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Gray's own iniinitable Elegy in a Country Church-yard, i a community of rhymes, which however closely identifies n. The only petty objection that can be made against this ngement is, that it is less perfect than the rigid model with
h we have contrasted it, because its limbs are less vitally ndent on each other to make one whole,--one body, wherein le spirit. 'here is another small structure of verse allied to this, freatly called a Sonnet, but now generally acknowledged to be jitimate, as having vo prototype in Italian, and none of the licated unity of parts, which is essential in the constitution
Sonnet. To this Mr. Lofft has given the name of Quazain : it is a short poem of four elegiac stanzas, with difut returns of rhyme in each, and closed with a single couplet; reas a Sonnet consists of only two stanzas,--a major, coning eight lines. exquisitely interwoven, and a minor, coning six lines of looser construction. A comparison of the wing beautiful Quatuorsain, of Shakspeare, with either he foregoing Sonnets, will shew the distinction on which jave insisted.
Shakspeare.--Sonnet. • That time of year thou mayest in me behold
When yellow leaves or none or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold;
Bare ruin'd quires where late the sweet birds sang: • In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the West ;
Death's second self, that scals up all in rest. • In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of her youth doth lie
Consum'd with that which it was nourisht by.
Sonnet DCCCLXXVI. Vol. V. it be asked, why must a Sonnet be confined to fourteen 3 rather to any other number? we know not that we can ane the question better than by asking another ;-why must the inthian column consist of ten diameters? The cestus of us must be of some particular length, both to fit and to adorn person of the Goddess; a hand-breadth taken away would
left it scanty; a hand-breadth superadded would have madle dundant. The number of lines, and the arrangement of nes and pauses, already established in the regular Sonnet, - been found, after the experience of five centuries, incapable aprovement by extension or reduction; while the form itself has been proved to be the most convenient, and graceful, that ever was invented, for disclosing, embellishing, and encompassing the noblest or the loveliest, the gayest or the gravest idea, that genius, in its happiest moments of rapture or of melancholy, could inspire. The employment of this form by the greatest modern poets, for expressing, with pathos and power irresistible, their selectest and divinest conceptions, is an argument of fact, against all reasoning a priori, in favour of the intrinsic excellence and unparalleled perfection of the Sonnet. Dante, Petrarch, Bembo, Ariosto, Tasso, Dalla Casa, Costanza, Filicaja, T'esti, Guidi, Menzini, Metastasio, and many a name, unknown in Britain, but illustrious in that delightful land,
“ Which Appeniae divides, the sea and Alps surround,” have exalted this species of composition to a dignity, which it may never attain in a language less sweet and sonorous than that which gave it birth.
After this introduction, which we have purposely written to avoid the necessity of analyzing Mr. Lofft's long and laboured Preface, (occupying the whole of his first volume, a few brief notices of the varied contents of this multitudinous work will be sufficient.--Sir Philip Sidney, in his Defence of Poesy, tells us, that he learned horsemanship at the court of Vienna, of one Pietro Pugliano, an Italian, who was wont to discourse most eloquently, in praise of his own profession. He said, -Sol-diers were the noblest estate of mankind, and horsemen the noblest of soldiers. They were the masters of war, the ornaments of peace, speedy goers, and strong abiders, triumphant both in camps and courts; nay to so unbelieved a point he proceeded, as that no earthly thing bred such wonder to a prince, as to be a good horseman ; skill of government was but a Pedanteria in comparison. Then he would add certain praises, by telling what a peerless beast the horse was, the only serviceable courtier without flattery, the beast of the most beauty, faithfulness, courage, and such more, that if I had not been a piece of a loyician before I came to him, I think he would have persuaded me to wislı myself a horse. But this much, with his no few words lie drove into me,--that self-love is better than any gilding, to make that seem gorgeous wherein ourselves be parties. We were 'repeatedly reminded of this pleasant story, (which Sir Philip Sidney ingenuously applies to his own enthusiastic love of rcesy, in reading Mr. Capel Lofft's Preface to these volumes. The fonduess, and ardour, and perseverance, with which he expatiates on the Somet, its origin, its analogies, its varieties, and capabilities, might induce a reader, if such a one could be found, who should give his imagination into this Author's hand, to be lieve that Sopnet-writing, like Pugliano's llorsemanship: *18
the most worthy and wonderful exercise of a human being, whether prince or peasant : yet Mr. Lofft himself in the following words candidiy acknowledges that it is something less.
