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T HE fabulous histories of wandering 1 knights, distressed damsels, giants, en
chanted castles, and the whole train of legendary adventures, that, for a long time, were the delight of our ancestors, are now universally exploded : the inimitable satire of Cervantes has contributed not a little to bring them into disrepute; but however justly he may have ridiculed their many absurdities, yet, perhaps, we have too rafhly adopted the contempt, which almost every one now professes for writings, from which it is certain that the greatest poets have derived many fipe images; to which we are, probably, in a great measure, indebted for the Fairy Queen of our admired Spenser, and which have been the foundation of the OrLANDO Furioso, that has procured to its author the appellation of divine.
The Italians have among them many works of a similar nature with this poem, being accuftomed to translate, or compose romances in the octave stanza. Among others, Bernardo Tasso, Vol. I.
the father of the great Torquato, published a free translation of the Amadis de Gaul, divided into one hundred cantos : but the much greater part of these performances are not to be considered as rising to any degree of competition with Ariosto, being little else than wild stories of chivalry, with scarce any tincture of poetical imagery and expression; or heavy dull narratives of fiction without imagination, and of events without interest.
Most of these poems, or rather rhyming romances, are drawn from the current romances of the times; such as the history of king Arthur, and his round table, and the account of Merlin, and his prophecies : but the chief of them are built on the romantic history of Charlemain, and the twelve peers of France, called Paladins ; which was a title of honour given by Charlemain, to that number of valiant men belonging to his court, who employed their arms in defence of the faith. The principal of these was Orlando, the great hero of chivalry, whose fabulous atchievements filled all the books and provincial songs of that age. It is recorded, that when William the Conqueror marched with his Normans to engage Harold, at the memorable battle of Hastings, his soldiers animated each