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crowd laughed heartily at these digressions, but the story-teller gradually brought them to a more poetical mood. Poppæa was represented as a fascinating beauty ; Burrus as a conjuror, who had the devil at his elbow'; Seneca was described as a good christian in his heart, who by the advice of St. Paul continued an outward pagan. He always repeated the same story, but with slight variations: the method and form of his narrative appeared to result from the nature of his occupation, rather than from any premeditated plan, and we therefore conclude, that the story-tellers of the middle ages being placed in the same situation, necessarily adopted a similar method, which indeed can be retraced in all the romantic poems of Italy.
The peculiar forms of Italian romantic poetry may be reduced to the following,
I. The narrative is naturally complex, story is interwoven with story, and the current of the main subject is perpetually broken by episodes, introduced to keep the auditors in suspense, and to induce them to assemble day after day to hear the end of the tale. Thus, although the Giant Morgante is the hero of Pulci, and Orlando of Boiardo and Ariosto, yet their adventures occupy the smallest portions of the poems; the wars of Charlemagne constitute the rest, but interrupted and varied by the loves and exploits of the knights of either party.
II. Religion predominates in their poems. While the poet deals in the greatest absurdities, he appeals to the authority of Archbishop Turpin, and invokes the aid of saints and angels. Pulci never begins a canto without a pious invocation, borrowed from the service of the Catholic church; Ariosto, though still professing to admit the authenticity of the chronicle of Turpin, has wholly dropt these irrelevant prayers.
III. The customary forms of the narrative all find a place in romantic poetry : such are the sententious reflexions suggested by the matters which he has just related, or arising in anticipation of those which he is about to relate, and which the storyteller always opens when he resumes his recitations; bis defence of his own merits against the attacks of rivals in trade; and his formal leave-taking when he parts from his audience, and invites them to meet him again on the morrow. This method of winding up each portion of the poem is a favourite among the romantic poets; who constantly finish their cantos with a distich, of which the words may vary, but the sense is uniform.
• All'altro canto ve farò sentire,
Se all'altro canto mi verrete a udire.'-ARIOSTO. Or at the end of another canto, according to Harrington's translation,
I now cut off abruptly here my rhyme,
And keep my tale unto another time.' The forms and materials of these popular stories were adopted by writers of a superior class, who considered the vulgar tales of their predecessors as blocks of marble finely tinted and variegated by the hand of nature, but which might afford a master-piece, when tastefully worked and polished. The romantic poets treated the traditionary fictions just as Dante did the legends invented by the monks to maintain their mastery over weak minds. He formed them into a poem, which became the admiration of every age and nation : but Dante and Petrarca were poets, who, though universally celebrated, were not universally understood. The learned found employment in writing comments upon their poems, but the nation, without even excepting the higher ranks, know them only by name. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, a few obscure authors began to write romances in prose and in rhyme, taking for their subject the wars of Charlemagne and Orlando, or sometimes the adventures of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. These works were so pleasing, that they were rapidly multiplied: but the bards of romance cared little about style or versification, they sought for adventures, and enchantments, and miracles. We here obtain at least a partial explanation of the rapid decline of Italian poetry, and the amazing corruption of the Italian language, which took place immediately after the death of Petrarch, and which proceeded from bad to worse until the era of Lorenzo de' Medici.-It was then that Pulci composed his Morgante for the amusement of Madonna Lucrezia, the mother of Lorenzo; and he used to recite it at table to Ficino, and Politian, and Lorenzo, and the other illustrious charicters who then flourished at Florence: yet Pulci adhered strictly to the original plan of the popular story-tellers; and if his sticcesscrs have embellished them so that they can scarcely be recognised, it is certain that in no other poem can they be found so genuine and native as in the Morgante. Pulci accommodated himself
, though sportively, to the genius of his age: classical taste and sound criticism began to prevail, and great endeavours were making by the learned to separate historical truth from the chaos of fable and tradition: so that, though Pulci introduced the most extravagant fables, he affected to complain of the errors of his predecessors. . • I grieve,” he said, “ for my Emperor: Charlemagne: for I see that his history has been badly written and worse understood.'
E del mio Carlo imperador m'increbbe ;
And whilst he quotes the great historian Leonardo Aretino with respect, he professes to believe the authority of the holy Archbishop Turpin, who is also one of the heroes of the poem. In another passage, where he imitates the apologies of the story-tellers, he makes a neat allusion to the taste of his audience.
• I know,' he says, that I must proceed straight forward, and not tell a single lie in the course of my tale. This is not a story of mere invention : and if I go one step out of the right road, one chastises, another criticises, a third scolds—they try to drive me mad
--but in fact they are out of their senses, and therefore I have chosen a solitary life. My academy (here he jokes on the academy of Lorenzo de' Medici) and my gymnasium were formerly in my woods. Thence I can see Africa and Asia. The nymphs come there with their baskets, and bring me the fairest fruits. Here I avoid all the evils of great towns, therefore I will not return to your tribunals, Messieurs les gens d'esprit.'
