« PreviousContinue »
This their prime object, they attained by the avoidance of every word, which a gentleman would not use in dignified conversation, and of every word and phrase, which none but a learned man would use; by the studied position of words and phrases, so that not only each part should be melodious in itself, but contribute to the harmony of the whole, each note referring and conducing to the melody of all the foregoing and following words of the same period or stanza ; and lastly with equal labour, the greater because unbetrayed, by the variation and various harmonies of their metrical movement. Their measures, however, were not indebted for their variety to the introduction of new metres, such as have been attempted of late in the “ Alonzo and Imogen," and others borrowed from the German, having in their very mechanism a specific overpowering tune, to which the generous reader humours his voice and emphasis, with more indulgence to the author than attention to the meaning or quantity of the words; but which, to an ear familiar with the numerous sounds of the Greek and Roman poets, has an effect not unlike that of galloping over a paved road in a German stagewaggon without springs. On the contrary, our elder bards both of Italy and England produced a far greater, as well as more charming variety by countless modifications, and subtle
balances of sound in the common metres of their country. A lasting and enviable reputation awaits that man of genius, who should attempt and realize a union. Who should recall the high finish; the appropriateness; the facility; the delicate proportion; and above all, the perfusive and omnipresent grace; which have preserved, as in a shrine of precious amber, the “Sparrow” of Catullus, the “Swallow,” the “Grasshopper,” and all the other little loves of Anacreon: and which with bright, though diminished glories, revisited the youth and early manhood of christian Europe, in the vales of*
* These thoughts were suggested to me during the perusal of the Madrigals of GIOVAMBATISTA STRozzi published in Florence (nella Stamperia del Sermartelli) 1st May 1593, by his sons Lorenzo and Filippo Strozzi, with a dedication to their deceased paternal uncle, “Signor Leone Strozzi, Generale delle battaligie di Santa Chiesa.” As I do not remember to have seen either the poems or their author mentioned in any English work, or have found them in any of the common collections of Italian poetry; and as the little work is of rare occurrence; I will transcribe a few specimens. I have seldom met with compositions that possessed, to my feelings, more of that satisfying entireness, that complete adequateness of the manner to the matter which so charms us in Anacreon, join'd with the tenderness, and more than the delicacy of Catullus. Trifles as they are, they were probably elaborated with great care; yet in the perusal we refer them to a spontaneous energy rather than to voluntary effort. To a cultivated taste there is a delight in perfection for its own sake, independent of the material in whieh it is manifested, that none but a cultivated taste can understand or appreciate.
After what I have advanced, it would appear presumption to offer a translation ; even if the attempt were not discouraged by the different genius of the English mind and language, which demands a denser body of thought as the condition of a high polish, than the Italian. I cannot but deem
Arno, and the groves of Isis and of Cam ; and who with these should combine the keener in
it likewise an advantage in the Italian tongue, in many other respects inferior to our own, that the language of poetry is more distinct from that of prose than with us. From the earlier appearance and established primacy of the Tuscan poets, concurring with the number of independent states, and the diversity of written dialects, the Italians have gained a poetic idiom, as the Greeks before them had obtained from the same causes, with greater and more various discriminations.
-ex. gr. the ionic for their heroic verses ; the attic for their iambic ; and the two modes of the doric, the lyric or sacerdotal, and the pastoral, the distinctions of which were doubtless more obvious to the Greeks themselves than they are to us. I will venture to add one other observation before I
proceed to the transcription. I am aware, that the sentiments which I have avowed concerning the points of difference be. tween the poetry of the present age, and that of the period between 1500 and 1650, are the reverse of the opinion commonly entertained. I was conversing on this subject with a friend, when the servant, a worthy and sensible woman, coming in, I' placed before her two engravings, the one a pinky-coloured plate of the day, the other a masterly etching by Salvator Rosa, from one of his own pictures. On pressing her to tell us, which she preferred, after a little blushing and Autter of feeling, she replied-why, that, Sir! to be sure ! (pointing to the ware from the Fleet-street print shops) It's so neat and elegant. T'other is such a scratchy slovenly thing." An artist, whose writings are scarcely less valuable than his works, and to whose authority more deference will be willingly paid, than I could even wish, should be shewn to mine, has told us, and from his own experience too, that good taste must be acquired, and like all other good things, is the result of thought, and the submissive study of the best models. If it be asked, “ But what shall I deem such ?" tbc answer is; presume these to be the best, the reputation of which has been matured into fame by the consent of ages. For wisdom always has a final majority, if not by conviction, yet by acquiescence. In addition to Sir J. Reynolds I may mention Harris of Salisbury, who in one of his philosophical disquisitions has written on the means of acquiring a just taste with the precision of Aristotle, and the elegance of Quintillian.
terest, deeper pathos, manlier reflection, and the fresher and more various imagery, which
Gelido suo ruscel chiaro, e tranquillo
Aure dell' angoscioso viver mio
Pacifiche, ma spesso in amorosa
give a value and a name that will not pass away to the poets who have done honor to
Hor come un Scoglio stassi,
Piangendo mi baciaste,
Bel Fior, tu mi rimembri