Page images


" per via montana, ò per silvestra,
L'orme sequi di fier leone, e d'orso;
Segui le guerre, e'n quelle, e fra le selue
Fera à gli huomini parue, huomo à le belue.
Through forests wilde, and unfrequented land,

To chase the lion, boare, or rugged bear;
The satyres rough, the fawnes and fairies wilde
She chased oft, oft took, and oft beguilde.
Then through the wildest woods, and on mountaines,

Chase to the lions fierce and beares she gave,
The warre ensewes in which, and in forreasts,
Men, savage her, man, her deeme savage beasts.”


. It is evident that Fairefax was unable to make any sense of the original, and was consequently compelled to complete the stanza with an idea of his own. Can it be possible that he imagined he was translating the word fera by fairy?

We have been induced to notice this early translation of one of Italy's most brilliant productions, as our honest printer expresses it in his preface," for the delight and benefit of those gentlemen, that love that most lively language," and from a conviction that the treasures and sweets of Italian literature were never better appreciated than at the present day. The very name of that delicious land teems with a thousand rich associations. To the patriot it is a field of old and unperishing glory, “ for there were deeds of valour done,” which are still present to the spirit. To the enthusiast of nature it is the very Eden of his hopes, and he acknowledges how justly the appellation is applied, while his eye wanders over the Campagna Felice. To the scholar, Italy is a world of treasures, richer than all the East ever poured forth, but in no heart is the name echoed with more fondness than in that of the poet. To him it recalls a thousand lofty names, a thousand fascinating images of beauty and power; it is linked to his spirit by the tenderest and the finest associations. From its cradle that country has been a land of romance; not the romance of fiction, but of a high and noble reality. Within its boundaries man has suffered almost all the vicissitudes of which his nature is capable—has exhibited the proudest and the meanest attributes of his beingsavage and uncultivated, then civilized and polished—then sinking from the height of luxury into the lowest abyss of vice-a tiller of the earth-a soldier-a citizen-a tyrant and a slaverude and unlettered—then rivalling the most polished in knowledge and in arts—the vanquisher of the earth, then the victim of a barbaric invader-the prey of superstition, and the

vassal of petty despots. Amid these numberless changes Italy has ever held the seed of noble action and high thoughts ; and let us hope with Sismondi that a time may yet come, when she shall assume amongst the nations her own pre-eminent station.

Amongst so many causes of just pride, perhaps, the highest boast of this favoured land is, that she has been the birth-place of such men as Dante, and Petrarcha, and Tasso; and it is in our opinion one of the surest tests of the correctness and truth of public taste at the present day, that these old poets of Italy, and the worthy imitators of them in our own country, have regained that place in the estimation of our scholars and poets, which they seemed to be in danger of losing for ever. Notwithstanding the occasional concetti in which even the earliest of the Italian poets indulged, they uniformly addressed themselves to the heart; to rouse its sympathies and its passions was their great object. But while they thus attempted to excite the interest and the admiration of their votaries, beneath this garb of beauty and ornament was generally concealed some mystic allegory intended to enlighten and improve ; and in tales of war and fables of love there were found a symbol and a moral. Even in this warlike story, Tasso, it is said, intended to delineate a great moral picture—a representation of the most powerful passions of our being—searching into our human nature with the deep eye of the philosopher, and adorning his wisdom with the rich fascination of the poet. Our own Spenser has executed a similar attempt more palpably, and it must be acknowledged to be a difficult task to trace this scheme of Tasso's through the whole progress of his Epic. But why should the mind be perplexed with these subtle imaginations, when it can delight itself so much more truly with the spirit, the splendour, and the deliciousness of his exquisite poetry? It may indeed be questionable, whether any such occult wisdom is intended to be enforced in this noble poem, especially as the style of thinking observable in Tasso's works, is so much more simple and natural than in many others of the great Italian authors.-Certainly as a pastoral poet he displays much fewer involutions of sentiment and expression than many of his celebrated countrymen, and his Epic, when compared with the works of Dante and Ariosto, possesses very little of what may be called the extravagance of poetry.

We have said that Italy was a romantic land; but amidst all her varying history, she presents few incidents more romantic than those which marked the life of Tasso, who perished the victim of too lofty an imagination and too proud a love, but with whose fortunes and fate nations have since sympathised. Never was there a prouder instance than this of the conquering


[ocr errors]

energy of a poet's power. The poet, the lover, and the scholarall who have sympathy with sweetest imaginations-with the purest love and the bitterest misfortunes, see nothing in Ferrara but the place of his captivity,

“ Who pour’d his spirit over Palestine,” and who suffered pains and punishment for raising his eye and his heart to that beauty which has only found immortality in his despised affection.

“But Thou—when all that birth and beauty throws
Of magic round thee is extinct-shalt have
One half the laurel that o'ershades my grave.
No power in death can tear our names apart,
As none in life can rend thee from my heart.
Yes, Leonora ! it shall be our fate

To be entwin'd for ever-but too late.” “ Sad and wondrous pitiful” as the fortunes of Tasso were, if the regretful sympathies and praise of after years might tend to counterbalance them, then, indeed, his life might almost be an object of envy.“ As misfortune,” says Lord Byron, “ has a greater interest for posterity and little or none for the contemporary, the cell where Tasso was confined in the Hospital of St. Anna attracts a more fixed attention than the residence or the monument of Ariosto—at least it had this effect on me." * A votary like the author of Childe Harold was well worthy to visit such a shrine.-Truly it had been a spectacle, by which the highest associations might have been excited, to have beheld him at bis meditations—but they are embodied in his Lament, and we ought not to complain.

