Page images


It converts man into a machine, in which no more intellect is necessary, than enough to direct its physical motions. The division of labor, from which manufacture receives one of its main advantages, operates directly to confine the range of the mind, and compel all its powers to act on a single object, however minute or insignificant. The point of Mr Say's observation, that to have never done anything but make the eighteenth part of a pin is a sorry account for a human being to give of his existence,' will apply with more or less force to the whole compass of manufacturing industry. Men must necessarily degenerate in such a soil. This is an evil not to be avoided, and since the interests of society require it to exist, it is the part of sound policy and humanity to diminish it as much as possible by wise regulations, and an effort to direct labor into its most salutary, as well as its most profitable channels.

M. H. Prescott,

ART. IV.-1. The Orlando Innamorato; translated into Prose and Verse, from the Italian of Francesco Berni. By W. S. ROSE. 8vo. pp. 279. London, 1823.

2. The Orlando Furioso; translated into Verse from the Italian of Ludovico Ariosto. BY W. S. ROSE. Vol. 1. 8vo. London, 1823.

MR ROSE has been known for some years to his own countrymen as an original poet, and an accomplished Italian scholar. For the former character he is indebted to a little mock chivalric poem, entitled, 'Prospectus of an intended National Work, by W. & R. Whistlecraft.' This fraction of an epic, for it has not been completed, has passed through four or five editions in England. It is written in the style of Lord Byron's Beppo. It is said, that Mr Rose's poem was composed, though not published, before his Lordship's.* If

* Mr Rose sent a copy of his poem to Murray, who doubting its success with the public, transmitted it to Lord Byron then in Venice, requesting his opinion of it. His Lordship returned it in a very short time with his own 'Beppo,' telling his publisher, that he found the only way of getting Rose's rhymes out of his head, was to write something in the same way himself. Beppo was

so, it must claim the merit of having introduced into England a style of composition before peculiar to Italy. Mr Rose's translation, or rather imitation of Casti's Animali Parlanti,' which appeared soon after, showed an uncommon acquaintance with the delicate idiom of the Italian tongue.


The characteristics of an Italian school are nowhere so discernible in English literary history, as under the reign of Elisabeth. At the period when England was most strenuous in breaking off her spiritual relations with Italy, she cultivated most closely her intellectual. It is hardly necessary to name either the cotemporary dramatists, or Surrey, Sidney, and Spenser, the former of whom derived the plots of many of their most popular plays, as the latter did the forms, and frequently the spirit of their poetical compositions, from Italian models. The translations of the same period were in several instances superior to any, which have been since produced. Harrington's version of the Orlando Furioso,' with all its inaccuracy, is far superior to the cumbrous monotony of Hoole. Of Fairfax, the elegant translator of Tasso, it is enough to say, that is styled by Dryden the poetical father of Waller,' and quoted by him in conjunction with Spenser, as one of the great masters in our language.' The popularity of the Italian was so great even in Ascham's day, who did not survive the first half of Elisabeth's reign, as to draw from the learned schoolmaster much peevish animadversion upon what he terms, the enchantments of Circe, fond books of late translated out of Italian into English, and sold in every shop in London.' It gradually lost this wide authority during the succeeding century. This was but natural. Before the time of Elisabeth, all the light of learning which fell upon the world had come from Italy, and our own literature, like a young and tender plant, insensibly



immediately printed, with great success, and Whistlecraft' came limping after as a follower of the same school.

A little specimen of poetic waggery entitled Pasquil's Night Cap, written in the reign of James First, and which savours strongly of the licentious humor of that age, has been lately reprinted in London with a preface, importing that the style of composition lately introduced by Beppo is not so new as has been imagined. This ancient poem is certainly of the same school of burlesque. But when it is considered, that the species of writing had not been revived for two centuries, and moreover that the coarse merriment of this work falls far short of the polite badinage of the Italian poems, and of Rose's Whistlecraft, the claims of the latter to originality are not materially affected by it.

put forth its branches most luxuriantly, in the direction whence it felt this invigorating influence. As it grew in years and hardihood, it sent its fibres deeper into its own soil, and drew thence the nourishment, which enabled it to assume its fair and full proportions. Milton, it is true, the brightest name on the poetical records of that period, cultivated it with eminent success. Any one acquainted with the writings of Dante, Pulci, and Tasso, will understand the value and the extent of Milton's obligations to the Italian. He was far from desiring to conceal them, and he has paid many a tribute 'of melodious verse' to the sources from which he drew so much of the nourishment of his exalted genius. To imitate, as he has done,' in the language of Boileau, 'is not to act the part of a plagiary, but of a rival.' Milton is, moreover, one of the few writers who have succeeded so far in comprehending the niceties of a foreign tongue, as to be able to add something to its poetical wealth; and his Italian sonnets are written with such purity, as to have obtained commendations even from the Tuscan critics.*


