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Of the original composition of the work, our author says:“And yee schulle undirstonde that I have put this boke out of Latyn into Frensche, and translated it agen out of Frensche into Englyssche, that every man of my nacioun may undirstonde it.” The French translation, printed at Lyons (without date) by Barnabe Chaussart, of which we have already given a specimen, is not an uncommon book, though very curious, particularly on account of the strange cuts by which it is embellished. At the end are the following lines; from which it appears as if, even in his own time, all our author's narrations were not received as Gospel, notwithstanding the testimony of the Pope and his Cardinals.
“Son me donne peu de louange
In Italian there are several editions, under various titles : the earliest, we believe, is that of Milan, 1480. A German translation, by Otto von Demeringen, appeared in 1483, and a subsequent imperfect version was published in 1609.
In most of these editions the author has been grievously misused, particularly in the orthography of the names of places; and we should much rejoice to see the correction of the text, and the illustration of his geography and narrative, fall into as able hands as the work of his predecessor, Marco Polo. The literature of the middle ages has scarcely a more entertaining and interesting subject; and to an Englishman it is doubly valuable, as establishing the title of his country to claim as its own the first example of the liberal and independent gentleman, travelling over the world in the disinterested pursuit of knowledge; unsullied in his reputation; honored and respected wherever he went for his talents and personal accomplishments; and, (in the words of the faithful panegyric inscribed on his tomb)
“Moribus, ingenio, candore & sanguine clarus.”
Art. VI.-Libro chiamato La Spagna. Qual tratta gli gran
fatti et le mirabil battaglie che fece il magnanimo Re Carlo Magno nelle parti della Spagna. Nouamente stampato, & con diligentia ricorretto. In Venetia, appresso Agostin Zoppini & Nepoti. 1599. 8vo.
We have selected a very curious and a very interesting work for the commencement of a series of articles, which we hope, from time to time, to continue, on Italian Literature, and especially on the early Italian Romances.
From the title, it appears, that it relates to the enterprize of Charlemaine and his Paladins against the Moors in Spain; and our readers may judge of the value and rarity of the work, when we state, that it is, in all probability, the earliest Italian poem on that subject, preceding, not merely Ariosto, but Boiardo and Pulci, and all the many anonymous productions of the close of the fifteenth, and of the opening of the sixteenth centuries. * The edition we have used is dated as late as 1599, and is considered one of the best ; but all are of most rare occurrence, both in this country and on the continent. Brunet, the French bibliographer, is decidedly of opinion, that it was first printed before 1500; while Blankenburg, in his “ Zusatze zu I. G. Sultzer’s Allgemeiner Theorie der Schönen Künste," says, that it was first published at Milan, in 1518; and afterwards at Venice in 1568 and 1610; its earliest title being, “ Questa si e la Spagna historiata. Incommincia el libro volgare dicto la Spagna in quarante cantare diviso.” We have found no precise notice of it by Tiraboschi, Guingené, or Sismondi. We mention these particulars, not because they are important in any point of view, but merely to shew the rarity of the production.
Blankenburg places it among anonymous pieces; but the name of the author, Sostegno di Zinabi of Florence, is given in the last stanza of the poem : regarding him, or his other works, we have been able to discover no particulars. This is the more to be regretted, as his romance of “ La Spagna” is a poem of much invention, and of great poetical merit, even independently of the allowances that ought to be made for the age in which it
* It is supposed to have preceded even the following, printed at Venice as early as 1476:-“ Altobello e Re Troiano suo Fratello, Histor: nella qual se leze li gran facti di Carlo Magno et di Orlando suo Nipote.”
was written. The style throughout is simple and unaffected, without inflation, yet, in the descriptions and in many of the speeches, vigorous and characteristic. In our translations, we have endeavoured to give correctly the spirit and energy of the original, in that style of English poetry which best becomes such a romantic subject, and which, of late years, by the study of our elder writers, has been rendered more familiar. The original is in the octave rhime of Boiardo, Ariosto, Tasso, &c., and we have adopted the same construction.
It was our intention to have introduced the poem by some historical details and remarks upon romances, and especially upon those of Italy; but we find that our quotations of the more important and interesting passages have unavoidably run to so great a length, that we have been obliged to omit and postpone this part of the subject. We shall, therefore, proceed to the production itself without more delay.
