Sidor som bilder
PDF

the cause of morality, except with the very weak and the very young. He that has made even a little progress beyond ignorance and pupillage cannot be edified with any thing but truth. What is called vindicating the honour of an individual or a nation, is the most futile, tedious, and uninstructive of all writing; although it will always meet with more applause than that sober criticism, which is attributed to the malicious desire of reducing a great man to the common standard of humanity. It is, after all, not unlikely that our historian was right in retaining his favourite hypothetic salvo, which secures the author, although it scarcely saves the honour of the still unknown mistress of Petrarch.*

IX.
PETRARCH.

“They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died.”
Stanza xxxi. line l.

Petrarch retired to Arqua immediately on his return from the unsuccessful attempt to visit Urban V. at Rome, in the year 1370, and, with the exception of his celebrated visit to Venice in company with Francesco Novello da Carrara, he appears to have passed the four last years of his life between that charming solitude and Padua. For four months previous to his death he was in a state of coutinual languor, and in the morning of July the 19th, in the year 1874, was found dead in his library chair with his head resting upon a book. The chair is still shown amongst the precious relics of Arqua, which, from the uninterrupted veneration that has been attached to every thing relative to this great man from the moment of his death to the present hour, have, it may be hoped, a better chance of authenticity than the Shakspearian memorials of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Arqua (for the last syllable is accented in pronunciation, although the analogy of the English language has been observed in the verse) is twelve miles from Padua, and about three miles on the right of the high road to Rovigo, in the bosom of the Euganean hills. After a walk of twenty minutes across a flat well-wooded meadow, you come to a little blue lake. clear but fathomless, and to the foot of a succession of acclivities and hills, clothed with vineyards and orchards, rich with fir and pomegranate trees, and every sunny fruit shrub. From the banks of the lake the road winds into the hills, and the church of Arqua is soon seen between a cleft where two ridges slope towards each other, and nearly enclose the village. The houses are scattered at intervals on the steep sides of these summits; and

[ocr errors]

that of the poet is on the edge of a little knoll overlooking two descents, and commanding a view, not only of the glowing gardens in the dales immediately beneath, but of the wide plains, above whose low woods of mulberry and willow, thickened into a dark mass by festoons of vines, tall single cypresses, and the spires of towns, are seen in the distance, which stretches to the mouths of the Po and the shores of the Adriatic. The climate of these volcanic hills is warmer, and the vintage begins a week sooner than in the plains of Padua. Petrarch is laid, for he cannot be said to be buried, in a sarcophagus of red marble, raised on four pilasters on an elevated base, and preserved from an association with meaner tombs. It stands conspicuously alone, but will be soon overshadowed by four lately planted laurels. Petrarch's Fountain, for here every thing is Petrarch's, springs * and expands itself beneath an artificial arch, a little below the church, and abounds plentifully, in the driest season, with that soft water which was the ancient wealth of the Euganean hills. It would be more attractive, were it not, in some seasons, beset with hornets and wasps. No other coincidence could assimilate the tombs of Petrarch and Archilochus. The revolutions of centuries have spared these sequestered valleys, and the only violence which has been offered to the ashes of Petrarch was prompted, not by hate, but veneration. An attempt was made to rob the sarcophagus of its treasure, and one of the arms was stolen by a Florentine through a rent which is still visible. The injury is not forgotten, but has served to identify the poet with the country where he was born, but where he would not live. A peasant boy of Arqua being asked who Petrarch was, replied, “that the people of the parsonage knew all about him, but that he only knew that he was a Florentine.” Mr. Forsyth * was not quite correct in saying that Petrarch never returned to Tuscany after he had once quitted it when a boy. It appears he did pass through Florence on his way from Parma to Rome, and on his return in the year 1350, and remained there long enough to form some acquaintance with its most distinguished inhabitants. A Florentine gentleman, ashamed of the aversion of the poet for his native country, was eager to point out this trivial error in our accomplished traveller, whom he knew and respected for an extraordinary capacity, extensive erudition, and refined taste, joined to that engaging simplicity of manners which has been so frequently recognised as the surest, though it is certainly not an indispensable, trait of superior genius. Every footstep of Laura's lover has been anxiously traced and recorded. The house in which he lodged is shown in Venice. The inhabitants of Arezzo, in order to decide the ancient controversy between their city and the neighbouring Ancisa, where Petrarch was carried when seven months old, and remained until his seventh year, have designated by a long inscription the spot where their great fellow-citizen was born. A tablet has

[ocr errors]

been raised to him at Parma, in the chapel of St. Agatha, at the cathedral”, because he was archdeacon of that society, and was only snatched from his intended sepulture in their church by a foreign death. Another tablet, with a bust, has been erected to him at Pavia, on account of his having passed the autumn of 1868 in that city, with his son-in-law Brossano. The political condition which has for ages precluded the Italians from the criticism of the living, has concentrated their attention to the illustration of the dead.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Perhaps the couplet in which Boileau depreciates Tasso may serve as well as any other specimen to justify the opinion given of the harmony of French verse: –

A Malerbe, A Racan, préfère Théophile,
Et le clinquant du Tasse à tout l'or de Virgile.
Sat. ix. vers 176.