Art. IV. The Holy State and Profane State, by Thomas Ful

ler, B. D. and Prebendary of Sarum. The fourth Edition, London 1663. pp. 511, with Portraits.

If ever there was an amusing writer in this world, the facetious Thomas Fuller was one.—There was in him a combination of those qualities which minister to our entertainment, such as few have ever possessed in an equal degree. He was, first of all, a man of extensive and multifarious reading; of great and digested knowledge, which an extraordinary retentiveness of memory preserved ever ready for use, and considerable accuracy of judgment enabled him successfully to apply. He was also, if

we may use the term, a very great anecdote-monger; an indefatigable collector of the traditionary stories related of eminent characters, to gather which, his biographers inform us, he would listen contentedly for hours to the garrulity of the aged country people whom he encountered in his progresses with the king's army. With such plenitude and diversity of information, he had an inexhaustible fund for the purposes of illustration, and this he knew well how to turn to the best advantage. Unlike his tasteless contemporaries, he did not bring forth or display his erudition on unnecessary occasions, or pile extract on extract, and cento on cento, with industry as misapplied as it was disgusting.–With Fuller, a quotation always tells : learning with him was considered as a sort of mortar to strengthen, interlace, and support his own intellectual speculations, to fill up the interstices of argument, and conjoin and knit together the corresponding masses of thought; not as a sort of plaster to be superinduced over the original products of his mind, till their character and peculiarities were lost amid the integuments which enveloped them. So well does he vary his treasures of memory and observation, so judiciously does he interweave his anecdotes, quotations, and remarks, that it is impossible to conceive a more delightful chequer-work of acute thought and apposite illustration, of original and extracted sentiment, than is presented in his works. As a story-teller, he was most consummately felicitous. The relation which we have seen for the hundredth time, when introduced in his productions, assumes all the freshness of novelty, and comes out of his hands instinct with fresh life and glowing with vitality and spirit. The stalest jest, the most hacknied circumstance, the repetition of which by another would only provoke our nausea, when adopted by him, receives a redintegration of essence not less miraculous than the conversion of dry bones into living beings—Wherever we dip in his works we are certain to meet with some narrated incident or apothegm to detain us, and we are insensibly led on from anecdote to anecdote, and from witticism to witticism, without the power to put the book upon the shelf again. How delightful must have been the conversation of Fuller, varied as it was with exuberance of knowledge, enlivened with gossiping, chastened by good sense, and sparkling with epigrammatical sharpness of wit, decorated with all its native fantastical embroidery of humorous quaintness. We verily declare for ourselves, that if we had the power of resuscitating an individual from the dead to enjoy the pleasure of his conversation, we do not know any one on whom our choice would sooner fall than Fuller.

Of human life and manners through all their varieties, he was also a most sagacious and acute observer, and the quantity of vigorous and just observation, in this department of inquiry

alone, contained in his works, it is hardly possible to calculate with correctness or appreciate with justice. He united the cool penetration of the philosophical speculatist, with the less erring because less refined contemplation of the practical experimentalist in the ways of man. He was learned, yet his learning did not take away his perspicuity in judging of the modes of every-day existence; he was indefatigable in literature, yet amidst his pursuits he found leisure to look into life with the acuteness of a Rochefoucault: he was addicted to meditation, yet he never was blinded to the observation of things without, while occupied with the abstractions within. More profundity of remark, more accuracy of discernment, more justness of perception, than this topic always produces from his pen, it would be difficult elsewhere to find. Few scholars excelled more in sound and practical good sense, and consequently very few ever coined maxims of more irresistible and incontrovertible wisdom. To him the whole complete machinery, which composes the great work of existence, in all its parts, springs, and dependencies lay exposed, and no subtlety in its regulations could deceive his intuitive quickness, no artificial intermingling of its interest could obscure his unerring penetration. But great as all these his endowments were, his qualifications of authorship, it is not perhaps to any of them, that our chief satisfaction in reading the works of Fuller can justly be attributed. Others, many others, have doubtless possessed them in an equal if not in a superior degree, and the attractions of our author carry a peculiar individuality about them, which no other can share or divide with him. These particular attractions which he alone monopolised, are doubtless the results of his unrivalled facetiousness and quaintness. The praises of wisdom and learning he must ever divide with countless multitudes, and in the pages of multitudes of writers may equal proofs of that learning and wisdom be met with. But for the facetiousness which breaks forth on all themes and subjects, and which hides itself but to burst forth again, like the river Arethusa, in all the creamy effervescence of sparkling frothiness—which throws over his gravest disquisitions an air of irresistible jocularity, and over his most solemn adjurations an appearance of lurking and irrepressible slyness, - which diffuses over the obscure duskiness of church history a quaint oiliness of conceit, and enriches even geographical barrenness by its everlasting fecundity of wit;-for the hearty and chuckling fullness of mirth, which catches at a joke as a boy does at a butterfly, and impresses every possible play of words of necessity into its service,- for the sedulous and resolute quest after humour which no consideration could divert or stop, and which would at any time spoil a good argument, or burlesque a serious observation to hitch in an epigram, good, bad, or indifferent-where shall we search but in the pages of the inimitable, the

« PreviousContinue »