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since the Council of Trent, that any doubt which might be raised on a religious dogma exposed an author to the charge of impiety; whilst, in the fifteenth century, a Catholic might be sincerely devout, and yet allow himself a certain degree of latitude in theological doubt. At one and the same time the Florentines 'might well believe in the gospel and laugh at a doctor of divinity: for it was exactly at this era that they had been spectators of the memorable controversies between the representatives of the eastern and western churches. Greek and Latin bishops from every corner of Christendom had assembled at Florence for the purpose of trying whether they could possibly understand each other; and when they separated, they hated each other worse than before. At the very time when Pulci was composing his Morgante, the clergy of Florence protested against the excommunications pronounced by Sixtus IV., and with expressions by which his holiness was anathematized in his turn. During these proceedings, an archbishop, convicted of being a papal emissary, was banged from one of the windows of the government palace at Florence : this event may have suggested to Pulci the idea of converting another archbishop into a hangman. The romantic poets substituted literary and scientific observations for the trivial digressions of the storytellers. This was a great improvement: and although it was not well managed by Pulci, yet he presents us with much curious incidental matter. In quoting his philosophical friend and contemporary Matteo Palmieri
, he explains the instinct of brutes by a bold hypothesis—he supposes that they are animated by evil spirits. This idea gave no offence to the theologians of the fifteenth century, but it excited much orthodox indignation when Father Bougeant, a French monk, brought it forward as a new theory of his own. Mr. Merivale, after observing that Pulci died before the discovery of America by Columbus, quotes a passage which will become a very interesting document for the philosophical historian.' We give it in his prose translation :- The water is level through its whole extent, although, like the earth, it has the form of a globe. Mankind in those ages were much more ignorant than now. Hercules would blush at this day for having fixed his columns. Vessels will soon pass far beyond them. They may soon reach another hemisphere, because every thing tends to its centre; in like manner, as by a divine mystery, the earth is suspended in the midst of the stars; here below are cities and empires, which were ancient. The inhabitants of those regions were called Antipodes. They have plants and animals as well as you, and wage wars as well as you.'-—Morgante, c. xxv. st. 229, &c.
The more we consider the traces of ancient science which break in transient tļashes through the darkness of the middle ages,
and which gradually re-illuminated the horizon, the more shall we be disposed to adopt the hypothesis suggested by Bailly, and supported by him with seductive eloquence. He maintained that all the acquirements of the Greeks and Romans had been transmitted to them as the wrecks and fragments of the knowledge once possessed by primæval nations, by empires of sages and philosophers, who were after ds swept from the face of the globe by some overwhelming catastrophe. His theory may be considered as extravagant; but if the literary productions of the Romans were not yet extant, it would seem incredible, that, after the lapse of a few centuries, the civilization of the Augustan age could have been succeeded in Italy by such barbarity. The Italians were so ignorant that they forgot their family names, and before the eleventh century individuals were known only by their Christian names. They had an indistinct idea, in the middle ages, of the existence of, the antipodes; but it was a reminiscence of ancient knowledge. Dante has indicated the pumber and position of the stars composing the polar constellation of the Austral hemisphere. At the same time he tells us, that when Lucifer was hurled from the celestial regious, the arch-devil transfixed the globe; half his body remained on our side of the centre of the earth, and half on the other side. The shock given to the earth by his fall drove a great portion of the waters of the ocean to the southern hemisphere, and only one high mountain remained uncovered, upon which Dante places his purgatory. As the fall of Lucifer happened before the creation of Adam, it is evident that Dante did not admit that the southern hemisphere had ever been inhabited; but about thirty years afterwards, Petrarch, who was better versed in the ancient writers, ventured to hint that the sun shone upon mortals who were unknown to us.
. Nella stagion che il ciel rapido inchina Vers' occidente, e che il dì nostro vola
A gente che di là forse l' aspetta. In the course of half a century after Petrarch, another step was gained. The existence of the antipodes was fully demonstrated. Pulci raises a devil to announce the fact; but it had been taught to him by his fellow-oitizen Paolo Toscanelli, an excellent astronomer and mathematician, who wrote in his old age to Christopher Columbus, exhorting him to undertake his expedition.
A few stanzas have been translated by Mr. Merivale, with some slight variations, which do not wrong the original. They may be considered as a specimen of Pulci's poetry, when he writes with imagination and feeling. Orlando bids farewell to his dying horse.
* His faithful steed, that long had served him well In peace and war, now closed his languid eye,
Kneelid at his feet, and seem'd to say “ Farewell !
And "O my much-loved steed, my generous friend,
Flash'd quick ;-then closed again in endless night.' When Orlando is expiring on the field of battle, an angel de scends to him, and promises that Alda his wife shall join him in paradise.
• Bright with eternal youth aud fadeless bloom
And be in Heaven thy joyful spouse again.' Whilst the soul of Orlando was soaring to heaven, a soft and plaintive strain was heard, and angelic voices joined in celestial harmony. They sang the psalm, When Israel went out of Egypt,' and the singers were known to be angels from the trembling of their wings.