* Estimated, therefore, by it's excellence of every kind, and not merely by its dificulty of composition, the paradoxical remark of the penetratin · il severe BOILEAU will scarcely appear cxcessive, that a perfect over is equal to an EPIC POEM. And what is of more general importance it may be truely said, that no species of Poetry contains so much of good and little of bad in equal quantity as the genuine sonNET. Though not the highest, since there are the TRAGIC, the epic, the ode, and the Canzone, it is high indeed in the order of POETRY; and nearer to faultless excellence than any other.' pp. lviii-lix.
As a sample of Mr. Lofft's fanciful reasoning and associating, we copy the following paragraph on the analogy of the Sonnet with the tones and semi-tones of a musical octave in the flat key:
• It's musical analogy, as appears to me, is this :—that it has it's Major System divided into a double TETRACHORD, and it's Minor into a Hexachord or double Trichordon.
That the Relations of Rhimes in the Major System answer to the Order of Tones and Semitones in the Graver System or Flat Key ; the divided Rhimes in each Quadernario standing for the Tones ; the diminisht interval immediately successive representing the interval produc'd by the half Tones. And in order to maintain this resemblance these Rhimes are consecutive. It is very curious too that the leading Rhimes of the octane are the 1st, 4th, 5th and 8th, which compos'd the full harmonic Chord of the Grecian Music. To which may be added, that the fixt Arrangement of Rhimes in the first Division of the sonNET suggests a resemblance to the TONI STANTES; and the more va. riable Arrangement of the 2d or terzina Division to that of the TONI MOBILES in antient Music.'p vi.
• The first Guido of the two (Bonatti as it seems by his name of family) divided the two antient Tetrachords into one Octave denoted by the first seven Letters of the Alphabet for the septerary Series of the Tones and Semi-Tones in this order; C. D. E. F. G. Å. B. He then completed the Octave by adding the
first repetitionary Note of the recurrent Series, c; which went on in small Letter d, e, &c. To these he subjoind the Hexachord; in the Chord of a Major sixth :
f. g. 1
c. &c. da capo, ut. re, mi. fa. sol. la. 1 ut &c. da capo. And then subjoining, as an hypoproslamhanomenos (in imitation of the Pythagorean Supplement) an added Note below, he called his Scale the Gammut: r, Gamma, the Greek G; and ut, the C.
• Now this Octave and Hexachord united form the actual Divisions of the GUIDONIAN sonnet, which has also its double Tetrastich and its Hexastich, its Rimes of eight and six lines in a double Quatrain, and in a double Terzetta. As there were but six Characters in
the nexACHORD Division for seven Sounds, it was necessary to change occasionally the signification of these Characters to represent the omitted semitone. And this change was calld a Muance by the early French Masters. And hence possibly the minor or he.cachord System of the Sonnet Laws had more freedom of Variation than the Octave.' p. vii.
Mr. Lofft has spent his time to much better purpose in the second part of this Preface, wherein be exhibits, in chronological succession, a series of the chief poets of Italy, who have been celebrated as writers of Sonnets, the fame of some being almost entirely founded on this merit, and the glory of all being extended by it. This catalogue, though necessarily dry, from its general brevity, will be found exceedingly useful for reference, by those, who are little acquainted with the names of the Worthies of Italian literature, and who occasionally see them mentioned or quoted by our own writers. Some of these articles, however, are expanded into biographical sketches, and are proportionately more interesting. A few French and English names of high note are introduced, and among these Menage and Milton. We perfectly agree with Mr. Lofft in the sentiments, though we cannot admire the style, of the following passages, in which he exultingly looks back on the long illustrious line of poets, whom he has marshalled before his readers.
