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establishment of the romantic style; a style compounded from the materials of chivalry, gothic fable, and Arabian fiction. This style, says an elegant writer, “has its appropriate and genuine recommendations. It is lofty and enthusiastic, and genial and cherishing to the powers of imagination. Perhaps every man of a truly poetical mind will be the better for having passed a short period in this school; and it may further safely be affirmed, that every man of a truly poetical mind, who was reduced to make his choice between the school of coarse burlesque and ex. travagant humour, such as that of Hudibras for example, and the school of extravagant heroism and chivalry, such as that of Tasso, would decide for the latter. The first chills and contracts, as it were, the vessels and alleys of the heart, and leaves us with a painful feeling of self-degradation. The second expands and elevates the soul, and fills the mind of the reader with generous pride, and complacence in the powers he feels, and a warm and virtuous ardour to employ them for the advantage of others *.”
In the polished compositions of the bards of Italy, the fictions of the East acquired a classical reputation, and were propagated through Europe with increased rapidity, and with all the * Godwin's Life of Chaucer, 8vo. edition, vol. iv. p. 193.
advantages of the most beautiful versification. LUIGI LE PULCI, a native of Florence, led the way about the middle of the fifteenth century, by the publication of his Morgante Morgiore, a poem which combined the comic with the serious and romantic style. He was speedily followed by MATTEO MARIA BOIARDO, whose Orlando Inamorato forms the first genuine specimen of the epic romance. Of this poem, the subject is the love of Orlando for the fair Angelica; the scene, the siege of Paris by the Saracens; and its machinery the wonders of magicians and necro
The popularity which attended the labours of Boiardo was very great, and deservedly so, if we consider the vivacity of his imagery and the fertility of his invention.
His fame has been eclipsed, however, by the still more fascinating talents of ludOVICO ARIOSTO, whose great production, the Orlando Furioso, made its appearance in 1516. This truly wonderful performance, which may be considered as a continuation of the poem of Boiardo, is a series of tales and adventures, and displays an imagination of the most rich and plastic kind. It is built entirely on the manners of chivalry, and here we find all the marvels of oriental fiction and Arabian science, an accumulation, indeed, of the tales and traditions of prior centuries, but
mingled with, and improved by, a warmth and exuberance of invention, peculiarly and exclusively the property of the poet, whose variety of materials and profusion of poetic beauties, whose strains of magic and of pathos, of playful humour and sublimity, have acquired for their possessor the appropriate title of the Bard of Fancy.
From Necromancy's hand, in happiest hour
The incorporation of nearly all the prodigies of Arabian fable and science, with a poem of such exquisite merit and unparalleled popularity, whose diction and versification have rendered it, in point of style, the first model of the Italian language, must have had a prodigious effect in recommending to succeeding poets of every European nation, and to writers of fictitious narrative, the splendid miracles of chivalry and oriental machinery.
To the seductive and irresistible charms of this
* Hayley's Essay on Epic Poetry, Epistle 3.
example, is it owing that tasso, though constructing the plan of his immortal epic on the rules of classical criticism, was led to interweave so many of the specious wonders and sublime fancies, the magnanima mensogna, of gothic and oriental enchantment, with the more subdued imagery of Greece and Rome.
The first complete edition of the Gierusalemme Liberata appeared at Ferrara, in the year 1581; and though, allowing for the rules to which the poet was subjected, it abounds as much as possible with the magic and machinery of the gothoarabic romance,
With forests and enchantments drear;
yet being more sparing in the use of supernatural agency
than its illustrious precursor, the Orlando Furioso, it was on this account less highly esteemed than it ought to have been by the people of Italy: a decision widely different from that which, in the subsequent century, the French critics passed upon this admirable poem, who affirmed its chief fault to be that of having imbibed too much of the spirit and manner of Ariosto *.
In England, toward the close of the sixteenth century, SPENSER, a genuine disciple of the Ita
* Vide Boileau, and Voltaire, Essai sur la Poesie Epique,
lian school, published his Fairy Queen. Chivalry had, at this time, nearly ceased to exist, as a system affecting the habits and manners of man. kind; and the poet thought it necessary, in order to give an air of importance to his fairy fictions, to envelope them in a veil of moral allegory. The attempt was injudicious and unfortunate; allegory, when extended through so long a poem, must inevitably become dark and tedious; and it has contributed, in fact, more than any other circumstance, to obscure the lustre of an imagination which, when placed in a favourable light, is brilliant beyond competition. The sweet and pensive cast of fancy, indeed, which pervades this singular poem, its rich store of gothic and oriental imagery and incident, and its inexhaustible fertility in picturesque description, will ever charm the lovers of the higher poetry; and had its author adhered to the literal sense, and merely trusted to the fascination which still waited upon these wondrous tales, he would have been perused at the present day with as much avidity as his contemporary Tasso.
Though, with the reign of Elizabeth, chivalry, the feudal system, and its gothic manners, may be said to have expired, a taste for oriental literature, both upon the continent and in this island, still survived. More particularly may the latter