous les deux commune,
Incontinent, le Malheur les unit;
L'Amitié nait de leurs destins contraires,
Et deux heros persécutés sont Frères.

La Pucelle, Préface au chant ix.
Expelld their native homes by adverse fate,
They knock'd alternate at each other's gate;
Then blazed the castle at the midnight hour

For him whose arms had shook its firmest tower. Soon after the arrival of Partenopex in France, Angelica, the pope's niece, who was at this time residing at the court of Paris, falls in love with him, and in order to detach him from his engagement with the fairy, which she had discovered by means of an intercepted letter, she employs a holy man, who repaired to Partenopex, and denounced Melior as a demon. He found that her lover was proof against an insinuation with regard to his mistress possessing a serpent's tail, which he begged to be excused from crediting, but that he was somewhat startled by the assurance that she had a black skin, white eyes, and red teeth.

Partenopex having returned to the residence of the fairy, resolves to satisfy himself the first night he passes in her company, as to the truth of her possessing the perfections attributed to her in France. On raising a lamp to her countenance, he has the satisfaction to find she has been

a

cruelly traduced; but, as she unfortunately awakes, from a drop of wax falling on her bosom, he incurs her utmost resentment. His life is spared at the intercession of Uracla, but, being forced to leave the castle, he repairs to the forest of Ardennes, having adopted the scheme of presenting his person as food for the wild beasts, with which that district abounded. This consummation, however desirable, was retarded by unaccountable circumstances; for though tantalized during a whole night by the roaring of lions and hissing of serpents, who gave repeated demonstrations of accommodating the knight, the provoking animals avoided all personal intercourse, and one of the monsters selected the horse of Partenopex in preference to his master. The neighings of the steed brought Uracla to the spot, who had set out in quest of Partenopex on perceiving some relenting symptoms on the part of her sister. Partenopex, all hopes of personal deglutition being at an end, consented to accompany Uracla to her castle in Tenedos, there to await the resolves of the empress fairy. Leaving Partenopex in this abode, Uracla set out on a visit to her sister, and, relying on the prowess of Partenopex, persuaded her to declare that she would bestow her hand on the victor, in a tournament she was about to proclaim. The princesses of romance frequently offer their hand to the conqueror in a tournament, perhaps on the same principle on which Bayle says Penelope promised to espouse the suitor who should bend the bow of Ulysses.

While preparations were making for the tournaments, Parseis, an attendant of Uracla, having become enamoured of Partenopex, took him out one day in a boat. After some time, Partenopex remarked to her the distance they were from land. The damsel then made an unequivocal declaration of attachment, and confessed she had recourse to this stratagem to have an opportunity for the avowal. Partenopex, who perhaps saw no insurmountable objection to a communication of this nature on shore, began to express much dissatisfaction at his cruise ; but his complaints were interrupted by a tempest, which drove the vessel to the coast of Syria ; Partenopex, being forced to land, was seized by the natives, and became the prisoner of King Herman. During his captivity, the sultan of Persia ordered this tributary monarch to accompany him to the tournaments which were about to be celebrated at Constantinople. After his departure, Partenopex having contrived to interest the queen in his behalf, was allowed to escape, and arrived in the capital of the eastern empire just as the tournaments commenced. His most formidable antagonist was the sultan of Persia, but Partenopex is at length, by his strength and courage, permitted to lay claim to the hand of the rejoiced and forgiving empress.

The romance of Partenopex is obviously derived from the fable of Cupid and Psyche, so beautifully told by Apuleius.' Psyche is borne on the wings of Zephyr to the palace of her divine admirer. Partenopex is transported in à self-navigated bark, before a favourable breeze, to the mansion of Melior. Both are entertained at a banquet produced by invisible agency, and similar restrictions on curiosity are imposed: both are seduced into disobedience by the false insinuations of friends, and adopt the same method of clearing up their suspicions. Banishment, and a forfeiture of favour, are the punishments inflicted on both; and, after a long course of penance, both are restored to the affections of their supernatural admirers.

These resemblances are too close to permit us to doubt, that the story of Psyche has, directly or indirectly, furnished mate

1 As to this, " there are not many points of criticism on which there has been a more general consent, among those who have paid attention to the subject.” So writes the Rev. W. E. Buckley, in his introduction to his edition of the English version of Partonope of Blois,” printed for the Roxburghe Club, in 1862, to which we refer the reader for a careful account of this romance. From Mr. Buckley's remarks it will be seen that M. Francisque Michel has found Denis Pyramus to be the author of the romance, or at least to claim the invention and versification of the poem, which M. Amaury Duval would include among the Romances of the Round Table, and M. Robert, on the other hand, would attach to the Carlovingian cycle. The name Partonope, or Par. thenopex, or Partonopeus, has been derived by Mone and Graesse from Parthenay, in Poitou, and not from Parthenopæus, one of the Seven against Thebes, to which derivation Mr. Ward leans in his Catalogue, i. p. 700. A. Mussafia, in his Ueber die Spanischen Versionen der Historia Trojana, shows part of the Spanish versions to have been made directly from the French of Benoit de St. More, while others, including a Catalonian translation made in 1367 by J. Conæsa, is directly from Colonna's text. The Italian Binduccio worked on the French version, See Ward, Catalogue of Romances, etc.

« PreviousContinue »