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are presented to us by Italian writers, whose own works show their thoughts to have dwelt fondly on objects far less pure. It is not indeed a long step, with a man like Petrarch, from idealized thoughts of love to emotions of supernal awe, and words of reverential worship. But it is with less satisfaction, that one reads religious poems from the pen of Giovanni Della Casa, who was one of the loosest of the Ecclesiastical libertines of the sixteenth century, and who, in his Capitoli, approved himself as one of the most ingenious of all men in the art of decently veiling gross obscenity. Still, notwithstanding all drawbacks, we think with pleasure, and may turn back with profit, upon many of those serious and solemn poetical effusions, which are scattered widely among the minor poems of Italy; and of whose existence we are bound to take account in estimating the moral character that belongs to the literature of that singularly inconsistent nation. In the Collection with which we now deal, there are many such pieces, on the study of which no unpleasing recollection intrudes. We watch, with respect and satisfaction, the emergence of the religious spirit in such men as Tasso, and Filicaia, and Metastasio.
But no such spectacle is more impressive than that which is before us, when we behold Michel Angelo, the stern, and wilful, and lauded man of genius, prostrating himself before God in humble confession of sin;—dejectedly acknowledging the nothingness of all earthly aims, and seeking in the Divine mercy a refuge from human weaknesses, and human disappointments. Many of his Sonnets are really hymns or prayers. Mr Glassford, whose sensitive taste was probably offended by the prevailing harshness of the language and versification, has given but one of them. It does not appear to us to be one of the best ; but any such specimen of the poetical genius of a great artist worthily employed, should not be passed over.
• Now my frail bark through life’s tempestuous flood
Is steerd, and full in view that port is seen
And every work be tried, if bad or good.
Which made of art an idol and a queen,
That what I needed most I most withstood,
What are ye now, if twofold death be nigh?
The first is certain, and the last I dread.
When we have seen the cross, and fix'd our eye
On Him whose arms of love were there outspread ?' VOL. LXXXIV. NO. clxix,
If Mr Glassford has increased the value of his Collection by giving a pre-eminence somewhat beyond the fact to the religious lyrics that ļay at his command, he has increased its value yet more, by putting decisively in the background those amatory pieces which were before him in thousands. This prevalence of sickly love-ditties is, indeed, the greatest vice of Italian poetry. Ever since the days of Petrarch, the lyrical poem, but especially the sonnet, has been seriously held to have served its most worthy purpose in singing the fanciful distresses of some amorous swain : manliness of feeling, and reality of object, have oftenest been lost sight of together; and an artificial language has been framed, which has been not only put to use in this kind of composition, but allowed to influence the style adopted in others. But, in the fact last hinted at, there may be found something which is a slight palliative of the offence, and which ought to be distinctly understood, if we would give fair treatment to the minor Italian poets. The love-sick diction of the Sonnets and Canzoni is very often nothing more than words. It is not designed to be literally apprehended. It is, in many cases, nothing more than a conventional form of language ; according to which phrases of sexual love are to be held as imaginatively representing various thoughts and emotions not belonging to the affection primarily signified. This is most palpable with respect to the nobler and stronger of those spirits, who disported themselves in this poetic grove of Paphos. By Dante himself, in an age when the tone of sentiment was vigorous to wildness, deep thought and powerful feeling, bent upon objects beyond sense and time, had been sensualized and personified in the image of an earthly affection, purified by the hand of death, illumined by the lamp of religion. In later times, when the pressure of external life lay upon men's hearts, not as an exciting light, but as a darkening shadow, it was but natural that the poet should be willing to obey those venerable precedents, to which he was to owe the privilege of wrapping up his hesitating or gloomy view of life in the
veil of exaggerated or fictitious passion : and the conventional form was very usually retained, even when there was no especial reason, except habit and prepossession, why a more natural mould should not have been substituted. If we keep this prevalent artificiality of language clearly in view, we shall be able, not indeed to admire as we could admire that which is natural and spontaneous; but to gain a clue to many perplexities that would otherwise act repulsively in our study of the Italian poets. We may thus, for example, understand in part how Michael Angelo himself did not disdain to speak the quasi-Platonic language of Petrarch, alike in addressing words
of friendship and respect to Vittoria Colonna, and in struggling to give representation in sensuous imagery to his ideal of art, or to his loftiest conceptions of religion.
Two other characteristics of the Italian lyric there are, which are discussed by Mr Glassford in his Preface. The one is, that inclination to artificial imagery and strained thought, which prevailed at several points in the history of the national literature; and on which the writer, with his usual good taste, comments briefly but severely. The other is, the extreme elaboration which the Italian lyrical poems have received in point of form ; and which he contrasts, approvingly, with that carelessness of finishing, and those formal irregularities, which he reprimands in the most popular poetry of our own day.
