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Ariosto. Passages are found in which Berni recomposed one line upwards of thirty times. But he bestowed this labour with the express intent of freeing his imagery and his descriptions from the ornaments which other writers seek with anxious care. There is a celebrated stanza in the Furioso in which Ariosto describes a sea storm. He corrected and recorrected it till his rough draught literally filled a quire of paper. Berni has a few lines on the same subject, which probably cost him equal pains. We may quote these passages as an exemplification of the diversity of the style of the two authors.
Stendon le nubi un tenebroso velo
Sopra le irate e formidabil onde.* Canto 18. st. 140. Here the artist has copied from nature, but he has embellished his painting with an ideal colouring. The poet charms the reader by the dignity of his expressions. His verse is richly rhythmical and harmonious; his expressions are sublime. Ariosto is stationed on a rock, from whence he contemplates the dangers which are embodied in his poetry: but Berni is actually in the midst of the danger. His readers think neither of poetry por of inspirations; they tremble in the tempest.
Cominciansi l' agumine a sentire
Or non è luce se non di baleni
L' intrepido empio altiero Rodomonte
* Harrington has not translated this stanıza : indeed he has omitted more thaw half of the eighteenth Canto, which he generally does when he feels that he cannot do justice to his original. He fears poetical passages, and avoids them. Hoole has more courage, but no ability. He cuts in morsels the ideas of Ariosto, and scatters then. This is partly owing to the nature of the English couplet. Ariosto constantly endeavours to concentrate all the accessories of his paintings in one point of view. In this stanza the darkness increases more and more till it enwraps the navigators.
Profonda il ciel di pioggia e di tempesta,
Egli sta sopra, ed ha nuda la testa. In the substance of the narrative, Berni follows closely in the footsteps of Bojardo: but the moral introductions to each canto, and his digressions, sometimes moral and sometimes satirical, are entirely his own. In the former he even excels Ariosto. The corresponding portions of the Furioso are gay or ethical, or gallant, or eloquent, and always displaying that philosophy which the poet gathered by a studious observation of human character and of human life. Not such is the tone of Berni,-his morality seems to proceed from the singleness of his mind and the simplicity of his heart.
Io non son sì ignorante nè sì dotto
Dimmi ti prego, Amor, s'io ne son degno
Amor non mi risponde; onde anch'io taccio
Basta che un male è Amor, malvagio e strano;
E Dio guardi ciascun dalla sua mano. When his remarks are most profound, he appears most unconscious of the truths which he teaches.
Notate amanti, e tu nota anche, Amore,
In far rabbuffi e dirvi villanie. His reflections usually arise from the interest which he takes in his personages. He breaks off a canto, and leaves Orlando and Rinaldo fighting, on account of Angelica, with the utmost fury. This dispute vexes him, and he opens the succeeding canto with mild remonstrances, which at length rise into anger.
Amor, tu mi vien tanto per le mani
Che forz' è che qualcana io te ne dia ;
Ch'io ti riprenda de' tuoi modi strani
Gelosi, sciocchi, pazzi, spiritati! Berni frequently displays much severity and bitterness in bis invectives; not that he was fond of satire, but he would not dissemble bis indignation at the crimes of the great, nor repress his pity for the wretched. He was an eye-witness of the plundering of Rome by the troops of Charles V.
Si come in molti luoghi vider questi
Gli scellerati per trovar tesoro. We could have wished to transcribe the excursus in which he describes this event; but most of the editions of Berni, even of those which appeared in his life-time, have been sadly corrupted by the ignorance of their printers or the learning of their editors : those who are fortunate enough to possess a correct edition of him, will find the passage in question at the beginning of the fourteenth Canto. We have been forced to quote (heaven knows how!)
We have attempted to illustrate and analyze four of the principal classes of Italian narrative poetry, viz. the satirical, the burlesque, the heroic-comic, and the romantic. The heroic alone remains to be noticed. The lines of demarcation between these classes cannot be always laid down with accuracy: they run into each other; and Italian literature possesses many narrative poems of great length, in which the style of every class is blended. But the number of these compositions is terrific, and they have not sufficient celebrity to allow us to force them on our readers. We could not hope to excuse the unconscionable length of this article, but by observing that the authors on whom we have written have great claims upon the attention of posterity , and we shall therefore not fear to enlarge on the literary character of that transcendent writer who produced the principal heroic poem of Italy. A nation possessing an heroic poem worthy of the name may consider the work as its chiefest honour: for it is the proudest effort of the noblest faculties of man.
