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with which they had shaken off the fetters of classical pedantry. But they did not mean that their idolatrous imitation of the classics should be superseded by an equally servile dependence on the models of England or Germany.
The feelings that prevail in Italy on literary subjects have an analogous influence on all questions connected with religion and politics. The Italians are certainly unanimous in wishing for the cessation of that state of vassallage in which they are held by Austrian preponderance. But the soundest part of the nation are fully aware that the assistance of French propagandists, or any other foreign interference, would be rather a questionable means of attaining national emancipation. They long for a vindication of their national freedom, but they feel that a change of masters is not very likely to lead them to that desirable result. In the like mapper the best cultivated classes are keenly alive to the degeneration, to the follies and superstitions of the Church of Rome. But they are not equally ready to exchange Roman Catholicism for Swiss or German Protestantism; they are not so surely disposed, as some of our sanguine missionaries are willing to expect, to withdraw their allegiance from the Bishop of Rome, to acknowledge the supremacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury. When we speak thus, we of course view the British Primate, not as the head of the Universal Church, but the highest authority in his own. It is deeply to be regretted that the elements of the British Church, which are Catholic in the highest sense of the term, should not be appreciated as such on the Continent; but to this point it is our avowed object constantly to direct attention, until it obtains that reception which due consideration on the system must bring. The British Church is the purest exemplification on earth of the true features of the Catholic Church, which have been lost sight of in Germany, where Episcopacy, a great constituent principle, has never prevailed; and in Italy, where the political attitude of the Church totally eclipsed the spiritual. As the Catholic Church stood in the days of Theodosius and Valentinian, obedient to the state, yet a portion of the state, so does the British. Its local position does not isolate it from a Catholic tendency, it is not the Church of England more than the Church of Christendom, and its fundamentals are those of every creed and confession of the Church in all ages. It is not bound down by the fettering laws of peculiar councils like the Greek and Roman, and the question of her high and genuine and unpolluted Catholicism is beginning to be deeply considered in numerous directions, and will soon be justly appreciated. And Italians are naturally anxious for a similar church. They wish for an Stalian school of letters and arts, as well as for an Italian church and go
vernment. Unfortunately nothing of the kind can be obtained until they have manfully asserted their nationality, until there be an Italy.
The present state of things is therefore merely to be considered as an epoch of transition, a conflict between long-cherished notions and newly-arising ideas. The writers of the day endeavour to find a middle way between the dulness of ancient classicism and the boldness of modern romanticism-between Alfieri and Manzoni. The subjects for all dramatic performances are invariably selected from modern history, from that inexhaustible mine of literary treasures—the middle ages—the age of chivalry—the crusades; from the national glories of the Lombard league, from the sanguinary deeds of Guelphs and Ghibelines, from the domestic tragedies of their petty tyrants, from the gloomy atrocities of the Roman and Venetian inquisition. The feelings exhibited on the stage are those to which the heart responds; those of Christianity, chivalry, patriotism, and in so far they deem it expedient to obey the influence of romantic innovation. But their dramas are more or less rigidly shaped after the models of the ancients. The rules of Aristotle and Horace are still inviolable laws for them, and to these they are often, like Alfieri, compelled to sacrifice historical accuracy and vraisemblance; they must compress or stretch their subject, after a Procrustean process; they are forced to reject the most brilliant or the inost touching episodes, however essentially belonging to it, lest they should interfere with their unity and symmetry of plan. The style is also strictly classical. The Italian language has during the course of five centuries strangely deviated from the original simplicity of the age of Dante. Antiquated by the Latinists of the fifteenth century, diluted by the prating Cinquecentisti, distracted by the raving Seicentisti, adulterated by the Gallomaniacs of the last century, cramped by the academy Della Crusca, soiled by long flattery and servility, that noble language lies down, overcome and prostrated, an artificial construction of empty words ; cumbrous, not rich; pedantic, not correct; with scarcely any of its original beauties, except its ever-fascinating melody. Poetry is in Italy a different language from prose. Nature suggested plain constructions, art adopted elaborate invertions. All that is simple and natural the poet rejects as vulgar. The poet never calls things by their names. His style is opposed to common life; as in the poems of Homer, all objects have a name among gods, a name among mortals. Hence an infinite number of ideas find no place in verse for want of expression, and poetry sounds like Greek to the ears of the multitude. The romantic school made vigorous efforts to strip Italian poetry of its tinselled frippery. Manzoni caused his Venetian senators to speak as they may be supposed, -as they are known to have done. The modern voi, which had disappeared from the heroic style, ever since the days of Ariosto, to give way to the Roman republican tu, has been restored to the tragic dialogue by the author of “ Carmagnola." With the same views, he did not shrink from such forms as these:
“ Serenissimo doge, senatori.
Su ciò chiede il consiglio il parer vostro.
