Matteo Maria Boiardo.

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Who, at a late period of my labours upon the " FuriosOf **
suggested the present work as Us necessary prologue.

Kind peer, who, mid the tempest of debate.
Hast gladly wooed and won the Southern muse.

Where, crowned with fruit and flower of mingling hues,
She in a grove of myrtle keeps her state.

This I had entered by a postern gate,
Like stranger, who no certain path pursues.

Or garden's lord, that hath his own to choose,
Hadst thou not shewn a better entrance late :

That portal led me to Morgana's * towers,

Where fierce Orlando found the dame at play ;

And though, too fast for me, from fields of flowers.
She flies to savage waste, and will not stay.

It will content me but to paint her bowers.
If this be granted by the scornful fay.

William Stewart Rose,

* See the adventure of Morgana, the type of Fortune, who,
flying from her garden into a wilderness, is taken by Orlando,
Book II.

A 3



It is many years since I first entertained a
vague idea of translating the Orlando Furioso,
and circumstances of little importance to the
reader, led me more recently to undertake it
in earnest. This work was again laid down;
and afterwards resumed at the instance of a
distinguished friend ; and by an odd coinci-
dence, I am indebted also to the suggestion of
another eminent person for the idea of the
present translation of the Orlando Innamorato,
which, I should observe, is intended to be
auxiliary to that, my first and greater under-
taking, though I need scarcely say, that the story
A 4


of Boiardo is a necessary prologue to the poem
of Ariosto.

It was my intention to have translated the
first mentioned work, exactly upon the model
adopted by Tressan in his version of the French
romances, a scheme afterwards executed with
so much better success, by my late excellent
friend, Mr. George Ellis, in his English work
of the same description. A further consider-
ation of the subject, however, induced me to
imitate them only in their general plan of illus-
trating a compendious _prose translation by
extracts, without seeking to add poignancy to
this, by what might give a false idea of the tone
of my original. I recollected that I stood in a
very different predicament from that of either
of these authors ; that, to compare my work
with I he one, which is most likely to be familiar
to my readers, the ' Specimens of early English
Romances,* the originals are composed in a
spirit of gravity which can hardly be confused


with the gay style of the translator, and there-
fore nobody can be misled by the vein of plea-
santry which runs through Mr. Ellis's work,
and which is sure to be exclusively ascribed to
the author of the Rifacimento, This, how-
ever, would possibly not be the case with me, as
the Innamorato is in a great measure a humour-
ous work, of which I might give a false im-
pression, by infusing into it a different species
of wit, from that which distinguishes it; — a
consideration which induced me to adopt the
scheme I have pursued in the following sheets.
This project is to give a mere ground-plan
of the Gothic edifice of Boiardo, upon a small
scale, accompanied with some elevations and
sections of the chambers ; which I have sought
to colour after my original : or, (to speak more
plainly,) the reader is to look for the mere
story in my prose abridgement, while he may
form some notion of its tone and style, from
the stanzas with which it is interspersed.


The story indeed, which seems most likely
to interest the English reader, is that which
took a strong possession of the imagination of
Milton, who refers with more apparent en-
thusiasm to the Innamorato, than to the Furioso,
and whose apparent preference is justifiable,
if a richer stream of invention, and more con-
summate art in its distribution, are legitimate
titles to admiration.

In this latter qualification more especially,
Boiardo, however inferior as a poet, must be
considered as a superior artist to Ariosto ; and
weaving as complicated a web as his successor,
it is curious to observe how much he excels him
as a story-teller. The tales, indeed, of Ariosto,
(and the want of connexion among these is, in
my eyes, his most essential defect) are so many
loose episodes, which may be compared to
parallel streams, flowing towards one reser-
voir, but through separate and independent
channels. Those of Boiardo, on the contrary,


are like waters, that, however they may
diverge, preserve their relation to the parent
river, to which their accession always seems
necessary, and with which they reunite, pre-
vious to its discharging its contents into their
common resting-place. A short example may
serve to illustrate what I have laid down. A
damsel in the Innamorato relates to Rinaldo the
adventures of two worthies named Iroldo and
Prasildo, a narration which is interrupted, and
which, though good in itself, at first appears to
be an insulated episode. Rinaldo, however, after-
wards falls in with Iroldo and his friend; and this
history, thus resumed, unites itself naturally with
that of the paladin. It is thus that all the
stories are dove-tailed one into the other, and
form a mosaic, as striking from the nice
union of its parts, as from the brilliancy of its /

