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pensation for his want of freedom and ease, very often kicks the beam. We enjoy all the defects of the methodical manner of memoir-writing, without reaping much of its advantages. However:
DISPOSITION.Good fellowship prevails at most of their pastimes; but, notwith standing a generally cheerful disposition, the Sicilians are so violent and irritable, that they will not scruple, on an angry word, a trifling jealousy, or a drunken quarrel, to plunge into crime, and take the most summary and sanguinary revenge; a vice promoted, perhaps, by the mal-administration of justice. Unhappily a murder may be committed in open day, and yet the assassin escape; because, from a superstitious fear, rather than an impulse of humanity, (for that ought to be directed to the sufferer,) no spectator will assist to apprehend him, under the plea that it is the duty of the police. As atrocities of this nature are not inserted in the gazettes, the public are not aware of their occurrence, and it is therefore difficult to ascertain the number of such tragical events; but from many circumstances, I do not believe premeditated murders are very common in Sicily, although several atrocious and harrowing instances of this kind have come under my personal knowledge.
This is rather a lean body of con tents to follow up the swelling title with which it was announced to our anxious curiosity: much about as satisfactory an account of the Sicilian disposition, as it would be of the English character, to say that, in foggy weather, the "most thinking people" in the world judge it wiser to encounter eternal punishment in the next world, than temporary evil in this; and therefore, with as little rhyme or reason as instigates the Sicilian, hang, drown, or shoot them selves, in preference to their neighbours. The different members of the above paragraph are, also, not a little at variance with each other, but we leave it as an exercise for the ingenuity of our readers to reconcile them, and proceed (backwards) to
THE HOST. When a patient is despaired of by the physicians, it is deemed necessary to administer the sacrament of ex
treme unction; and accordingly the host is carried in state through the streets to the house of the dying person, preceded by banners, incense burning, and a bell; as it advances, every one kneels until the procession is past, while those in the houses, on hearing the bell, instantly run to the windows (showing a light if at night,) and fall on their knees in prayer. I was one evening at the Carolina Converzatione rooms at Palermo, when most of the principal peers of Sicily were playing at rouge et noir, and the deal having run several times, the stakes had increased to a considerable amount, and every one was anxious for the next turn-up; yet, when at this critical moment, the tinkling of a bell was heard, away went the cards, the banker swept his money into a handkerchief, and down went princes, and duchesses, and dukes, and princesses, on their knees, in promiscuous confusion, until it had passed by.
It was a bold paradox, even for a heathen to utter, that " atheism is less pernicious than superstition;" but one is almost tempted to think that it were better for a people to be totally indifferent to religion, than to disgrace its pure and holy practice, by such prostrate, mechanical idolatry. The mind, at least, is free in the one case; mind, morals, manners, and bodily powers, are debased and corrupted in the other.
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty (to whom this work is dedicated) will be but slenderly provided with intelligence upon the subject of Sicilian resources, military and naval, if they are induced to rely for their knowledge on the two short paragraphs, into which our author has modestly contracted his information as to these matters; they would, probably, like to have had a calculation of the strength of the army, as well as of the " height of the mountains," of Sicily; and being himself an officer of the navy, it might have been expected that Captain Smyth would have furnished his employers with the number of sailors, as well as a "list of the fishes," which appertain to those shores. A quarto volume,* one might suppose, would afford room, not only for the
We beg leave to transcribe a passage from Hume, which will show what that great man thought of the relative decency to be preserved between the matter and magnitude of a book: There is one Dr. Leland, who has lately wrote the Life of Philip of Ma*cedon, which is one of the best periods. * I have not read the book; but by the size, I should judge it to be too particular. It is a pretty large quarto. I think a book
numbers of men in the Sicilian service, but even for their pictures, if the author had been disposed to draw them, and have them severally engraven, in their proper regimentals and accoutrements, as an embellish ment for the naked borders of his pages. But if such trivial concerns are superficially noticed, their lordships are made full amends, by being instructed in the popular amusement of the "caccagna, a pyramid formed of boards, or a lofty pole made smooth and greasy, hung round the summit with provisions and apparel, which were the reward of those who possessed agility enough to climb up and reach them,-an enterprise at tended with many awkward falls." Their lordships are edified, moreover, with the valuable piece of information, that "forfeits of various kinds, blind-man's buff, and cross-purposes," form the domestic sports of the people.
LITERATURE.—As military honours are scarcely within their reach, the pursuits of the Sicilians differ from those of more enterprising people; and as an apathy exists on political affairs, a greater proportion of literary characters is fostered, than would be expected from a population amounting to little more than a million and a half of souls. The learning of many of these literati, however, is rather the varnish of a base metal, than the polish of a true gem, and many of the inane attempts of insipid egotists, at satire, wit, and science, find vent in cowardly pasquinades, and tasteless pedantic essays.
