Page images
PDF
EPUB

academy. The large public place through which the procession paraded was then for the first time called Ariosto Square. The author of the Orlando is jealously claimed as the Homer, not of Italy, but Ferrara ?). The mother of Ariosto was of Reggio, and the house in which he was born is carefully distinguished by a tablet with these words: «Qui nacque Ludovico Ariosto il giorno 8 di Settembre dell'anno 1474. But the Ferrarese make light of the accident by which their poet was born abroad, and claim him exclusively for their own. They possess his bones, they show his arm-chair, and his inkstand, and his autographs.

Hic illius arma

Hic currus fuit ......» The house where he lived, the room where he died, are designated by his own replaced memorial 2), and by a recent inscription. The Ferrarese are more jealous of their claims since the animosity of Denina, arising from a cause which their apologists mysteriously hint is not unknowa to them, ventured to degrade their soil and cli. mate to a Boeotian incapacity for all spiritual productions. A quarto volume has been called forth by the detraction, and this supplement to Barotti's Memoirs of the illustrious Ferrarese has been considered a triumphant reply to the u

Quadro Storico Statistico dell' Alta Italia. »

20. For the true laurel - wreath which Glory weares Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves.

Stanza xli. lines 4 and 5. The eagle, the sea calf, the laurel 3), and the *) Appassionato ammiratore ed invitto apologista dell' Omere

Ferrarese. » The title was first given by Tasso, and is quoted to the confusion of the Tassisti, lib. iii. pp. 262. 263.

La Vita di M. L. Ariosto, etc. 2) « Parva sed apta mibi , sed nulli obuoxia , sed non

Sordida , parta meo sed tamen aere domus. » 8) Aquila , vitulus marinus, et laurus, fulmine non seriuntur. Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. ii.

сар.

ly.

white vine 1), were amongst the most approved preservatives against lightning: Jupiter chose the first, Augustus Caesar the second'?), and Tibe. rius never vailed to wear a wreath of the third when the sky threatened a thunder-storm 5). These superstitions may be received without a sneer in a country where the magical properties of the hazel twig have not lost all their credit; and perhaps the reader may not be much surprised to find that a commentator on Suetonius has taken upon him. self gravely to disprove the imputed virtues of the crown of Tiberius, by mentioning that a few years before he wrote a laurel was actually struck by lightning at Rome 4).

21.
Know that the lightning sanctifies below.

Stanza xli. line 8. >>

The Curtian lake and the Ruminal fig-tree in the Forum, having been touched by lightning, were held sacred, and the memory of the accident was preserved by a puteal, or altar, resembling the mouth of a well, with a little chapel covering the cavity supposed to be made by the thunderbolt. Bodies scathed and persons struck dead were thought to be incorruptible 5); and a stroke not fatal conferred perpetual dignity upon the man so distinguished by heaven 6).

These killed by lightning were wrapped in a white garment, and buried where they tell. The superstition was not confined to the worshippers of Jupiter: the Lombards believed in the omens

1) Columella , lib. x.
2) Sueton. in Vit. August, cap. xc.
3) Sueton. in Vit. Tiberii, cap. Ixix.
4) Note 2. p. 409. edid. Lugd. Bat. 1667.
5) Vid. J. C. Ballenger, de Terrae Motu et Fulminib. lib. v.
6) Ουδείς κεραυνωθείς άτιμός έστι, όθεν

και ως θεός τιμάται. . Plut. Sympos. vid. J.
C. Bulleng. ut sup:

cap. xi.

furnished by lightning, and a Christiaa priest con-
fesses that, by a diabolical skill in interpreting
thunder, a seer foretold to Agilulf, duke of Turin,
an event which came to pass, and gave him a
queen and a crown). There was, however, so.
mething equivocal in this sign, which the ancient
inhabitants of Rome did not always consider pro.
pitious; and as the fears are likely to last longer
than the consolations of superstition, it is not
strange that the Romans of the age of Leo X. should
have been so much terrified at some misinterpreted
storms as to require the exhortations of a scholar,
who arrayed all the learning on thunder and light-
ning to prove the omen favonrable; beginning
with the flash which struck the walls of Velitrae.
and including that which played upon a gate at
Florence, and foretold the pontificate of one
its citizens ?).

