Matteo Maria Boiardo.

The Orlando innamorato online

. (page 2 of 13)
Online LibraryMatteo Maria BoiardoThe Orlando innamorato → online text (page 2 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

bearing up for his harbour when in the middle
of a digression ; and then, when he seems to
feel himself sure of a retreat, indulging in a


new sally, in which he however never entirely
loses sight of his port.


He who the name of little world applied
To man, in this approved his subtle wit:
Since, save it is not round, all things beside
Exactly with this happy symbol fit ;
And I may say that long and deep, and wide
And middling, good and bad, are found in it.
Here too, the various elements combined
Are dominant ; snow, rain, and mist and wind.


Now clear, now overcast. 'Tis there its land
Will yield no fruit ; here bears a rich supply :
As the mixt soil is marie, or barren sand ;
And haply here too moist, or there too dry.
Here foaming hoarse, and there with murmur

Streams glide, or torrents tumble from on high.
Such of man's appetites convey the notion :
Since these are infinite, and still in motion.


Two solid dikes the invading streams repel,
The one is Reason, arid the other Shame.
The torrents, if above their banks they swell,
Wit and discretion are too weak to tame.
The crystal waters, which so smoothly well.
Are appetites of things, devoid of blame.
Those winds, and rains, and snows, and night,

and day.
Ye learned clerks, divine them as ye may.

Among these elements, misfortune wills

Our nature should have most of earth : for she.
Moved by what influence heaven or sun instils.
Is subject to their power ; nor less are we.
In her, this star or that, in barren hills
Produces mines in rich variety :
And those who human nature wisely scan
May this discern peculiarly in man.



Who would believe that various minerals grew,
And many metals, in our rugged mind ;
From gold to nitre ? Yet the thing is true ;
But, out, alas ! the rub is how to find
This ore. Some letters and some wealth pursue,
Some fancy steeds, some dream, at ease reclined ;
These song delights, and those the cittern's

sound, ^
Such are the mines which in our world abound.


As these are worthier, more or less, so they

Abound with lead or gold ; and practised wight,

The various soil accustomed to survey,

Is fitted best to find the substance bright.

And such in our Apulia is the way

They heal those suffering from the spider's bite ;

Who strange vagaries play, like men possessed ;

Tarantulated *, as 'tis there express'd.

* The Tarantula is now known to be harmless. The cause
of its supposed mischievous effects, and the efficacy of the
mode of curing them are perhaps easily explained. People



For this, 'tis needful, touching sharp or flat.
To seek a sound which may the patients please ;
Who, when they find the merry music pat.
Dance till they sweat away the foul disease.
And thus who should allure this man or thaty
And still with various offer tempt and tease,
I wot, in little time, would ascertain
And sound each different mortal's mine and vein.

are in all countries (though they are imagined to be peculiarly
so in England) exposed to attacks of melancholy, which arise
out of some physical cause, whether indigestion, or other
bodily complaint. The doctors of Calabria attributed this to the
sting of the tarantula, which is assuredly not more extravagant
than a popular English medical author's ascribing jaundice to
the bite of a mad dog. The patient, delighted to find a cause for
his complaint, was easily, by leading questions, brought to recol-
lect that he had, at some time or other, felt a prick, which pro-
bably proceeded from the sting of a tarantula. Dancing was
the remedy prescribed ; and this, as exciting the animal spirits,
&c. may very well have operated a cure of the real disease.
The patients were to be played to, as Berni states, till a tune
was struck which pleased their fancy, and animated them to
exertion. The Tarantella, an air supposed to be particularly
stimulating in such a case, is still a popular dance in the south
of Italy. Modern philosophers have found out that the
tarantula has no venom.



'Twas so Brunello with Rogero wrought,
Who offered him the armour and the steed.
Thus by the cunning Greek his aid was bought,
Who laid fair Ilion smoking on the mead.
Which was of yore in clearer numbers taught ;
Nor shall I now repeat upon my reed,
Who from the furrow let my plough-share stray,
Unheeding how the moments glide away.


As the first pilot by the shore did creep,

Who launched his boat upon the billows dark,
And where the liquid ocean was least deep,
And without sails impelled his humble barque ;
But seaward next, where foaming waters leap.
By little and by little steered his ark,
With nothing but the wind and stars to guide,
And round about him glorious wonders spied.

b 2



Thus I, who still have sung a humble strain,
And kept my little barque within its bounds,
Now find it fit to launch into the main,
And sing the fearful warfare, which resounds
Where Africa pours out her swarthy train,
And the wide world with mustered troops

abounds ;
And, fanning fire and forge, each land and nation
Sends forth the dreadful note of preparation.

The next extract I shall give, though it com-
mences with his favourite figure of the barque,
will serve as a specimen of a different style.
It forms the opening of the second book.
The two first lines the reader will trace to
Dante, and will find in the remainder a trans-
lation of the JEneadum Genetrix of Lucretius.