Boiardo's art, though here indeed he cannot
be said to excel Ariosto, is as conspicuous also


in the direction of the strange under-current of
allegory which pervades his poem, as it is in
the distribution of his stream of story ; while
the sort of esoteric doctrines conveyed by it,
gives a mysterious interest even to what we
imperfectly comprehend.

Such indeed is the case with many of the
fables of the Odyssey, and even of the Iliad;
where the allegory, moreover, is always sub -
servient to poetry, and poetry is never made
subservient to allegory. Tliis remarkable
piece of judgment in the Greek poet has, I
think, been well imitated both by Boiardo and
Ariosto, and it is the neglect of this principle
which has made allegory so often offensive in
the Faery Queene of Spenser. The obtrusive
nature of this has been well compared by Mr.
George Ellis, in his Specimens of the early Eng-
lish poets, to a^host in day-light. It is, more-
over, destructive to all character ; for Spenser's
heroes being mere abstract personifications of


some virtue or vice, we almost always know
what they are to do, though their actions are
often unnatural, if considered as the actions
of human beings. Hence it is that we are
never entertained with pictures of manners in
the Faery Queen^ while these form one of the
great charms of the poems with which I am
contrasting it.

It may however be said with justice, that we are
to ascribe this more picturesque effect of allegory, |
rather to the spirit of the age than to that of the^
fabulist. For it is perhaps true that all early
fable is purely allegorical ; that this is by
degrees mixed up with other circumstances,
and it is in this mixed character that it is most
conducive to poetical effect. But in a later age
and later process of refinement, when there is
a greater tendency to abstract, allegory is stript
of her adventitious ornaments, and is at last
forced upon us in poetry, painting, and sculp-
ture, unveiled, or unencompassed by that sort


of pleasing halo which is necessary to give her

But whether we are to ascribe Boiardo's
success in this particular to the character of his
age, or to his own superior judgment, there is, I
think, no doubt about the fact, and there is, I
think, as little difficulty in conceding to my
author, upon other grounds, the praise of skill
in executing the singular work of which he was
the architect.

This extraordinary man was Matteo Maria
Boiardo, count of Scandiano, and a native
of Reggio in the Modenese, who flourished
in the beginning of the sixteenth century.
These are circumstances the more worthy
of mention, as some of them tend to explain
what may seem most strange in the com-
position of the Innamorato ,- such as the pro-
vincial character of the diction, and more
especially that careless and almost contemp-
tuous tone between jest and earnest, which dis-


tinguishes his poem. It is doubtless on this
account that Ugo Foscolo observes, in an in-
genious critique on the ItaHan romantic poets,
in the Quarterly Review *, that he tells his story
in the tone of a feudal baron ; thus applying to
him more justly what M. de Balzac has ob-
jected to another ; of whom he says, " qu'il
s'est comporte dans son poeme comme un
prince dans ses etats. C'est en vertu de cette
souverainte qu'il ne reconnoit point les lois,
et qu'il se met au dessus du droit commun."

After speaking of the mode in which he ar-
ranged his work, it is a natural transition to
the substance with which Boiardo built. This
shews strong internal evidence f of having been

* In an article purporting to be a review of Whistlecraft*s
poer/iy (now entitled The Monks and Giants,) and The Court and
Parliament of Beasts.

f A single circumstance, which I cite, because it can be
appreciated by every body, would convince me that such stories
as are to be found in the Innamorato, were not the growth of
Boiardo's century. No author of that age could have imagined
the friendly ties of alliance and consanguinity between Chris-
tians and paynims, though such fictions are justified by facts:


