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quired no more into who they sat near to, or far from, what offensive smells they met with, or what condition the people seemed to be in, but looking upon themselves all as so many dead corpses, they came to the churches without the least caution, and crowded together as if their lives were of no consequence, compared to the work which they came about there : indeed, the zeal which they shewed in coming, and the earnestness and affection they shewed in their attention to what they heard, made it manifest what a value people would all put upon the worship of God, if they thought every day they attended at the church that it would be their last.”
The supposed historian frequently retires to his house, and shuts himself up from all intercourse, when alarmed or depressed by the objects he meets with in his walks in the city. His curiosity, however, still alive, leads him to spend much of his time at bis window, where he continues his observation. One particular alley, within his view, attracts his attention.
“Sometimes heaps and throngs of people would burst out of the alley, most of them women, making a dreadful clamour, mixed or compounded of screeches, cryings, and calling one another, that we could not conceive what to make of it; almost all the dead part of the night the dead-cart stood at the end of that alley, for if it went in, it could not well turn again, and could go in but a little way. There, I say, it stood to receive dead bodies, and as the church-yard was but a little way off, if it went away full it would soon be back again: it is impossible to describe the most horrible cries and noise the poor people would make at their bringing the dead bodies of their children and friends out to the cart, and by the number one would have thought there had been none left behind, or that there were people enough for a small city living in those places : several times they cried murder, sometimes fire; but it was easy to perceive it was all distraction, and the complaints of distressed and distempered people.”
We can only make one more extract, which, while it conveys a vivid impression of the insecurity of life at this time, is exceedingly characteristic of the writer.
"A certain citizen who had lived safe and untouched, till the month of September, when the weight of the distemper lay more in the city than it had done before, was mighty cheerful, and something too bold, as I think it was, in his talk of how secure he was, how cautious he had been, and how he had never come near any sick body: says another citizen (a neighbour of his) to him, one day, 'Do not be too confident, Mr.- , it is hard to say who is sick and who is well ; for we see men alive and well, to outward appearance, one hour, and dead the next.' "That is true,' says the first man, for he was not a man presumptuously secure, but had escaped a long while, and men, as I said above, especially in the city, began to be over easy upon that score. "That is true,' says he, 'I do not think myself secure, but I hope I have not been in company with any person that there has been any danger in.' “No!' says his neighbour, ' was not you at the Bullhead tavern, in Gracechurch-street, with Mr. — the night before last ?' 'Yes,' says the first, I was, but there was nobody there that we had any reason to think dangerous.' Upon which his neighbour said no more, being unwilling to surprise him; but this made him more inquisitive, and as his neighbour appeared backward, he was the more impatient, and in a kind of warmth, says he aloud, 'why, he is not dead, is he?' Upon which his neighbour still was silent, but cast up his eyes, and said something to himself; at which the first citizen turned pale, and said no more but this, then I am a dead man too,' and went home immediately, and sent for a neighbouring apothecary to give him something preventive, for he had not yet found himself ill; but the apothecary opening his breast, fetched a sigh, and said no more but this,' look up to God;' and the man died in a few hours.”
Although we allow, that there is a great air of truth and reality in the work of Defoe, and though we feel considerably indebted to the writings of the excellent Dr. Hodges, we cannot cease to regret the absence of a striking, picturesque, and faithful description of the plague by an eye-witness, like that we find in the pages of Thucydides, which is perhaps the most perfect piece of composition that ever came from the pen of man. Nothing there is wanting to satisfy the physician, the historian, the poet, or the moralist; for that inimitable writer has selected his details with such judgement, has narrated them with such spirit, has supplied such genuine touches of truth and pathos, as to give, in a few chapters, such pictures to the imagination, such information to the understanding, as the elaborate volumes of others are unable to convey; and perhaps it is owing to the interest which he has given to the plague of Athens, as well as to the inherent interest in the subject, that the plague has become so favourite a theme to both poets and historians. That it has been so is a fact, and we propose, in our next number, to present our readers with a general review, as well of this extraordinary disease in its various localities, as of the very interesting series of works and single passages, of various countries and various ages, which have been written upon it.
. With respect to the plague of London, however, we can collect from Dr. Hodges the symptoms and phenomena of the disorder, though we cannot describe them with the wonderful accuracy and in the spirited manner of Thucydides. Most persons, upon their first invasion by the sickness, perceived a creeping chillness gradually spreading itself over the body, which produced a shivering not unlike the cold fit of an ague-succeeded by convulsive motions of the limbs and frame. Soon after this horror and shaking followed a nauseousness, and strong inclinations to vomit, with a great oppression and seeming fullness of the stomach; a violent and intolerable headache next succeeded, when some fell into violent fits of phrenzy, and others became soporose and stupid. Afterwards, a fever discovered itself, and as soon as it began to appear, a strange faintness seized the patient, which was seconded by violent palpitations of the heart, so powerful as to be heard even at a considerable distance. In some instances, perspirations ensued, which would break out in such profusion, as if the whole constitution were dissolved. These sweats were sometimes of a citron colour; sometimes black, fetid, and often like blood; sometimes they were cold, while the heat raged inwardly and excited an unquenchable drought. But the most constant signs of the pestilence were blains, which broke out all over the person with exquisite and shooting pains, hard and painful tumours, with inflammation upon the glands, virulent carbuncles, which, while their pain was intense, their cure and danger was most critical and hazardous- not to mention the tokens which proceeded from the putrefaction of the blood and the mortification of the part, which, when real, i. e. when the spot and the part about had lost its feeling and no mistake could arise, were the certain forerunners of death ; in some cases only appearing a few hours previous to dissolution, in others the fourth day before, remaining, observes Dr. Hodges, all that time terrible admonitions to the sick and their attendants.