Although there is a manifest decay in the genius of their literature, some expressive sonnets and pastoral poems of merit, with a few works on jurisprudence, ethics, mineralogy, mathematics, natural philosophy, and archæology, however disguised in diffuse and inflated language, prove that talent has not fled from amongst them; but statistics are neglected, and reviews, travels, romances, tales, plays, and other lively productions are almost strangers to their press. Perhaps the custom of submitting manuscripts to the inspection of supervisors and censors, has contributed to clog the flights of fancy, and occasioned the suppression of many an elegant treatise; for even their "Opusculi, Effemeridi, No
tizie Letterarie," and various other journals, have severally existed but for a short period. From the causes before enumerated, female readers are few, and writers of that sex unknown. Of private libraries there is a great dearth. Public libraries are numerous, though but little attended, and foreign authors, except a favoured few (those principally German, that have been translated), are interdicted; for the least reference to freedom of opinion, in religion or politics, is sufficient to prohibit their introduction into the country. Scarcely any English works, except Young's Night Thoughts, and Hervey's Meditations, are in circulation. The names of Milton, other British bards, have barely pierced Dryden, Pope, Thomson, Goldsmith, and the gloomy atmosphere of Sicilian prejudice; and even Shakspeare was only latterly introduced to public notice, by a ballet founded on Macbeth. Scott, Crabbe, Byron, and other ornaments of the present day, have found a few admirers; some of our new works on chemistry and medicine have become known and esteemed, during the occupation of the island by the British troops, when many students were received as assistants into our military hospitals. Many literary associations have been established under the ostensible name of " Gli Ebbri," or drunken; "Riaccesi," or reignited; "Addolorati," or grieved; "Geniali," or sympathetic; Animosi," or intrepid ; "Periclitanti," or in danger; "Buongusto," or good taste; and others. These societies, however, have all dwindled down to a few writers of macaronies and improvisatori, or extemporaneous poets; who, indeed, amidst extravagant rhapsodies, and verbose dulness, sometimes emit sparks of a poetic imagination.
Improvisatori neither require the exercise of thought in themselves, nor in their hearers, their whole mystery being a facility and volubility in uttering a profusion of sonorous alliterations and rhymes. But it is obvious, notwithstanding their popularity, and the high encomiums of Menzini, on these " gems of Parnassus," that the composition of madrigals and sonnets is a style of writing which, when resorted to by men of high talents, has been aptly compared to Raphael or Michael Angelo painting miniatures. They contribute but little to the developement of sublime genius; and nei. ther poetical licence, luxury of words, nor harmony of numbers, can conceal the dearth of sentiment and invention, so visible in the works of all the Sicilian poets of the
of that size sufficient for the whole History of Greece till the death of Philip."-Letter to Robertson.
The whole HISTORY of Greece till the death of Philip, comprehended within the limits of a MEMOIR of Sicily and its Islands during the years 1814, 1815, 1816! Tempora mutantur.
present day, except the melodious Meli, who, in his Seasons, descriptive of Sicilian scenery and manners, and other similar poems, shows what an inexhaustible source of variety may be recurred to by studying
Though greatly addicted to colloquial argument, the public orators in parliament, at the bar, or in the pulpit, display little to be admired in their harangues, having generally a monotonous delivery, extravagant gestures, and absurd grimaces. Their allusions are rather pedantic than classic, and the neglect of general reading, together with their seldom or never travelling, deprives them of the advantage of an acquaintance with the most imposing and brilliant exertions of genius.
This is the land of Theocritus, Archimede, and Empedocles!
Our author having chosen to digest the various subjects of his Memoir into a kind of inventory or catalogue of things seen, felt, heard, and understood, this account of the Literature of Sicily should have been preceded but, with a refinement on perversity, it is immediately followed by a character of the Sicilian language.
LANGUAGE.—As Latin never exclusively prevailed in Sicily, the dialect differs both in extent and phrase from the Italian. A number of Greek and Arabic expressions have been retained, and many Norman and Spanish words have crept in, while the profusion of vowels and open sounds renders it as harmonious, sportive, and pastoral, as the Syracusan Doric of Theocritus. Though in some instances there may be a similarity, it completely differs from the vulgar and cacophonous jargon of Naples. It abounds with diminutives, superlatives, and metaphors, to a degree that facilitates the composition of poetry. On the whole, it is so much better adapted for light and amatory effusions, than for scientific and noble objects, that, with very few exceptions, Sicilian authors write in pure Italian. So many contractions are used in the Sicilian dialect, that it requires some practice before it can be read with ease.