• It seems difficult to admit a doubt, rich as we are in our Series of BRITISH POETS, whether ours or any language can supply an existing assemblage of such excellence, number, and variety combin'd as that of the ITALIAN. No one who knows the habits of my life and studies can doubt of my enthusiastic attachment to Greek Poetry. And yet, if all the Works were remaining of which antient Critics have spoken with admiration, there seems no reason for thinking that the Body of Italian Poetry would even so have fallen short in a fair comparison.
• To those who have been accustom’d to talk of difficult Trifles, of Concetti, of Quibbles and Coldness and metaphysical Pedantry, of Sing-song and Affectation, as if such were the very Elements of ITALIAN Poetry, and as if the sonnet, in particular, merited no. thing but ridicule, or contempt, or pity, almost all that has been said in this Preface will appear strange and startling,
• That Conceits do occur in Italian Poetry I shall not deny but I think they are not more frequent than in the Poetry of other modern Nations in two stages of it: either before Refinement of Taste has been fully establisht, or when it is declining from it's clear and full Nieridian, and sinking into the Vapours which it's very force and splendour have rais'd. pp. cxci.--cxcii.
• We shall not trouble ourselves with the glitter of the Antithesis between the Tinsel of Tasso and the Gold of VIRGIL. It is in the power, and may it be encreasingly, of many Readers of both sexes to appretiate the high excellence of Tasgo with more feeling and judgement! Many can now feel that no poet so much resembles
VIRGIL: not even Racine. And that the resemblance is far from being confin'd to the passages, numerous as they are, and examples of the happiest skill, in which Tasso imitates or translates, interweaving even the minutest particles of Virgilian Gems and Gold into the admirable texture of his own beautiful Mosaic, but that it extends to the general air and character of their compositions and of their genius. The same delicacy of ear and of taste, the same refin’d sensibility, the same nobleness of manner, the same tranquil and uniformly supported dignity of sentiment, imagery, diction, and numbers. And does the study then of ITALIAN weaken and enervate? No: assuredly : the language, sweet at once and sonorous, soft, tender, and dignified, is form’d for every beauty of diction, of numbers, of sentiment; of expression resulting from these combin’d. Their own Poets have soar'd' to heights gloriously sublime, with a grace and spirit worthy of such a flight : and the noblest of ours have been guided and animated by contemplating their radiant track.' p. cxciii.
In the Italian language there are probably as many myriads of Sonnets extant, as there are thousands in our own; and the isproportion of merit exceeds the disproportion of numbers : nothing more beautiful has been produced by the wit of man than many of the former which we find in this selection, while few of the latter rise above mediocrity, and not one attains the height of ideal excellence of which, we are persuaded, the SonDet is capable in our native tongue. We shall not trouble our general readers with quotations from the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Sonnets, which the ingenious and indefatigable Éditor has assembled in these volumes. In the three ancient languages, of course, the specimens are only Sonnets by courtesy. °Fluent and flexible as the French idioms are found in colloquial or rhetorical prose, the feebleness of French versification is universally acknowledged, and the Sonnet has no more flourished, in the trammels, of male and female rhymes, and slip-shod Alexaydrines, than any other species of poetry, having rarely risen higher than elegant insipidity. It has shared a nobler lot in German, and the alter
a nation of single and double rhymes has given it a peculiar character in that copious and masculine tongue. But in the kindred dialects of Spain, Portugal, and Italy, it has alone reached its full standard' of 'strength and beauty. It would be difficult to decimate the specimens from those languages, in Mr. Lofft's Collection, without excludiug some that are worthy of perpetual remembrance, while of the English Sonnets, if two-thirds were cast into the flames, the value of these books, like those of the Sybil, would be nothing diminished. The Éditor himself has contributed a large proportion both of the originals and transations, and as we believe he is the greatest Sonneteer of his native country, we sincerely regret that we cannot congratulate Vol. II. N. S.