Imagens das páginas

preventing him from becoming worse. Thus it is in prison, in solitude, in want of the most necessary things of life, in a provoking persecution, and in daily humiliation-it is from the hands of his jailor, and in the middle of spies, that he is to regain his health and his senses! The posterity of the House of Este, though despoiled by the Popes of a great portion of its estates, preserved the Duchy of Modena, where it continued to favour literature, and to attract its services. It is from Modena that the most laborious and useful works in history, politics, and Italian literature, have proceeded. Muratori, Zaccaria, and Tiraboschi laboured during the whole of the eighteenth century at Modena, under the patronage of the House of Este. In telling all the truths which they were then able to publish against the usurpations of the Roman church, they kept silence respecting every thing which might compromise the reputation of their patrons. A poet who dared to love a princess of Este, and a princess who had encouraged him, were, in the view of Italian statesmen, scandals which could not be spoken by any without rendering them guilty of high treason.

At the same time we are told that the sort of indifference which the princess exhibited for the misfortunes of Tasso, and the little effort she made to obtain his liberty, are evident proofs that her heart was never interested in his behalf. But this is one of the negative arguments founded on an hypothesis that may be easily destroyed by a thousand others equally plausible. Was not the princess anxious to avoid her own ruin? In taking too warm an interest for the poet, did she not risk destroying herself without saving him? Besides, might she not be one of the thousand cold coquettes, who, relying upon the modesty of their actions, believe themselves conscientiously virtuous; and after having trifled with the feelings of a noble heart, and thrown all the fault upon it, confine themselves to testifying their pity, at the same time that, in the bottom of their souls, they are proud of the too fatal power of their sex? These are but dark conjectures, and the only thing that really appears is, that the misfortunes of Tasso were the effect of an unconquerable and unhappy passion, which Alphonso chose to punish with such a jealous tyranny, as to make one suspect that the object of Tasso's passion was rather a mistress than a sister of the Duke.

However the case may be, the short pieces which Tasso wrote in prison are superior not only to almost all the others in his lyrical collection, but also to a great number of odes and sonnets of other poets that the Italians cite as chef-d'œuvres. Nevertheless he believed that his sufferings had quenched his genius, and that his mind was more formed for contemplation than for action.

Ch' egro e stanco dagli anni, ove più rare
Tenti le rime far, men piaciono elle,
E in minor pregio io son, che già non era.
Pur non langue la mente, e prigioniera
Esce dal carcer suo; nè quel, che pare,
Ma l'orme scorge e vere e pure e belle.
Tired and infirm with age, my toils to scale
The Heaven of poesy proclaim how chill,
And changed a thing I am become! yet still
Droops not the immortal mind, but from its gaol
Flies forth, and spurning every meaner view,
Dwells on the pure, the beautiful, and true.

Time, from which he hoped at least the remedy of eternal repose, did nothing but nourish his hopes and renew and prolong his sufferings.

Vecchio ed alato Dio, nato col Sole
Ad un parto medesmo, e con le stelle,
Che distruggi le cose, e rinnovelle,
Mentre per torte vie vole e rivole.

Gray, winged God, twinn'd with the glorious sun
And stars, destroyer, quickener of all things!
Whilst round and round thy flying race is run,
To me thy flight calm solace never brings.

Powerful friends seemed to interest themselves for him; they permitted him daily to hope for an abridgment of his imprisonment; he received assurances- "But, no," he wrote to Scipion Gonzaga, patriarch of Jerusalem, "pity is dead among men: kings make it a duty to banish it from their hearts; it is a virtue that now dwells only in heaven, and disdains to return to the earth; and thus my tears prevail no more below. Those who have pledged me their faith mock my sufferings, and break their own promises; and I believe there will never be an end to this unworthy treatment, which holds me every moment between life and death. Behold me an inhabitant of a living tomb; see me an animated corpse, with eyes fixed on a door which never opens but for the dead."

Scipio, pietate è morta, ed è bandita

Da regi petti, e nel celeste regno

Tra i divi alberga, e prende il mondo a sdegno,
Nè fia la voce del mio pianto udita.

Dunque la nobil fè sarà schernita,
Ch'è di mia libertà sì nobil pegno;
Nè fine avrà mai questo strazio indegno,
Che m'inforsa così tra morte e vita?

Questa è tomba de' vivi, ov'io son chiuso
Cadavero spirante, e si disserra,

Solo il carcer de' morti.

Sorrow was almost always the Muse of Tasso, and often dictated to him verses such as are to be searched for in vain in any other poet; because few have been so great, and none as unhappy as he. But it has been observed, that the pieces which he wrote in prison have been as unfortunate as their author. No person cites, no one speaks of, and possibly no one ever noticed an ode addressed to the two sisters of the duke. It was a crime then to mention their mother Renata, because she had favoured the Protestants, and was herself exposed to exile and imprisonment. But Tasso, addressing them as "Daughters of Renata," hoped to excite their sympathy by the association of his own misfortunes with those of their mother-an expedient, however, which, like many others, proved unavailing to him.

O figlie di Renata

A voi parlo, in cui fanno

Si concorde armonia,

Onestà, senno, onor, bellezza, e gloria:

A voi spiego il mio affanno.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Ed in voi la memoria

Di voi, di me rinnovo:

Vostri effetti cortesi,

Gli anni miei tra voi spesi,

Qual son, qual fui, che chiedo, ove mi trovo,

Chi mi guidò, chi chiuse,

Lasso! chi m' affidò, chi mi deluse.

Queste cose rammento

A voi, piangendo, o prole

D'eroi, di regi gloriosa e grande :

E se nel mio lamento

Scarse son le parole,

Lagrime larghe il mio dolor vi spande.

Cetre, trombe, ghirlande

Misero piango, e piango

Studj, disporti, ed agi,

Mense, logge, e palagi,

Ove or fui nobil servo, ed or compagno :
Libertade e salute,

E leggi, oimè, d' umanità perdute !
Da nipoti d'Adamo,

Oimè! chi mi divide?

Daughters of Renata, give ear! to you

I talk, in whom birth, beauty, sense refined,
Virtue, gentility, and glory true,

Are in such perfect harmony combined.

To you my anguish I unfold-a scroll

Of bitterness-my wrongs, my pangs, my fears,
Part of my tale ;-I cannot tell the whole,
But by rebellious tears!

I will recall you to yourselves, renew

Memory of me, your courtesy, your smile
Of gracious kindness, and, vow'd all to you,

My beautiful past years!—

What then I was what am; what, woe the while,
I am reduced to beg-from whence; what star,

Guided me hither; who with bolt and bar

Confined, and who, when I for freedom grieved,
Promised me hope, yet still that hope deceived!

These I call back to you. O heirs divine

Of glorious demigods and kings! and if

My words are weak and few, the tears which grief
Wrings out are eloquent enough:-I pine
For the loved lutes! lyres! laurels! for the shine
Of suns; for my dear studies, sports, my late
So elegant delights, mirth, music, wine;
Piazzas, palaces, where once I sate

A noble servant and beloved friend;

For health destroy'd, for freedom at an end;
The gloom, the solitude, the eternal grate;
And for the laws the Charities provide;
Oh agony! to me denied! denied!
From my sweet brotherhood of men, alas,
Who shuts me out?--


[blocks in formation]


"I will contrive some way to make it known to futurity that I had your lordship for my patron." ALLOW me, Mr. Editor, through the medium of your entertaining and widely-circulated Miscellany, (these, I believe, are the established phrases when a communicant wishes to purchase admission,) to inform the friends and patrons of literature, who happen to possess the power of rewarding as well as distinguishing merit, that I have just completed an Epic Poem, in twenty-four cantos, constructed as Apelles painted his Venus, by combining all the most distinguishing beauties of my contemporaries, prosaic and poetical, in one elaborate and immortal work. It is in the octo-syllabic irregular metre: my hero is a sort of civilized savage, uniting all the bursts of passion and ferocious valour of a barbarian, with the refined love and unalterable constancy of a preux chevalier; and after many melting, fierce, and tragical adventures with the heroine, who has a bluish bloom upon her glossy black hair, voluptuous lips, and eyes like the Gazelle, they both finally disappear in a mysterious and unexplained manner; making themselves air, like the witches in Macbeth or the spectral figures of a phantasmagoria. Then I have a supernatural nondescript, in the shape of a crazy beldame, who, however, occasionally assumes the semblance of a deformed imp, or dwarf, seemingly a cross breed between the Pythoness and the Gipsy, or Caliban and a witch, who reads and prophesies in the fustian style of Bobadil or Pistol, and, though he, she, or it, have not wit enough to escape from hunger and rags, is yet gifted with real prescience, made the pivot of the whole plot, all the complications of which are forced to wind and evolve in subserviency to the delirious rhapsodies of this inspired hag, or urchin. The propriety of such a character, in a work professing to be a picture of real life, and founded upon authentic history, as mine is, will not, I think, be questioned by the most hypercritical reader. Moreover, I have a metaphysical muffin-man, who indulges in high and holy musings, philosophises the face of nature, disserts upon the mysteries of creation, delights in the most exalted and profound abstractions, and occasionally rings his bell and cries "muffins!" with as simple, natural, and penny-beseeching a look, tempered, however, with dignity, as was ever assumed by Belisarius himself. I have also a -; but, softly, let me not divulge too much; for in these times of literary competition, a rival author may first steal a hint, and by that means pick my pocket of my whole story, as has already been effected in numerous instances. One may submit to be pillaged by the dead, and in this way it is astonishing what a number of good things I myself have had stolen from me by Shakspeare and others; but this plagiarism by anticipation on the part of the living this ante-natal robbery, sometimes extending to our very names and attributes, as in the instance of the unfortunate Peter Bell, -loudly calls for legislative interference, or we may all of us have our literary bantlings cut off before they are born, or see them ushered

[ocr errors]

into the world as forgeries of themselves-copied originals-counterfeits of their own identity.

No more glimpses, therefore; no more furtive peeps will I afford into the penetralia of my poetic temple. Suffice it to proclaim that I may cry, with Archimedes, "Eureka! I have found it,"—not the problem he was solving, but the road to immortality; and that the "jamque opus exegi," and the " exegi monumentum," and the "one half of round eternity" with which the Classics flattered themselves at the termination of their labours, appear flat and insipid, as having received their accomplishment, when compared with my correspondent auguries which have yet to enjoy the gratification of their fulfilment. I have regularly booked myself as an inside passenger to future ages; but I hate travelling alone: there is room for one more; and as it is customary to advertise for partners in a trip to Paris, Switzerland, or Naples, so I take this public method of announcing that I can accommodate any nobleman or gentleman who is willing to become my Dedicatee, with a conveyance to Posterity, and should he be married, I will endeavour to oblige his wife (upon a suitable remuneration) with a seat in the dickey. It may be satisfactory to both parties, before I expound the fare for which I stipulate, that I should say a word or two on the nature of the journey which we are about to undertake, and the advantages which I have to offer to my companion.

First and foremost I beseech the parties to whom I address myself, to recall the assertion of Horace, that many heroes who lived before Agamemnon died uncelebrated, and have become utterly forgotten for want of a poet to record their achievements. To judge what they have lost, let us contemplate what has been gained by their more fortunate successors who have become immortalized in Homer's Iliad. That poem was written about twenty-eight centuries ago, within which period a trifling circumstance has occurred-the Roman Empire was begun, and has utterly passed away! Conceive, for a moment, the innumerable generations of Greeks, Romans, and barbarians that have disappeared in that time, and "left not a wreck behind;"--the mighty kingdoms that have successively obtained dominion over the earth, and passed away like shadows;-the stupendous temples of marble and granite which have been built and gradually crumbled into dust, while the perishable paper and parchment, rendered buoyant and indestructible by the genius of Homer, has floated down the stream of time unaltered and uninjured. The art of printing has now placed his work beyond the reach of accident, and we may safely predict that it is only in the first infancy of its fame; that when the foot of Time shall have crushed the pyramids into sand, and the wild Arab shall gallop his camel over their site, the poem of Homer will be as popular as it is now; and that it will not finally perish until "the great globe itself and all which it inherit shall dissolve."

Well, my worthy readers, noble or gentle, is it nothing to be one of the company in this insubmergible passage-boat, pleasantly sailing down the stream of time till you are proudly launched upon the ocean of eternity? Such is the nature of the little jaunt I propose to you if you accept a place in my epic ark; but I will candidly avow that there is a peculiarity in its structure which may materially affect its durability. Alas! the fame of a modern poem is like the statue set up by Ne

« AnteriorContinuar »