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The narrow circus of my dungeon wall, And freed the Holy Sepulchre from thrall; And revell'd among men and things divine, And pour'd my spirit over Palestine,
In honour of the sacred war for Him,
The God who was on earth and is in heaven,
I have employ'd my penance to record
But this is o'er- my pleasant task is done :
Nor cause for such: they call'd me mad — and why?
Oh Leonora ! wilt not thou reply ? 2
To lift my love so lofty as thou art;
The wretched are the faithful; 'tis their fate
And every passion into one dilate,
As rapid rivers into ocean pour;
But ours is fathomless, and hath no shore.
floor of the hospital, and the light penetrates through its grated window from a small yard, which seems to have been common to other cells. It is nine paces long, between five and six wide, and about seven feet high. The bedstead, so they tell, has been carried off piecemeal, and the door half cut away, by the devotion of those whom "the verse and prose" of the prisoner have brought to Ferrara. The poet was confined in this room from the middle of March 1579 to December 1580, when he was removed to a contiguous apartment much larger, in which, to use his own expressions, he could "philosophise and walk about." The inscription is incorrect as to the immediate cause of his enlargement, which was promised to the city of Bergamo, but was carried into effect at the intercession of Don Vincenzo Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua. HOBHOUSE.]
[The opening lines bring the poet before us at once, as if the door of the dungeon was thrown open. From this bitter complaint, how nobly the unconquered bard rises into calm, and serene, and dignified exultation over the beauty of "that young creation, his soul's child," the Gierusalemme Liberata. The exultation of conscious genius then dies away, and we behold him, "bound between distraction and disease," no longer in an inspired mood, but sunk into the lowest prostration of human misery. There is something terrible in this transition from divine rapture to degraded agony. WILSON.]
2 [In a letter written to his friend Scipio Gonzaga, shortly after his confinement, Tasso exclaims-"Ah, wretched me! I had designed to write, besides two epic poems of most noble argument, four tragedies, of which I had formed the plan. I had schemed, too, many works in prose, on subjects the most lofty, and most useful to human life; I had designed to write
I have been patient, let me be so yet;
I had forgotten half I would forget,
But it revives-Oh! would it were my lot
To be forgetful as I am forgot!
Feel I not wroth with those who bade me dwell
Branding my thoughts as things to shun and fear?
philosophy with eloquence, in such a manner that there might remain of me an eternal memory in the world. Alas! I had expected to close my life with glory and renown; but now, oppressed by the burden of so many calamities, I have lost every prospect of reputation and of honour. The fear of perpetual imprisonment increases my melancholy; the indignities which I suffer augment it; and the squalor of my beard, my hair, and habit, the sordidness and filth, exceedingly annoy me. Sure am I, that, if SHE who so little has corresponded to my attachment-if she saw me in such a state, and in such affliction - she would have some compassion on me." Opere, t. x. p. 387.]
[For nearly the first year of his confinement Tasso endured all the horrors of a solitary cell, and was under the care of a gaoler whose chief virtue, although he was a poet and a man of letters, was a cruel obedience to the commands of his prince. His name was Agostino Mosti. Tasso says of him, in a letter to his sister, "ed usa meco ogni sorte di rigore ed inumanita."- HOBHOUSE.]
[This fearful picture is finely contrasted with that which Tasso draws of himself in youth, when nature and meditation were forming his wild, romantic, and impassioned genius. Indeed, the great excellence of the "Lament" consists in the ebbing and flowing of the noble prisoner's soul; his feelings often come suddenly from afar off,-sometimes gentle airs are breathing, and then all at once arise the storms and tempest, the gloom, though black as night while it endures, gives way to frequent bursts of radiance, and when the wild strain is closed, our pity and commiseration are blended with a sustaining and elevating sense of the grandeur and majesty of his character.-WILSON.]
Yes, Sister of my Sovereign for thy sake
Look on a love which knows not to despair, 2
A something which all softness did surpass—
It is no marvel- from my very birth
[Not long after his imprisonment, Tasso appealed to the mercy of Alfonso, in a canzone of great beauty, couched in terms so respectful and pathetic, as must have moved, it might be thought, the severest bosom to relent. The heart of Alfonso was, however, impregnable to the appeal; and Tasso, in another ode to the princesses, whose pity he invoked in the name of their own mother, who had herself known, if not the like horrors, the like solitude of imprisonment, and bitterness of soul, made a similar appeal. "Considered merely as poems, says Black, "these canzoni are extremely beautiful; but, if we contemplate them as the productions of a mind diseased, they form important documents in the history of man."— Life of Tasso, vol. ii. p. 408.]