To the affliction arising from such a disease was London exposed, with various fluctuations, for the space of twelve months, and to such an extent, as that four thousand died of it in one night, twenty thousand in one week, and, in the whole, not less than a hundred thousand. About the same time of the year that it commenced, its retreat was observed to have taken place, or, at least, to be very near at hand. All the symptoms became less violent, fewer were infected, and those who were so mostly recovered, so that this once powerful and gigantic distemper dwindled into slight and contemptible attacks of quinsey and headache. We must now close our observations, both on the work of Defoe and its subject, with this remark, that it has been our intention in this article, as it will be in the next, to consider the plague in a literary and historical point of view, and by no means, by dwelling upon the cure or the nature of the disorder, to invade the province of the physician, which, if we were capable of doing, we should certainly search for a fitter theatre and fitter auditors, than the pages and readers of the Retrospective Review.
Art. II.-Coleccion de Poesias Castellanas anteriores al siglo
xv. 8c. Por D. Tomas Antonio Sanchez. Cuatro Tomos. · Madrid. mdcclxxix-mdccxc.
An apology is due for the somewhat irregular way in which the subject of the poetry of Spain has been treated in our former articles; but its character is so varied, and its varieties have been so little connected with one another, that it seemed, on the whole, most desirable to follow the flow of each particular class in one continued stream. Now and then, the different species of composition appear to blend, and it is therefore difficult to characterize some of the fragments . of past ages. In our days, two schools alone seem to have left a permanent influence—the Moorish or Arabic, to which we intend to devote a separate paper, for this is assuredly the species of poetry which may be deemed peculiarly characteristic of Spain
—and the poetry founded on the Troubadour compositions, which has however been influenced, in the progress of time, not a little, by the classical models of antiquity, and most especially by the study of the bards of Italy. The Spanish drama, too, opens a vast field to interesting research-a field little explored by any modern writers. Bouterweck’s notices of the dramatic authors of Spain are imperfect in the extreme, and it is from him that Sismondi has principally borrowed. Schlegel has devoted himself principally to one or two authors; while the names of some of the brightest ornaments of the Spanish stage (Gabriel Tellez for example), men worthy to be fixed as stars of the first magnitude in the histrionic heaven, have scarcely crossed the Pyrenean mountains they have no place in our dictionaries—they have been shut out from our temples of fame.
On the present occasion, we shall give sundry specimens of the poetry which has been collected by the industry of Sanchez, and published in the four volumes, whose title heads this article.
The very earliest epoch of Castillian literature is graced with extraordinary poetical productions. “ The Cid Campeador,” a work of the twelfth century, is now familiar to English literature, though the famous letter, on the early poetry of Spain, of the Marques de Santillana to the Condestable de Portugal, which has served as a text book to Sanchez, in his interesting collection, does not speak of this poem. In many of these early compositions all doubts as to their antiquity have been prevented, by the custom of interweaving their date with the conclusion of the poem, but that is not the case here; and the proofs of its antiquity, which are however quite satisfactory, depend upon its language and character. The series of valorous deeds, celebrated by the unknown poet, formed a fine subject for the enthusiasm of patriotic and poetic feeling, though, it must be confessed, we should be very backward in believing that his hero possessed the generous virtues attributed to him; he is represented by Arabic historians as the most perfidious and cruel of human or inhuman beings-violating every compact, however solemn, and treating those he vanquished with unsparing barbarity, of which, in truth, some evidence may be found in the poem before us. The Cid is, notwithstanding, the great theme of ancient Castillian songs : tragedies, comedies, romances, canciones, have each in turn made him their subject. In the poem before us there is great vigour of language, a constant current of imposing events, some passages of touching interest; and considering the then undefined and unformed character of the language which the poet employed, it is, in every respect, one of the most extraordinary compositions of this era. For example, take the description: “ And the night began to wane, and the day was dawning then, Up! heroes of the morn, for ye are valiant men. For the matin song now calls, and the bells are ringing fast, To church, my valiant Cid and his wife Ximena haste. At the holy altar-foot, she threw her on the ground, And prayed in language rude, such language as she found : .
• Lord! Thou art King of Kings—the universal Lord !