Page images

Tifoon), had dragons, instead of human heads, and out of each of them threw the shriek of a different animal. Enceladus was thrust under Mount Etna, from which he still vomits fire and smoke, and when he turns his side there is an earthquake. Otus and Ephialtes grew nine inches a month, and at nine years old made their campaign against the gods. Now and then a giant undertook to be more courtly and pious. When Juno, Neptune, and Minerva conspired to dethrone Jupiter, Briareus went up into heaven, and seating himself on his right hand, looked so very shocking that the deities were fain to desist.

There is a confusion of the giants with the Titans, but their wars were different. Those of the Titans were against Cælus and Saturn; the giants warred against Jupiter. They were also of a different nature, the Titans being of proper celestial origin, whereas the birth of the giants was as monstrous as their shapes. As to the great stature of the Titans, all the gods were gigantic. It was only in their visits to earth that they accommodated themselves to human size, and then not in their wars. One of the noblest uses ever made of this association of bodily size with divine power is in “Paradise Lost,” where Milton, in one of those passages in which his theology is as weak and perplexed as his verse is powerful, makes Abdiel say to the leader of the infernal armies,

“Fool! not to think how vain
Against the Omnipotent to rise in arms;
Who out of smallest things could without end
Have raised incessant armies to defeat
Thy folly; or with solitary hand
Reaching beyond all limit, at one blow,
Unaided, could have finished thee, and whelm'd
Thy legions under darkness.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

single hand.”

Oh no! it is much finer than that. It means his hand, visibly alone, — with nothing round about it, — solitary in the great space of existence. It stretches out into the ether, dashing, at one blow, a great host into nothing; then draws back into heaven, and there is a silence as if existence itself were annihilated.

The Cyclops is a variety of the giant monstrous. He has one eye, and is a man-eater. Mr. Bryant, who, in his “ Elements of Ancient Mythology,” amidst a heap of wild and gratuitous assumptions, has some ingenious conjectures, is of opinion that a Cyclops was a watch-tower, with a round window in it showing a light, and that by the natural progress of fable the tower became a man. If the light however was for good purposes, the charge of maneating is against the opinion. The Cyclopes, a real people, who left the old massy specimens of architecture, called after their name, are said to have been in the habit of carrying shields with an eye painted on them, or wore visors with a hole to see through. But these conjectures are not necessary to our treatise. The proper, huge, cannibal giant, the Fee-faw-fum of antiquity, is our monster. Homer, who wandered about the world, and took marvels as they came, has painted him in all his cruelty. Theocritus, writing pastorals at the court of Ptolemy, and more of a “sweet Signior,” found out a refinement for him, which, to say the truth, is superior to jesting, and has touched a chord which the inventor of the character of Hector would have admired. He made Polyphemus in love ; and we are sorry for the monster, and wish Galatea to treat him with as much tenderness as is compatible with her terrors. * His discovery of his forlorn condition,

* Those who wish to know how music can express a giant's misery con

his fear that his senses are forsaking him, and his eagerness to suppose that he is not altogether alien to humanity, because the village girls, when he speaks to them from his mountain at night-time, laughed at him, render him no longer a monstrosity odious, but a difference pitiable.*

There is a Polyphemus in the story of “Sindbad” so like Homer's, that the ingenious author of the “Remarks on the Arabian Nights' Entertainments” pronounces it to be copied from him. Homer, however, might have copied it from the Orientals. He might have heard it from Eastern traders, granting it was unknown to the Greeks before. The wanderings of Ulysses imply a compilation of wonders from all parts of the world. The Greeks, except in this instance, appear to have had no idea of a nation of giants. Even Polyphemus they mixed up with their mythology, making him a son of Neptune. On the other hand, the grandiosity of the Orientals supplied them with giants in abundance, and Sir John Mandeville had no need, as Mr. Hole imagines, to go to Virgil and Ovid for his descriptions of huge monsters, eating men as they go, “all raw and all quicke.”

