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And of French minstrels.
Whilst they were at dinner at Tours,
“ There entred upon us three uncouth fellowes, with hats on their heads like covered dishes; as soon as ever I saw them, I cast one eye upon my cloak and the other on my sword, as not knowing what use I might have of my steele to maintain my cloath. There was a great talk at that time of Mr. Soubise's being in armes, and I much feared that these might be some straglers of his army; and this I suspected by their countenances, which were very thievish and full of insolence. But when I had made a survey of their apparell I quickly altered that opinion, and accounted them as the excrement of the next prison; deceived alike in both my jealousies, for these pretty parcels of man's flesh were neither better nor worse, but even arrant fidlers, and such which in England we should not hold worthy of the whipping-post. Our leaves not being asked, and no reverence on their parts performed, they abused our eares with a harsh lesson; and as if that had not been punishment enough unto us, they must needs adde unto it one of their songs; by that little French which I had gathered, and the simpering of a fille de joie of Paris who came along with us, I perceived it was bawdy, and to say truth, more than patiently could be endured by any but a Frenchman; but quid facerem, what should I doe but endure the misery, for I had not language enough to call them rogues handsomely, and the villaines were inferiour to a beating, and, indeed, not worthy of mine or any honest man's anger.
Præda canum lepus est, vastos non implet hiatus
Nec gaudet tenui sanguine tanta sitis. “ They were a knot of rascalls so infinitely below the severity of a statute, that they would have discredited the state, and to have hanged them had been to hazard the reputation of the gallows. In a yeare you would hardly finde out some vengeance for them, which they would not injure in the suffering; unlesse it be not to hearken to their ribaldry, which is one of their greatest torments. To proceed, after their song ended, one of the company (the master of them it should seem) draweth a dish out of his pocket and layeth it before us, into which we were to cast our benevolence. Custom hath allowed them a sol, for each man at the table; they expect no more, and will take no less; no large summe, and yet I assure you, richly worth the musick, which was meerly French, that is, lascivious in the composure; and French, also, that is, unskilfully handled in the playing."
The following description of French travelling is a very pleasant piece of exaggeration, and will remind more modern visitors of the accommodation they themselves have experienced in France.
“ July the last we took post-horse for Boulogne, if, at least, we may call those post-horses which we rode on : as lean they were as Envie is in the Poet: Macies in corpora tota, being most true of them. Neither were they onely lean enough to have their ribs numbered, but the very spur-gals had made such casements through their skins, that it had been no great difficulty to have surveyed their entrails. A strange kind of cattel in mine opinion, and such as had neither flesh on their bones, nor skin on their flesh, nor hair on their skin. Sure I am, they were not so lusty as the Horses of the Sun in Ovid : neither could we say of them, fiammiferis implent hinnitibus auras: all the neighing we could hear from the proudest of them was onely an old dry cough, which I'le assure you did much comfort me, for by that noise I first learned there was life in them. Upon such anatomies of horses, or to speak more properly, upon such several heaps of bones, were I and my company mounted ; and when we expected, however they seemed outwardly, to see somewhat of the post in them, my beast began to move after an alderman's pace, or like Envie in Ovid:
Surgit humi pigre, passuque incedet inerti. Out of this gravity no perswasion could work them; the dull jades being grown insensible of the spur; and to hearten them with wands would in short time have distressed the country. Now was the cart of Diepe thought a speedy conveyance, and those that had the happiness of a waggon were esteemed too blessed, yea, though it came with the hazard of the old woman and the wenches. If good nature, or a sight of their journeys, ever did chance to put any of them into a pace like a gallop, we were sure to have them tire in the middle way, and so the remainder of the stage was to be measured with our own feet: being weary of this trade, I made bold to dismount the postilion, and ascended the trunk horse, where I sate in such magnificent posture, that the best carrier in Paris might have envied my felicity: behind me I had a good large trunk and a portmanteau, before me a bundle of cloaks and a parcel of books. Sure I was, that if my stirrups could poize me equally on both sides, that I could not likely fall backwards nor forwards. Thus preferred I encouraged my companions, who cast many an envious eye upon my prosperity: and certainly there was not any of them who might not more justly have said of me, Tu as un meilleur temps que le pape, than poor Lazarillo's master did, when he allowed him an onion for four dayes. This circumstance I confess might have well been omitted, had I not example for it. Philip de Commines, in the midst of his grave and serious relation of the battel of Mont l'Hierrie, hath a note much about this nature, which gave me encouragement, which is, that himself had an old horse half tired (and this was just my case) who by chance thrust his head into a pail of wine, and drunk it off, which made him lustier and friskier that day than ever before; but in that his horse had better luck than I had."
Art. III. Godfrey of Bulloigne, or the Recouerie of Hierusalem.
An Heroicall poeme written in Italian by Seig. Torquato Tasso, and translated into English by R. C. Esquire : and now the first part containing fiue cantos imprinted in both languages. London, Imprinted by John Winden, for Christopher Hunt of Exceter. 1594.