E so che andar diritto mi bisogna,
La mia accademia un tempo e mia ginnasią,
Gente pur sempre di mal dicer vaghi. Pulci's versification is remarkably fluent, and these lines are good specimens of his style. Yet he is deficient in' melody; his language is pure, and his expressions flow naturally; but his phrases are abrupt and unconnected, and he frequently writes ungrammatically. "His vigour degenerates into harshness : and his love of brevity prevents the development of his poetical imagery. He bears all the marks of rude genius'; he was capable of delicate pleasantry, yet his smiles are usually bitter and severe. His humour never arises from points, but from unexpected situations strongly contrasted. The Emperor Charlemagne sentences King Marsilius of Spain to be hanged for high treason, and Archbishop Turpin kindly offers his services on the occasion.
E' disse : lo vo', Marsilio, che lu muoja
Disse Turpino: Jo voglio fare il boja.
L'opera santa con le sante mani. Here we have an emperor superintending the execution of a king who is hanged in the presence of a vast multitude, all of whom are greatly edified at beholding an archbishop officiating in the character of a finisber of the law. Before this adventure took place, Caradoro bad dispatched an ambassador to the emperor, complaining of the shameful conduct of a wicked Paladin, who had seduced the princess his daughter. The orator does not present himself with modern diplomatic courtesy
Macon t'abbatta come traditore,
A Caradoro è stato scritto, O Carlo,
De la sua figlia cosa disonesta.* Such scenes may appear somewhat strange ; but Caradoro's embassy and the execution of King Marsilius are told in strict conformity to the notions of the common people: and as they must still be described if we wished to imitate the popular story-tellers. If Pulci be occasionally refined and delicate, his snatches of amenity resulted from the national character of the Florentines, and the revival of letters. But at the same time, we must trace to national character and to the influence of his daily companions the buffoonery which, in the opinion of foreigners, frequently disgraces the poem. M. Ginguené has criticised Pulci in the usual style of his countrymen. He attributes modern manners to ancient times, and takes it for granted that the individuals of every other nation think and act like modern Frenchmen. On these principles, he concludes that Pulci, both with respect to his subject and to his mode of treating it, intended only to write burlesque poetry; because, as he says, such buffoonery could not bave been introduced into a composition recited to Lorenzo de' Medici and his enlightened guests, if the author had intended to be in earnest. In the fine portrait of Lorenzo given by Machiavelli at the end of his Florentine history, the historian complains that he took more pleasure in the company of jesters and buffoons than beseemed such a man. It is a little singular that Benedetto Varchi, a, contemporary historian, makes the ame complaint of Machiavelli himself. Indeed many known inecdotes of Machiavelli, no less than bis fugitive pieces, prove hat it was only when he was 'acting the statesman that he wished to be grave: and that he could laugh like other men when he laid aside his dignity. We do not think he was in the wrong. But whatever opinion may be formed on the subject, we shall yet be forced to conclude that great men may be compelled to blame the manners of their times, without being able to withstand their influence. In other respects the poem of Pulci is serious, both in subject and in tone. And here we shall repeat a general observation' which we advise our readers to apply to all the romantic poems of the Italians-That their comic humour arises from the contrast between the constant endeavours of the writers to adhere to the forms and subjects of the popular story-tellers, and the efforts made at the same time by the genius of these writers to render such materials interesting and sublime.
* o Charles, he cried, Charles, Charles ! King Caradore has ascertained the thing, -And as he cried
Which comes moreover proved and verified He shook his head-a sad complaint I bring By letters from your own side of the water Of shameful acts which cannot be denied : Respecting the behaviour of his daughter.
This simple elucidation of the causes of the poetical character of the Morgante has been overlooked by the critics; and they have therefore disputed with great earnestness during the last two centuries, whether the Morgante is written in jest or earnest; and whether Pulci is not an atheist, who wrote in verse' for the express purpose of scoffing at all religion. Mr. Merivale inclines, in his Orlando in Roncesvalles, to the opinion of M. Ginguené, that the Morgante is decidedly to be considered as a burlesque poem, and a satire against the Christian religion. Yet Mr. Merivale himself acknowledges that it is wound up with a tragical effect, and dignified by religious sentiment, and is therefore forced to leave the question amongst the unexplained and perhaps inexplicable phænomena of the human mind. If a similar question had not been already decided, both in regard to Shakspeare and to Ariosto, it might be still a subject of dispute whether the former intended to write tragedies, and whether the other did not mean to burlesque bis beroes. It is a
It is a happy thing, that with regard to those two great writers, the war has ended by the fortunate intervention of the general body of readers, who on such occasions form their judgment with less erudition and with less prejudice than the critics. But Pulci is little read, and his age is little known. We are told by Mr. Merivale, that the points of abstruse theology are discussed in the Morgante with a degree of sceptical freedom which we should imagine to be altogether remote from the spirit of the fifteenth century. Mr. Merivale follows M. Ginguené, who follows Voltaire. And the philosopher of Ferney, who was always beating up in all quarters for allies against Christianity, collected all the scriptural passages of Pulci, upon which he commented in his own way. But it is only ,