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IMITATION AND PLAGIARISM.
( A Letter.) MR. MERTON, I have lately amused myself with looking over the pages of your new Miscellany, in which I find much to approve, although I cannot help considering you as an adventurous knight, thus to have sallied out on the plains of modern literature, where so many are prepared for the joust. Your armour, however, unlike that of the knight of La Mancha, appears to be strong, the cuirass polished, and the helmet free from rust. Without gifting you with the sword of Amadis, or the lance of Durandarte, I wish you a fair field and a free course. Discontinuing the metaphorical ideas which have thus arisen in my brain, I consider modern authors, and the public, as two separate parties, one of which provides matter, which the other disperses and analizes, in order that its elements may be employed in forming new combinations. What originality these combinations may possess, is not the question ; but certainly they appear in novel shape. Thus one age lives on another, and appropriates to itself the productions of past times. Great industry is now evinced in ransacking the hoards of ancient English literature : a poetical or dramatic Decameron (for it consists of dialogues) has appeared, and astounded us with the table-talk of the literati in the days of Royal Bess. Ford, Decker, Marlow, and Shirley, arise with graces not their own; and truly they would have marvelled much, could they have foreseen the honours which awaited them in a future age. Amidst this constellation of worthies, why is Drayton now forgot? Unhappy Drayton! whose encomiums James I. treated with such royal indignation, although his PolyOlbion was enriched with notes and illustrations by the learned Selden ; and some of his poems deserve a better fate than oblivion. But I indulge in vagaries, Mr. Merton ; the glorious age of ruffs and farthingales, and chivalry, and Virginia, seduced my imagination. To be téte-a-téte with some of these illustrious personages, appeared better than a grave conference with an ancient Roman in the Attic nights of Aulus Gellius. I have been led into this train of observations by the appearance of a new poem of Lord Byron's.* The fertility of his Lordship's imagination would surprise us, did we not know how much, in his late productions, he has been indebted to the Italian and classic writers. In this new poem which, it has been said, bears a resemblance, but, in my opinion, a very faint one, to the indescribable Faust of Goëthe, when Bertha says to the deformed Arnold,
But get hence,
And gather wood. Who does not perceive the evident allusion to Caliban in the Tempest?' It may be difficult to define the limits to which imitation should extend, and beyond which the author would become a plagiarist. Whatever, as Lord Bacon expresses it, “ Comes home to men's business and bosoms!'' whatever belongs to nature and to life, that which finds a mirror in every bosom, and strikes a chord which vibrates through every heart; this cannot be plagiarism, it is only the reflection to the mind of the classical ob
* The Deformed Transformed, a Poem, by the Right Honourable Lord Byron, which is reviewed in No. 4, p. 55.
server, of beloved and pleasing objects of life. When Lord Byron, alluding to that secret language of love—the mute eloquence of the eyes, had said —
We met-wegaz'd—I saw, and sigh'd ;
There is a language by the virgin made
WOMAN.-BARRETT. This I do not conceive to be plagiarism ; but where particular prospects, of local scenery abound, and particular views of private life occur, the author who first adopted and described them as his own, would in his ideas and images be original ; and similar ideas and images expressed in similar forms of language by writers of a succeeding age must be plagiarisms. I have made these remarks, Mr. Merton, for the purpose of introducing to the notice of your readers the succeeding quotation of Dante, with a translation by Merivale; and a professed, but unacknowledged imitation by Lord Byron. It will readily be perceived, that “the, far bell of vesper” of the noble bard, is a closer translation of the “squilla, di contano" of Dante, than the" village chimes" of Merivale.
Era già l'ora, che volge 'l desio
A Statistical and Commercial History of the KINGDOM OF GUATEMALA, in Spanish America, &c. &c. by Don Domingo Juarros, a native of New Guatemala. Translated by J. Bailey, Lieutenant R. M. 8vo. pp. 520. John Hearne, Strand, 1823.
The time has elapsed in which the legions of Cortez and Pizarro, diffusing themselves over the plains of the New World, wrested those fertile regions from their lawful possessors; at one time destroying an ancient capital, with its imperial palace, and placing its emperor on burning coals; and at another, hunting the defenceless Indians with dogs, in order that they might be the more easily conyerted to the Romish faith. " I know the individual who did this,” observes a contemporary writer, “I know his family, I know his name; but I will not mention either.” The course of events, in the usual progress of time, while it has put an end to the dissensions between the conquerors and the natives, has also emancipated the greater part of these extensive regions from the dominion of Old Spain. Of these Guatemala, a kingdom extending, at its greatest range, nearly 180 leagues from the Pacific to the Atlantic, appears to possess an important character, and to afford great commercial advantages. The monarchs of Spain, in the 16th century, aware of the advantages to be derived from an accurate and faithful history of this kingdom, commanded it, by four ordonnances, to be written. The author of this work, a dignified secular ecclesiastic, and synodal examiner of the archbishopric of Guatemala, performed this office, for which he appears to have been well qualified.
