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C. “Why should I not?" I replied; “if you will have the goodness to listen to Madame D. “What! have you taken the trouble to commit it to memory?”
C. “ From the age of fifteen I have read Ariosto twice or three times annually : he must, therefore, have necessarily impressed my memory without any effort on my part-I might say almost involuntarily. His genealogies and historical episodes, how. ever, are an exception: they fatigue the mind, and leave the heart unaffected. Horace is the only author whom I have wholly committed to memory; yet he too has some verses, in his epistles, that are too prosaic."
V. “I conceive it possible to learn Horace by heart; but to succeed with Ariosto is no trifle. There are forty-six long cantos."
C. “Say, rather, fifty-one."
Voltaire was silent, but Madame Denis immediately resumed, and said,
a Quick, quick: let us have the thirty-six stanzas of which you say that they excite horror, and which have obtained for the poet the appellation of Divine.”
I immediately recited them, avoiding the usual declamation of the Italians. Ariosto needs not the artificial aid of a declaimer, which, after all, produces monotony. I perfectly agree with the French, that a singing delivery is intolerable. I repeated the stanzas just as if they had been prose, except as to tone, look, and change of voice. They perceived and felt the effort I made to repress my tears, without being able to suppress theirs. But when I came to the stanza,
Poichè, allargare il freno al dolor puote
Sparge un fiume di lagrime sul petto ;my tears flowed so copiously, that the whole company were affected, and they all wept. Madame Denis began to tremble, and Voltaire hastened towards me to embrace me; but I did not suffer myself to be interrupted: for Orlando, to be entirely overcome by madness, was yet to discover, that he reposed in the very bed in which the happy Medor had once clasped in his arms the charms of Angelica. This is in the succeeding stanza. My voice had hitherto been plaintive and hollow; I now assumed a tone appropriate to the horror excited by the madness of Orlando, which gave him such extraordinary power, that he effected destructions similar to those produced by an earthquake, or a flash of lightning, When I had finished the recital, the countenances of the company sufficiently expressed their approbation. Voltaire exclaimed, “I have always said, if you wish to make others weep, you must weep yourself. But to weep, one must feel; and to feel, one must have a soul.” He then embraced me, and thanked me; he moreover promised to recite the same stanzas on the following day. He kept his word.
We resumed our conversation about Ariosto, and Madame Denis expressed her surprise, that the Roman Pontif had not included his works in the list of prohibited books. Voltaire told her, the contrary had been done. Leo X. had excommunicated, by a particular bull, all those who should dare to condemn Ariosto. The two great houses of Este and Medici would not allow the poet to be injured; otherwise, he
Vol. III, No. 14.-1822.
added, the only verse where Constantine is stated as giving Rome to Silvester, would have been sufficient, on account of the words puzza forte, to prohibit the
poem. Here I could not help begging Voltaire to allow me to remark, that greater objection had been made to the verses in which Ariosto expresses his doubts as to the resurrection of the human race at the end of the world. Speaking of the hermit, who wishes to prevent Rodomont making himself master of Isabella, the widow of Zerbin, he represents the African, tired of his remonstrances, laying hold of the hermit, and hurling him away with such violence, that, dashed against a rock, he remains in so profound a sleep
“ Che al novissimo di forse sia desto."
The word forse, which the poet used merely as a rhetorical ornament, caused a general clamour, which would probably have made Ariosto laugh.
“ It is a great pity,” exclaimed Madame Denis, “that Ariosto did not avoid exagge. rations."
“You are mistaken, my dear niece,” replied Voltaire, “even his exaggerations are well conceived and extremely beautiful.”
We now conversed on other subjects, all relating to literature; and at last his piece entitled “ L'Ecossaise,” which had then been acted at Solothurn, became the topic of conversation. Voltaire remarked, that if it would afford me any pleasure to personate a character at his house, he would request Monsieur de Chavigny to prevail on his lady to play the part of Lindane,t and he himself would act the part of Monrose. I politely thanked him for his kindness, but declined the proposition, adding, that Madame de Chavigny was at Basil, and that I was obliged to continue my journey on the following day. Upon this he raised a loud cry, and put the whole company in an uproar, alleging that my visit would be an insult to him, unless I remained with him at least a week.
I told him I had come to Geneva expressly to see him, and having accomplished this, I had nothing else to detain me here.