It would have pleased us to be able to deal with both of these topics, for the illustration of which the minor poetry of Italy would furnish an instructive store of materials. But the inquiry would involve some theoretical considerations, upon which we cannot here enter. We should have to ascertain, specifically, what is the proper function of lyrical poetry as distinguished from that of other kinds; and what relations, both as to historical development and as to susceptibility of amalgamation, the several kinds bear to each other. The pure lyric would thus present itself to us, as being, in a manner, the germ of all poetry; as being the kind which aims, more directly and exclusively than any other, at the excitement of the purely poetic feeling, the contemplative emotion of the beautiful; while we should perceive how, always in some degree, and in several of its forms with great fulness, this aim of the lyric admits of being combined with either or both of those which are specifically characteristic of the historical poem, or the didactic. We should thus be able to trace to its source the tendency to false thought which always lurks in the lyric,—especially in such mixed forms of it as the Sonnet; and we should also be able to discover why it is, that, although we may still see reason to regret the pedantic numerical restrictions of the sonnet, yet, in all kinds of the lyrical poem, the form, embracing considerations of arrangement, and diction, and melody, is justly held to be of infinitely greater importance than in any other kind of poetry whatever.
We can only point out one aspect of the consideration last suggested. Felicity of diction, most valuable in all kinds of poetry, becomes beyond price in the lyric ; and in no other kind of composition is the power of concentrating the expression of imagery so important to the poet. It is not enough that a new and delightful image be conceived: it must be painted by a process, which, in its minuteness as well as elaboration of touch, resembles the painting of a miniature on ivory. It is for reasons of the same kind, that the skilful variation of an image or thought already familiar, is often, if supported by adequate skill of expression, an effort that rewards the lyrical poet as richly as the presentation of a thought or image entirely new. Mr Glassford has invited attention very earnestly, especially in his notes on Della Casa, to the wonderful effect which is sometimes produced by this skilfully imaginative elaboration of a few simple materials. But for the similarity of subject with
a poem already given, we would have quoted in illustration Della Casa's sonnet to Sleep. An example, almost as good in point of diction and arrangement, and superior in force of thought, as well as in elevation of feeling, is the following Sonnet of his, with which we quit this pleasing volume. It is addressed to the poet's friend Marmitta, with whose anticipated fame he modestly contrasts his own supposed obscurity.
• Would that my soul were as alive, and heart
In every point as calm and free from ail,
Wasted by time, from hour to hour sball fail ;
Mine with the crowd, yours noted and apart,
Shall fall and fade! Oh, human sight! how slow
And dark, still fix'd upon the world and dust,
Oh, earthly bird ! so ready to adjust
ART. V.-1. Papers relative to the Drawing of Acts of Par
liament, and to the means of insuring the Uniformity thereof, in Language, in Form, in Arrangement, and in Matter. Prepared by ARTHUR SYMONDS. Presented to Parliament, by
command of Her Majesty, in 1838.
Composition, intended as an Introduction to the Drawing of
Gael, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn. 8vo. London : 1810.
Law. By George Coode of the Inner Temple. 8vo.
This is a large and important inquiry, and it would be pre
sumptuous to undertake the double duty of examining the existing defects in the structure of our statutes, and setting forth the details of the proper remedy, within the space that we can at present allot to it. In truth, we greatly doubt, whether, were we able to accomplish such a systematic exposition, we should be favoured with the continued attention of our readers. But, in a matter like this, the exposure of flagrant defects, arising not from abortive efforts to create a competent system, but springing up as the natural fruits of utter neglect, is half the victory of improvement gained. Showing, as we shall be able to do, that no uniform system has ever been adopted in this branch of the Public Service--but that it has been left to the uncontrolled management of unknown and irresponsible private persons,—differing in profession, in opinion, and in notions of the proper manner in which their duties ought to be performed-we shall prepare the reader to find, that the work so executed is unscientific, incongruous, and imperfect; and when he follows us through our general remarks, he will probably be more disposed than heretofore to attend to the vast practical importance of the subject, and the necessity of improvements.
There are three different parties to whose intelligence the Legislative Draftsman must address his labours—the Legislator, whose will he expresses ; the People, who are to derive from this expression the rule of their conduct; and the Judge, who is to decide, when it becomes a question, whether or not the law has been obeyed. It is not the intention of the legislator that constitutes the law, but the words in which he has permitted that intention to be expressed. His views and designs cannot be