Every body knows that Boiardo and Ariosto followed commonly the Chronicle of Archbishop Turpin, and both repeatedly make their acknowledgments to him :
“ Turpin lo scrive, e per vero l'accerta
Boiardo, 0. I. I. 1. c. 13.
But Sostegno di Zinabi no where mentions such a Chronicle ; and, indeed, it would be very singular if he did, for, according to him, the valiant Archbishop falls with the Paladins at Roncesvalles. There can be little question, however, that he resorted to some authority of the kind, * although he varies almost all the principal incidents of Turpin. Sismondi (Litt. du Midi, I. 289) says, that Turpin's Chronicle is not to be considered a romance of chivalry, because “il y faudrait des femmes et de l'amour, et jamais il n'y est question ni des unes ni de l'autre:” the poem before us, according to this definition, is a romance of chivalry, for love and women are both introduced: indeed the war against Spain is commenced by the Emperor Charlemaine, in consequence of the marriage of Orlando with Alda, or Aldabella, the sister of Oliver ; but of this we shall speak again preseptly.
One great internal proof of the antiquity of the production is to be found at the commencement of the cantos: they all begin, without an exception, by an address, or a sort of dedi
* He now and then alludes to an author as furnishing him with some particulars; but he does not give his name.
cation, to God, to the Saviour, or to the Virgin Mary, sometimes in two, but commonly in one stanza : the following may be taken as an example :
“ Oh blessed Mary, Virgin glorious pure,
Of wretched sinners the repose and trust,
Mother of Jesus, humble as the dust,
That I may tell in seemly order just
There are also often introduced lines to the audience, intreating their patience or attention at particular parts of the narrative:
“ Signori e bona gente ch'a udire,” &c.
these, however, are generally little needed, for the interest is well sustained through the whole forty cantos, (of about fifty stanzas each), of which the production consists.
The Emperor Charles, having determined on a war against the Moors of Spain, summons his peers and allies to Paris on Christmas day; and they accordingly assemble from all quarters :
“ Charles, when his valiant peers and knights he saw,
Thus inly said, “Well may I gratulate
To all who own the faith the Pagans hate !
And as companions on my fortunes wait.'
• Well know you, peers, and have good cause to know,
That Christendom beneath my sway is brought:
Deeply and often, therefore, have I thought
I have no kinsman, save Orlando : nought
“I promis'd, when he married Alda late,
That she with Spain's brave kingdom should be crown'd;
Therefore, my noble peers, without debate,
(More bold and puissant than on earth are found,)
Let all your forces with my own be bound;
Salomon of Britain, Gan of Pontiers, Oliver of Vienna, Ogier le Danois, and the rest, all swear to lend their utmost aid in the enterprise. Orlando is then despatched to Rome, where he obtains the blessing of his holiness the Pope, and returns with the style of Champion of the Church. In the mean time Marsilio, Moorish King of Spain, who holds his court at Saragossa, collects forces from Persia, Alexandria, Syria, and Africa, to resist the invasion of the Christians. Among the allies of Charlemaine, we find the King of Scotland, the son of the King of England, and Richard, Duke of Normandy, with many more, besides his own twelve Paladins. The description of their arrival, with their armed powers, at Paris, is striking and poetical.
“ I have nor skill nor language to relate
Ev'ry brave nation's rich accoutrement,
A sight that wond’ring eyes might well content:
Curvetting proudly 'neath their ornament;
High overhead were ensigns broad display'd
Of lordly barons, dukes, and peers of fame,
Spread o'er the sunny host to court that came.
And more befits that now my song I frame,
His army sits down before Lazera, a strong city of Navarre. Here we are introduced to the Pagan hero, Ferrau, who afterwards made so conspicuous a figure in Boiardo and Ariosto. He resolves to challenge Orlando to single combat, and his fond mother endeavours in vain to dissuade him. Charles orders Astolfo to meet him ; but he being overthrown, and led prisoner into Lazera, Danois goes out to avenge his fate : he is also overcome, as well as Walter Montlion, Oliver, Otto, Gan, and seve