Dionysius Lardner.

Eminent literary and scientific men of Italy, Spain, and Portugal .. (Volume 2) online

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overwhelmed by a rapid and dangerous stream, and
should not have escaped had not the sailors made use of
the assistance of the strong and active men of the coun-
try, who are accustomed to contend with this danger,
being always on the spot to give aid, and who, by
force of oars, stemmed the torrent. But for their help
no vessel could escape wreck ; and the place is worthy
of the infamous reputation it has gained, and the name
of the Pass of Death, which is bestowed on it. The
boldest travellers fear the passage, and disembark, and
proceed by land, till the boat has got beyond the danger,
for it is really frightful ; but I was so ill, that I had
lost all sense of peril, and remained on board with the
brave boatmen, I will not say whether from stupidity
or intrepidity, yet I may say that I was intrepid, since
I felt no fear when but two steps from certain death.

" I arrived at last at Vienna, where a physician,
without considering the symptoms of my illness, gave
me a medicine that poisoned me, and my malady grew


worse. You will all say that I ought to have stopped
short,, and taken care of my life : my common sense,
my sufferings, the failure of strength, and a natural
wish to live, love for my fellow creatures and my family,
suggested the same counsel; but my honour forced me
to proceed, and obliged me, since I was at the head of
this embassy, and as the whole weight of so important
a negotiation rested on me, to prefer the interests of my
prince to my o\vn safety ; and I acted so that 1 might
testify to ah 1 Poland my fidelity to my sovereign by my
death, rather than, by preserving my life, give room to
the suspicion that I feigned an illness so to break my
promises, the fulfilment of which was expected with
anxiety ; which false notion among those selfish and
distrustful men would at once have discredited our ne-
gotiation, and deprived our prince of the crown which
we are endeavouring to place on his head.

" It is impossible to form an idea of what I suffered
during a journey of more than GOO miles, from Vienna
to Warsaw ; dragged and torn along, rather than con-
veyed, by my incommodious carriage. I do not know
how I survived : beset by continual fever, without rest,
or food, or remedies j enduring excessive cold and in-
finite inconveniences, while I passed through an unin-
habited country, where I often found it better to remain
for the night in my uncomfortable carriage, than to ex-
pose myself to the stench of the inns or, rather, stables,
where the dog, the cat, the fowls, the geese, the pigs,
the calves, and sometimes squalling children, kept me
awake all night. The difficulties of the journey were
increased also by the robbers, who, during this inter-
regnum, infest the country, robbing whatever they can ;
so that it was impossible to proceed without a strong
escort ; and, although I took infinite pains to avoid
them, I had twice nearly fallen into their hands, escaping
rather through Divine Providence than human foresight.
I arrived at last at Warsaw, a great deal more dead than
alive j nor have I gained any relief to my sufferings by
being here, except that I am no longer in movement,

G 3


nor dragged along by my carriage ; for the rest,, I enjoy
no repose, either night or day. My fever is now
my least evil; the objects by which I am surrounded
are worse : the place,, the season, the food, the drink,
the medicines, the physicians, the servants, the in-
quietude of my mind, and other troubles, are greater
ills than the fever, which would soon quit me but for
these annoyances. Indeed, I have not yet discovered
whether my sleepless nights arise from illness, or the
constant noise around me. Imagine a whole nation
assembled in a little village, and I lodged in the middle
of it. There is no spot above, below, to the right nor
to the left, there is no room by day or by night, that is
not full of noise and disturbance. No particular time
is set apart for business here ; they are always at work,
because they are always drinking, and without wine all
transactions grow cold. When business is ended visits
begin, and when these are over, drums, trumpets, can-
nons, shouts, cries, quarrels, and every other species of
tumult, fill up the interval till I am distracted. If
I suffered these things for the glory and love of God, it
would be called a martyrdom ; and yet, to render service
without hope of reward, almost deserves the same name.
God knows what is to become of me ! I should feel
that my life was no longer in danger if I could take any
care of myself. Prepare your mind for every evil. It
is the part of a silly woman to lament a husband who is
content to die. Let others honour my memory with
their tears ; do you honour it by your courage. I re-
commend our children to you ; for if I die, you must
be a father as well as a mother to them. Arm yourself
with reflection and manly fortitude ; guarding them
from those who have reduced me to this state, and
teaching them to imitate their father in any thing rather
than in his fortunes."*

