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native country have been so peculiarly unfortunate, that Pindemonte's patriotism, like that of many of the best among his countrymen, could not possibly coincide with any of the parties, whether foreign or domestic, that strove for the mastership over the country, "che giova nelle fata dar di cozzo?" Pindemonte felt this early, and despairing, as well he might, of being of any use, he took the only path he thought he could conscientiously follow,that of obscurity. The state of his health might be an additional reason for this resolution, and the history of Italian events can but serve to shew its wisdom. Of what advantage would it have been to Italy had Pindemonte sacrificed himself, and added one more to the number of its illustrious victims? Where there is no truly national cause, no national interests, there can be no political duties imposed upon individuals. Noi non abbiamo patria, abbiamo soltanto un domicilio, thus we heard once a warm-hearted Calabrian exclaim at Naples; and yet Naples had at least a shadow of nationality which, since the fall of the Venetian republic, has been refused to Pindemonte's native country. But we will touch again upon the subject of our author's national sentiments as we advert to his later works.
"With great delight I look back to the days of my early youth. The greatest charm of that age is derived from the illusive vista of the future. Our life is like a mount, on the summit of which shines an enchanted palace of wondrous beauty, the higher we ascend the fainter it appears, until, arrived at the summit, we find nothing but an empty space." Prose.
In his third prose, he gives an interesting description of the localities of his rural retreat, and he leads the reader about the delightful country round Verona. The house in which he then lived belonged at one time to the jesuits; and the celebrated Bettinelli had written in it most of his works." He converted the youth of his country to God in the church, and afterwards in his apartments gave them lessons of taste and literature." After the expulsion of the jesuits, several Englishmen resided there, attracted by the salubriousness of the air, and among the rest the then Duke of Gloucester, who experienced great benefit from the climate.
In another of his prose he enters into a short historical disquisition upon the taste for country seats and rural leisure, which, after having prevailed to a great extent among the Greeks and the Romans, declined during the ages of barbarism, and revived in Italy together with the other arts in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Boccaccio in his Decameron gives us a description of an elegant villa; but the first, says Pindemonte, among the more lordly mansions, was that of Bagnaja, near Viterbo, begun in the year 1511, and brought to a termination by Cardinal Gambara,
Afterwards rose, near Tivoli, the famous villa Estense; and by degrees all the other magnificent villas which exist at Rome or in its neighbourhood. But now the Italians seem to value no longer these quiet delights; and other countries, and above all England, have succeeded us, and improved upon our early example. In his dissertation upon the English system of gardening, which was then just introduced into Italy instead of the old symmetrical plans and artificial forms, Pindemonte sees the earliest idea of it in Tasso's description of the gardens of Armida :
Poiche lasciar gli avviluppati calli
In lieto aspetto il bel giardin s' aperse:
Selve e spelonche in una vista offerse;
E quel che il bello e il caro accresce all' opre,
"Italy," adds Pindemonte, " has now many imitations of English gardens; but I know only three real ones, that of Caserta, that of the brothers Picenardi, near Cremona, and the one of Lomellini, near Genoa.”
In another of his prose, our author entertains us with several anecdotes respecting the celebrated Luigi Cornaro, who wrote upon diet and regimen, and practised the precepts of temperance he gave, so as to live nearly a century in the enjoyment of perfect health. Elsewhere, he discourses upon the various literary pursuits, their dangers and utility; he then defends his beloved poetry, even in its humblest walks, from the aspersions of detractors. The ninth contains an affectionate tribute of almost filial reveprose rence to the memory of his countryman and mentor, Torelli, an eminent scientific and literary character of the time, and the successful translator of Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard; a man to whose judicious advice and firm integrity, Pindemonte professes himself indebted for much of what there is valuable in him, or in his writings. "Various have been, Torelli, our callings and our paths in this lowly valley of life, and, therefore, various in some respects must have been our ways of thinking. But if our paths were different in this world, may I, on leaving it, take no other path but thine." These are sentiments which, however homely they may appear, do equal honour to the preceptor, and to the pupil.
In this desultory and unreserved manner, our good Pindemont converses with his reader upon different topics; and such is the charm of his unpretending philosophy, that in closing the book we feel as when shutting the door after a departing friend. In the
last of these discourses he contemplates at night, in the silence of his retreat, the beauties of the heavens, and his soul rises to a lofty theme of admiration. The plurality of worlds, the possible qualities of other beings who may inhabit them, the harmony of the whole creation, the cause of the disappearance of some celestial bodies, all these are discussed by our author. "I have travelled, said to me a philosopher, through various parts of Europe, and witnessed many extraordinary and strange things, but the strangest of all was to me, seeing a celebrated astronomer who made public profession of atheism*." At the close of his discourse Pindemonte observes, that far from being too much humiliated by the contemplation of the immensity of the universe, we still must feel a complacency in being the only thinking part of this immense creation we are acquainted with. Man is a frail reed, it is true, but he is also a thinking reed. "Without the aid of the book of philosophy," thus concludes Pindemonte, “ nay, even without that book which surpasses all philosophy, I have only to look into my heart, and I find in it a principle not less natural, but stronger and better felt, than reason; I find in it a desire never satisfied, ever renewed, of a true and perfect happiness, a happiness which I am always seeking, but can never meet with on this earth."