Boileau, who set the current of French taste at this period, had a considerable contempt for that of his neighbors. He pointed one of his antithetical couplets at the tinsel of Tasso,' ('clinquant du Tasse,'†) and in another he ridiculed the idea of Epics, in which the Devil was always blustering against the Heavens.' The English admitted the sarcasm of Boileau with the cold commentary of Addison ; and the 'clinquant du Tasse' became a cant term of reproach upon the whole body of Italian letters. The French went still further, and afterwards applying the sarcasm of their critic to Milton as well as to Tasso, rejected both the poets upon the same principles. The French did the English as much justice as they did the Italians. No great change of opinion in this matter took place in England during the last century. The Wartons and Gray had a just estimation of this beautiful tongue, but Dr Johnson, the dominant critic of that day, seems to have

* Milton in his treatise on The Reason of Church Government, alludes modestly enough to his Italian pieces, and the commendations bestowed upon them. 'Other things, which I had shifted in scarcity of books and conveniences to hatch up amongst them, were received with written encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps.'

§ Spectator. No. 6.

+ Satire IX.
L'Art Poetique. C. III.
VOL. XIX.NO. 45.


understood the language but imperfectly, and not to have much relished in it what he understood.

In the present age of intellectual activity, attention is so generally bestowed on all modern languages, which are ennobled by a literature, that it is not singular an acquaintance with the Italian, in particular, should be widely diffused. Great praise, however, is due to the labors of Mr Roscoe. There can be little doubt that his elaborate biographies of the Medici, which contain as much literary criticism as historical narrative, have mainly contributed to the promotion of these studies among his countrymen. These works have of late met with much flippant criticism in some of their leading journals. In Italy they have been translated, are now cited as authorities, and have received the most encomiastic notices from several eminent scholars. These facts afford conclusive testimony of their merits. The name of Mathias is well known to every lover of the Italian tongue; his poetical productions rank with those of Milton in merit, and far exceed them in quantity. To conclude, it is not many years since Cary gave to his countrymen his very extraordinary version of the father of Tuscan poetry, and Rose is now swelling the catalogue with translations of the two most distinguished chivalrous epics of Italy.

Epic romance has continued to be a great favorite in that country, ever since its first introduction into the polished circles at Florence and Ferrara, towards the close of the fifteenth century. It has held much the same rank in its ornamental literature, which the drama once enjoyed in the English, and which historical novel writing maintains now. It hardly seems credible, that an enlightened people should long continue to take great satisfaction in poems, founded on the same extravagant fictions, and spun out to the appalling length of twenty, thirty, nay forty cantos of a thousand verses each. But the Italians, like most southern nations, delight exceedingly in the uncontrolled play of the imagination, and they abandon themselves to all its brilliant illusions, with no other object in view than mere recreation. An Englishman looks for a moral, or at least for some sort of instruction, from the wildest work of fiction. But an Italian goes to it, as he would go to the opera; to get impressions, rather than ideas. He is extremely sensible to the fine tones of his native language,

and under the combined influence produced by the coloring of a lavish fancy, and the music of a voluptuous versification, he seldom stoops to a cold analysis of its purpose or its probability.

Romantic fiction, however, which flourished so exuberantly under a warm southern sky, was transplanted from the colder regions of Normandy and England. It is remarkable that both these countries, in which it had its origin, should have ceased to cultivate it, at the very period when the perfection of their respective languages would have enabled them to do so with entire success. We believe this remark requires no qualification in regard to France. Spenser affords one illustrious exception among the English.*

It was not until long after the extinction of this species of writing in the north, that it reappeared in Italy. The commercial habits, and the republican institutions of the Italians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were most unfavorable to the spirit of chivalry, and consequently to the fables which grew out of it. The three patriarchs of their literature, moreover, by the light which, in this dark period, they threw over other walks of imagination, turned the attention of their countrymen from those of romance. Dante, indeed, who resembled Milton in so many other particulars, showed a similar predilection for the ancient tales of chivalry. His Commedia contains several encomiastic allusions to them, but like the English bard, he contented himself with these, and chose a subject better suited to his ambitious genius, and inflexible temper. His poem, it is true, was of too eccentric a cha

*The influence, however, of the old Norman Romances, may be discovered in the productions of a much later period. Their incredible length required them to be broken up into fylles or cantos by the minstrel, who recited them with the accompaniment of a harp, in the same manner as the epics of Homer, broken into rhapsodies, were chanted by the bards of Ionia. The minstrel, who could thus beguile the tedium of a winter's evening, was a welcome guest at the baronial castle, and in the hall of the monastery. As Greek and Roman letters were revived, the legends of chivalry fell into disrepute, and the minstrel gradually retreated to the cottage of the peasant, who was still rude enough to relish his simple melody. But the long Romance was beyond the comprehension or the taste of the rustic. It therefore gave way to less complicated narratives, and from its wreck may be fairly said to have arisen those Border songs and ballads, which form the most beautiful collection of rural minstrelsy, that belongs to any age or country.

+ Milton's poetry abounds in references to the subjects of romantic fable, and in his 'Epitaphium Damonis' he plainly intimates his intention of writing an epic on the story of Arthur. It may be doubted whether he would have succeeded on such a topic. His austere character would seem to have been better

« PreviousContinue »