Poi si senti con un suon dolce e fioco
Che si conobbe al tremolar le penne.' Dante has inserted passages from the Vulgate in his Dirma Commedia; and Petrarch, the most religious of poets, quotes Scripture even when he is courting. Yet they were not accused of impiety Neither did Pulci incur the danger of a posthumous excommunication, until after the Reformation, when Pius V. (a Dominican, who was turned into a saint by a subsequent pope) promoted'the welfare of holy mother church by burning a few wicked books and hanging a few troublesome authors. The notion that Pulci was in the odour of heresy influenced the opinion of Milton,
who only speaks of the Morgante as a 'sportful romance.' Milton was anxious to prove that catholic writers had ridiculed popish divines, and that the Bible had been subjected to private judgment, notwithstanding the popes had prohibited the reading of it. His ardour did not allow him to stop and examine whether this prohibition might not be posterior to the death of Pulci. Milton had studied Pulci to advantage. The knowledge which he ascribes to his devils, their despairing repentance, the lofty sentiments which he bestows upon some of them, and, above all, the principle that, notwithstanding their crime and its punishment, they retain the grandeur and perfection of angelic nature, are all to be found in the Morgante as well as in Paradise Lost. Ariosto and Tasso have imitated other passages. When great poets borrow from their inferiors in genius, they turn their acquisitions to such advantage that it is difficult to detect their thefts, and still more difficult to blame them,
The poem is filled with kings, knights, giants, and devils. There are many battles and
duels. Wars rise out of wars, and em, pires are conquered in a day. Pulci treats us with plenty of magic and enchantment, His love adventures are not peculiarly interesting; and with the exception of four or five leading personages, his characters are of no moment. The fable turns wholly upon the hatred which Ganellon, the felon knight of Maganza, bears to wards Orlando and the rest of the Christian Paladins. Charlemagne is easily practised upon by Ganellon, his prime confidant and man of business. So he treats Orlando and his friends in the most scurvy manner imaginable, and sends them out to hard service in the wars against France. Ganellon is dispatched to Spain to treat with King Marsilius, being also instructed to obtain the cession of a kingdom for Orlando; but he concerts a treacherous device with the Spaniards, and Orlando is killed at the battle of Roncesvalles. The intrigues of Ganellon, his spite, his patience, his obstinacy, his dissimulation, his affected humility, and his inexhaustible powers of intrigue, are adınirably depicted : and his character constitutes the chief and finest feature in the poem. Charlemagne is a worthy monarch, but easily gulled. Orlando is a real hero, chaste and disa interested, and who fights in good earnest for the propagation of the faith. He baptises the giant Morgante, who afterwards serves him like a faithful squire. There is another giant, whose name is Margutte. Morgante falls in with Margutte, and they become sworn brothers. Margutte is a very infidel giant, ready to confess his fail. ings, and full of drollery. He sets all a-laughing, readers, giants, devils, and heroes, and he finishes his career by laughing till he bursts. We hope this is a sufficient abstract of the poem of Pulci, and we shall not be more diffuse when we come to those of Bojardo and Ariosto.
Matteo Maria Bojardo, count of Scandiano, was born in the year 1430. His birth preceded that of Pulci by a few months only, and he probably survived him by about ten years. We are ignorant both of the date and the circumstances of the death of the author of the Morgante Maggiore, and we seek his tomb in vain. Yet it is certain that he died almost immediately after he had finished his poem in 1484. And since Bojardo had not completed his work in the year 1495, it may be conjectured that he did not plan it until he had seen the Morgante. The title announces that love is the theme of Bojardo. Morgante, converted by Orlando, may be considered as the symbol of brutal strength yielding to religion; and Orlando, in his turn, is exhibited by Bojardo as an example of heroism and devotion, conquered by the charms of woman. Angelica arrives from Cathay at the palace of Charlemagne, and presents herself before that monarch on the festival when he is holding his cour plenière, at which every knight was welcomed with honour. Heedless of the crowd of lovers whom she charmed, she became madly fond of Rinaldo, who could not abide her; whilst for her sake, Orlando forgot his wife, his sovereign, his country, his glory, in short every thing except his religion. Angelica became heartily tired of the passion of the hero, though sbe kindly allowed him to dangle after her. It is true, that she was forced to tolerate his attentions, in order to obtain bis assistance against the princes, who first fought in her service, and afterwards against her; besides which, her vanity was a little flattered by numbering such a hero amongst her slaves. Agrican, king of the Tartars, besieges her in Albracca with an immense army. Orlando defeats the hostile lover. But, after his death, she finds herself in greater danger; and she is menaced even by Rinaldo, who vows her destruction. Orlando is the cousin and the dearest friend of Rinaldo, but they remember neither their friendship nor their consanguinity. The quarrels of the knightly cousins furnish matter for the loftiest and most energetic passages of the poem.
Orlando, notwithstanding his passion, never ceases to labour in converting the pagan knights. When the bravest Paladins are far away from the empire, Charlemagne is attacked by Agramante, emperor of Africa, who commands a host of minor kings. The passage of this tremendous army being impeded by a storm, Rodomonte, one of the royal vassals of Agramante, determines to cross the sea at all events, and he lands to the eastward of Genoa. He arrives with few followers, most of his ships having been wrecked, but he disperses the Christian army, which attempts to oppose his disembarkation. Gradasso, king of Sericana, followed by his vassals, crowned kings,' who never dared to address him but on their knees, also invaded France on his own