2 [As to the indifference which the Princess is said to have exhibited for the misfortunes of Tasso, and the little effort she made to obtain his liberty, this is one of the negative arguments founded on an hypothesis that may be easily destroyed by a thousand others equally plausible. Was not the Princess anxious to avoid her own ruin? In taking too warm an interest for the poet, did she not risk destroying herself, without saving him?- FoSCOLO.]
Where I did lay me down within the shade
I loved all Solitude-but little thought
But who hath seen me writhe, or heard me rave ?
VIII. Yet do I feel at times my mind decline, 5 But with a sense of its decay: - I see Unwonted lights along my prison shine, And a strange demon, who is vexing me With pilfering pranks and petty pains, below The feeling of the healthful and the free; But much to One, who long hath suffer'd so, Sickness of heart, and narrowness of place, And all that may be borne, or can debase. I thought mine enemies had been but Man, But Spirits may be leagued with them-all Earth Abandons Heaven forgets me; - in the dearth Of such defence the Powers of Evil can,
It may be, tempt me further, and prevail Against the outworn creature they assail.
3[Tasso's profound and unconquerable love for Leonora, sustaining itself without hope throughout years of darkness and solitude, breathes a moral dignity over all his sentiments, and we feel the strength and power of his noble spirit in the un-upbraiding devotedness of his passion. WILSON.]
4 ["My mind like theirs adapted to its grave."— MS.]
["Nor do I lament," wrote Tasso, shortly after his confinement," that my heart is deluged with almost constant misery, that my head is always heavy and often painful, that my sight and hearing are much impaired, and that all my frame is become spare and meagre; but, passing all this with a short sigh, what I would bewail is the infirmity of my mind. My mind sleeps, not thinks; my fancy is chill, and forms no pictures; my negligent senses will no longer furnish the images of things; my hand is sluggish in writing, and my pen seems as if it shrunk from the office. I feel as if I were chained in all my operations, and as if I were overcome by an unwonted numbness and oppressive stupor.". Opere, t. viii. p. 258.]
Why in this furnace is my spirit proved
I once was quick in feeling-that is o'er ;-
Which nations yet shall visit for my sake.
Ode on Venice.
Он Venice! Venice! when thy marble walls
A loud lament along the sweeping sea!
1 ["Which (nations yet shall visit for my sake."— MS.]
[Those who indulge in the dreams of earthly retribution will observe, that the cruelty of Alfonso was not left without its recompense, even in his own person. He survived the affection of his subjects and of his dependants, who deserted him at his death; and suffered his body to be interred without princely or decent honours. His last wishes were neglected; his testament cancelled. His kinsman, Don Cæsar, shrank from the excommunication of the Vatican, and, after a short struggle, or rather suspense, Ferrara passed away for ever from the dominion of the house of Este.- HOBHOUSE.]
A poet's wreath shall be thine only crown,—
To be entwined for ever-but too late!4
3 [In July, 1586, after a confinement of more than seven years, Tasso was released from his dungeon. In the hope of receiving his mother's dowry, and of again beholding his sister Cornelia, he shortly after visited Naples, where his presence was welcomed with every demonstration of esteem and admiration. Being on a visit at Mola di Gaeta, he received the following remarkable tribute of respect. Marco di Sciarra, the notorious captain of a numerous troop of banditti, hearing where the great poet was, sent to compliment him, and offered him not only a free passage, but protection by the way, and assured him that he and his followers would be proud to execute his orders. See Manso, l'ita del Tasso, p. 219.]
[The "pleasures of imagination" have been explained
and justified by Addison in prose, and by Akenside in verse: but there are moments of real life when its miseries and its necessities seem to overpower and destroy them. The history of mankind, however, furnishes proofs that no bodily suffering, no adverse circumstances, operating on our material nature, will extinguish the spirit of imagination. Perhaps there is no instance of this so very affecting and so very sublime as the case of Tasso. They who have seen the dark, horror-striking dungeon-hole at Ferrara, in which he was confined seven years under the imputation of madness, will have had this truth impressed upon their hearts in a manner never to be erased. In this vault, of which the sight maker the hardest heart shudder, the poet employed himself in finishing and correcting his immortal epic poem. Lord Byron's "Lament" on this subject is as sublime and profound a lesson in morality, and in the pictures of the recesses of the human soul, as it is a production most eloquent, most pathetic, most vigorous, and most elevating among the gifts of the Muse. The bosom which is not touched with it-the fancy which is not warmed, the understanding which is not enlightened and exaited by it, is not fit for human intercourse. If Lord Byron had written nothing but this, to deny him the praise of a grand poet would have been flagrant injustice or gross stupidity. - BRYDGES.]