22.
Italia! oh Italia! etc.

Stanza xlii. line 1. The two stanzas, XLII. and XLIII., are, with the exception of a line or two, a translation of the famous sonnet of Filicaja: « Italia, Italia, O tu cui feo la sorte.»

23. Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him, The Roman friend of Roine's least - mortal mind.

Stanza xliv. lines 1 and 2. The celebrated letter of Servius Sulpicius to Ci. cero on the death of his daughter describes as it then was, and now is. a path which I often traced in Greece, both by sea and land, in different journeys and voyages.

1) Pauli Diaconi, de Gestis Langobard. lib. iii. cap. xiv. fo. 15.

edit, Taurin. 1527. 2) I. P. Valeriani de fulminum significationibus declamatio, ap.

Graev. Antiq. Rom. tom. v. p. 593. The declamation is addressed to Julian of Medicis.

« On my return from Asia, as I was sailing from Aegina towards Megara, I began to con. template the prospect of the countries around me: Aegina was behind, Megara before me; Piraeus ou the right, Corinth on the left; all which towns once famous and flourishing, now lie overturned and buried in their ruins. Upon this sight, I could not but think presently within myself, Alas! how do we poor mortals fret and vex ourselves if any of our friends happen to die or be killed, whose life is yet so short, when the carcasses of so many noble cities lie here exposed before me in one view 1).

24.

And we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form.

Stanza xlvi. lines 7 and 8. It is Poggio who, looking from the Capitoline hill upon ruined Rome, breaks forth into the exclamation, “Ut nunc omni decore nudata, prostrata jacet, instar gigantei cadaveris corrupti at. que undique exesi 2;. »

25.
There, too, the Goddess loves in stone.

Stanza xlix. line 1. The view of the Venus of Medicis instantly suggests the lines in the Seasons, and the comparison of the object with the description proves, not only the correctness of the portrait, but the peculiar turn of thought, and, if the term may be used, the sexual imagination of the descriptive poet. The same conclusion may be deduced from another hint in the same episode of Musidora; for Thomson's notion of the privileges of favoured love must have been either very primitive, or rather deficient in delicacy, when he made his 1) Dr. Middleton History of the Life of M. Tullius Cicero,

sect. vii. p. 371. vol. ii. 2) De fortunae varietate urbis Romae, et de ruinis ejusdem descriptio, ap. Sallengre, Thesaur. tom. i. p. 501.

[ocr errors]

grateful nymph inform her discreet Damon that in some happier moment he might perhaps be the companion of her bath:

The time may come you need not fly. » The reader will recollect the anecdote told in the Life of Dr. Johnson. We will not leave the florentine gallery without a word on the Whetter. It seems strange that the character of that disputed statue should not be entirely decided, at least in the mind of any one who has seen a sarcophagns in the vestibule of the Basilica of St. Paul without the walls, at Rome, where the whole group of the fable of Marsyas is seen in tolerable preservation; and the Scythian slave whetting the knife is represented exactly in the same position as this celebrated masterpiece. The slave is not naked; but it is easier to get rid of this difficulty than to suppose the knife in the hand of the Flarentine statue an instrument for shaving, which it must be, if, as Lanzi supposes, the man is no other than the barber of Julius Caesar. Winkel mann, illustrating a bas relief of the same subject, follows the opinion of Leonard Agostini, and his authority might have been thought conclusive, even if the resemblance did not strike the most careless observer 1).

Amongst the bronzes of the same princely cob lection, is still to be seen the inscribed tablet co pied and commented upon by Mr. Gibbon ?). Our historian found some difficulties, but did not desist from his illustration: he might be vexed to hear that his criticism has been thrown away on an inscription now generally recognized to be a forgery.

26.
His eyes to thee upturn,
Feeding on thy sweet cheek.

Stanza li. lines 6 and 7.

1

1) See Monim. Ant, ined. par. i. cap. xvii. n. xlii. p. 50 ; IE!

Storia delli Arti, etc. lib. xi, cap. I. tom. Ü. p. 314. not. B 2) Nomina gentesque Antiquae Italiae, p. 204. edit. oct.

« PreviousContinue »