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certain passages found at Heidelberg on the main body of a dissertation discovered at Naples. Yet such was the occupation of Petrarca and his friend Boccaccio.
The Italian prose received a considerable polish about this time from the three Villani, who yet maintain a high rank among historians : but from this period the language again retrograded. Latin, and all the pedantry which the affectation of writing in a dead language naturally occasions, succeeded to the graceful and simple idiom of the great men who had diffused such honour over their country. This depravation continued until the period at which Cosmo de' Medici brought back the exploded idiom of Florence, and with it the Muses and the Graces that had retired from the pedants who had usurped the name of poets and historians during the dark interregnum. Of this extraordinary man, and of his aspiring family, it would be presumptuous on our part to say more, since the labours of Mr. Roscoe have been consecrated to the name of Medici. The Morgante Maggiore of Luigi da Pulci, another treasure lately opened to the English reader by a powerful and brilliant translation of its finest and most attractive parts, was first published in 1485. To the English translation of this work are affixed notes, which supersede any remarks from us on the original author : but the name of Morgante the Giant might possibly be changed with more propriety to that of Orlando, who is, without dispute, the hero of the piece. Boiardo had published and Berni had modernized the Orlando Innamorato, before Ariosto had conferred the highest honour on the name by the celebrity which his genius drew around it. In the poem of Berni, the female character appears, as it should appear in every chivalric romance, the soul of all the poem ; and Angelica already gives the promise of those charms which have since braved the revolution of ages.
The intention of Ariosto was to celebrate the Paladins and gallantries of the court of Charlemagne, during the fabulous war of that monarch against the Moors. He appears to have shaken off the yoke imposed by the observance of the unities; he takes the subject and the hero as they were furnished for him by the Comte Boiardo in his Orlando Innamorato; and, supposing all his readers to be previously acquainted with the former parts of his romantic history, he enters into the midst of combats without imagining that any one can be ignorant of his characters and their past exploits. He gives himself no concern about introducing his principal personages; he strings event on event; and, as if he enjoyed the perplexity of his readers, he leads them astray into so many places and scenes, that the possibility of grasping the ensemble of his wild but rich
invention is entirely precluded. He attaches himself by turns to all his heroes ; and, having conducted each into an embarrassing situation, he leaves him with a pleasantry for some other character, or to wander to another part of the fable, totally unconnected. Although the interest of the whole poem may languish from such a continued train of disappointments, and this total want of unity, yet has the poet fixed the attention of all Europe on his brilliant visions; and, by the charm of his verse and the minuteness of his detail, the honourable and noble spirit of his principal agents, and the bright and blooming colours which pervade his work, he has supplanted in the estimation of most readers all the writers of his nation. Sometimes, we discover in this light and graceful poet an unequalled sensibility; thus the event which has given its name to the poem, the grief for slighted love which deprives his principal hero of reason, is gradually brought on with a truth and delicacy of sentiment which know no equal. The Paladin of Charlemagne has found, sculptured on the rock of a grotto, some verses of Medoro in which he celebrates the happiness enjoyed in the love of Angelica. He reads them again and again, and each time he hopes to discover in them a meaning different from that which is but too obvious : an icy cold then penetrates to his heart; still he fixes his eyes on the stone, but the faculty of vision has vanished. Yet hesitating to believe the infidelity of Angelica, a shepherd, in order to convince him of it, recounts her love for Medoro with all its details; in vain he then flies from men; the inscription on the grotto haunts and drives him to despair, and from despair to madness. He draws his sword, destroys the grotto which has been the asylum of their loves, tears down the trees which surround it, rages against the bright and clear fountain which ran at its mouth, covers it with earth, with rocks, with trunks of trees, and renders it turbid and choked
Poichè la lena vinta non risponde
Cade sul prato, e verso il ciel sospiru." Ariosto scruples not to avail himself of the beauties of antient Latin poesy; and it is extraordinary that, in noticing the Olympia of Orlando, M. DE SISMONDI has not traced it, and almost literally, to the Ariadne of Ovid. The Olympia is in reality a translation from the Ariadne. In another part, Ariosto has translated and improved on that fine passage of Catullus, the “ Ut flos in septis." The following is an attempt to preserve the style and stanza of this passage of the Italian bard:
« La verginella è simile alla rosa,” &c.
