« ForrigeFortsett »
greatest part of Europe, Africa, and Asia; and (to use the author's metaphor) the blood circulated from the extremities to the heart.
But all this well-labored system of German antiquities is annihilated by a single fact, too well attested to admit of any doubt, and of too decisive a nature to leave room for any reply. The Germans, in the age of Tacitus, were unacquainted with the use of letters;16 and the use of letters is the principal circumstance that distinguishes a civilized people from a herd of savages incapable of knowledge or reflection. Without that artificial help, the human memory soon dissipates or corrupts the ideas intrusted to her charge; and the nobler faculties of the mind, no longer supplied with models or with materials, gradually forget their powers; the judgment becomes feeble and lethargic, the imagination languid or irregular. Fully to apprehend this important truth, let us attempt, in an improved society, to calculate the immense distance
"Tacit. Germ. ii. 19. Literarum secreta viri paritcr ac faeminse ignorant. "We may rest contented with this decisive authority, without entering into the obscure disputes concerning the antiquity of the Runic characters. The learned Celsius, a Swede, a scholar, and a philosopher, was of opinion, that they were nothing more than the Roman letters, with the curves changed into straight lines for the ease of engraving. See Pelloutier, Histoire des Celtes, 1. ii. c 11. Die tionn aire Diplomatique, torn. i. p. 223. Wo may add, that the oldest Runic inscriptions are supposed to be of the third century, and the most ancient writer who mentions the Runic characters is Vonantius Fortunatus, (Carm. vii. 18,) who lived towards the end of the sixth century.
Barbara fraxineil pingatur Ruha labelUs.*
* The obscure subject of the Runic characters has exercised the industry and ingenuity of the modern scholars of the north. There are three distinct theories; one, maintained by SchlOzer, (Nordische Oeschichte, p. 481, &o.,) who considers their sixteen letters to be a corruption of the Roman alphabet, post-Christian in their date, and Schlozer would attribute their introduction into the north to the Alemanni. The second, that of Frederick Schlegel, (Vorlesungen ober alte und neue Literatur,) supposes that these characters were left on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Northern Seas by the Phoenicians, preserved by the priestly castes, and employed for purposes of magic. Their common origin from the Phcenieian would account for their similarity to the Roman letters. The last, to which we incline, claims a much higher and mere venerable antiquity for the Runic, and supposes them to have been the original characters of the Indo-Teutonic tribes, brought from the East, and preserved among the different races of that stock. See Ueber Deutsche Runen von W. C. Grimm, 1821. A Memoir by Dr. Legis. Fundgruben des alten Nordens. Forworn 3uartei 5y Review, vol. ix. p. 438. — M.
between the man of learning and the illiterate peasant. The former, by reading and reflection, multiplies his cwn experience, and lives in distant ages and remote countries; whilst the latter, rooted to a single spot, and confined to a few years of existence, surpasses but very little his fellow-laborer, the ox, in the exercise of his mental faculties. The same, and even a greater, difference will be found between nations than between individuals; and we may safely pronounce, that without some species of writing, no people has ever preserved the faithful annals of their history, ever made any considerable progress in the abstract sciences, or ever possessed, in any tolerable degree of perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life.
Of these arts, the ancient Germans were wretchedly destitute. They passed their lives in a state of ignorance and poverty, which it has pleased some declaimers to dignify with the appellation of virtuous simplicity.* Modern Germany is said to contain about two thousand three hundred walled towns.17 In a much wider extent of country, the geographer Ptolemy could discover no more than ninety places which he decorates with the name of cities ;18 though, according to our ideas, they would but ill deserve that splendid title. We can only suppose them to have been rude fortifications, constructed in the centre of the woods, and designed to secure the women, children, and cattle, whilst the warriors of the tribe marched out to repel a sudden invasion.19 But Tacitus asserts, as a well-known fact, that the Germans, in his time, had no cities;90 and that they affected to despise the works of Roman industry,
17 Recherchcs Philosophiques sur les Americains, torn. iii. p. 228. The author of that very curious work is, if I am not misinformed, a German by birth. [De Pauw.]
"The Alexandrian Geographer is often criticized by the accurate dluverius.
"See Ceesar, and the learned Mr. Whitaker in his History of Manchester, vo1. i. "Tacit. Germ. 15.