* D. O. M.
Francisco Petrarchae
Parmensi Archidiacono.
Parentibus praeclaris genere perantiquo
Ethices Christianae scriptori eximio
Romanae linguae restitutori
Etruscae principi
Africa: ob carmen häc in urbe peractum regibus accito
S. P. Q. R. laurea donato.
Tanti Viri
Juvenilium juvenis senilium senex
Studiosissimus
Comes Nicolaus Canonicus Cicognarus
Marmorea proxima ara excitata.
Ibique condito
Divac Januariae cruento corpore
H. M. P.
Suffectum
Sed infra meritum Francisci sepulchro -
Summa hac in aede efferri mandantis Y
Si Parmae occumberet
Extera morte heu mobis erepti

The biographer Serassi", out of tenderness to the reputation either of the Italian or the French poet, is eager to observe that the satirist recanted or explained away this censure, and subsequently allowed the author of the Jerusalem to be a “genius, sublime, vast, and happily born for the higher flights of poetry.” To this we will add, that the recantation is far from satisfactory, when we examine the whole anecdote as reported by Olivet.* The sentence pronounced against him by Bohours t is recorded only to the confusion of the critic, whose palinodia the Italian makes no effort to discover, and would not, perhaps, accept. As to the opposition which the Jerusalem encountered from the Cruscan academy, who degraded Tasso from all competition with Ariosto, below Bojardo and Pulci, the disgrace of such opposition must also in some measure be laid to the charge of Alfonso, and the court of Ferrara. For Leonard Salviati, the principal and nearly the sole origin of this attack, was, there can be no doubt \, influenced by a hope to acquire the favour of the House of Este: an object which he thought attainable by exalting the reputation of a native poet at the expense of a rival, then a prisoner of state. The hopes and efforts of Salviati must serve to show the contemporary opinion as to the nature of the poet's imprisonment; and will fill up the measure of our indignation at the tyrant jailer.|| In fact, the antagonist of Tasso was not disappointed in the reception given to his criticism; he was called to the court of Ferrara, where, having endeavoured to heighten his claims to favour, by panegyrics on the family of his sovereign's, he was in turn abandoned, and expired in neglected poverty. The opposition of the Cruscans was brought to a close in six years after the commencement of the controversy; and if the academy owed its first renown to having almost

* La Vita del Tasso, lib. iii. p. 284. tom. ii. edit. Bergamo, 1790.

+ Histoire de l'Académie Françoise depuis 1652 jusqu'à 1700, par l'Abbé d'Olivet, p. 181. edit. Amsterdam, 1730. “Mais, ensuite, venant à l'usage qu'il a fait de ses talens, j'aurois montré que le bon sens n'est pastoujours ce qui domine chez lui,” p. 182. Boileau said, he had not changed his opinion. “J'en ai si peu changé, dit-il,” &c. p. 181. f La manière de bien penser dans les ouvrages de l'esprit, sec. dial. p. 89. edit. 1692. Philanthes is for Tasso, and says in the outset, “de tous les beaux esprits que l'Italie a portés, le Tasse est peut-être celui qui pense le plus noblement.” But Bohours seems to speak in Eudoxus, who closes with the absurd comparison: “Faites valoir le Tasse tant qu'il vous plaira, je m'en tiens pour moi a Virgile,” &c. Ibid. p. 102. § La Vita, &c. lib. iii. p. 90. tom. ii. The English reader may see an account of the opposition of the Crusca to Tasso, in Dr. Black, Life, &c. chap. xvii. vol. ii. | For further, and, it is hoped, decisive proof, that Tasso was neither more nor less than a prisoner of state, the reader is referred to “Historical Illustrations of the IVth Canto of Childe Harold,” page 5. and following. T Orazioni funebri... delle lodi di Don Luigi, Cardinal d'Este... delle lodi di Donno Alfonso d’Este. See La Vita, lib. iii. p. 117.

opened with such a paradox”, it is probable that, on the other hand, the care of his reputation alleviated rather than aggravated the imprisonment of the injured poet. The defence of his father and of himself, for both were involved in the censure of Salviati, found employment for many of his solitary hours, and the captive could have been but little embarrassed to reply to accusations, where, amongst other delinquencies, he was charged with invidiously omitting, in his comparison between France and Italy, to make any mention of the cupola of St. Maria del Fiore at Florence.f. The late biographer of Ariosto seems as if willing to renew the controversy by doubting the interpretation of Tasso's self-estimation f related in Serassi's life of the poet. But Tiraboschi had before laid that rivalry at rest S, by showing, that between Ariosto and Tasso it is not a question of comparison, but of preference.

XI.
ARIOSTO.

“The lightning rent from Ariosto's bust,
The iron crown of laurel's mimick'd leaves.”
Stanza xli. lines 1. and 2.

Before the remains of Ariosto were removed from the Benedictine church to the library of Ferrara, his bust, which surmounted the tomb, was struck by lightning, and a crown of iron laurels melted away. The event has been recorded by a writer of the last century.|| The transfer of these sacred ashes, on the 6th of June, 1801, was one of the most brilliant spectacles of the short-lived Italian Republic; and to consecrate the memory of the ceremony, the once famous fallen Intrepidi were revived and re-formed into the Ariostean academy. The large public place through which the procession paraded was then for the first time called Ariosto Square. The

* It was founded in 1582, and the Cruscan answer to Pellegrino's Caraffa, or epica poesia, was published in 1584.

+ “Cotanto potè sempre in lui il veleno della sua pessima volontà contro alla nazion Fiorentina.” La Vita, lib. iii. pp. 96.98. tom. ii.

f La Vita di M. L. Ariosto, scritta dall' Abate Girolamo Baruffaldi Giuniore, &c., Ferrara, 1807, lib. iii. p. 262. See “Historical Illustrations,” &c. p. 26.

§ Storia della Lett. &c. lib. iii. tom. vii. par. iii. p. 1220 sect. 4.

| “Mi raccontarono que' monaci, ch' essendo caduto un fulmine nella loro chiesa schiantò esso dalle tempie la corona di lauro a quell’ immortale poeta,” Op. di Bianconi, vol. iii. p. 176, ed. Milano, 1802; lettera al Signor Guido Savini Arcifisiocritico, sull' indole di un fulmine caduto in Dresda Y'anno 1759.

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »