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Hoole has spoiled it, we think it best to place here the fine verses of Statius which have been the model of the finest of all imitations,
Ut Lea quam saevo fætam pressere cubili
Pectora, et in media catulos circumspicit ira.-Theb. lib. r. But when he depends upon himself, or when his beauties are from his own imagination and style, he is himself inimitable, and no future poet will ever be able to profit by the riches of Ariosto as he has profited by those of others. Yet he is not always equal to himself; the levgth of his career exhausts him. Occasionally he lingers till he recovers his strength, and then he darts forward with all his pristine vigour. Unfortunately he made it his duty to celebrate the princes of Ferrara, and in the execution of this courtly task he is often compelled to return to many a solemn prediction of the heroic descendants of Bradamante and Ruggiero. Sometimes they are given in sculpture on the walls of an enchanted palace, or in embroidery on the drapery of a magnificent tent, or Merlin's voice is heard to prophesy from his tomb. On all these occasions, in spite of his earnest endeavours to maintain his dignity, he resembles a Savoyard exhibiting the galantee-show to children at a fair; and might almost justify the famous interrogation of the Cardinal d'Este, In the devil's name, Master Louis, where did you pick up such a heap of foolery ?'-At all events, the poet was sufficiently punished by feeling the weariness which he imparted; and he made an honourable reparation for his servility by refusing to follow the cardinal as a household courtier. If his Eminence wishes to chain me like a slave, to worry me in winter and in summer without caring for my health or my life, because he allows me five and twenty crowns every four months, which are not always paid on demand do not suffer him to retain this opinion; but tell him that I can bear poverty with greater composure than slavery.'
* Se avermi dato onde ogni quattro mesi
Mi debbe incatenar, schiavo tenermi,
Non gli lasciate aver questa credenza :
This is the conclusion of his first satire.
The satires of Ariosto are worthy of a place by the side of those of Horace. He produced those poems towards the close of his life. Strong and honest feelings, tempered by an indulgent disposition, elegant language, profound knowledge of human nature, the frankness with which he lays open his private history and character; all these causes contribute to stamp them as master-pieces which, in the course of three centuries, have not been equalled in Italy. In strictness perhaps they should be considered less as satires, than as confidential letters addressed to his relatives, and to his most intimate friends. As such they are frequently quoted by Harrington, who employed them in the composition of the life of Ariosto prefixed to his translation. Other interesting particulars respecting his private life may be collected from the notes of his natural son Virginio, which have been lately published from the original manuscript. This curious document informs us that Ariosto was no great reader, and that he would pass weeks together without opening a book. He occasionally looked into Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, and Ovid; he studied Catullus more frequently as a model of composition. Propertius was no favourite. When he was not confined by the business which the Duke entrusted to him, he amused himself by attending to the workmen whom he employed in altering his house, retouching his poems, and working in his garden. He prided himself on his skill in gardening, but he killed his plants with kindness; and he was so impatient, and meddled so often with his trees and shrubs, that they never could thrive. He was absent and reserved when his company did not please him, but sprightly when with his friends. He ate voraeiously, but any cook good or bad pleased his palate; and turnips would satisfy him more than the daintiest diet. He was an affectionate father, and never hesitated to make any
sacrifice which could promote the welfare of his numerous brothers and sisters. Even if we had not the testimony of Virginio, we could discover his affectionate temper in his works. I must not suffer our house to fall into ruin,' he says, ' and I am its only sup. port. My brother Gabriel is here, but what can he do? His sad destiny has condemned him from infancy to utter helplessness (being afflicted with the palsy, he had lost the use of his hands and feet.) I also owe a dowry for the marriage of my fifth sister. The old age of my mother grieves me to the heart; we should deserve to be branded with infamy if we were all to abandon her.'
• L'eta di nostra madre mi percuote
Senz'infamia lasciata esser non puote.'
