Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

positions. Charmed with a poem which Bracciolini presented to him, he gave him the surname of DELLE-APE, of the bees; which were the arms of this amiable pope. He, however, never crowned these favourite bards with the laurel, which, probably, he deemed unworthy of them.

In Germany the laureat honours flourished under the reign of Maximilian the First. He founded in 1504 a Poetical College at Vienna ; reserving to himself and the regent the power of bestowing the laurel. But the institution, notwithstanding this well-concerted scheme, fell into disrepute, owing to a crowd of claimants who were fired with the rage of versifying, and who, though destitute of poetic talents, had the laurel bestowed on them. Thus it became a prostituted honour; and satires were incessantly levelled against the usurpers of the crown of Apollo : it seems, notwithstanding, always to have had charms in the eyes of the Germans, who did not reflect, as the Abbé elegantly expresses himself, that it faded when it passed over so many heads.

The Emperor of Germany retains the laureatship in all its splendour. The selected bard is called Il Poeta Cesareo. APOSTOLO ZENO, as celebrated for his erudition as for his poetic powers, was succeeded by that most enchanting poet, METASTASIO.

The French never had a Poet Laureat, though they had Regal Poets ; for none were ever solemnly crowned. The Spanish nation, always desirous of titles of honour, seem to have known that of the Laureat; but little information concerning it can be gathered from their authors.

Respecting our own country little can be said but what is mentioned by Selden. John Kay, who dedicated a History of Rhodes to Edward IV., takes the title of his humble Poet Laureat. Gower and Chaucer were laureats ; so was likewise the rhyming Skelton to Henry VIII. In the Acts of Rymer, there is a charter of Henry VII. with the title of pro Poeta Laureato.

It does not appear that our poets were ever solemnly crowned as in other countries. Selden, after all his recondite researches, is satisfied with saying, that some trace of this distinction is to be found in our nation. It is, however, certain that our kings from time immemorial have placed a miserable dependant in their household appointment, who was sometimes called the King's poet, and the King's versificator. It is probable that at length the selected bard assumed the title of Poet Laureat, without receiving the honours of the ceremony; or at the most, the crown of laurel was a mere obscure custom practised at our universities, and not attended with great public distinction. It was oftener placed on the skull

of a pedant than wreathed on the head of a man of genius.

ANGELO POLITIAN.

ANGELO POLITIAN, an Italian, was one of the most polished writers of the fifteenth century. Baillet has placed him amongst his celebrated children; for he was a writer at twelve years of age.

The Muses indeed cherished him in his cradle, and the Graces hung round it their most beautiful wreaths. When he became professor of the Greek language, such were the charms of his lectures, that one Chalcondylas, a native of Greece, saw himself abandoned by his pupils, who resorted to the delightful disquisitions of the elegant Politian. Critics of various nations have acknowledged that his poetical versions have frequently excelled the originals. This happy genius was lodged in a most unhappy form; nor were his morals untainted: it is only in his literary compositions that he appears perfect.

Monnoye, in his edition of the Menagiana, as a specimen of his Epistles, gives a translation of the letter, which serves as prefatory and dedicatory; and has accompanied it by a commentary. The letter is replete with literature, though void of pedantry; a barren subject is embellished by its happy turns. It is addressed to his patron Monsignor Pietro de Medicis; and was written about a month before the writer's death. Perhaps no author has so admirably defended himself from the incertitude of criticism and the fastidiousness of critics. His wit and his humour are delicate; and few compositions are sprinkled with such Attic salt.

MY LORD!

You have frequently urged me to collect my letters, to revise and to publish them in a volume. I have now gathered them, that I might not omit any

mark of that obedience which I owe to him, on whom I rest all my hopes, and all my prosperity. I have not, however, collected them all, because that would have been a more laborious task than to have gathered the scattered leaves of the Sibyl. It was never, indeed, with an intention of forming my letters into one body that I wrote them, but merely as occasion prompted, and as the subjects presented themselves without seeking for them. I never retained copies except of a few, which less fortunate, I think, than the others, were thus favoured for the sake of the verses they contained. To form, however, a tolerable volume, I have also inserted some written by others, but only those with which several ingenious scholars favoured me, and which, perhaps, may put the reader in good humour with my own.

There is one thing for which some will be inclined to censure me; the style of my letters is very unequal; and, to confess the truth, I did not find myself always in the same humour, and the same modes of expression were not adapted to every person and every topic. They will not fail then to observe, when they read such a diversity of letters (I mean if they do read them), that I have composed not epistles, but (once more) miscellanies.

I hope, my Lord, notwithstanding this, that amongst such a variety of opinions, of those who write letters, and of those who give precepts how letters should be written, I shall find some apology. Some, probably, will deny that they are Ciceronian. I can answer such, and not. without good authority, that in epistolary composition we must not regard Cicero as a model. Another perhaps will say, that I imitate Cicero. And him I will answer by observing, that I wish nothing better than to be capable of grasping something of this great man, were it but his shadow !

Another will wish that I had borrowed a little from the manner of Pliny the orator, because his profound sense and accuracy were greatly esteemed. I shall oppose him by expressing

« FöregåendeFortsätt »