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wit, which, like Job's sword, “glittereih in bitterness," it has seldom been exercised for the gratification of personal feelings. And if the “drizzling shower” of the other, bore no proportion to Dante's “rattling storm of arrows barbed with fire,” it furnished no evidence of the moral tempest which convulsed the mind of that ill-fated genius. There are two features in Scott's character, for which we find it chifficult to discover corresponding traits in the Italian Bard. We consider the former, not only as one of the sweetest lyrical writers of the age, but also, as decidedly the first dramatist. To make any particular reference to the proofs of his lyrical talents, we consider superfluous, they rest upon the tongues and hearts of all his readers. With respect to his dramatic talent, it is true that we are not to look for their developement in the legitimate and recognized forms of the drama. They have not been submitted to the ordeal of the unities, nor have they been invested with the paraphernalia of theatric pomp, but the true spirit of the drama is breathing through every page of his works, and his delineations of human character, have been carried through every conceivable variety of life and situation, with Shaksperian fidelity. In the pages of the Orlando we have scenes of splendid pantomime, but we look in vain among those ideal persouages, and beautiful caricatures, for the sobriety of the drama, or the features of human life. Ariosto did certainly write some lyrical pieces, but his muse was at best but a charming gossip, and those effusion (with few exceptions) bear no proportion to the character of his narrative poetry. His canzoni occupy only a subordinate rank in the lyrical productions of his own country, and are generally esteemed inferior to those of later writers, Alessandro, Guidi, Filicaja, Čeliomagno, Testi, Bettenelli, and many more.
In point of morality the merits of both are rather of a negative than of a positive character. Such as they are however, the inequality is very striking. Scott not only dissipated the gossamer fabric of sentimentality, with a single breath, and erected in its place the splendid and substantial structure of good taste and good sense, but he has also evinced a singular. delicacy, in the choice of his materials. This however must form the limits of our praise. Entertainment appears to be the grand object of all his works, and he has been fearful of hazarding the interest of his story, by the illustration of any religious or philosophic truth. The consequence is that after laying down any of his works, we seldom find any moral impression on the mind. We are delighted, but not instructed. There is a great deal of the dulce but very little of the utile. This we regret the more as the grace and beauty with which the most homely truisms come from his pen, in his early works, induce us to believe that he possesses all 'the qualifications of a delightful moralist. But if his merits in this point are of a negative, his demerits are of a positive character. In some of his poems and novels he has thrown his virtuous characters completely into the shade, and exhibited his villians in the boldest relief. This occurs in Marmion and Kenilworth, and a few more. In the first of these the hero combines in his character every vice, which is capable of degrading and debasing the human form, unredeemed by a single trait of that sublime ruffianism which distinguishes Byron's demidemons.
Whatever may be the merits of Ariosto's allegory, they are more than counterbalanced by the extreme indelicacy and voluptuousness of some of his descriptions. His peceancy in this way amounts to a perfect nuisance, and renders his work totally unadapted for general circulation,
without the previous erasure of the obnoxious passages. With all his faults as a translator, we cannot forbear expressing our gratitude to poor Hoole for not introducing these passages to the English public, and we cannot help regretting that a late translation, of deservedly high character, did not avail himself of the example. We are not at all inclined to acquit Ariosto on the precedent of Boccaccio, and some of his immediate predecessors. Neither do we feel inclined to join in the Teremiad which has been pronounced on the supposed injury, which the memory of the latter has suffered from a portion of his countrymen. We are neither so far regenerated by the modern theophilanthrophy, as to sacrifice the interests of truth and virtue to a maukish sentimentality, nor so superstitiously philosophical, as to imagine that at the present time we can inflict any real injury on the individual himself, by circumscribing as much as possible the evil tendency of his works. The main argument on which the admirers of Boccaccio have rested their defence, is grounded on the licentiousness of the age in which he wrote, and the extraordinary talents of the writer himself. The prevailing corruption of manners, they say, not only furnished him with the original, from which he copied and priviledged the warmth of his colouring, but they further intimate that the splendour of his genius, is sufficient to redeem the errors of his morality. We are fully prepared to agree to the imputed relaxation of morals, in the fourteenth century, but if it be a question of utility into which we think it must be resolved, we would simply ask whether it be likely that the morals: of one generation can be improved, by exaggerated pictures of the guilt and depravity of a preceeding and more wicked one.