Launched on a deeper sea, my pinnace, rear
Thy sail, prepared to plough the billows dark :
And you, ye lucid stars, by whom I steer
My feeble vessel to its destined mark,
Shine forth upon her course benign and clear.
And beam propitious on the daring barque
About to stem an ocean so profound :
While I your praises and your works resound.


O, holy mother of ^neas ! O,
Daughter of Jove ! thou bliss of gods above
And men beneath ; Venus, who makest grow
Green herb and plant, and fiUest all with love ;
Thou creatures that would else be cold and

Dost with thy sovereign instinct warm and move,
Thou dost all jarring things in peace unite —
The world's eternal spirit, life and light,
b 3



At thine appearance storm and rain have ceased,
And zephyr has unlocked the genial ground ;
Leap the wild herds ; — 'tis wanton nature's feast, —
And the green woods with singing birds resound ;
While by strange pleasure stung, the savage beast
Lives but for love ; what time their greenwood

All creatures rove, or couch upon the sward.
Discord and hate forgot, in sweet accord.

Thee, kind and gentle star ! thy suppliant prays ;
To thee I sue by every bolt which flies
Thro' the fifth planet*, melting with thy rays.
When panting on thy lap the godhead lies.
And lock'd withm thine arms, with upward gaze.
Feeds on thy visage his desiring eyes :
That thou wilt gain for me his grace, and grown
Propitious, with his grace accord thine own.

* Mars.


Since 'tis of thee I sing, as I have said,

And only of thy praise and pleasures dream ;
Well pleased I to this fruitful field was led,
And sure I could not choose a sweeter theme.
Thou too, that down thy clear and ample bed
Dost run with grateful murmur, rapid stream.
Awhile from thine impetuous course refrain,
While on thy banks I tune my mingled strain.

In the concluding address to the river, he
apostrophizes the Adige, on whose banks he
might be said to be writing, as he was then
living in the town of Verona, which is watered
by it, in the service of the Cardinal di Bib-

One more specimen of his poetical prefaces,

and I have done. It is the introduction to his

third book ; and in this too the reader, who

will recognize a passage of the ars poefica of

b 4«


Horace, may observe how well Berni translates
and applies his classical recollections.

As they, who their unhappy task fulfil

In mines of j^ngland, Hungary, and Spain,
The deeper that they dig the mountain, still
Find richer treasure and securer gain ;
And as wayfaring man who climbs a hill.
Surveys, as he ascends, a wider plain,
And shores and oceans open on his eye,
Exalted nearer to the starry sky :

So in this book, indited for your pleasure,
If you believe and listen to my lore.
You, in advancing, shall discern new treasure, '
And catch new lights and landscapes evermore.
Then by no former scale my promise measure,
Nor judge this strain by that which went before:
Since still my caves and rugged rocks unfold
A richer vein of jewels, pearls, and gold.



And he who winds about my mountain's side,
Still spies new lands and seas, a glorious sight.
If patient industry and courage guide
Him from the valley to the frowning height.
Like prospect was the poet's who supplied
Flame out of smoke, instead of smoke from light ;
With wise Ulysses' acts to fill our ears.
To the more wonderment of him who hears.

So much for the poetry of Berni. His life
was not such as reflected any lustre on his
works. This, if we reject some foul imputa-
tions cast upon him, was, to say the least of it,
disreputable. It is, however, certain, that being
at last established in a canonry at Florence,
he lived there in high and accomplished society.
This fact, however, in a profligate age, like that
in which he flourished, proves nothing in his


favour ; and, if we listened to the stories of his
biographers, we might suppose him even to
have been courted for some of his vicious pro-
pensities: for one of these writers tells us he
was excited by the cardinal Ippolito de' Medici
to poison the duke Alexander, against whom
he had a private pique; another, would have
us believe that he was tempted by the duke to
poison the cardinal; and (to complicate the
matter yet more) that the cardinal or the duke,
or both, had poison administered to Bemi
himself, upon his refusal. The dates, how-
ever, of their respective deaths, are at variance
with these strange assertions; and if such
certain means of contradiction were wanting,
the internal evidence of Berni's character, how-
ever vicious, might be almost sufficient to refute
such improbable calumnies. It may be said,
indeed, that perhaps no one was ever selected
as a probable agent of guilt, who seems to have


been so little capable of engaging in the sort
of crimes which were expected of him.