[This Ode was transmitted from Venice, in 1819, along with "Mazeppa."]
When Vice walks forth with her unsoften'd terrors,
To him appears renewal of his breath,
And freedom the mere numbness of his chain;
The everlasting to be which hath been,
Hath taught us nought or little still we lean
A blindfold bondage, where your hire is blows.
Citles and generations- fair, when freeFor, Tyranny, there blooms no bud for thee !
Glory and Empire! once upon these towers
With Freedom-godlike Triad! how ye sate!
But did not quench, her spirit- -in her fate
She drank no blood, nor fatten'd on the dead,
The name of Commonwealth is past and gone
A sceptre, and endures the purple robe;
Still one great clime, in full and free defiance,
The Morgante Maggiore
OF PULCI. 1
THE Morgante Maggiore, of the first canto of which this translation is offered, divides with the Orlando Innamorato the honour of having formed and suggested the style and story of Ariosto. The great defects of Boiardo were his treating too seriously the narratives of chivalry, and his harsh style. Ariosto,
[The following translation was executed at Ravenna, in February, 1820, and first saw the light in the pages of the unfortunate journal called "The Liberal." The merit of it, as Lord Byron over and over states in his letters, consists in the wonderful verbum pro verbo closeness of the version. It was, in fact, an exercise of skill in this art, and cannot be fairly estimated, without continuous reference to the original Italian, which the reader will therefore now find placed opposite to the text. Those who want full information, and clear philosophical views, as to the origin of the Romantic Poetry of the Italians, will do well to read at length an article on that subject, from the pen of the late Ugo Foscolo, in the forty-second number of the Quarterly Review. We extract from it the passage in which that learned writer applies himself more particularly to the Morgante of Pulci. After showing that all the poets of this class adopted as the groundwork of their fictions, the old wild materials which had for ages formed the stock in trade of the professed story-tellers, -in those days a class of persons holding the same place in Christendom, and more especially in Italy, which their brothers still maintain all over the East,- Foscolo thus proceeds:
"The customary forms of the narrative all find a place in romantic poetry: such are the sententious reflections suggested by the matters which he has just related, or arising in anticipation of those which he is about to relate, and which the story-teller always opens when he resumes his recitations; his defence of his own merits against the attacts 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,—
"The forms and materials of these popular stories were adopted by writers of a superior class, who considered the vulgar tales of their prede cessors as blocks of marble tinely tinted and variegated by the hand of nature, but which might afford a masterpiece, 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 a 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, knew them only by 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 Pearch, 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 Po'itian, and Lorenzo, and the other illustrious characters who then flourished at Florence: yet Pulci adhered strictly to the original plan of the popular story-tellers; and if his successors have em. beilished 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 prede. cessors. '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; E' stata questa istoria, a quel ch'io veggio, Di Carlo, male intesa e scritta peggio."
"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 straightforward, and not tell a single lie in the course of my tale. This is not a
in his continuation, by a judicious mixture of the gaiety of Pulci, has avoided the one; and Berni, in his reformation of Boiardo's poem, has corrected the other. Pulci may be considered as the precursor and model of Berni altogether, as he has partly been to Ariosto, however inferior to both his copyists. He is no less the founder of a new style of poetry very lately sprung up in England. I allude to that of
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 madbut in fact they are out of their senses."
"Pulci's versification is remarkably fluent. 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 developement 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 Charle magne sentences King Marsilius of Spain to be hanged for high treason; and Archbishop Turpin kindly offers his services on the occasion. E' disse: Io vo', Marsilio, che tu muoja Dove tu ordinasti il tradimento. Disse Turpino: Io voglio fare il boja. Carlo rispose. Ed io son ben contento Che sia trattato di questi due cani 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 finisher of the law. Before this adventure took place, Caradoro had despatched 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, O disleale e ingiusto imperadore!
A Caradora e stato scritto, O Carlo, O Carlo O Carlo! (e crollava la testa) De la tua corte, che non puoi negario, De la sua figlia cosa disonesta.'
"O Charles,' he cried, Charles, Charles!'-and as he cried
"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 Pulcs 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. Ginguéné 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 rubject and to his mode of treating it, intended only to write burlesque poetry; because, as he says, such buffoonery could not have 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 butfoons than beseemed such a man. It is a little singular that Benedetto Varchi, a contemporary historian, makes the same complaint of Machiavelli himself. Indeed, many known anecdotes of Machiavelli, no less than his fugitive pieces, prove that 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 ItaliansThat 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,
"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. Ginguéné, that the Morgante is decidedly to be considered as a hurlesque 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, phenomena 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