Sia lode al ciel, combatteremo alfine.” And similar expressions, which simple, true, and natural as they are, would however have been proscribed by Alfieri as too closely approaching conversational triviality. By thus renouncing that false pomp and magnificence, Manzoni gained vigour and purity in proportion as he adopted ease and simplicity. He enriched his style with the spontaneousness of popular phraseology; he made his personages speak from, and consequently resemble, life. The partisans of the conciliatory schools have thought otherwise ; together with the frame of the classical drama, they deemed it expedient to revive the beau-ideal of heroic dialogue. They brought the poetical language of Italy back to the grandiloquence of Alfieri.
At the head of this cautious and transitory system are Pellico and Niccolini.
Had not the author of " Francesca da Rimini” been struck by the political vengeance of Austria in the very prime of youth, had not his lofty spirit been so miserably broken among the squalor and agony of his ten years' confinement at Spielberg, the Italian stage would have found in him one of its greatest ornaments. That juvenile performance of Pellico was on its first appearance in 1820, and continues to this day, the most popular tragedy in Italy ever since the palmy days of Alfieri. Its success is probably owing in great measure to the author's happy choice of his subject. In the universal interest evinced by every feeling being in favour of that erring and yet so lovely and unhappy Francesca, we have a fresh illustration of the vever-failing result to be expected from an appeal to the sympathies of the people. That sweet name alone had a thrilling effect on the Italian hearts, long since blunted to the sorrows of Clytemnestra and Antigone. The story of Francesca was associated with that most touching episode in Italian poetry, that short and fugitive effusion of tender pathos into which the stern soul of Dante once, and once only, consented to melt. It re-awakened in their minds all the sweet allusions with which that melancholy story is so mystically blended.
It roused a kindred spirit to Dante, Fuseli, into that exquisite
mood in which he threw before us a clear view of his own glorious conception. The attitude of the lovers, the deathless affection from which they draw, even in the Inferno, consolation; the whole composition is amply worthy of the Italian bard, and though defective in colouring, still in the portraiture of shades this is less felt. Like his fairy scenes it evinces a grandeur of conception that England has not looked on since; nor is she likely, now Hiltop has passed, to number one historical painter in our time.
Moreover “ Francesca” was a tragedy of love. Unrivalled as he was in the exhibition of those passions that fell within the range of his powerful soul, Alfieri had yet left inany of the chords of the human heart untouched. The guilty and yet undefinable connection between Don Carlos and his step-mother, the virtuous but more than human devotion of Hæmon for Antigone, and what has been justly called the “ hysterics" of Myrrha for her father, could hardly be called love. “ The Italians," as Count Pecchio bas it, “ from the age of Petrarch down to the days of Ugo Foscolo have had strange teachers of the tender passion.”
But two or three scenes of Pellico's Francesca exhibit all that wild enthusiasm and transport, all that vague mixture of ardent and delicate feelings, which is indeed far from the “ air-fed” Platonism of the worshipper of Laura, and from the “ asthmatic" atrabilariousness of Jacopo Ortis. The feelings of Paolo and Francesca resemble as nearly as possible what is called genuine love among mortals.
We find also occasionally some of those flashes of patriotism which are now an indispensable ingredient in every literary work in Italy, and which cannot be easily comprehended by such among foreigners as are by political circumstances placed above the miseries of national degradation and vassallage. The following passage for instance never fails to be received with a thundering applause by an Italian audience, though it has in itself very little to recommend it to literary criticism. But it must be remembered, that however inappropriate such a language may appear, if we consider the state of Italy in the age of Francesca da Rimini, or the character of the personage that is made to utter such fine sentiments, there are among those enthusiastic applauders, or at least there were in 1820, thousands of Napoleon's veterans, in whose heart every word of that patriotic effusion found a willing echo ;-a set of deluded and disappointed people, who might, perhaps, with a mixed feeling of pride and sorrow, remember the fields of Raab and Malojaroslavetz, where they were lavish of their blood for the cause of a foreign nation or of a foreign usurper, by whom, after having been roused to the most sanguine expec
tation, and engaged in the most deperate enterprises, they were to be helplessly abandoned to their fate.
This speech, which reminds us, in some manner, of Petrarch's tender apostrophe :
“Non è questo il terren ch' io toccai pria,” &c.
My blood has flowed, Byzantium, for thee,-
Within thee dwelleth in my much-loved home.” It is especially to passages of this description that the earliest of Pellico's tragedies owes its popularity among the actors and audience of an Italian theatre, for otherwise it is in itself a juvenile production. The action, which, on account of the delicacy of the ruling passion on which the catastrophe mainly depends, was in it
* Lest we might be accused of injuring too far the beauties of this passage by our translation, we give it as it stands in the text.
Di Bisanzio pel trono il sangue mio