« AnteriorContinuar »
Canżon, tu puoi ben dire,
Han fatto un dolce di morir desio. Aggiunta, Vol. I. p. 93. Guidi, however, bas composed Canzom in irregular stanzas, regardless either of rhyme or the wonted measures; yet, as one of his commentators has said, none but a Guidi ought to write such lawless verses." The rules and nature of the Samnet have been better understood than obeyed in this country, and we shall not expatiate on either. There is not one popular sonnet in the English language. This is a striking and singular fact; and we might almost infer from it, that there is something in the rigid structure of the legitimate Sonnet, which our free-born tongue disdains, and which it will not or cannot submit to practise. The Canzonette and Ariette, introduced by Mr. Mathias in the "Aggiunta,” so nearly correspond with our lesser odes and songs, that no particular observation concerning them is nécessary; ex-cept that the Italia!ıs have carried each to the highest perfection, and our countrymen have still great room for improvement in both.
Though there are splendid specimens, in this collection, from tbę works of Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, we shall purposely pass over these celebrated names, and say a few : words only concerning the most eminent among the numerous band of poets, unknown almost in our island, whose productions constitute the chief worth of these volumes. proof of the nature excellence of the Italian language, we may premise, is that it has proved itself, during five hundred years, less liable to change than any other European tongue. Dante is scarcely more antiquated than Milton, to his native readers, and while Chaucer is almost uvintelligible to Englishmen, Petrarch, his contemporary, is the standard of purity of speech in this fifth century of his fame. We proceed to potice a few of the most distinguished of the Lyrists before us.
by his diversified talents; and his works, especially his Canzoni, are
Gabriello Ghiabrera acquired a prodigious r not much less esteemed at the present day among his countrymen, 'who certainly ought to be the best qualified to judge of his merits. He said of himself, that “he followed the example of his fellow-citizen, Christopher Columbus, who determined to discover a new world, or to perish in the attempt.”- The “new world” of poetry which Chiabrera discovered, was the old world” which had been colonized and cultivated by the Greeks and Romans; and with its treasures he abundantly enriched his native land and his na
We think, however, that there is generally
more violence than fervour, and more art than nature, in his strains. We find two short heroic odes of his, in the first volume of these “ Aggiunta,” in each of which occur the similes of a torrent and a hon, indicating a miserable sameness, if not sterility of thought.
Vincenzio Filicuja had drunk deeply both of the stream of Helicon, and of
Siloa's brook, that flow'd Fast by the oracle of God.'The fire of the muses and the fire of the altar equally burned in his bosom, and sparkled through his song. No poet ever more successfully followed the steps of the inspired writers, in their paths of highest elevation, or deepest humility.. His poem in the Componimenti on "the majesty of God,” and that addressed to “ Sobieski king of Poland," (vol. i. p. 118.) but more especially his two incomparable odes on the “ Siege and Deliverance of Vienna,” in the Aggiunta, display his powers in all their glory and perfection. There is wonderful energy and pathos in his language ; and the figure of repetition, as in the sacred Scriptures, is frequently and most felicitously employed. We think that Filicaja might be well, though not easily translated into English ; only half as much can be said of some Italians of the highest order, among whom we may mention Petrarch, whose odes and sonnets. it would not be easy to render at all, and impossible to render well, in any other words, nay, we may say in any other sounds, than his own.
Benedetto Menzini is a favourite with Mr. Mathias. His Anacreontics may be as excellent as any thing of the kind, among the moderns; but we prefer, perhaps from moral feeling, his larger poems, in some of which there is a noble strain of serious thouglit.
Celio Mugno is one of the most pathetic of all poets. His Canzone on the long-lamented death of his father in the Componimenti, and that written in contemplation of his own decease, in the Aggiunta, breathe sạch transporting tenderness, that the mind, possessed with a melancholy more delicious than gladness, resigns itself wholly to the charm, and dwells and doats on chosen passages, without strength or desire to leave them. · Can any mortal man read such lines as the following only once?
• Lasso me, che quest'alma, e dolce luce,
Oh! di nostre fatiche empio riposo,
Se tutto è falso ben sotto la Luna :'--p. 179. .' These most beatiful and affecting lines contain no thought which has not been a thousand and a thousand times expressed; yet their influence is enchanting, for they realise in a moment, mingled with mysterious delight, that ineffable fear of death, which is interwoven with life, and which is natural to all men : for “ willing.” as “the spirit” may
be to “depart and to be with Christ, which is far better," its frail companion shudders at a change which consigns her to worms, and darkness, and dissolution ; “the flesh is weak," and it trembles into dust.
Fulvio Testi is a sprightly, elegant, and high-minded writer; the Horace of modern Italy.
Cario Innocenzo Frigoni is learned and laboured ; his ta. lents were considerable, and he appears to have improved them to the highest advantage.
Alessundro Guidi is crowned by Mr. Mathias with the thicke est laurels, and we are willing to concede to him all the glory that is due to one of the vainest and sublimest of
Не speaks of himself frequently, and always in strains so boastful, that he would appear utterly disgusting and contemptible, did he not sing his own praises in language so captivating, and with such genuine dignity of thought and splendour of imagery, that we either forget or forgive the egotism of the man in the overwhelming majesty of the poet. He actually seems to speak the truth; and the truth is never offensive when we believe it heartily, unless it condemns ourselves. Airy grandeur and irresistible impetuosity are the characteristics of his style; his genius is Grecian, bis spirit Roman.