The narrative of an heroic poem should be placed in an era comprehending those events in the early history of a nation, which are most capable of being aggrandized and embellished in poetical narration, without concealing the historical substratum. It should introduce the exploits of the ancient heroes of the people,
so told as to excite our wonder, without placing them above our comprehension, or beyond our powers of imitation. The period thus selected should also precede the age of literary civilization: for if it abounds in sound philosophers and sober historians, if it can be seen too distinctly and understood too accurately, the imagination of the reader will refuse the fictions of the poet. On the contrary, when the bard has the good fortune to flourish in an era anterior to the diffusion of letters, he is the only pharos which can guide us through the darkness of antiquity, the only oracle which can be consulted by posterity. A single verse of Homer settled the dissensions which arose between the states of Greece, respecting their possessions. The isle of Salamis was adjudged to the Athenians solely on the authority of a line in the Iliad.* This deference was neither misplaced nor extravagant: for this was not one of the facts which required the admixture of poetical fiction. Thucydides acknowledged that neither he nor any other Grecian historian could trace the history of the Greeks two centuries preceding the age of Solon. But the poets of that dark age, when history was silent, had already sung the confederacy which armed the Greeks against the power of Asia; and immortalized the boldness of the navigators of the Argonautic expedition. These enterprizes produced a total revolution in the state of society, both in Greece and in Asia; and if they did not give rise to such a stream of successive events as flowed from the Crusades in the middle ages, yet they gave the same powerful impulse to entire nations; they afforded to the brave the same opportunities of encountering danger and earning renown; and they furnished the poet with a subject at once combining religious feeling, and historical recollections, and national glory.
Milton once intended to become the bard of Arthur and the Round Table.
Si quando indigenas revocabo in carmina reges,
Magnanimos heroas. In his youth, Tasso also planned several romantic poems. But these great men would not condescend to please alone: they wished to become truly useful to their contemporaries. Romantic poetry had also begun to lose its freshness in Italy, nor were new romances acceptable to the public. The Amadis of Bernardo Tasso (the father of Torquato) is excellent as far as an inexhaustible profusion of the beauties of diction and versification can confer excellence; but Amadis could not support himself in the presence of Orlando ; and the attempts of other contemporary poets met with the saine fate.
Aias εκ Σαλαμινος αγεν δυοκαιδεκα νηας
M M 2
An heroic poem was earnestly desired by the Italian litterati; but the poets were discouraged by the miserable failure of Trissino. Tasso had sufficient confidence in his own strength to attempt the task; and the glory of completing it. The choice of his subject constitutes one of the principal merits of the poem. Europe has no era in her history equal in importance to the age of the Crusades. Had it not been for these holy wars, the human race would, perhaps, even now have been degraded to the lowest depth of slavery and barbarity. Besides the moral dignity of these events, the history of the delivery of Hierosolyma had then a pregnant political application. Christendom was awed by the power of the Ottomans; and in the age of our poet, between the years 1529-1592, the countless myriads of the Turkish armies had appeared before the ramparts of Vienna in four successive invasions. The sovereigns of Europe were not sufficiently impressed with the common danger; for, as usual, each was absorbed by his own affairs. Yet religion still gave a powerful impulse to the human mind; and leagues had been negociated for the purpose of expelling the Mussulmen from the empire of Constantine. Tasso cherished a solemn and mystic veneration for the Christian faith. A spirit of tranquil dignity emanated from his religious feelings, and was transfused into his poem. If he had lived in our days, he must have sought another theme. Perhaps he would have found none. Writers, upon whose heads the double flames of religious and poetical enthusiasm have descended, demand a race of readers with whom they can assimilate, readers who exist in the medium of religious contemplation, whose hearts and souls are embued and preoccupied with devotional thoughts. It is said that we are more enlightened : the truth is, that we are only more perplexed. Reason has reduced dogmatism of belief into philosophical probability. In the age of Milton, the subject of the Paradise Lost interested not only the English nation, to whom religious tenets were the sources of revolution, but, all mankind. Had the Messiad of Klopstock appeared during the Thirty Years war, whilst the heroes of Sweden were defending liberty and the gospel against Austria and the Jesuits, perhaps that poem would have found the world much more anxious in recommending it to posterity. Writers who endeavour to give an impulse to a nation must win their way by appearing, in the first place, to conform to the passions and prejudices, and opinions, whether religious or political, of their contemporaries. Tasso could not deliver historical truth through the medium of