* There is another letter of Guarini, dated from Cracovy, during his first
visit to Poland, written with less personal feeling, and greater toleration :
" I have viewed the climate and manners of this country," he writes,
" with infinite pleasure ; mitigating the annoyances resulting from unusual
thing.*, by the enjoyment of unusual sights. The country and its inhabit-
ants are certainly much less barbarous than is generally supposed j and in


This letter presents a lively picture of Guarini's dis-
position ; his energy in struggling with evils ; his
ambition to please his prince^ and his fears lest he should
not be fitly recompensed ; the fervour of imagination,
which magnified ill fortune, and which, while it gave
him strength to meet it, yet doubled its power over him.
Although he failed in the object of the embassy, yet,
after all the dangers to which he had exposed himself,
he felt that he had sacrificed his life to his prince,
and yet that he should go unrewarded. He was not de-
ceived ; but he was incapable of meeting the fulfilment
of his anticipations with any patience or fortitude.

His mind was naturally turned to poetry ; but he
pretended to disdain such occupation. On the subject
of his Pastor Fido, he writes to a friend : "" This is
the work of one who does not profess the poetic art, but
writes for his own amusement, as a recreation from
more serious studies ; and who would willingly burn
his works when they do not appear good to good
judges." The fame and favour which Tasso was en-
joying made him depreciate himself, since he could not
excel his rival. Tasso and he had been friends for
many years ; they quarrelled at this time, but the dis-
cord did not result from any literary contest, but from
rivalship in the favour of a lady. They both loved the

rny opinion there would be no fault to be found, if the former was gifted
with wine., and if the latter abstained from it. But I am afraid that my
words will scarcely find credit with you, prejudiced as you are by the ac-
counts given by the French who have been here. Yet I am sure you would
agree with me, if you ever visited the country. The kingdom is extensive,
rich, powerful, united, abundant, and peopled by a brave population. The
senators display great talent during peace the cavaliers valour in war :
their aim is glory their support liberty. The form of the government is
mixed, like that of Sparta, but better than that. For the kingdom is neither
oppressed by the tyranny of one, nor the insolence of a few, nor the base-
ness of the many; but having mingled the best parts of all three modes of
government,, one has resulted, in which the kingly power cannot intrench
upon liberty, nor licence endanger the monarchy. The nobles cannot
Oppress the people, nor the people injure the nobles. Valour holds the first
rank, nobility the second, riches the third ; and every one, however lowly
born, may nourish the expectation of rising by merit to the highest honours.
How I wish that you had an opportunity of visiting it : I am certain tha";
you would be highly pleased. A journey to France is more fatiguing; and
after arriving in Poland, I, to whom an excursion to Rome used to appear
an arduous undertaking, begin to think that travelling is a natural state
for every man."

o 4


countess of Scandiano. Tasso wrote a sonnet, accusing
Guarini of lightness and inconstancy in his passion, as
well as of the greater sin of boasting of his triumphs
over the ladies of his love. Guarini replied,, with bit-
terness, in another sonnet, accusing his rival of uttering
falsehoods that mirrored his own faithlessness, which
enabled him to nourish love for two objects at the same
time.* This contention broke off their friendship ; hut
Guarini was no ungenerous enemy; he possessed a loyal
and noble spirit, and never did any thing to injure his
unfortunate rival. On the contrary, some years after,
when the Gerusalemme Liberata of Tasso was about to
be published in a very defective and erroneous state, he
took great pains to furnish a correct copy.
1582. After struggling with his discontents at court for
Etat. some t j me ^ h e re q ues t e d his dismissal from the duke;
and retired to his villa in the Polesine of Rovigo, named
La Guarina, having been bestowed upon an ancestor by a
former duke of Ferrara. He now congratulated himself
on having escaped from the tempests of public life into
port ; yet his disappointments, and the duke's ingratitude,
rankled at his heart, and overflowed upon paper, even
when the subject immediately before him was not in
accord with the pervading feeling of his mind. He
occupied himself at La Guarina by writing the Pastor
Fido; and he makes one of the characters of the pastoral
complain of wrongs similar to his own. Carino, nar-
rating his story, says,

How I forsook

Elis and Pisa after, and betook
Myself to Argos and Mycene, where
An earthly God I worshipped, with what there
I suffered in that hard captivity,
Would be too long for thee to hear, for me
Too sad to utter. Only thus much know ;
I lost my labour, and in sand did sow :
I writ, wept, sung ; hot and cold fits I had j
I rid, I stood, I bore, now sad, now glad,
Now high, now low, now in esteem, now scorn'dj
And as the Delphic iron, which is turned
Now to heroic, now to mechanic use,
I fear'd no danger did no pains refuse ;
Was all things and was nothing; changed my hair,
Condition, custom, thoughts, and life but ne'er

* Abate Serassi, Vita di Tasso.


