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but was deterred and distracted by the eccentric flights of that sovereign fancy. The day of Shakspeare had not yet dawned, the great literary crisis of Romanticism was not inature, nor was it in Alfieri's power to foresee it. We must look upon him not as the predecessor of Goethe and Schiller, but as the successor of Racine and Metastasio. It is only with the prosy tirades of the first, and the luscious recitativi of the last, that the iron framework of the fierce Astigiano can be fairly compared. The French, when Alfieri appeared, were believed to have the entire possession of the stage. Alfieri took upon himself the task of dethroning them, and accomplished it. For that purpose he choose to beat them with their own weapons. He forced his haughty insubordinate nature into the fetters of classical rules, and carried them to a superstitious extreme; he made himself a rigid observer of dramatic unity, rejected all accessory ornament, episodical incidents, and gave to the stage his drama, solemn and severe,-a bare, single, rapid, intense exbibition of horror and pity, never allowing the interest to stray, the attention to flag, or the excitement to cool.
Alfieri forgot, or perhaps wilfully rejected the precept of Horace,“ ut pictura poesis.” He was a sculptor-poet. Sculpture works for eternity, it seems to refuse to itself all ornament and variety, it is indifferent to local costumes and habits, it considers its figures in the abstract, independent of light and shade; but its powers are limited, its materials are stone, rigid and rough, unbending, unmalleable, colourless.
Alfieri's poetry was sculpture. His tragedies are only a group of four or five statues, his characters are figures of marble, incorruptible, everlasting: but not flesh, nothing like flesh, having nothing of its freshness and hue. He describes no scene. The statues stand by themselves, isolated on their pedestals, on a vacant ideal stage, without back-ground, without contrast of landscape or scenery, all wrapped in their heroic mantles, all moving, breathing statues, perhaps; but still nothing but statues.
Wherever be the scene, whoever the hero, it is always the poet that speaks. It is always his noble, indomitable soul reproduced under various shapes, it is always one and the same object pursued under different points of view, but to which every other view is subservient-the struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The genii of good and evil have waged an eternal war in bis scenes. Philip, Creon, Gomez, Appius, and Cosmo de Medici, can equally answer his purpose as ihe agents of crime ; Don Carlos, Antigone, Perez, İcilius and Don Garcia are indifferently chosen to stand forth as the champions of virtue.
But he deals too freely in horrors and atrocities. The passions
he seems to delight in are jealousy and revenge ; an inexorable tormentor, he allows the heart not an instant of ease; he presses heavier and heavier upon it; he severs fibre from fibre, he rends it asunder. An awful obscurity pervades the whole drama, and gives it all the sublinity of mysticism. Among the darkest conceptions of the human mind there is nothing like his Philip of Spain. We remember to have risen from our seat after its performance, oppressed and exhausted, our eyes dizzy, our temples throbbing and aching.
But it is not true that Alfieri could not or did not attempt the most tender pathetic, that he could give no utterance to the softest affections. We know of no model of conjugal love and solicitude, to match his lovely Bianca de Pazzi. The meeting of Virginius and his family on the threshold of his house has been written in tears—the tears of Alfieri; and such short and abrupt episodes breaking on a sudden through that gloomy severity, as if to relieve us from our intense agitation, have all the refreshing effect of a summer shower.
But besides these fugitive passages, there is one at least among his tragedies, in favour of which exception should be made even in the general sentence that has been passed against Alfieri by the partisans of Romanticism. Saul is certainly no classic performance. The character of that first monarch of Israel is not a statue or bust, but as noble a picture as art could ever contrive. It is indeed the tallest and bravest of the warriors of the twelve tribes, a stately figure bent by age and overcome by grief, the martyr of restless remorse, the victim of a relentless vengeance, the old oak, the pride of the forest, blasted by the lightning of heaven. It is an exquisite anatomy of melancholy, and the rapid intensity which it derives from its unity of action adds not a little to its prompt aud iinmediate effect.
The fame of Alfieri for a long while excluded tragical writing from Italy. The style of his tragedies seemed equally to refuse itself to all imitation and to discourage all spirit of innovation, His authority has been fatal to the progress of dramatic art. Those fetters with which he was pleased to shackle his powerful fancy would crush and palsy any intellect of a weaker frame, as Thersites would have been stifled under the armour of Achilles. Monti and Foscolo, the first by endeavouring to soften, the second by exaggerating the harshness of Alfieri have both perished in the attempt. Aristodemo is but a faint reproduction of Saul. Tieste has all the horrors without the glow of passion of Agamemnon aud Orestes. Alfieri did not, could not, in his age supply Italy with a real model for tragedy. But he had built an edifice of steel and adamant; on which the gratitude of his countrymen had written " Alfieri has raised it: Beware how you touch it!”
But, after the fall of Napoleon, as soon as the abating of the revolutionary flood afforded some ground for studious pursuits in Italy, the German literature, ripened among the preceding coinmotions, appeared on the top of the Alps, in all the freshness of youth. Italian restlessness turned to Germany, it turned to England and Spain, to the east and to the north. The sphere of studies was prodigiously extended; Shakspeare and Milton never read or never understood; Garcilasso and Lope de Vega, dead and buried, Brahminic verses, Icelandie legends, Gothic epopees, unknown lands; the Niebelungenlied, the Bible, the Koran, were now placed by the side of Homer and Dante, of Sophocles and Alfieri, while Goethe and Schiller, Byron and Scott, Lamartine and Victor Hugo sent every day a supply of new models. It was a literary fair of all ages and countries.