We have dwelled at some length upon these early productions of our author, because they serve as an index to the particular points of that moral character which marks his life and his writings, and from which he has never deviated.
The poesie campestri breathe the same character of pathos and mild pensiveness as his prose. Occasionally the poet rises to a more elevated strain, but the principal beauty of his verses consists in their very simplicity, and the naturalness of the descriptions of country scenes.
In his mattino, Pindemonte, who had been a traveller by sea, and had enjoyed the splendid marine scenery of the Mediterranean, compares the brilliancy of the latter to the humbler beauties of his inland retreat. He is speaking of the sun, as he had seen it rising above the mirror of that tideless sea.
Vidi talor la tua infocata sfera
Uscir dalla tranquélla onda marina,
*The astronomer here alluded to, is, we believe, the same who, observing one day to the learned naturalist, Charles Bonnet, of Geneva, that he had not time to occupy himself with considerations on topics of religion, by which he meant the first fundamental ones, was replied to by the religious philosopher, "Yet I would earnestly advise you, my dear sir, when you have an hour to spare from your more important occupations, to employ it in considering whether there is a God."
Tutto acceso di luce porporina,
Il rugiadoso prato che biancheggia,
Congiungo à queste anch' io la mia favella,
Finche lunghe son l' ombre, e i campi bella
These rural poems have been, and are still, great favourites with the Italian public; they have gone, like all the works of our author, through many editions. Yet Pindemonte seems to have thought slightly of them, and was with difficulty prevailed upon to give them to the press.
The genius of our author is, however, essentially lyric, and would appear still more so, had he oftener abandoned himself to his inspirations, and been less attached to logical order, and less tenacious of the connecting links of his thoughts. This, and his too frequent recurring to moral reflections, are the principal blemishes of several of his compositions. But his lyric muse fully manifests itself in his little poem on sepulchres, in the beautiful choruses of the Arminio, in several of his epistles, and in some passages of his late production, Il Colpo di Martello. We will give a sketch of these several productions.
It had been, since the dark ages, a custom with the Italians to bury their dead in vaults, under the pavement of their churches;
a nauseous practice, and often attended with danger to the health of the living. Churchyards were afterwards established for the purpose in the more northern states of Italy; but, at the beginning of the present century, regulations were issued by the then rulers of North Italy, which forbade any distinction to be observed in these burying grounds; the dead were buried promiscuously in common vaults; inscriptions, slabs, and any other testimonial of affection excluded; even the ancient appendage of the cypress was banished; and at Verona they went so far as to forbid the entrance of the campo santo, or burying ground, to the living.
Pindemonte's sensitive and affectionate mind was shocked by this oppressive measure; and he began a poem in ottava rima, on the subject of the cimiterj, or burying grounds. At the same time, a celebrated writer, Ugo Foscolo, was writing his poem I Sepolcri, in which, amidst the luxuriance of lyric effusions which have been deservedly admired, he censures the same regulations which had awakened Pindemonte's generous bile.
Pur nuova legge impone oggi i sepolcri
Foscolo then proceeded to vent his indignation against Milan, for leaving the remains of its poet, Parini, without a monument. Foscolo addressed this poem to Ippolito Pindemonte, who, finding his subject in some measure pre-occupied, gave up his own task. "Still," he says, " after reading Foscolo's poem, I felt my ancient partiality for the argument revived, and as it appeared to me that one might yet glean in the same field, I attempted it; I wrote, therefore, an answer to the author of the Sepolcri."
Whether in consequence of the general indignation against the inhuman laws concerning burying grounds, or from some new caprice in those who ruled over the fate of the dead as well as of the living, the campo santo of Verona, Pindemonte informs us in his preface, was, just before his publication appeared, closed to the departed. "Perhaps," says he, "the complaints of the living were the cause of this. Now, at least, the dead are buried in the cloisters of a convent; it is allowed to have a separate tomb, to place an inscription over it, and we are not forbidden from going to mourn over the sepulchral marble which covers the remains of our beloved friends."
A poet naturally inclined to the elegiac, like Pindemonte, must here have been in his element. The genius of his poem was compared to that of Tibullus, while Foscolo's manifested a greater share of the Pindaric vein. The two poems were published together, and went through several editions with the addition of comments by other Italian writers.
Pindemonte replies to the vulgar objection that the funeral ho