V. “Have you come to speak with me,” he asked, “or do you wish that I should speak with you?”
C. “I carne here, above all things, for the sake of your conversation.”
V. “You must then stay at least three days longer. Dine with me every day, and we will converse together."
I accepted the offer, but returned to my inn, having much writing to do.
• That the last day only will perhaps awake him.
† Alluding to an adventure of Casanova in Solothurn, with which Voltaire had been made acquainted.
MILK AND HONEY, OR THE LAND OF PROMISE.
Sir BALAAM BARROW to Mr. JEREMIAH Dawsox.
journey to Brighton and Journey in America contrasted.-Landladies.-Beggars.-Ap
ples at Coach-door.--Barmaid at Cuckfield.- Ladder from Coach Top-An American
WHOEVER has taken, his loose nerves to tighten,
Ah! Jerry! how nobler a prospect engages
We dined on the road upon junks of boil'd yam,
“You don't seem to answer me, Mister; mayhap
These questions, I own, made me simper and stammer :
For want of that key, how I sigh when I miss The wit that is lock'd up in caskets like this “What's your daughter's name?”—“Jane.”_"Have you dined?"
-"Yes, a craw full.” 6. I've an item of that.”_" Aye?"_“I hope she's not awful." “ Is your son his own bos8 ?”_“Yes, he keeps by that hedge.” “How's his health?”_"Mighty grand, and his spirits are kedge! He bought his own store by an elegant trick, At a lag.”—“How's his bus'ness ?”—“ Progressively slick.” “ Tom's done up, I guess; but he wa’n't much to blame.” “How's Billy?"_" Clear'd out.”—“What an almighty shame!" “I'll bet you a cent. he recovers his station." “ Guess how much he owes me?”—“Ten dollars !"_“Tarnation!” “ My tea is too weak: I am never so spry “As when I've a raft of good tea.”_"No, nor I." “Ma'am, where does your young one hang out ?”_"Doctor Tebb’s: “ They put him last week in his abbs and his ebbs. “They say the young shaver has got 'em by heart.” “Then he takes to his learning ?"_“Yes, awfully smart."
What a pity it is, that you poor British caitiff's
You say that you're thinking to emigrate too,
Can you ride in a cart when the weather is foggy?
THE NEW YEAR.
“New year forth looking out of Janus' gate,
SPENSER WHETHER or not it was at the commencement of a new year that Horace, two thousand years ago, exclaimed:
“ Eheu! fugaces Posthume, Posthume,
Labuntur anni,-"* he has not informed us; but the exclamation itself was never more appropriate than it would have been at that season. The poet took a right view of the question, at all events; and directed his ideas to the comparatively large portion of time which had fleeted by, out of the span allotted to human life, and did not go with the multitude in its greetings of the term newly commenced. We fear this mode, however, will not entirely do for us to follow; we must, in some respect, yield to the many, and look upon the beginning of the new year as a time of merriment and glee,—of thankfulness for prolonging existence of wishes to be fulfilled, and pleasures to be enjoyed.
We must not hint at the spirit of prodigality we evince when we forget, amidst our exultations, the additional portion of our little time which has passed away; but act somewhat on the principle of those Indian tribes that make great rejoicings at the deaths of their compatriots, and be merry that our sand of life is so much nearer exhaustion.
Be it so: and let us for a moment overlook the less valued quarter of the picture, and, in compliment to the prevailing taste, admire only the brighter parts. The antiquity of the custom of marking in a peculiar manner the opening of the new year seems beyond written history. The Jews, one of the oldest nations, had their civil and religious years, and celebrated the commencement of the latter. Their civil year began with the month Tisri, or September, and their sacred year with Nisan, a month answering to the latter part of March and the beginning of April. Moses altered the commencement of the Jewish year, which until that time had probably been the same as the Egyptian, and he distinguished it by the feast of the Passover in the first month, Nisan, purposely to commemorate the escape of the Israelites from bondage. Though this festival was not fixed to commence on the first day of the month, it expressly belonged to the opening of the new year. All the first days of the months, or moons, were distinguished beyond the other days; but whether that day in the month Nisan was particularly observed, is unknown. Subsequently, the Jews kept the first day of the first civil month, Tísri; but, as no command to do so appears
How swiftly, 0 Posthumus, glide away our flying years.