A double-dozen of stanzas, done into English, are here quoted from the Idylls of Meli; we re-quote a corresponding couple, which (as the French say) will leave nothing to be desired on this subject:
Stu frischettu insinuanti
This insinuating cool zephyr
The opera flourishes, and the drama decays in the rank ripe soil of the Sicilian mind; perhaps the observation, as well as the metaphor, might perform the tour of Europe, and be equally at home through the whole course of transmigration.Where does the drama flourish? And where does the opera not?-sprouts, suckers, scions, branches, clusters, Finisterre, where is the public mind and all? From Kamschatka to Cape ripe without rottenness? Russia was a "medlar" long ago.
Our author enters pretty freely and spontaneously into the RELIGION, and religious errors of the country, though he professes himself no theologian, and (like a good protestant) lays no claim to infallibility on the subject. We agree with him, that the dispensation of the Sicilian (i. e. the Romish) church, is favourable to the "lessening the susceptibility of conscience;" but we do not agree with him, that it "engenders scepticism and infidelity." It engenders superstition, an error of exactly a contrary nature. The Kirk of Scotland, perhaps, in its general outline, the purest of all churches, and the of Rome, is more fruitful in sceptics most directly opposite to the church and infidels, from the very freedom which it allows to disceptation and private opinion.
There is little original or imposing in this part of the work, but the reader may refresh his memory, and renew his impressions of Italian manners, by a perusal of Captain Smyth's descriptive Memoirs. Under the head of ANALOGIES, which closes blances between the mysteries, rites, the second chapter, several resem&c. of ancient Rome and modern Sicily are instituted; and it is very probable, that, on account of its remote and divided situation, this island does preserve more relics of Latin character, than any other province (if we may extend the name) of Italy. The constant influx of barbarian population, by which the peninsula in the declining ages of the Empire was overwhelmed, may have swept forwards those relics, till it
heads of Cerberus; the Heliades, the Harpies, the Syrens, the Gorgons, the Hesperides, and the Cyclops; the Furies, the Fates, and the Graces;-is now viewed as the mystical type of the Trinity, as well as of matter, which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The Sicilians still adhere to the in
accurate Ronan mode of computing time; the civil day commences at sunset, and their time-pieces count twenty-four hours in succession, by which absurd method, half-past four in summer, coincides on the clock with one in winter, both being the twentieth hour from their respective sun-sets.
We will endeavour to steal our readers along with us, over the remainder of Sicily, next month.
EARLY FRENCH POETS.
IT is entertaining enough, after reading the poems of Ronsard, to look into those of Amadis Jamyn, his page, who has quite as much of the airs of his master as one in that station ought to have. In imitation of his master, he has three mistresses, after whom he names three of his books, (there are five books in all,)-Oriana, christened after the mistress of Amadis of Gaul; Artemis, and Callirhoe. Like Ronsard, he pays his compliments in verse to the French monarchs, Charles IX. and Henry III.; the former of whom, I believe, appointed him his secretary. Through great part of the first book, he is lavish in his encomiums on these princes, particularly on Charles, whom he praises equally for his wisdom, poetry, beauty, and courage. The Poeme sur la Chasse
au Roy Charles IX., being an animated description of the chase, may be read with more pleasure than the rest of these pieces of flattery. Like Ronsard, he dresses himself out in patches that he has purloined from the Greek, Latin, and Italian poets. His best things indeed are translations; such are those from Horace, at fol. 68, O navire dans la mer.Fol. 69, Où où mechans vous ruezvous ainsi?-Fol. 95, L'aspre Hyver se deslie au gracieux retour.-Fol. iii, Une horrible tempeste a ridé tous les cieux.-From Petrarch, at fol. 138, En quelle idee estoit l'exemple beau.*—And fol. 148, Fleurs, campagnes et prez que vous estes heureux. There is a pretty description of a valley, into which he has transplanted the flowers and the nymphs from Theocritus.
Là dansoit Calliree et Eunice et Malis,
(Les Oeuvres Poetiques d'Amadis Jamyn, au Roy
⚫ In qual parte del ciel, in quale idea.
+ Lieti fiori, e felici e ben nate erbc.
Περὶ δὲ θρύα πολλὰ πεφύκη,
Idyll. 18. v.45.
There sprang each herb of scent or colour fine,
The sleepless nymphs, dreaded by shepherd swain ;
He has at times even a livelier flow of numbers than Ronsard; but he has not near the same depth, learning, or variety. I have seen only a few lines extracted from his translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. They have his usual freedom and facility of verse. More might have been said for him, if he had left many such productions as the following sonnet:
POUR UN JEU DE BALLE FORCEE.
Voyant les combatans de la Balle forcee
Pour du vent les Mortels font la guerre souvent,
When I behold a foot-ball to and fro
Urged by a throng of players equally,
Who run pell-mell and thrust and push and throw,
Methinks I see, resembled in that show,
This round earth poised in the vacant sky,
It is for wind most times that mortals war;
Amadis Jamyn died in 1578.