nish himself with kingdoms and nations for his poem, he exulted in having encircled the globe, and in having become acquainted with distant cities and their inhabitants' without having occasion to quarrel with innkeepers. Neither did he pursue his studies to a greater distance; he repented that he had neglected to learn Greek when an opportunity offered. Either laziness or destiny (says he) has prevented me from conducting my son to the gates of Apollo at Delos: I can only guide him to the Gate of the Palatine Apollo by introducing him to the poets of Roine. Gregorio of Spoleto, my preceptor, possessed the treasures of both the ancient languages—but fortune removed him from me, and the
opportunity which I then had of learning Greek was lost for ever. This is taken from the satire addressed to Bembo. When Ariosto imitated the Greek poets he employed the Latin translation; he wrote in Latin with elegance. Pigna, his encomiast, states that when he was at Rome, he used to explain the poets of the age of Augustus to Bembo and Flaminius, and the other learned men of the court of Leo X.; and that he frequently pointed out beauties in the classics which had escaped these accomplished scholars. If this be true, we must attribute it not so much to his learning as to his genius. The ascendancy which he gained over his contemporaries was universally acknowledged though not always openly expressed. Machiavelli and Ariosto, the two writers of that age who really possessed most excellence, are the two who were least praised during their lives. Bembo was approached in a posture of adoration and fear: the infamous Aretino extorted a fulsome letter of praises from the great and the learned. Ariosto, in finishing his poem, exclaims that he is arriving in the harbour; and he names many contemporary poets who await him with their congratulations on the shore. A letter written by Machiavelli has lately been discovered, in which he complains, though in a friendly tone, that Ariosto had forgotten to notice him: on the other hand, it appears by a letter from Bernardo Tasso that some were angry at having been introduced, whilst others were still more offended because they did not take precedence in the poetical muster-roll. Thus we are equally in danger whether we praise or censure contemporary writers, or whether we are wholly silent concerning them. Ariosto was not envious of the fame of others, neither was he so impatient as to be fretful about his own reputation; be rested on the full consciousness of his strength; he felt his own powers in his early youth, and his first literary attempts were his metrical comedies--a species of composition which he practised at a more advanced age, but in which he displayed more taste than energy. Neither is he peculiarly happy in his lyrical poetry: a few amatory elegies which pass under his name
are above mediocrity, but still they are unworthy of his geniusperhaps they are apocryphal. Except a few short epistles which were never printed, and are indifferently written, we have not read a line of Ariosto’s prose. Love, ardent and unceasing, at once excited and repressed the faculties of his mind and the qualities of his heart. You laugh,' says he, in a satire addressed to his cousin,
you think it is not the love of my hero and of poetry, but“ ladies love and druerie,” which induces me to despise wealth and honour. I will answer you freely, for I never take arms to defend a lie—it is so.' We are assured by Father Bettinelli in his Risorgemento d'Italia, that Ariosto's fair one insisted upon his writing a canto of his poem every month, and that if he disappointed her, she threatened to shut her doors against him. This anecdote is confirmed by his apprehensions lest he should become as crazy as Orlando; by the invocations which he addresses to his mistress as though she were a muse, and by the testimony of his contemporaries. But he never tells us the name of his mistress. The cover of his inkstand is surmounted by a little Cupid, who puts his finger to his lip counselling secrecy.
• Ornabat pietas et grata modestia vatem:
Ambitione procul pulsa.' Perhaps it is to his endeavours to please the ladies and the readers whom he had immediately in view, that we owe the diffuseness occasionally perceptible in his works. In order to satisfy them he employs himself in describing: he knew that when he painted, his poem required a tension of mind in his readers of which they were incapable: these words, apparently synonymous and often confounded together, are so different in nieaning, and so important in poetical criticism, that we must endeavour to define the sense in which we employ them. Olympia, abandoned by Bireno, awakes and rushes to the shore; seeing the vessel on the verge of the horizon she loses all hope. This passage, according to our opinion, is mere description.
Corre di nuovo in su l'estrema sabbia,
The first couplet is by Hoole, the second by Harrington. Hoole changed the conclusion so as to render it irrecognisable; and Harrington mutilated the commencement. But in the single verse of Catullus which represents Ariadne in the same situation,
• Saxea ut effigies Bacchantis prospicit,' we see at once the expressions of astonishment and eager haste, and in her fixed countenance and the rigid immobility of her figure, absolute despair. Young writers may study the parallel passages of Ariosto and Catullus, and of Ovid who has treated the same subject in his Epistles. The more the poet paints, the more sparing is he of his words; but he only writes for those who have a habit of thinking, and are capable of intense feeling. Common readers are wonderfully pleased when they read the elegant stanzas which detail the charms of Angelica: but with those who are capable of forming an idea, what idea remains of her! We know not whether Helen was fair or dark, or tall or short; but when she passed by the venerable fathers of the city who were consulting on the dangers of the war, and the misfortunes which she had caused,
They cried—no wonder such celestial charms
For nine long years have set the world in arms.' And our imagination expands and we create an idea of that exquisite beauty which could cause old age to forget its wisdom and its anger. Cæsar in Horace had conquered all the world except the soul of Cato ;' and the gods in Lucan favour the fortune of the conquerors, but Cato the cause of the conquered.' These passages are not descriptions, but strongly contrasted thoughts, which strike without painting. But when Virgil leads us into the Elysian Fields, and points out the shades of the future Romans, from Romulus to the nephews of Augustus, he expresses, in half a verse, the loftiest praise which the human intellect can conceive,
• Et his dantem jura Catonem,' there is neither description, nor contrast, nor sentiment. In poetical painting the poet imitates nature herself: she prepares her creation in secrecy and darkness, in order to present it in its entirety and fullness. The poetical picture is not laboured in the detail; the painter is not ambitious to display his art. Ariosto's • white tall coursers running with the wind,
Candidi grandi e corrono col vento, pass before us like the productions of nature rather than of the poet; but the horses of the Æneid, 'surpassing the snows in whiteness and the wind in swiftness,' are the works of art, and we are more sensible of the eleganee of the diction than of the presence of the steeds. In this passage Virgil is only a descriptive poet. In these verses of Tasso our eyes follow Columbus round the