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This precept is even defended hy a passage from Ilorace:
Et sermone opus est, modo tristi, sæpe jocoso,
Sat. Lib. 1. Sat. 10. v. 11.
“ But this judicious remark is, I apprchend, confined to ethic and perceptive kinds of writing, which stand in need of being enlivened with lighter images and sportive thoughts, and where strictures on common life may more gracefully be inserted. But in the higher kinds of poetry, they appear as unnatural and out of place, as one of the burlesque scenes of Hemskirke would do in a solemn landscape of Poussin.
« On the revival of literature the first writers seemed not to have observed any SELECTION in their thoughts and images. Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Ariosto, make very sudden transitions from the sublime to the ridiculous. Chaucer, in his Temple of Mars, among many pictures, has brought in a strange line :
The coke is scalded for all his long ladell.
* Now change from grave to gay with ready art,
Now play the orator's or poet's part:
FRANCIS + Dryden has turned the first line thus :
And the cook caught within the raging fire he made. But he has retained the second line.
“ No writer has more religiously observed the decorum here recommended than Virgil *.”.
If we examine the poems of Boyardo and Ariosto, we shall find that the second, with respect to the epic part, the wars of Charlemain and Agramant, is not defective in point of unity, as it sets forth one great action, the invasion of France by the Saracens, and concludes with the victory of the Christians by the death or defeat of all the Pagan leaders, although this great action is broken and interrupted, from time to time, by an infinity of episodes and romantic adventures, artfully connected with each other and interwoven with the general fable. But Boyardo has no pretence to unity in any part of his vast and heterogeneous composition, which, beside the lesser incidents, consists of three distinct great actions: the Invasion of France by Gradasso, for the conquest of Durindana and Boyardo: the Siege of Albracca by Agrican king of Tartary, and the other enemies of Galaphron, and his daughter Angelica : and the invasion of France by Agramant to revenge the death of Troyano.
But, notwithstanding Ariosto has undoubtedly a better claim to unity of action, and regularity of design, than his predecessor; yet it is very plain that he never intended to write a regular epic poem, but that he adopted the fashionable mode of that time. As an instance of the taste then prevalent for the wild and desultory narratives of romance, it is said, that when Bernardo Tasso conceived the design of composing a poem from the Amadis de Gaul, he had at first reduced it to the plan of
Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, vol. i. p. 410.
a regular epic, and in that state read part of it to his friends, who gave it so cool a reception, that he thought it advisable to change his purpose, and treat his subject in the same manner as the other popular writers, or Romanzatori*,
Thus Ariosto, having undertaken to continue a wellknown story, begun and left unfinished by Boyardo, was necessarily led to vary his narrative and diction, as the different subjects required: and therefore in him is to be found a greater variety of style and manner, than perhaps in any other author.
From the romantic turn of this fable, and the motley character of his writing, many of the French critics, and some others, have been induced, in the cool phlegm of criticism, to pass the severest censures on Ariosto; but it will be seen that such censures are in general futile, being founded on the mistaken opinion, that the Orlando is to be tried by the rules of Aristotle, and the examples of Homer and Viryil: but as no writers of real taste, however strongly prejudiced with the idea of classic excellence, could peruse the Italian poem
without sensibly feeling its beauties, it follows that their observations often appear a contradictory mixture of praise and censure, of which the reader will have some idea from the following passages of Baillet, in his Jugemens des savans t.
“ It is a general received opinion in Italy, that the Orlando Furioso has entirely surpassed every performance that appeared before it, particularly the Orlando of
* Romance writers in verse. See Preface to the Amadigi of Bernardo Tasso,
+ Poetes modernes,
Boyardo, and the Morgante of Pulci: the last by digo nity of incidents and majesty of versification, and the former by completing and bringing to perfection the inventions of the count*. M. Rosteau gives it as his opinion, that the Orlando Furioso had no superior, or rival, till the Godfrey of Tasso, which appeared afterwards in the world.
“ Never was any other piece filled with so many and various events as the poem of Ariosto: the whole is a mixture of combats, enchantments, and grotesque adventures; and it is said, that the wits of Italy are still divided concerning the merits of this work, and the Jerusalem Delivered.
“ The Orlando seems to be a trophy raised from the spoils of every other Italian production, in which the author has neglected nothing that his genius or industry could supply him with, in order to enrich his poem, and give it the utmost perfection.
“ Father Rapin has discovered many blemishes in the Orlando Furioso t. In one part he finds that the poet has too much fire; in another, that he is crowded with supernatural events, which are like the crude imaginations of a distempered brain, and which can never be admitted by men of sense, as bearing no resemblance of truth.
“ He says, besides, that his design is too vast without proportion or justness; that his episodes are affected, improbable, injudiciously introduced, and often out of nature; that his heroes are only Paladins, and that his
# Paul Jovins.
+ Reflect. critiq. sur la poesie.
poem breathes more an air of romantic chivalry, than a spirit of heroism.
“In other places, he confesses that Ariosto is pure, elevated, sublime, and admirable in expression; that his descriptions are master-pieces, but that he is altogether deficient in jud ment; that the beauty of his expression, joined to the other charms of his versification, has imposed upon the world, and so far dazzled our poets, as to prevent their discovering his many absurdities. This genius,' continues Rapin,“ resembles those fertile lands that produce, at the same time, weeds and flowers; and though the several parts of his poem are very beautiful, yet the whole, when taken together, does not deserve the title of an Epic poem.'”
Gravina, an Italian critic, of great taste and judgment, gives the following opinion of Ariosto : “ After Boyardo, Ariosto took up the same story, but in a far more exalted strain of poetry, and gave a complete ending to the unfinished invention of his predecessor, interspersing every part of his narrative with strong and masterly pictures of the passions and habits of mankind, in so much, that the Furioso may be considered as an assemblage of all that actuates the human mind, love, hatred, jealousy, avarice, anger, and ambition, in their natural colours, with an infinity of examples, of the punishments attendant upon vice. In Boyardo and Ariosto is to he seen the true system of honour known by the name of CHIVALRY. I shall not dwell upon the philosophical and theological doctrines in various parts of Ariosto's poem, particularly in the cantos where St. John and Astolpho are introduced together. But this poet would not have attained his purpose, nor would