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Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector

Reviews

The Examiner no. 1319 (Sunday, May 12, 1833): 293.

Dipping into this book we opened upon the following scene, in which the hero fairly stares a lion out of the field:—

The lion advanced to the fountain to drink. He beheld a man. His mane rose, his tail was wildly agitated, he bent over the sleeping prince, he uttered an awful roar, which woke Alroy.****He awoke; his gaze met the flaming eyes of the enormous beast fixed upon him with a blended feeling of desire and surprise. He awoke, and from a swoon, but the dreamless trance had refreshed the exhausted energies of the desolate wanderer; in an instant he collected his senses, remembered all that had past, and comprehended his present situation. He returned the lion a glance as imperious, and fierce, and scrutinizing as his own. For a moment their flashing orbs vied in regal rivalry; but at length the spirit of the mere animal yielded to the genius of the man. The lion cowed, slunk away, stalked with haughty timidity through the rocks, and then sprang into the forest.

The saying “All my eye” must have had date with this remarkable triumph of the organs of vision. Let us see how differently Cervantes treats his hero in a similar adventure—that on which the Don most prided himself, the adventure of the lions, for which title he changed his addition of Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.

The keeper seeing Don Quixote fixed in this posture, and finding himself under a necessity of letting loose the he lion, to avoid the resentment of this enraged and intrepid hero, flung the door of the first cage open, where the lion appeared lying, of a monstrous bigness and terrifying aspect: he immediately turned himself round in the cage, put out one of his paws, and stretched himself at full length, yawned and gaped with great composure, and then with a tongue of above half a yard long, cleaned his face and eyes: after which he thrust his head out of the cage, and stared around him with eyes like fire-brands; a sight sufficient to have struck a damp into the most intrepid heart: but Don Quixote only fixed his eyes attentively upon him, wishing for the minute he would leap out of the cart, that he might engage and cut him in pieces; to such an unaccountable degree had his frenzy worked up his disturbed imagination. But the lion, naturally generous, and more inclinable to be gentle than rough, heeded not his bravadoes or flourishing: on the contrary, after having looked around him, as we have observed, turned about, and showing our hero his backfront, with great composure and tranquility laid himself down again to rest, which circumstance Don Quixote perceiving, ordered the keeper to rouse him by blows, and oblige him to come forth: “Nay, that I wont,” answered he; “for should I enrage him, he would immediately tear me to pieces: come, sir knight, be contented with what you have done, which is all that can be expected from any man’s courage, and give over tempting fortune any more. The door of his cage is open, and he may come forth or not as he pleases; but as he has not come out now, he will not all day. The intrepidity of your worship’s valour is sufficiently vouched: I apprehend the bravery of no combatant needs do more than challenge his adversary, and await him in the field; and, if the enemy wont meet him, the imputation of cowardice lies with him, and the crown of victory devolves upon the other.” “You say true,” said Don Quixote; “shut the door, my friend, and let me have under your hand, in the best manner you are able to draw it, a certificate of what you have now seen; for I think it is highly fitting mankind should know that you opened the lion’s cage; that I waited for him, and he came not out; that I waited for him again, and he came not out; and that again he laid himself down. I am not bound to do any more: so enchantments avaunt, and God prosper truth, justice, and noble chivalry: shut the door, therefore, and I will wave a signal for those who have run off to return, and have an account of this action from your own mouth.

It is delightfully plain, in this instance, that the lion licking his eyes and cheeks with a tongue half a yard long, was not in any degree affected by the eyes or the sword of the Mirror of Chivalry, and it is sufficiently clear that he was so tranquil because it had never occurred to him that the ill-favoured knight was eatable. The lion of Cervantes seems somewhat more of the lion proper than that of Mr. D’Israeli. But Mr. D’Israeli writes riddles, and (Davus non Œdipus) there may be more in this lion that we understand. The meaning of this book, we are assured, is very mystical—we only know that the type is very large.

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Published @ RC

January 2005