Could change my fortune. Then I knew at last,
And panted after my sweet freedom past.
So, flying smoky Argos, and the great
Storms that attend on greatness, my retreat
I made to Pisa my thought's quiet port.

* * * * *

Who would have dreamed 'midst plenty to grow poor ?
Or to be less, by toiling to be more ?
I thought, by how much more in prince's courts
Men did excel in titles and supports,
So much the more obliging they would be,
The best enamel of nobility.
But now the contrary by proofs I 've seen :
Courtiers in name, and courteous in their mien
They are ; but in their actions I could spy
Not the least transient spark of courtesy.
People, in show smooth as the calmed waves,
Yet cruel as the ocean when it raves :
Men in appearance only did I find,
Love in the face, but malice in the mind :
With a straight look and tortuous heart, and least
Fidelity where greatest was profest.
That which elsewhere is virtue, is vice there :
Plain truth, fair dealing, love unfeign'd, sincere
Compassion, faith inviolable, and
An innocence both of the heart and hand,
They count the folly of a soul that 's vile
And poor, a vanity worthy their smile.
To cheat, to lie, deceit and theft to use,
And under show of pity to abuse ;
To rise upon the ruins of their brothers,
And seek their own by robbing praise from others,
The virtues are of that perfidious race.
No worth, no valour, no respect of place,
Of age, or law bridle of modesty,
No tie of love, or blood, nor memory
Of good received ; nothing's so venerable,
Sacred, or just, that is inviolable
By that vast thirst of riches, and desire
Unquenchable of still ascending higher.
Now I, not fearing, since I meant not ill,
And in court-craft not having any skill,
Wearing my thoughts charactered on my brow,
And a glass window in my heart judge thou
How open and how fair a mark my heart
Lay to their envy's unsuspected dart.

FA.NSHAWE'S Trans, of Pastor Fido*

Come poi per veder Argo e Micene
Lasciassi Elide e Pisa, e quivi fussi
Adorator di delta terrena,
Con tutto quel che in servitu soffersi,
Troppo nojosa istoria a te 1' udirlo,
A me dolente il raccontarlo fora.
Si dirb sol, che perdei 1' opra, e il frutto.
Scrissi, piansi, cantai, arsi, gelai,
Corsi, stetti, sostenni, or tristo, or lieto,
Or alto, or basso ; or vilipeso, or caro.
E come il ferro Delfico ; stromento
Or d' impresa sublime, or d' opra vile,
Non temei risco e non schivai fatica :
Tutto fei, nulla fui : per cangiar loco,
State, vita, pensier, costumi e pelo,
Mai non cangiai fortuna : alfin conobbi,
E sospirai la liberta prirniera.


The Pastor Fido is the principal monument of
Guarini's poetic genius. Despite his pretended careless-
ness, he was animated by the spirit of poetry, and
emulation spurred him on to surpass the Aminta of
Tasso ; and he took pains even to compose whole pas-
sages in opposition, and manifest rivalship, of that drama.
A pastoral presents in its very nature a thousand diffi-
culties. It has for its subject the passions in their
primitive simplicity, and the manners are deprived ,of
all factitious refinement ; and yet the most imaginative
thoughts and the softest and noblest sentiments are to

E dopo tanti strazi, Argo lasciando
E le grandezze di miseria piene,
Tornai di Pisa ai riposati alberghi.

* * *. *

Ma chi creduto avria di venir meno
Tra le grandezze, e impoverir nell' oro ?

10 mi pensai che ne' reali alberghi
Fossero tanto piu le genti umane,
Quant' esse ban piu di tutfo quel dovizia
Ond' ha 1' umanita si nobil fregio.

Ma vi trovai tutto il contrario, Uranio,

Gente di nome e di parlar cortese,

Ma d' opre scarsa e di pieta nemica :

Gente placida in vista e mansueta,

Ma piu del cupo mar tumida e fera ;

Gente sol d' apparenza, in cui se miri

Viso di carita, mente d' invidia

Poi trovi, e in dritto sguardo animo bieco,

E min or fede aHor, che piu lusinga.

