« AnteriorContinuar »
CRITICAL SKETCHES of recent Continental Publications.
FOREIGN QUARTERLY REVIEW.
Aet. I.— . Rosmonda d'Inghilterra, Tragedia di Gio. Batt.
Niccolini. Firenze. 1839.2. Lorenzino de Medici, Dramma di Giuseppe Revere. Milano.
1839. 3. Luisa Strozzi, Dramma storico in cinque Atti, di Giacinto
Battaglia. Milano. 1839. 4. Il Conte Giovanni Anguissola e Beatrice Tenda, Drammi di
Felice Turotti. Milano, 1840., 5. Pier delle Vigne, Tragedia del Signor Briano. Torino. 1940. 6. Berengario Augusto e Cecilia di Baone, Tragedie di Carlo
Marenco da Ceva. Turin. 1840. LITERATURE is the inalienable property of a nation. Language remains as a last moral barrier when every other natural or artificial line of demarkation is broken. The most accurate and spirited translation can give no more adequate idea of a work of imagination, than the cast of an ancient-statue can stand as a fair representation of its inimitable prototype. To attempt to reuder the spontaneous inspirations of a poet into another language, is to betray an imperfect acquaintance with the original; and we sball take it as an indication of a general prevalence of good taste when people shall altogether abstain from translations.
Nor can the grammatical and superficial study of a foreign language better enable us to enter into the spirit of the standard works wbich fame recommends to our attention, or constitute us judges on subjects of foreign æsthetics. A work of genius is the emanation of a whole age and country-it obeys the laws of national taste, which are perpetually fluctuating in accordance with local circumstances and social conventions. We cannot flatter ourselves to have fully appreciated the merits of a foreign work, until we have, by means of powerful abstraction, worked ourselves up to that state of feelings by which the author was actuated, until we have raised ourselves to his level, identified ourselves with him.
Hence it not unfrequently happens that the productions of genius lie for a long lapse of ages unbonoured and neglected, until they find favour in the eyes of a kindred genius, who holds them up to the veneration of the multitude, always ready to follow in
VOL. XXVII. NO. LIII.
the train of superior intellects, to join in their censure and plaudit, and to view with their eyes.
We say of a kindred genius; for the poem of Dante, even in this age of revivals, remained a close book, and was heedlessly thrown aside by Walter Scott, whose plastic mind, vast and versatile as it was, was incapable of following the deep train of thought of the greatest of metaphysical poets.
It is not otherwise in works of art, where yet we should be led to suppose that difference of speech should have no control, and that to have eyes or ears were a sufficient criterion. Bellini's Norma is to von Raumer “the ne plus ultra of false musical taste; a beggarly, tawdry, patch-work finery" ---the “ladies' maids of Berlin," are to Kotzebue, "more beautiful than the Medicean Venus." The vault of the Pantheon is, to another German, “nothing better than a large oven.” The Roman and Teutonic races are waging a perpetual war against each other in every branch of letters and arts, and they have carried their prejudice and animosity so far as utterly to destroy every idea of an absolute standard of beauty.
Down to the period of the French revolution the chaste and symmetrical type of Greco-Latin classicism had established its absolute sway over Europe. It was in the days when Racine and Voltaire held an exclusive possession of the stage, when Addison's Cato was looked upon as the master-piece of English tragedy.
Our age has witnessed a most astonishing reaction. The northern nations have asserted their independence in letters and arts, as they had long since in religion and politics; they have spurned the models before which they had been taught to bow in awe and veneration, they have set up their Romantic school and broken the fetters of what had certainly become subservient to the intolerable despotism of classical pedantry.
The Germanic element has gained such a universal ascendency as to exert its sway even over those countries where classicism seemed indigenous. The Italians have in their turn become imitators, and, as such a state of things must appear to them novel and unnatural, their literature has fallen into that titubation and uncertainty which is perhaps only the consequence of a state of transition, but which has been too hastily set down as absolute stagnation and irrecoverable death.
When therefore we venture to discourse on the present state of the Italian stage, we naturally expect to be asked what we mean by it, and whether anything like an Italian drama can be said to exist in our days. We hasten to meet this question by acknowledging that dramatic poetry, as well as every other branch of