And as to the powers of the writer they only appear to us to give a darker character to his delinquency. Talent in our estimation derives all its value from the nature and extent of the services which it renders to the community, for in the abstract it may be said to resemble that South American plant, which is capable of affording either a deadly poison, or a useful nourishment. That Boccaccio was highly endowed we readily admit, but it is because he prostituted the heavenly gift, and like the Babylonian of old, turned the consecrated chalice of genius into a vase of impure liquor, that we refuse him the homage which we cheerfully yield, to the memory of the most unlettered man whose name is embalmed by the recollections of worth and benevolence. If we appear somewhat fastidious as to the moral qualities of those works, it arises from the anxiety we feel for the welfare of that class of readers, who are the warmest admirers of this species of composition, and who of all others are the least able to resist its influence, when the tendeney is pernicious. We acknowledge that we are inclined to watch with jealous vigilance, over the opening mind of youth, and to cherish its affections, with whatever is pure and invigorating in religion. Even in after life, when the heart becomes apparently barren and withered up, from the infuence of the passions, how often will a passing breath of memory, be sufficient to renew the dormant thoughts and feelings of the past, and like the breeze that caused the spices of Libanus to flow, to revive these cherished recollections, in all their original fragrance. But when the fountain is polluted at its source, when the waters loose their sweetness, and transparency, in the very well spring,—what art, what power, will be sufficient to give brightness and serenity, to the current of future life?
In originality, Scott has certainly the advantage. Ariosto was a per: fect Moravian in his literary tenets; when he saw a good thing with his
neighbour, he considered himself fully entitled to partake of it. Virgil, Ovid, Catullus and Bogardo cum multis aliis were tributary to him.
But the great features of his poetical character are so original, that these borrowed traits detract very little from its merit. Although we do not place the most implicit reliance on the deep research, and supernatural discernment of his commentators, (one of whom informs us that à spider is a little animal that makes a net!) We are willing to believe that the majority of his episodes, were intended as the vehicles of religious truths, and that some of his prominent characters were designed as emblematical. We think that Mr. Roscoe has gone too far, in giving Lorenzo de Medici the credit of having first embodied those supematural beings, and having thereby formed a new creation, unknown to the poetical world of the ancients. Surely Dante's striking personifications should not have been forgotten, nor those of two preceeding writers Brunetto Latini and Alphonso of Castile. Ariosto's allegorical figures possess much beauty in general, his comparison of Fraud to a Gabriel saying ave, we consider very fine. Scott, like all other great writers, has been also a great imitator, Richardson, Shakspeare and Miss Edgeworth appear to form his chief models, and he has been indebted to the Spanish and Italian novels, for some of his subordinate characters; but it is certainly froin nature's book that he drew his principal imitations. Ariosto's style is very peculiar. In point of vigour it is a happy medium between the condensed energy of Dante and the exquisite delicacy of Petrarch. If the flow of bis sentences does not possess the pensive charm of Tasso's cadences, they do not fall upon the ear by a tedious uniformity, and the careless naiveié of their construction is admirably adapted for a work so diversified in matter as the Furioso. Scott's style appears very similar to Ariosto's, but it is in general more lax and focble.
The personal characters of both, furnish also some correspondent traits. There has been nothing poetical or romantic in the private conduct of of either. Both appear to liave been imbued with a salutary reverence for the powers that be, and with all their flights and raptures, formed the most rational notions about the good things of this lower world. Scott however has not committed himself to the same extent as Ariosto. . We could wish indeed for the honor of the poetical character, that the splendid slime with which this grovelling man of genius bedaubed his noble Patron, were expunged from the work. Even in his flight to the moon, his recollections of this miserable earth of ours were most vivid, and it is truly edefying, to read his statement of the rewards and honours to which the rhyming fraternity were entitled. Compared with his businesslike exposition, the Connaught man's broad hint was a mere inuendo. We regret that we cannot sympathise with biographer on the disappointments which this gifted parasite was doomed to experience.