Quel ch' altrove e virtu, quivi difetto.

Dir vero, oprar non torto, amar non rinto,

Pieta sincera, inviolabil fede,

E di core e di man vita innocente ;

Stiman d' animo vil, di basso ingegno

Sciocchezza e vanita degna di riso.

L' ingannare, il mentir, la frode, il t'urto

E la rapina, di pieta vestita,

Cescer col danno e precipizio altrui,

E far a se, dell' altrui biasmo onore,

Son le virtu di quella gente infida :

Non merto altrui, non valor, non riverenza,

Ne d' eta, ne di grado, ne di legge,

Non freno di vergogna, non rispetto

Nfe d' arnor ne di sangue, non memoria

Di rice^uto ben, nfe nnalmente,

Cosa si venerabile, o si santa?-

O si giusta esser pub, che a quella vasta

Cupidigia d' onori, a quella ingorda

Fame d' avere, inviolabil sia.'

Or io, che incauto e di lor arti ignaro

Sempre mi yissi, e portai scritto in fronte

11 mio pensiero, e disvelato il core,
Tu puoi pensar se a non sospetti strali
D' invida gente fui scoperto segno.

Pastor Fido, atto v. scena 1.


flow from the lips of the untaught shepherds and
shepherdesses. Thus its foundation being purely ideal,
crur chief pleasure must be derived from the poetry in
which it is clothed. Guarini endeavoured to over-
come the want of interest inherent in this species of
composition, by a plot more complex than that usually
adopted. A portion of this is sufficiently clumsy, and
the bad character of the piece, the coquette Corisca, is
managed with very little art or probability. There is
much spirit and beauty, however, in the final develope-
ment, in the discovery that the priest makes that he is
about to sacrifice his own son, and the joy occasioned
by the conviction suddenly flashing on his mind, that the
oracle, on which the whole depends, is happily ful-
filled. Still the chief charm of the Pastor Fido is de-
rived from its poetry ; the simplicity and clearness of
its diction, the sweetness and tenderness of the senti-
ments, and the vivacity and passion that animate the
whole. No doubt he was satisfied with the result of his
labours, and found pride in communicating it. While
affecting to despise his poetic productions, their genuine
merit, and his own vanity, which was great, caused him
to collect with pleasure the applauses which his Pastor
Fido naturally acquired for him. He read it at the
court of the duke Ferrante di Gonzaga, to a society com-
posed of courtiers, ladies, and eminent men. It was
acted at Turin on occasion of the festivals to celebrate 15^5
the nuptials of Charles Emanuel, prince of Savoy, with/Etat.
Catherine, daughter of Philip II., king of Spain. The ^ 8 -
drama excited the greatest admiration ; and Guarini
was looked on henceforth with justice, as second only to
Tasso among the poets of the age.

But he was not fortunate enough to be allowed to
dedicate his whole time and thoughts to poetry ; and he
might bring forward his own experience in proof of his
assertion, that private life is not more exempt than
public, from cares and the influence of evil passions. He
was perpetually plunged in lawsuits, his first being
against his father, who had married a second time, it


was said out of spite, and disputed his just inheritance,
He had a family of eight children to provide for ; and
unrewarded by his prince, he found himself, after strug-
gling for fourteen years to advance himself at court,
overwhelmed by debt and embarrassment. His time and
attention were taken up by exertions to extricate him-
self, and to settle his affairs; while his warm, impatient
disposition ill endured the delays and disappointments,
and the contact with selfish or dishonest men, which
are the necessary concomitants of pecuniary difficulties.
1586. Perhaps these annoyances rendered him less un-
aEtat. w illing to accept the invitation, or rather to obey the
commands, of the duke of Ferrara, and to return to his
post at his court. Alfonso, perceiving the esteem in
which he was held by other princes, with his usual
selfishness resolved to appropriate the services of a
man, which others also were desirous of obtaining: he
made him secretary of state, and sent him on missions
to Umbria and Milan. His stay, however, was short :
very soon after his children had advanced to manhood,
those dissensions occurred between them and him,
which form a painful portion of Guarini's life. It is
difficult to say who was most to blame. The poet's
temper was impetuous, and he perhaps showed himself
tyrannical in his domestic circle, at the same time that
his nature was without doubt, on most occasions, gene-
rous and artless. His son had married a lady named
Virginia Palmiroli, and continued, as is so usual in
Italy, to reside with his wife under the paternal roof.
But this arrangement became, it is conjectured, from the
pride and imperiousness of the father, quite intolerable;
and the young pair left the house, and instituted a suit
at law to obtain such a provision as would enable them
to live in independence. The suit was decided against
Guarini ; and his indignation, and assertion that his de-
feat was occasioned by the partiality of the duke towards
his son, seem to evince that he had more justice on his
side than we are enabled to discover. However this