\j taken, in the main, from the old French ro-
mances of Charlemagne, or rather from Italian
works, raised upon their foundation. Hoole
mentions one of these, called Aspramonte, &c.,
of uncertain date, and we have the titles of two
others, which were anterior to the Innamorato,
one called Lifatti di Carlo Magno e dei Pala-
dini di Francia^ printed in 14-81; the other
printed in 1491, and entitled La Histotia real
di Francia^ che tratta deifatti dei Paladini e di

^ Carlo Magno in set libri. Some indeed would
seem to deny that Boiardo had dug in these
mines, and would wish us to believe, that he
not only compounded but manufactured the

thus we learn from Gibbon that like relations existed between
Greeks and Turks, and (as we are informed by Mr. Lockhart,
in the preface to his Spanish Ballads, a work which presents a^
striking pictures of manners as of passion) between Spaniards
and Moors. Nor need such things surprise us, though the
barriers which now separate Christian and Mahomedan,
render them impossible. Nations are like individuals, and
when they are brought into close and constant intercourse, of
whatever kind, their passions, good or bad, must be kindled
by the contact.


materials with which he wrought. Such at least
would appear to have been the drift of one,
who observes that Agramant, Sacripant and
Gradassso were names of certain of the vassals
of Scandiano. But if he means to insinuate
by this, that Boiardo was not also indebted to
the other source for his fictions and characters,
as well might a critic of to-day, contend that
the author of the Monks and Giants^ who writes
under the name of Whistlecrqft^ had not bor-
rowed the idea of their cause of quarrel from
Pulci, because he has given ridiculous modern
names to some of his giants; or that he had
not taken the leaders amongst his dramatis
personce from the romances of the Round Table,
because he has conferred " two leopards' faces,"
that is, his own arms, on the single knight,
who perishes in Sir Tristram's successful expe-

But if Boiardo has apparently taken his
principal fictions from the romances of Charle-


I magne, he has also resorted to other known
i quarries, and ransacked classical as well as
romantic fable for materials.

This edifice, so constructed, which Boiardo
did not Jive to finish, soon underwent alteration
and repairs. The first were made by Niccolo
degli Agostini, and later in the same century
a second and more celebrated rifacimento of
it, from which this translation is composed, was
produced by Francesco Berni; whose name
has given a distinctive epithet to the style of
poetry, in which he excelled, and of which he is
vulgarly supposed to have been the inventor.

This man was born of poor but noble parents,
in a small town of Tuscany. He entered the
church, to which he had evidently no dispo-
sition, as a means of livelihood, and, though as
unqualified for servitude as for the discharge of
his clerical duties, spent the better part of his
life in dependence. He appears, however, to
have been blessed with a vein of cheerfulness,


which, seconded by a lively imagination, ena-
bled him to beguile the wearisome nature of
occupations, which were uncongenial to him;
and of this he has left many monuments in
sonnets and pieces in terza rima, (styled in
Italian capitoli,) consisting of satires and various
species of ludicrous composition. The titles of
many of these sufficiently attest their whim-
sicality, such as his Capitoli sugli Orinali^ sulle
Anguille, his Eulogy of the Plague^ &c. &c.
But the mode in which he has handled this
last subject, will give the best insight into the
character of his humour. Having premised
that different persons gave a preference to
different seasons- — as the poet to the spring,
and the reveller to the autumn, — he observes,
that one may well like the season of flowers, or
the other that of fruits ; but that, for his part,
he preferred the time of plague. He then
backs his predilection by a rehearsal of the
advantages attending this visitation; observing
a 2


that a man is in such times free from solicitations
of borrowers or creditors, and safe from dis-
agreeable companions ; that he has elbow-room
at church and market, and can then only be
said to be in the full possession of his natural
liberty. He has rung all sorts of changes on
this theme, and nothing can be more humor-
ous than his details.

These are worked up with singular powers
of diction, set off by great apparent facility of
style, and are no less remarkable for music of
rythm, richness of rhyme, and a happy boldness
of expression. In this respect there is some ana-
logy, though no likeness, between Berni and
Dry den; and the real merits of both are there-
fore imperfectly estimated by foreigners, and
even by the generality of their own country-
men. Many Italians, indeed, consider Berni
as a mere buffoon, which the English reader
will think less extraordinary, when he hears


(as Lord Glenbervie * observes, I think, in his
notes to Ricciardetto,) that such an opinion
has been entertained in Italy, even with regard
to Ariosto.