In the general survey of their poctical merits, we find their characteristic traits become more prominent. Ariosto addresses himself to the imagination, Scott appeals to the heart. The one binds us to him “ with chains of gold inlaid with silver," the other secks no other ties than our sympathies and our affections, The one excites-stimulates—astonishes-overwhelms: the other wins—subdues-captivates and overpowers. Ariosto elevates us to a planet filled with flowers and sunshine, surrounded with an odorous atmosphere, and peopled only by the brave and the beautiful. Scott introduccs us to a world somewhat more highly illuminated than our own, but subject to the same vicissitudes, and exhibiting the same variety in its social orders as this earthly sphere. Ariosto waives the wand of Atlantes and overwhelms us with a crowd of dazzling phantasies-Scott holds the divining rod in his hand, and discovers the sweetest springs of poetry in the most barren regions. The one appears frequently to forget this perishable earth in his raptures—the other is matter of fact in his most exalted mos ments, and reminds us of the spirit of Milton's Heaven, whose eyes were downward bent on the golden pavement. Ariosto appears like one who stole from the faëry land-his brow is crowned with “an odorous chaplet of summer buds," and his garments are dripping with dew and honey. He appears to have reposed on beds of wild thyme and violets, over-canopied “ with moss-roses and luscious woodbine”—to have fed only on “dew berries and apricots,” and like the delicate Ariel, he is capable of assuming any shape. Scott's garland is also interwoven with wild flowers, and his magic robes are covered with strange figures and devices, but he lives and moves and has his being amongst ourselves.
Scott's spell operates as powerfully as Prospero's; we must submit to the illusion until the enchanter himself is pleased to remove it. Ariosto, on the contrary, can never deceive us by his incantations, but then his visions are so pleasant, that like Caliban, when we wake “we cry to dream again.” The one wraps us in a mist and surrounds us with supernatural forms and figures, whilst the other pours such brilliant lights on the most commonplace objects, as to render them perfectly new and delightful to the sight-Ariosto's eyes are turned upwards in the contemplation of visionary things—Scott's are always downwards bent upon the busy spectacle of life, and he is continually perusing the counterances of mankind. The one looked at nature through a prism, and represented her in artificial lights; the other beheld her with the naked eye, and drew her in her proper form and colours. “ The dark backward” of the chivalrous eral was the golden age of Ariosto, and he weeps over the progress of society, as if it were a barbarous innovation, but Scott was satisfied to contemplate that picturesque period in perspective, and to describe it as the poetry of history. There is a buoyant elasticity in all Ariosto's motions, from the moment he leaves the goal, he never once falters,-never casts a glance behind; but Scott not only tires, but has actually measured the dust on more than one occasion, but then, like the giant of antiquity, he has arisen refreshed and invigorated from his prostrations. Scott conducts us in a straight forward line, and we see our destination before our. journey is half finished, but Ariosto's genius possesses all the magical properties of the Norman herb, and keeps us moving in concentric circles round a certain point, when we imagine we are proceeding on our journey. The one struts before us with the mask and buskin, in all the artificial dignity of the Greek tragedian,-but we have the changing brow, the sparkling eye, and the trembling lip of the other, pourtraying the feelings and the passions in their natural warmth and expression. Ariosto's lyre seems to possess the power of Oberon's horn, and to keep us in a state of mental saltation, in a delightful whirligig of the fancy. Scott's harp does not produce such a high degree of excitation,but our bosoms echo every note of his lay. Ariosto dipped his pen in the tints of the rainbow, and wrote his poem on the leaves of the amarinth ; but Scott, like the painter of old, contemplated human nature in its state of trial and suffering, and stamped the image on the fleshy tablet of the heart. The one wheels and soars in the horizon, like the bird of some tropic isle, whose starry plumage is every moment brightening and shading into the softest lights and the most brilliant dyes, but whose strange notes possess no charms for us; the other hovers over our heads in a series of graceful circles, and although his flight is less bold, and his plumage less magnificient, he keeps our hearts fruttering within us, by a flow of exqnisite melody
I bade the Mases show to me