may be, he was so angry at what he considered the in-
justice of the sentence pronounced against him, that he
again requested permission to retire from Alfonso's court.
The duke granted his request, but not without such
tokens of displeasure, as induced Guarini to leave Ferrara
privately and in haste. He betook himself to the court
of Savoy, where the prince willingly took him into his
service ; but the poet found that the change of masters
benefited him little, and he was so constantly employed,
that he had not even time to write a letter. Alfonso
also set on foot some intrigues against him, disliking that
any dependant of his should find protection elsewhere.
His tranquillity being thus disturbed, he hastily quitted 1550.
Savoy and took up his abode at Padua. He here lost /Etat.
his wife, whom he affectionately names in his letters 53 -
as the better part of himself; and, by the separation
of his eldest son, and the absence of his daughters, who
were either married or had places in the palaces of va-
rious princesses of Italy, his family circle was reduced
to one son of ten years of age, whom he calls c< the
hope of his house, and the consolation in his solitude."
This change gave birth to new projects in his restless
mind. " This sudden alteration and transformation of
my life," he writes to the cardinal Gonzaga, in a letter
dated from Padua, the 20th of November, 1591;, " ap-
pears to me to be brought about by the will of God,
who thus calls me to a new vocation. I am not so old
nor so weak as to be unfit to make use of those talents
which God has bestowed on me ; and it appears to me
that I act ill in spending without profit those years,
which by the course of nature I could turn to the ad-
vantage of my family, and of my young son, whose
inclination for the priesthood I am desirous of assisting ;
and I would willingly spend the remnant of my days at
Rome, if I could obtain such preferment, as wouki
enable me to proceed honourably in the advancement of
my moderate expectations." This idea, however, was
but the offspring of disappointed hopes, and it vanished
when other prospects were opened to him ; yet these


were variable and uncertain. His life., both from the
ingratitude of Alfonso and his own restlessness, was
destined to be passed stormily ; discontent and distrust
had taken root in his mind, and existence wore a gloom y

At length Alfonso died, and this circumstance, and
the death of a daughter, assassinated by a jealous hus-
band, caused him to quit Ferrara, and to establish him-
self at Florence, where he was honourably received by
die grand duke Ferdinand. Here doubtless he might
have remained in peace, but for the irascibility of his
temper, the indignation he felt when his views were
thwarted, and his tendency to consider himself an ill-


used man. His younger son, whom he mentions in the
letter quoted above with so much interest, was placed at
Pisa for the sake of his education, where he contracted an
imprudent marriage with a young, beautiful, and dower-
less widow. Guarini was transported by rage : he
accused the duke of abetting his son in this act of dis-
obedience, and indulged in implacable anger against the
youth himself, to whom he refused any assistance,
when reduced to the most necessitous circumstances.
Guarini exalted the paternal authority, and exacted filial
obedience, in a manner that displayed more pride than
affection. Now in his old age, he was at variance with
nearly all his children ; his violent expressions is a
proof that he suffered ; but his heart did not relent nor
open towards them, even when death snatched them
from him j and it is impossible to sympathise in passions,
which thus centred and ended in himself.

On leaving Florence, he visited Urbino ; but, dis-
satisfied with his reception, he retired to Ferrara. The
citizens deputed him to Rome to congratulate Paul
Usur on his being created pope. It was on this oc-
casion that cardinal Bellarmino reproached him for
having done more harm to the Christian world by his
Pastor Fido, than Luther and Calvin by their heresies
a singular denunciation since, though the softness
and tenderness of love, which pervades the poem, may


tend to enervate ; yet the fidelity, the devotion, and
purity of sentiment, exhibited in the actions of the chief
personages, certainly do not lay it open to excessive cen-
sure. Guarini retorted by a witty reply, which the
respect paid to the cardinal by the historians, has not
permitted to be transmitted to us.

This was the last public service of Guarini. A few 1608.
years after he was invited to be present at the nuptials /Etat.
of Francesco Gonzaga and Marguerite of Savoy, during 71 -

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