Better reasons may seem to palliate such a
mistake of the real poetical character of Berni>
than of that of Ariosto. Some of these are of
a general description, and others of a nature
more peculiarly applicable to his case. We
may observe, as to the first, that whoever in-
dulges his wit, in whatever species of compo-
sition, is usually misjudged; for wit, in the
sight of the world, overlays all the other qua-
lities of an author, in whatever act or pursuit
he may be engaged. Thus a great English
painter, single in his walk, and distinguished by
his various powers, is looked upon by the mul-

* I state this on Lord Glenbervie's sole authority, which is,
however, a weighty one. Such an opinion was probably
current when he first knew Italy ; but I should imagine it
could hardly be entertained at present.

a. 3


titude as a mere caricaturist, even where carica-
ture is intended by him only as a foil to beauty ;
and orators have for the same reason sunk into
jesters in the opinion of the mob, though they
may have been equally distinguished for argu-
mentative discussion or pathetic effect.

But other and more particular circumstances
have tended to fix this character upon Bemi.
Few men have a delicate perception of familiar
expression, and still fewer yet have a nice feeling
of the delicacies of prosody,

Untwisting all the links that tie
The secret chain of harmony.

Now it is for the bold, however dexterous,
use of language, and rythm, that Bemi is
principally distinguished; and hence, as the
means through which he works are imperfectly
understood by the majority of his readers, bis
object has been frequently mistaken. I should


cite, in illustration of this, his description of a
storm at sea, which has been often deemed
burlesque, but in which the poet would be
more justly considered as working a fine effect
by unwonted means.

Let us try this question by the rules of ana-
logy. Men in all countries resemble one
another in the main, and where they are not
guided by a natural taste and judgment, lean
upon some rule, which is to direct them as an
infallible guide. Depending upon this, they
seldom consider that it may be narrow, or of
insufficient support. Thus an EngHshman who
has learned to think about verse, by the help
of a few simple precepts *, which he believes

* For example, there is no rule deemed more absolute, and
yet there is none which admits more exceptions than the
maxim forbidding a line of ten monosyllables. For mono-
syllables, in French and English, are often such only to the
eye, such words being frequently, in both languages, melted
into each other. Hence many good English verses consist of

a 4


to be absolute, is taught to look upon the
double rhyme as suited only to burlesque
poetry. Yet Drummond's

" Methought desponding nightingales did borrow,
Plaint of my plaint, and sorrow of my sorrow ;**

and the description of him, who

" Saw with wonder,
Vast magazines of ice and piles of thunder," *

might be cited to prove what widely different
effects are produced by the same weapon, as it
s differently wielded. But, impressed with the
notions of the laws of verse which I have speci-
fied, that is, not knowing that almost all such

ten words, as that of Dryden, which will be in the recollection
of every body,

" Arms and the man I sing, &c."

and the French cite as beautiful a line of Racine, which
is composed of twelve,

" Lej ur n'est pur que le fond dc mon cocur."
* I quote from memory.


metrical rules as have been alluded to, are
merely conditional, some Italians *, and certain-
ly, almost all English readers of Italian poetry,
suppose the triple rhyme, {la rima sdmcciola)
or dactyl, as it is called by us, to be as exclu-
sively applied to ludicrous composition in Ita-
lian, as the double rhyme is imagined to be
in English ; and this is perhaps one cause why
some of Berni's stanzas, which abound in triple
rhymes, have been so utterly misconceived in
England. Yet Berni and Ariosto have fre-
quently employed the versi sdr-uccioli where
they have aimed at a bold or pathetic effect,
though they have also undoubtedly been used
by them to heighten that of comic or sati-
rical composition. Caro the cotemporary of
Berni is even profuse of triple rhymes in his
translation of the uEneid ; lyric poets, after the

• Thus Goldoni in one of his comedies introduces a man
improvising in triple rhymes for the sake of producing a
ludicrous effect. Goldoni, however, (it must be confessed,}
is no authority in questions of language or of versification.


example of Chiabrera, often insert them in
the sublimest of their, odes ; and one, who
lately died full of years, managed the rime
sdntcciole so easily, as to compose whole poems
with them, and with such dignity, both of
versification and expression, as (in the opinion
of a distinguished Italian friend already cited)
to vie with Tasso and Petrarch.