An accurate topographical description is given of the different provinces of Guatemala, with their respective districts. The animals, and natural curiosities peculiar to this country, are noticed; and an interesting description follows of the earthquakes, and other calamities so common in South America, and which furnish a counterpart to the gifts so copiously diffused through those fávoured climes. History, so copious a theme for wars, surprises, and calamities, forms another large portion of this work. For a general history of South America, ample materials were provided by Fuentes Herrera, the historian of the Indies, and Bernal Diaz del Castello, of whose curious work* we should like to see another translation, as we believe it to be out of print. Of these historical materials, the author of the present work has, with judgment, availed himself of that part which relates to the country of Guatemala, with additional information derived from the native chieftains, whose long Mexican names, with their combinations of consonants, figure here in true orthographical majesty. The ancient cities of Utatlan, Patinamit and Xelalup, the capitals of former sovereigns, are not forgotten. Few things afford more sober pleasure to the human mind, than to associate with the ideas of former magnificence, the present state of dilapidated walls and mouldering palaces. We shall extract the following description of the city of Utatlan.
“ Santa Cruz del Quiche is a village seated on an extensive open plain, fertile in the extreme, producing grain, vegetables, and delicate fruits, in proportionate abundance. It is but moderately populous, aud contains a Dominican convent with the title of a priory. The history of this place is singular, as it
* Account of the discovery and conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz del Castello. 4to.
was once the large and opulent city of Utatlan, the court of the native kings of Quicbe, and indubitably the most sumptuous that was discovered by the Spaniards in this country. That indefatigable writer Francisco de Fuentes, the historian, who went to Quiche for the purpose of collecting information, partly from the antiquities of the place, and partly from manuscripts, has given a tolerably good description of this capital. It stood nearly in the situation that Santa Cruz now occupies, and it is presumable that the latter was one of its suburbs ; it was surrounded by a deep ravine that formed a natural fosse, leave ing only two very narrow roads as entrances to the city, both of which were so well defended by the castle of Resguardo, as to render it impregnable. The centre of the city was occupied by the royal palace, which was surrounded by the bouses of the nobility; the extremities were inhabited by the plebeians. The streets were very narrow, but the place was so populous, as to enable the king to draw from it alone, no less than 72,000 combatants, to oppose the progress of the Spaniards. It contained many very sumptuous edifices, the most superb of them was a seminary, where between 5 and 6000 children were educated; they were all maintained and provided for at the charge of the royal treasury; their instruction was superintended by 70 masters and professors. The castle of the Atalaya was a remarkable structure, which being raised four stories high, was capable of furnishing quarters for a very strong garrison. The castle of Resguardo was not inferior to the other; it extended 188 paces in front, 230 in depth, and was five stories high. The grand alcazar, or palace of the kings of Quiche, surpassed every other edifice, and in the opinion of Torquemada, it could compete in opulence with that of Montesuma in Mexico, or that of the Incas in Cuzco. The front of this building extended from east to west 376 geometrical paces, and in depth 728; it was constructed of hewn stones of different colours; its form was elegant, and altogether most magnificent : there were six principal divisions, the first contained lodgings for a numerous troop of lancers, archers, and other well disciplined troops, constituting the royal body guard: the second was destined to the accommodation of the princes, and relations of the king, who dwelt in and were served with regal splendour, as long as they remained unmarried; the third was appropriated to the use of the king, and contained distinct suits of apartments for the mornings, evenings, and nights. In one of the saloons stood the throne, under four canopies of plumage, the ascent to it was by several steps; in this part of the palace were, the treasury, the tribunals of the judges, the armory, the gardens, aviaries, and menageries, with all the requisite offices appending to each department. The 4th and 5th divisions were occupied by the queens and royal concubines; they were necessarily of great extent, from the immense nnmber of apartments requisite
for the accommodation of so many females, who were all maintained in a style of sumptuous magnificence ; gardens for their recreation, baths, and proper places for breeding geese, that were kept for the sole purpose of furnishing feathers, with which bangings, coverings, and otber similar ornamental articles, were made. Contiguous to this division was the sixth and last; this was the residence of the king's daughters and other females of the blood royal, where they were educated, and attended in a manner suitable to their rank."