Our limits will not permit us to enlarge this brief catalogue; but concerning most of the remaining bards, whose works have contributed to enrich these volumes, Mr. Mathias has given brief notices in the Aggiunta. We wish that both these, and the arguments of some of the poems, had been more copious. Explanatory notes will be much wanted, in many places, by general readers. Mr. Mathias's prefaces to both works are rather declamatory than critical; and the eloquent editor of these excellent miscellanies can praise with as much vehemence of panegyric, as the celebrated au
thor of the Pursuits of Literature, (whoever he may have been) could censure with violence of invective. Of such a publication as the present, no specimen cần be offered as a pledge of the merits of the whole ; we therefore forbear to quote; and we shall particularize nothing except the paraphrase of Dryden's “ Alexander's Feast" by Angelo Masza, at the end of the first volume. The inimitable original is lengthened and weakened in every part : and whatever has been added to it has taken away from it, as every grain of alloy lowers the standard worth of gold as much as it increases its bulk. There are however many striking passages in the translation, which do honour both to the English and the Italian Poet.
To the last Volume of this work there is an Appendix, containing two short dissertations on the Sonnet and the Canzone, which will be found amusing and useful.
It would be injustice to close this article without acknowdedging the merit of Mr. Mathias's own Italian Verses, which are given as preludes to several of the divisions of this work.
The volumes are more correctly printed than works in foreign languages commonly are in England * ; but we think that the punctuation is in general too loose, and sometimes very defective,
. Art. X. Zoography; or, the Beauties of Nature displayed. In Select Descriptions from the
Animal and Vegetable, with Additions from the Mineral Kingdom. Systematically arranged. By W. Wood, F.L. S. Illustrated with Plates, designed and engraved by Mr. William Daniell.
Three Vols. 8vo. Price 31. 135. 6d. bds. Cadell and Co. 1807. IT has often been a subject of wonder to us, that so large a
proportion of the various publications, on natural history, should be disfigured by the introduction of plates executed in a very inferior style. The older, and indeed many of the more modern, naturalists, appear to have been of opinion, that similarity of form and colouring was sufficient; they have not. been aware, that, in order to have an outline really correct, it should be correctly drawn, and that the wavering and uncertainty of an inexpericnced or unscientific pencil, the incessant transition of the eye, from the object to the drawing, and from the drawing to the object, and the unavoidable hesitation of outlines or shadowing made by mere dint of labour and close copying, must necessarily make a drawing, however apparently accurate the resemblance may be, grossly defective.
* An edition of the “ Orlando Furioso," printed in Germany, lies before us, at the end of which there are eight pages of “ Errori ; and really we might almost add that these are the most correct pages in the book, since in than, every other word at least is right.
"To notice all the various instances which might be quoted in support of our observation, would lead us into a tedious and unnecessary detail. We shall, however, mention one, from a publication of high and deserved celebrity. In a volume of Shaw's Zoology, now before us, there is not a single subject well drawn, noi a single bold and decided outline; we cert táinly do not mean to dispute the general truth of the representations ; but we contend thiat they would have been much more correct, if they had exhibited the firm and free execution of the experienced artist:
Some of our readers, who are rinacquainted with the techni, cals of art, may possibly not be aware of the precise force of the word drawing, in the sense in which we use it. We cannot explain our meaning better than by requesting them to compare the Horse, the Lion, and the Elephant, as given by Shaw, with the representations of the same animals by Johnson and Bewick:
Execution 'may, however, be carried too far; we would much rather see the outline vulgar, than affected or extravagant. It may be urged with peculiar emphasis, in reference to subjects of Natural History, that Art should never predominate over Nature. We have been sorry to find this frequently the case in a publication of considerable merit, the Cabinet of Quadrupeds; with some exceptions, particularly in the two or three latter numbers, the engravings of this work are adnjirable as specimens of art, but in too many instances the fidelity of the Naturalist is sacrificed to the skill of the Artist.
The volumes before us we are disposed to consider chiefly as a work of art ; the plates, sixty in nunber, display a combination of science and execution, fidelity and fcehing, that we have rarely seen equalled. It is difficult to say, whether Mr. Daniell, the designer and aquatinter, has given greater proofs of his talents, as an accurate observer and faithful copier of nature, or as a master both of the theory and practice of his. art. This high commendation is equally merited, whether the subject represented be of the Animal, the Vegetable, or the Mineral kingdom.
Of the literary part, we shall not say much; notwithstando, ing the introduction of a short Linnean specification, the work is decidedly of a popular kind. Mr.Wood's descriptions, though ample and satisfactory, ares familiar; and were it not for the expensive manner in which the book is got np, we should be inclined to recommend it as the best existing treatise on Natural History, for common and general use. We have been especially gratified by Mr. W.'s expressions of indignation against the detestable and useless barbarities of Spallanzani,