Now let a man keep such doctrines in mind ;
let him come to the consideration of Berni's
storm with a memory imbued with the sights
and sounds seen and heard in one; let him
consider all circumstances of metre, not abso-
lutely, but conditionally ; that is, in their relation
to each other and the thing described, and he
will then, I believe, enter into the real spirit in
which the poet executed this description, and
contemplate him with very different eyes from
those with which he viewed him before.

Another cause of misconception, to which
I have already alluded, has probably more


misled the mob of readers of Italian poetry,
natives as well as foreigners. I mean the lan-
guage of Berni ; and as to this, certainly few
very few, are capable of appreciating his skill, or
even of making out his track. There is indeed,
I believe, no poet of any country, who has at-
tempted so difficult a flight; a flight of unwearied
wing, struck out with courage, and maintained
only by the most incessant exertion and care.

Traces of these are seen in what may be
called the charts on which he has pricked out
his course, and which, I understand, witness
as much to his diligence, as Ariosto's attest
the care with which he accomplished his most
extraordinary voyage. The documents to
which I allude, are the original MSS. of
the InnamoratOy preserved at Brescia. As I
was ignorant of the existence of these, during
two residences which I made in Italy, I can only
speak of them on the testimony of others ; but
an Italian critic, whom I have often quoted, and


from whose authority upon such points I would
almost say there was no appeal, once assured me
these are as much blotted as those of Ariosto at
Ferrara; and that Bemi seems to have usually
clothed his thoughts in ornate language at first,
which he rejected on after-consideration, simpli-
fying, but at the same time improving, his diction,
as he proceeded, till he arrived at that exquisite
happiness of expression, that curiosa felicitas^
which makes his principal charm. It is hence
that he is the most untranslatable of authors ;
since in copying him, it is not only a question
of imitating colours, but the fine and more
elaborate touches of a peculiar pencil.

While, however, it is clear that the versi-
fication and diction make the great charms of
the Innamorato^ these beauties should not throw
his other excellencies into shade ; and the open-
ings of the different cantos, which he has en-
grafted on the original work of Boiardo, some-
times original, and sometimes imitated from



the older poets, are not greatly inferior to those
•which Ariosto has prefixed to the several cantos
of the Furioso, in imitation of him ; no, not even
in the higher claims of poetical merit.

These sometimes consist of moral reflections,
arising out of the narrative ; and the following
may remind the reader of one of those little
gems scattered through the plays of Shak-
speare : —

Who steals a bugle-horn, a ring, a steed,

Or such like worthless thing, has some discretion.
'Tis petty larceny. — Not such his deed
Who robs us of our fame, our best possession ;
And he who takes our labour's worthiest meed,
May well be deemed a felon by profession ;
Who so much more our hate and scourge de-
As from the rule of right he wider swerves.

Sometimes indulging in a declamation against
vices or follies, he makes his satire more poig-
nant by allusions to some prevalent practice of


the day : thus, in a sally against avarice, he
attacks those who masqued it under the dis-
guise of hypocrisy in the following stanza :

This other, under show of an adviser

And practiser of what is strict and right ;
But being in effect a rogue and miser,
Cloisters a dozen daughters out of sight :
And fain would have the pretty creatures wiser
Than their frail sisters ; but mistakes them quite ;
For they are like the rest, and set the group
Of monks, and priests, and abbots, cock-a-hoop.

The following extract, illustrating a philoso-
phical dogma of his age, taken from the opening
of the forty-sixth canto, is of another description,
and may serve as a specimen of the variety of
his vein, and the odd ingenuity with which he
winds in and out of his argument ; sometimes

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