* Luden (the author of the Geschichte des Teutschen Volkes) has surpassed most writers in his patriotic enthusiasm for the virtues and noble manners of his ancestors. Even the cold of the climate, and the want of vines and fruit trees, as well as the barbarism of the inhabitants, are ealumnies of the luxurious Italians. M. Guizot, on the other side, (in h> Histoire de la Civilisation, vol. i. p. 272, &c.,) has drawn a curious paraU*l eotweon the Germans of Tacitus and the North American Indians. - at
u places of confinement rather than of security.91 Their edifices were not even contiguous, or formed into regular villas;88 each barbarian fixed his independent dwelling on the spot to which a plain, a wood, or a stream of fresh water, had induced him to give the preference. Neither stone, nor brick nor tiles, were employed in these slight habitations.93 They were indeed no more than low huts, of a circular figure, built of rough timber, thatched with straw, and pierced at the top to leave a froe passage for the smoke. In the most inclement winter, the hardy German was satisfied with a scanty garment made of the skin of some animal. The nations who dwelt towards the North clothed themselves in furs; and the women manufactured for their own use a coarse kind of linen.94 The game of various sorts, with which the forests of Germany were plentifully stocked, supplied its inhabitants with food and exercise.95 Their monstrous herds of cattle, less remarkable indeed for their beauty than for their utility,96 formed the - principal object of their wealth. A small quantity of corn was the only produce exacted from the earth: the use of orchards or artificial meadows was unknown to the Germans; nor can we expect any improvements in agriculture from a people, whose property every year experienced a general change by a new division of the arable lands, and who, in that strange operation, avoided disputes, by suffering a great part of theij territory to lie waste and without tillage.97
Gold, silver, and iron, were extremely scarce in Germany. Its barbarous inhabitants wanted both skill and patience to investigate those rich veins of silver, which have so liberally rewarded the attention of the princes of Brunswick and Saxony. Sweden, which now supplies Europe with iron, was
*1 When the Germans commanded the TJbii of Cologne to cast off the Roman yoke, and with their new freedom to resume their ancient manners, they insisted on the immediate demolition of the walls of the colony. "Postulamua a vobis, muros colonia.', munimenta servitii, detrahatis; ctiam fera animalia, si clausa tencas, virtutis obliviscuntur." Tacit. Hist iv. 64.
"The straggling villages of Silesia are several miles in length. See Cluver. 1. i. c. 13.
"One hundred and forty years after Tacitus, a few more regular ttructorcs were erected near the Rhine and Danube. Herodiaru 1 "ii. p. 234.
«' Tacit. Germ. 17.
"Tacit. Germ. 5.
"Ceesai de Bel1. Gal1. vi. 21.
"Tacit. Germ 26 Caaar, vi. 22.
equally ignorant of its own riches; and the appearance of the arms of the Germans furnished a sufficient proof how little •ron they were able to bestow on what they must have deemed the noblest use of that metal. The various transactions of peace and war had introduced some Roman coins (chiefly silver) among the borderers of the Rhine and Danube; but the more distant tribes were absolutely unacquainted with the use of money, carried on their confined traffic by the exchange of commodities, and prized their rude earthen vessels as of equal value with the silver vases, the presents of Rome to their princes and ambassadors.98 To a mind capable of reflection, such leading facts convey more instruction, than a tedious detail of subordinate circumstances. The.value of money has been settled by general consent to express our wants and our property, as letters were invented to express our ideas; and both these institutions, by giving a more active energy to the powers and passions of human nature, have contributed to multiply the objects they were designed to represent. The use of gold and silver is in a great measure factitious; but it would be impossible to enumerate the important and various services which agriculture, and all the arts, have received from iron, when tempered and fashioned by the operation of fire, and the dexterous hand of man. Money, in a word, is the most universal incitement, iron the most powerful instrument, of human industry; and it is very difficult to conceive by what means a people, neither actuated by the one, nor seconded by the other, could emerge from the grossest barbarism."
If we contemplate a savage nation in any part of the globe, a supine indolence and a carelessness of futurity will be found to constitute their general character. In a civilized state, every faculty of man is expanded and exercised; and the great chain of mutual dependence connects and embraces the several members of society. The most numerous portion of it is employed in constant and useful labor. The select few, placed by fortune above that necessity, can, however, fill up their time by the pursuits of interest or glory, by the improvement of their estate or of their understanding, by the duties,
» Tacit. Germ. 6.
• It ia said that the Mexicans and Peruvians, without the use ol either money or iron, had made a very great progress in the arts. Those arts, and the monuments they produced, have been strangely magnified Se? Reeherches sur les Americains torn ii. p 163, &c.
th(! pleasures, at.i even the follies of social life. The Germans were not possessed of these varied resources. The care of the house and family, the management of the land and cattle, weie delegated to the old and the infirm, to women and slaves. The lazy warrior, destitute of every art that miglu employ his leisure hours, consumed his days and nights in the animal gratifications of sleep and food. And yet, by a wonderful diversity of nature, (according to the remark of a writer who had pierced into its darkest recesses,) the same barbarians are by turns the most indolent and the most restless of mankind. They delight in sloth, they detest tranquillity.30 The languid soul, oppressed with its own weight, anxiously required some new and powerful sensation; and war and danger were the only amusements adequate to its fierce temper. The sound that summoned the German to arms was grateful to his ear. It roused him from his uncomfortable lethargy, gave him an active pursuit, and, by strong exercise of the body, and violent emotions of the mind, restored him to a more lively sense of his existence. In the dull intervals of peace, these barbarians were immoderately addicted to deep gaming and excessive drinking; both of which, by different means, the one by inflaming their passions, the other by extinguishing their reason, alike relieved them from the pain of thinking. They gloried in passing whole days and nights at table; and the blood of friends and relations often stained their numerous and drunken assemblies.31 Their debts of honor (for in that light they have transmitted to us those of play) they discharged with the most romantic fidelity. The desperate gamester, who had staked his person and liberty on a last throw of the dice, patiently submitted to the decision of fortune, and suffered himself to be bound, chastised, and sold into remote slavery, by his weaker but more lucky antagonist.38 Strong beer, a liquor extracted with very little art from wheat or barley, and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed by Tacitus) into a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient for the gross purposes of German debauchery. But those who had tasted the rich wines of Italy, and afterwards of Gaul, sighed for that more delicious species of intoxication
*i Tacit. Germ. 15.
** Id. 24. The Germans might borrow the oris of play from the Romans, but the passion is vonderfully inherent in the human (Denies.