Ariosto, in the seventeenth book of his great poem, has a Polyphemus with two projecting bones, instead of eyes, of the color of fungus. This is very ghastly. He calls him an orco, that is to say, an ogre, Ogre, whether derived from the Latin orcus, or from Oigour (a tribe of Tartars), or Hongrois, or Hungarian,* is a man-eater; and orco appears to be the same, though not confined to the man-monster. The same poet, in his rifacimento of the story of Andromeda (canto 10), calls the fish an orc; and the word is used in a like sense in our elder poetry. Ariosto’s Polyphemus (for he gives him a cavern, sheep, &c., exactly like those of the old Cyclops) has no sight at all with those horrible goggles of his. An exquisite sense of smelling supplies the want of it; and he comes running upon his prey, dipping his nose towards the

trasted with the happiness of two innocent lovers, should hear the serenata of “ Acis and Galatea," by Handel, the giant of the orchestra.

(“. Where giant Handel stands,

Arm’d, like Briareus, with his hundred hands." - POPE.) The terrible intonations of Polyphemus in his despair, with those lovely unweeting strains of the happy pair immediately issuing out upon them, “ Ere I forsake my love,” &c., offer perhaps the finest direct piece of contrast in the whole circle of music.

* Theocritus, “Idyll.” xi. v. 72.

gro und.

“Mentre aspettiamo, in gran piacer sedendo,

Che da caccia ritorni il signor nostro,
Vedemmo l'orco a noi venir correndo
Lungo il lito del mar, terribil mostro.
Dio vi guardi, signor, che 'l viso orrendo
De l'orco a gli occhi mai vi sia dimostro.
Meglio e per fama aver notiza d'esso,
Ch' andargli, si che lo veggiate, appresso.

“Non si puo compartir quanto sia lungo,

Şi smisuratamente è tutto grosso.
In luogo d'occhi, di color di fungo
Sotto la fronte ha due coccole d'osso.
Verso noi vien, come vi dico, lungo
Il lito: e par ch'un monticel sia mosso.
Mostra le zanne fuor, come fa il porco :
Ha lungo il naso, e'l sen bavoso e sporco.

“Correndo viene, e'l muso a guisa porta

Che'l braccio suol, quando entra in su la traccia.
Tutti che lo veggiam, con faccia smorta
In fugo andiamo ove il timor ne caccia.

* See “Fairy Mythology,” vol. ii.

Poco il veder lui cieco ne conforta ;
Quando fiutando sol par che piu faccia,
Ch 'altri non fa ch 'abbia odorato e lume :
E bisogno al fuggire eran le piume.”

While thus we sat, prepared for mirth and glee,
Waiting the king's appearance from the chase,
Suddenly, to our horror, by the sea,
We saw the ogre coming towards the place.
God keep you, Sir, in his benignity,
From setting eyes on such a dreadful face !
Eetter, by far, of such things to be told,
Than see a sight to make a man turn old.

I cannot tell you his immeasured size,
So huge he was, and of a bulk throughout.
Upon his horrid front, instead of eyes,
Two bony roundels, fungus-hued, stuck out.
Thus, like the only thing 'twixt earth and skies,
He came along; and under his brute snout
Tusks he put forth, bared like the boar's in wrath ;
And his huge breast was filthy with a froth.

Running he comes, projecting towards the ground
His loathly muzzle, dog-like, on the scent.
With ashy faces we arise, and bound,
Fast as we can, before the dire intent.
Small comfort to us was his blindness found;
Since with his smelling only as he bent,
More sure he seem'd than creatures that have sight;
And wings alone could match him for a flight.

The poverty-stricken propriety of Mr. Hoole regarded these circumstances as “puerilities.” He ventured to turn Ariosto's wine into water, and then judged him in his unhappy sobriety. Mr. Hoole was not man enough to play the child with a great southern genius. Ariosto's poem is a microcosm, which sees fair-play to all the circles of imagination, at least to all such as are common to men in their ordinary state ; and he did not omit those that

« PreviousContinue »