Manzoni came up in that recent affluence with a mind imbued with the maxims of freedom and patriotism, common in Italy to all who were educated on this side of 1800; he embraced the romantic views respecting the substance and form of his art. He gave Italy two historical tragedies on national subjects, free from the bondage of Aristotelian rules. “Carmagnola” and “ Adelchi,” the best dramas in Italy since the Saul of Alfieri, the standard works of romanticism in that country, have, by the general consent of strangers, been ranked by the side of the best modern productions ; Goethe and his school have been proud of adopting their author. They hailed their young disciple with something like a patronizing air, gratified by that first homage paid to the German genius by that country from which their ancestors had for five centuries been accustomed to receive their masters.
Of these tragedies the first only, “Carmagnola," appeared, and only once, on the stage; nor do we believe they could ever meet with any permanent success before an Italian audience. Manzoni, a genius of the very highest order, giving life to all objects he takes in hand, master of all the keys of the imagination and the heart, the greatest lyric poet, we think, Italy ever produced, did not perhaps equally possess that vastness and calmness of mind which can embrace at one glance the whole of a tragedy. Recently placed in contact with Shakspeare and Schiller, seeing in their works a manifest breach of the three unities of the Greeks, he believed perhaps that they had abolished all unity. This is far from being the case. The unity of time from the period of twenty-hours had been extended to months and years to the lifetime of a hero. The scene from the narrow
precincts of the vestibule of a palace had passed from place to place, had crossed seas and mountains; the four or six personages that were seen moving, spectre-like, on a deserted stage, had been multiplied to a whole court, to a whole nation; but the action, the interest, the movement of the drama, far from stagnating and slackening, was understood to have gained in strength and intensity. Taking any of the best models of the romantic theatre, say Macbeth and Othello, William Tell and the conspiracy of Fiesco, it will be easily perceived whether the poet or the spectator loses for a single instant his leading object. It is, we repeat, only the scale that has been altered. It is unity in larger dimensions, but still unity. Now we do not mean that Manzoni's tragedies are wanting in such unity. “Adelchi" is the extinction of the Lombard dynasty. “Carmagnola” is the coldblooded sacrifice of a confiding warrior to the jealous suspicion of a cowardly government. All the episodes essentially belong to the subject; every scene leads us to the catastrophe, but, as it seems to us, there is wanting that warmth, that simplicity of action, that proportion between the means and ends which permit us to view the whole at a glance, and follow its progress through its digressions, which persuade us of the importance of the episodes, which keep our minds in suspense, our hearts in anxiety.
The same faults are observable in his historical novel “ I Promessi Sposi,” by which he has been justly ranked by the side of Walter Scott. Manzoni aspired to enrich his country with two branches of literary productions, for which a taste had been lately awakened, and which the Italians had good reasons to envy to their transalpine neighbours--the historical drama and the historical novel. But while embracing ideas that had recently sprung up abroad, Mauzoni imitated only as genius can imitate. His faults are peculiar to him, as his beauties are indisputably his own. Between the “ Promessi Sposi” and any of the Waverley Novels there is nothing common, except the title by which they are classified as analogous productions. In the like manner the “Adelchi” and “Carmagnola” cannot be strictly said to belong either to the German or English school, though certainly the author could find no model for his works among the classics. He does not seem to possess the wide and versatile imagination of Shakspeare, nor the warm and sympathetic heart of Schiller, though we meet with occasional flashes both of fancy and feeling, that would induce us to believe that his apparent infecundity was rather owing to a vague diffidence and timidity than to a real want of creative genius. Manzoni seemed perpetually afraid of abandoning himself to the inspiration of the first moment, His pages appear to us as if filled with corrections, additions, suppressions -pentimenti d'ogni maniera. This gives his works unquestionably a very high finish, and every one of his lines will gain more and more the longer we dwell upon it. Still it has an injurious effect on the whole, and as dramatic performances these tragedies are utterly deprived of action and interest. Neither was the poet happier in his delineation of characters. With the exception perhaps of some secondary personages, such as Anfrido, Svarto and Guntigi in “Adelchi;” Marco and Marino in “ Carmagnola,” there is hardly among so many a portrait whose prominent features may work on our minds a lasting impression. The great figures of the two Lombard kings and of Charlemagne and his paladins appear in all the dim and hazy obscurity in which barren history has left them, stripped of all the gaudy ornaments with which the fictions of chivalrous legends had invested them. As the ancient mythology had been banished from the stage, so did Manzoni equally proscribe the more domestic romance of the middle ages. How different from his faithful but languid pictures are the historical scenes dramatized by Shakspeare, who eagerly seized upon the most uncouth popular traditions, and delighted in crowding the stage with hags, spectres and weird sisters, fairies and goblins.
To exhibitions of such kind the public taste is however utterly averse in Italy. Alfieri knew it well, and his example was more than sufficient to deter every Italian dramatist from having recourse to those long-exploded sources of interest, nor could any longer demon or goblin or any of the weird family be ventured for a minute on an Italian stage without being unmercifully hissed back to its obscure abode. Even Ducis was obliged in France to introduce his witches like the Diræ or the Parcæ, from the taste for classicism before the age of monstrosities and Victor Hugo.
The tragedies of Mauzoni as well as his novel are therefore only to be considered in their details and episodes, which are indeed inimitable. The fifth act of “ Carmagnola," the farewell of the noble Condottiero to his wife and daughter, to his brother in arms; his longings for the bright sun, the wide-spreading field, his war-horse, and all the stirring scenes of his warlike exploits, are teeming with beauties of so novel a cast as could hardly be expected of so trite a subject. The delirious agony of the divorced queen of Charlemagne, Ermengarda, reminds us, by way of contrast, of Queen Catherine's heart-rending resignation and truly feminine forgiveness in Henry VIII.; thus the monologues of Carmagnola and his friend Marco-the dark inquisi. torial dialogue between this last and Marino--the confessions of