From contemplating the remains of edifices in which resided men who were great in their time, we pass by an easy transition to succeeding occupants of the land.
The manners and habits of savage tribes are at all times objects of curiosity to the observer of life. In this respect the tawny caziques with their feathered subjects inhabiting the southern parts of this vast continent, must excite an equal interest with the coppercoloured aborigines of the northern range. Speaking of the customs, dresses, &c. of the Indians of Guatemala, the author says,
“ The dresses of the noble Indians differed from those of the commoners; as did those of the civilized part of the population from those of the barbarians. It is known from tradition, from ancient manuscripts, and from paintings still extant in the convents of Guatemala, that the nobles wore a dress of white cot
ton, dyed or stained with different colours; the use of which was prohibited to the other ranks. This vestment consisted of a shirt and white breeches, decorated with fringes; over these was drawn another pair of breeches, reaching to the knees, and ornamented with a species of embroidery; the legs were bare; the feet protected by sandals, fastened over the instep, and at the heel, by thongs of leather; the sleeves of the shirt were looped above the elbow, with a blue or red band; the hair was worn long, and tressed bebind with a cord of the colour used upon the sleeves, and terminating with a tassel, which was a distinction peculiar to the great captains; the waist was girded with a piece of cloth of va. rious colours, fastened in a knot before; over the shoulders was thrown a white mantle, ornamented with figures of birds, lions, and other decorations of curds and fringe. The ears and lower lip were pierced, to receive star-shaped pendants of gold or silver; the insignia of office, or dignity, were carried in the hand. The Indians of modern times differ from the ancients only in wearing the hair short, the sleeves loose, and by the omission of earrings and lip-ornaments.
The civilized natives dress with great decency; they wear a species of petticoat, that descends from the middle of the body to the ancles, and a robe over the shoulders, reaching to the knees: this was formerly worked with thread, of different colours, but is now embroidered with silk. The hair is formed into tresses, with cords of various hues; and they wear ornaments in the ears and nether lip.
The habit of the mazaguales is simple, and very poor; they are not permitted the use of cotton, and substitute for it cloth made of pita.* The dress is simply a long shirt, the flaps of which are drawn between the legs, and fastened; a piece of the same stuff is tied round the waist, and a similar piece forms a covering for the head. Some of the Indians of the southern coast wear this dress; but generally, in the warm districts, they go naked, with the exception of the maztlate, or piece of cloth worn round the middle, for the sake of decency.
The barbarians, or unreclaimed Indians, of Guatemala, unlike those of Sinaloa, who go in a state of perfect nudity, wear a cloth round the middle, and passing between the fork. This covering, among the chiefs, is of white cotton; but the common people make it of a piece of bark; which, after being soaked for some days in a river, and then well beaten, resembles fine shamois leather, of a buff colour. They always paint themselves black, rather for the purpose of defence against Mosquitoe than for ornament; a strip of white cotton is bound round the head, and in it are stuck some red feathers. Green feathers are the distinguishing marks of their chiefs and nobles. The hair flows loose upon the shoulders; the lower lip and nose are decorated with rings; they carry a bow and arrow in their hands, and have a quiver saspended from the shoulder.”
Some curious animals at Verapaz, are thus noticed.
“ In Verapaz there are several rare animals, which are not to be met with in any other part. The zachin, for example, a quadruped resembling a rat, about a span long, with a tail about six inches; the superior part of the body is snuff coloured, and the inferior white; the ears small and round, the eyes placed so low as to be almost on his snout; it emits so fetid a smell, that dogs will not attack it, unless they are much enraged: although so diminutive, it preys upon snakes, rats, birds, even those of large size, mountain cats, and deer, with all their velocity, cannot escape it; in poultry yards it makes great baroc, and the remedy the Indians use to keep it away, is the smoke of chile; within the houses it is very rarely caught, but in the open fields, or on the mountains, there is neither huntsman nor dog that can overtake it; it pays not respect to man, for it will attack him with great boldness, and the bite of it is so virulent, that the wounded part immediately swells, and fever ensues.
The chion is a small bird, about the size of a canary, and of various colours: some are of a fine shining black; others have the head and upper part black, the breast and inferior parts white, and the wings spotted ; there are some yellow,
* Pita is the fibres of a plant twisted into thread, resembling that made from hemp.