“Our English men Italianated,” says old Ascham,“ have in more reverence the Triumph of Petrarche than the Genesis of Moyses,--they make more accompt of Tullie's Offices than the story of the Bible.” The patriotic pedagogue was indignant at beholding the genius of his own country succumbing to the wits of Italy; and, certainly, he for one did all in his power to uphold the native literature of England. At the period when Ascham wrote, the custom of aping every thing Italian had risen to its highest pitch. The elite of fashionable society at the present day are not half so much attached to Parisian accomplishments as the polished gentleman of Elizabeth's reign was to the finish of Italian manners. The celebrated satirist, Tom Nash, reproaches his enemy, poor Gabriel Harvey (whom, to his infinite chagrin, he had dignified with the title of Gabriellissime Gabriel,) with “ making no bones of taking the wall of Sir Philip Sidney, in his black Venetian velvet;" and he tells him “ to fetch him two penny-worths of Tuscanism, quite renouncing his natural English accents and gestures-wresting himself wholly to the Italian punctilios-painting himself like a courtezan, till the Queen declared he looked something like an Italian.” When the manners and taste of Italy were thus so greatly in vogue, it was impossible but that the literature of that country should also become fashionable. The introduction of Italian learning, however, may be traced to an earlier period. In the reign of Henry VIII. the unfortunate Earl of Surrey, the finished pattern of chivalric accomplishments, had done much towards rendering the study of Italian letters popular. Even at the earliest period of our English literature, it cannot be questioned that our authors were much indebted to those great revivers of learning, who were the first to spread the rays of knowledge over the modern world. Chaucer and his cotemporaries borrowed largely from these valuable stores; but their communication with the authors of Italy does not appear to have been direct, and they most probably became acquainted with them through the medium of French translations. At that period, as at present, a knowledge of the French language was an uni
versal and most requisite accomplishment*; and it is remarkable that the names of most of the early Italian scholars have passed into our language with the curtailment of French pronunciationt; while the names of less celebrated men, which have been introduced into our literature at a later period, have suffered no such diminution of syllables or letters. The influence of this foreign imitation is observable in our earliest authors, and the obligations of Chaucer to his cotemporary and model Boccaccio have never been disputed, though in the opinion of a great critic, the former“ won the race at disadvantage.” “Chaucer has refined on Boccace, and has mended the stories which he has borrowed, in his way of telling, though prose allows more liberty of thought, and the expression is more easy when unconfined by numbers.”—Dryden.
Thus early were the writers of Italy introduced to the notice of our ancestors; but though by these means a general acquaintance was gained with their sentiments, the individual character of their compositions still remained unknown. The facetiousness, the jokes, nay the humour of Boccaccio were transferred into the Canterbury tales, but while we peruse them it is not the Florentine but Chaucer that we are reading. In the same manner the Sonnets of the Earl of Surrey are for the most part imitations of those of Petrarch, but yet they serve to convey a very inadequate idea of the merit and beauty of their prototypes. For a considerable time, however, our countrymen were contented with tasting the sweets of Italian song, by the medium
* This was a necessary consequence of the Norman government. The following passage from the Polychronicon of Higden, translated by Trevisa, may serve to shew the extent of this practice : “ Also gentil menne's children beth y taugt for to speke Frensche from the tyme that thei beth rokked in her cradel, and kunneth speke and playe with a childe's brooche; and uplondish men woll likne hem self to gentil men, and fondeth with grete bisynesse for to speke Frensche, for to be more ytold of;" and Trevisa himself says, “ In alle the gramer scoles of Englonde children leveth Frensch," though at the time he wrote, the custom was beginning in some instances to be discontinued—“ also gentil men haveth now, mych yleft for to teche ther children Frensch.”
In Chaucer, we find the Prioress Eglantine an accomplished speaker of French, though not with Parisian purity.
“ French she spake full fair and fetisly
+ It is only within late years that Boccaccio has resumed all the honours of his name.
VOL. 111. PART I.
of so imperfect an imitation, till at length the leaders of national taste,
“ Vain of Italian arts, Italian souls," led the way to a more intimate acquaintance with the great authors, and more especially the great poets with which that fortunate country abounded.
Amongst the earliest translations of the great poets of Italy into our English verse, it is not surprising that the name of Tasso should be conspicuous. It is true that the celebrated work of Ariosto soon attracted the regards and admiration of our countrymen, especially as it possessed so many allurements from the wild originality and the boldness of imagery contained in it, which were more capable of being clothed in another language, than the faint, delicate sentiment of many of his great compatriots. The work of Tasso, however, did not lie open to this last objection, and it was peculiarly calculated to awake the interest and excite the admiration of our ancestors, as well from the heroic nature of the composition, as from the splendour and beauty of its execution. It could not have failed also, at the period when this translation was published, to have roused feelings in the minds of Englishmen which had not long lain dormant. We look on the Crusades at the present day, with something of the same emotion which we feel when we talk of the Trojan war, and Ceur de Lion and Soliman no more excite our sympathies than Achilles and Hector; but between two and three centuries ago, at the name of the red-cross and its holy warriors, the dying flame of enthusiasm quivered brightly in the hearts of our ancestors; the name of Saracen had not ceased to be hateful to their ears, and the Sepulchre of the holy City was still a shrine and a temple. It is true, that the Reformation had cut off all hopes of rearing the standard of the cross on the towers of Jerusalem—that the defenders of the Temple had been persecuted to extermination, and that the days of chivalry were almost gone by; but there yet lingered a feeling of veneration in the hearts of men for the heroic deeds of their fathers, and the places which were doubly consecrated by holiness and valour. In the history of those days, England claimed a place amongst the loftiest
“ Maggior alquanto e lo squadron Britanno;" and the name of Richard had passed into a bye-word of terror.
It is not therefore surprising to find that within the space of ten years, there should have been two translations of this great poet presented to the English public, and that since that period many more versions should have been added, although some of the later translations are but little known. The volume