Within the covert of a garden born ;
But on the parent stalk it blooms untorn,
The balm of evening and the dews of morn :
Where fresh and blooming to the sight it grew,
Forsake the tainted sweet and faded hue ;
To one but newly loved another's due,
The death of Zerbino and the grief of Isabella in the 24th book are passages full of tenderness and sweetness: but Ariosto . is perhaps less formed to be translated by fragments than any
other poet. The grace, the charm, the music of his language are inimitable, and refuse to lend themselves to translation. His glory is attached to the Orlando : but, like the great men whom we have noticed, he too composed many works, and among them some which do no honour to his name. His attempts at theatrical pieces are not more successful than those of his predecessors: but some of his sonnets, canzoni, and elegies in terza rima, may be compared with those of Petrarca and Ovid. We hasten, however, to the last great poet who divides with Ariosto the suffrages
of Italy. Torquato Tasso, son of Bernardo Tasso, commenced in the year 1565, at the court of Ferrara, that Jerusalem Delivered which has intitled him to the third place among epic poets. His first merit was the choice of a subject, capable in any age, and more especially in that in which the poet flourished, of warming the imagination of a Christian poet. It presents the history of the grand struggle between nations who fought for the truth, against those whose yoke would have vilified and degraded mankind to a servitude the most ignominious and depraved. Tasso
we evidently perceive to be the favourite of M. DE SISMONDI ; and certainly the scene of the Jerusalem Delivered, so brilliant from its association with all our religious ideas, is that in which nature displays all her riches ; - in which pictures alternately the most smiling and most sombre are offered to the powers of
The enchanting gardens of Eden and the sands of the desert are there found in close and immediate vicinity; while also the splendour of Asia, and the rude but magnificent daring of Europe, which, according to the account of the Princess Anna Comnena, appeared to be precipitated on Constantinople, are beautifully contrasted in this gorgeous poem. To the honours of imagery, grace, thought, unity, and variety, must be added that extreme correctness of description which brings the holy places immediately under the view of an untravelled reader. This at least is the praise bestowed on the poem by Chateaubriand. Above all, the Jerusalem Delivered is the soldier's poem :-war, honour, land religion, are the theses of every page; and every action is described with such force of colouring, and such present vivacity, that the author appears always in the field, and engaged in noting down the transactions of its heroes. Praise, however, is needless. This production will go down the stream of time with Homer and Virgil; and, though far inferior to either, it is, as an epic poem, the first and noblest that has been produced by any genius of renovated Europe. Tous it appears rather too gorgeous, too full of imagery, simile, metaphor, allusion, and figure of every kind; the memory is too often carried back to Virgil ; and the Italian, though unquestionably the most poetical of modern languages, loses ground in its competition with the beautiful and majestic idiom of antiquity. To our feelings, the Orlando Furioso is the more gratifying and more strictly Italian production: - but we forbear from disputing the point with M. DE SISMONDI.
To the age of Tasso succeeded a long interval of persecution, directed against learning by unfeeling Popes and intriguing Princes. Yet in defiance of these obstacles and the terrors of the Inquisition, the germs of genius continued to expand. Italy produced not less than thirty contemporary poets, who, in the opinion of the age in which they flourished, equalled, if they did not surpass, the greatest geniuses of antiquity; and whose celebrity was expected to last with the duration of the world. The very names, however, of these immortal bards are fast wearing away, and their works are become curious only from not having been reprinted since the rage of admiration which extended itself to a certain period of their life-time. Fame has a retentive but by no means a capacious memory; as she passes on, she loves to disencumber herself from every useless búrthen; and she arrives at future ages with an equipage as light as she can possibly make it. Hesitating to choose between Bembo, Sadoletti, Sannazar, Bernardo Accolti, and hundreds of others, ali of whom were numbered by their contemporaries among poets of the highest order, she got rid of them all; a wholesome
example to the immortals of our own age and country, if any example can be salutary when acting against the poisonous applause of a gaping and thoughtless multitude. With this remark we hasten to the conclusion of our notices of Italian literature,
A short but clear account is here given of Macchiavelli and Aretin. The former, ambassador for a long time at the court of Cæsar Borgia, learned from that illustrious villain the foundation and spirit of his infernal policy; and the latter, by a whimsical application of the lucus à non lucendo, gained the title of divine by books and conversations of the lowest and most obscene tendency. Of all libertines, he was the most profligate; and of all deaths the death of Aretin was most in unison with the tenour of his life. He had some sisters at Venice who passed a life as dissolute as his own; one day, on hearing the recital of their gallantries, he was so delighted with their oddity, that in the violence of merriment he upset himself in his chair; his head struck against the floor; and he died at that very moment, in the midst of convulsions of laughter at some stories replete with ribaldry.
To this age succeeded that of the pedants known in Italy by the appellation of the Seicentisti. During one hundred and fifty years, exhausted Italy produced only servile copyists of the antients; and, with the exception of a few gleams in the Secchia rapita of Tassoni, the genius of this favoured land appears to be overshadowed from the imprisonment of Tasso to the time of Metastasio.
The theatre of Italy boasts the three names of Metastasio, Goldoni, and Alfieri; and no three authors could possibly present a greater contrast of character. The first is the creator of the lyric scene; the second, of the true comic; and the third, of Italian tragedy. The real name of the former was Trapassi, which his master translated into the Greek name of Metastasio. Born at a voluptuous court, and a slave to the delights of music, he abandoned himself to that delicate epicureanism which united in his eyes heroism and virtue with love and idleness. His characters, it is true, are taken from every nation: but his Romans, Persians, and Greeks, all sing of love in the same sweet notes ; they are for ever the same in all but their drapery; and their scene is always the lyric theatre. His better pieces, rendered enchanting and immortal by the divine harmonies of Pergolese, Cimarosa, and Mozart, leave all comparison behind. He is not to be read ; his whole soul was music; and the art af Cimarosa was necessary to the display of Metastasio's powers. In 1729, his reputation procured from the Emperor Charles VI. an invitation to Vienna, where he was established as poet to the court.