As a proof of this we might almost refer to
the picture which he has given of himself, and
which carries with it every warrant of resem-
blance. In one of the cantos of the last book
of the Innamorato, he describes a number of
persons as having become the victims of a
fairy, of whom they afterwards remain the
voluntary prisoners. Among these he has,
in imitation of certain painters, introduced him-
self with another known character of the day :
a circumstance which, together with the nature
of the episode, might lead one to suspect
that Thomson was indebted to this fiction for
his Castle of Indolence. He has, however,
given the tenants of his " bowers of ease," a
character so much more intellectual than that
of Berni's actors, that he may very fairly pretend
to the praise of original composition, even if his


work be an imitation instead of a mere acci-
dental coincidence; which I am more tempted
to beheve. * But I draw the curtain of Berni's

* I do not recollect any authority for Tliorason's having
been conversant with Italian poetry ; and I think that a view
of his works would lead to a contrary supposition. Thus I
should say that though no man could copy what he actually
saw with a nicer hand or eye, no man had more need of study
in the Italian school of ideal picture than this English poet.
In his drawings from nature his colouring is as inimitable as
his design j and his bird, who

" Shivers every feather with desire,"

is painted with the precision as well as the force of the Flemish
pencil. Yet he has personified Autumn as

" Crowned tuith the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,"

thus putting on his head what should have been in his hand,
and presenting us a ludicrous figure surmounted by a " crum-
pled horn." No Italian poet would have painted from nature
with Thomson's marvellous precision; and no Italian poet
would have committed such gross offences against propriety as
he has, in his imaginary pictures.




A boon companion to increase this crew
By chance, a gentle Florentine, was led ;
A Florentine, altho' the father who
Begot him, in the Casentine was bred ;
Who nigh become a burgher of his new
Domicile, there was well content to wed ;
And so in Bibbiena wived, which ranks
Among the pleasant towns on Amo's banks. '


At Lamporecchio, he of whom I write

Was born, for dumb Masetto * fam'd of yore,
Thence roam'd to Florence ; and in piteous plight
There sojourned till nineteen, like pilgrim poor ;
And shifted thence to Rome, with second flight
Hoping some succour from a kinsman's store ;
A cardinal allied to him by blood.
And one that neither did him harm nor good.
• See Boccaccio.



He to the nephew passed, this patron dead,
Who the same measure as his uncle meted ;
And then again in search of better bread,
With empty bowels from his house retreated ;
And hearing, for his name and fame were spread,
The praise of one who serv'd the pope repeated,
And in the Roman court Datario hight,
He hired himself to him to read and write.


This trade the unhappy man believed he knew ;
But this belief was, like the rest, a bubble,
Since he could never please the patron, who
Fed him, nor ever once was out of trouble.
The worse he did, the more he had to do,
And only made his pain and penance double :
And thus, with sleeves and bosom stuffed with

Wasted his wits, and lived oppressed with vapours.


Add for his mischief (whether 'twas his little
Merit, misfortune, or his want of skill)
Some cures he farmed produced him not a tittle,
And only were a source of plague and ill.
Fire, water, storm, or devil, sacked vines and

Whether the luckless wretch would tythe or till.
Some pensions too, which he possessed, were

And, like the rest, produced him not a groat.

This notwithstanding, he his miseries slighted,
Like happy man, who not too deeply feels ;
And all, but most the Roman lords, delighted,
Content in spite of tempests, writs, or seals.
And oftentimes, to make them mirth, recited
Strange chapters upon urinals and eels ; *
And other mad vagaries would rehearse.
That he had hitched. Heaven help him ! into verse.

* See his Capitoli sugli Orinaliy Sulle Anquille^ etc.




His mood was choleric, and his tongue was vicious,
But he was praised for singleness of heart ;
Not taxed as avaricious or ambitious,
Affectionate, and frank, and void of art ;
A lover of his friends, and unsuspicious ;
But where he hated, knew no middle part ;
And men his malice by his love might rate :
But then he was more prone to love than hate.


To paint his person, this was thin and dry ;
Well sorting it, his legs were spare and lean ;
Broad was his visage, and his nose was high,
While narrow was the space that was between
His eye-brows sharp ; and blue his hollow eye.
Which for his bushy beard had not been seen,
But that the master kept this thicket clear'd,
At mortal war with moustache and with beard.



No one did ever servitude detest

Like him ; though servitude was still his dole :
Since fortune or the devil did their best
To keep him evermore beneath controul.
While, whatsoever was his patron's best,
To execute it went against his soul ;
His service would he freely yield, unasked,
But lost all heart and hope, if he were tasked.


Nor musick, hunting-match, nor mirthful measure,
Nor play, nor other pastime moved him aught ;
And if 'twas true that horses gave him pleasure,
The simple sight of them was all he sought,
Too poor to purchase ; and his only treasure
His naked bed : his pastime to do nought
But tumble there, and stretch his weary length,
And so recruit his spirits and his strength,



Worn with the trade he long was used to slave in,
So heartless and so broken down was he ;
He deemed he could not find a readier haven,
Or safer port from that tempestuous sea ;
Nor better cordial to recruit his craven
And jaded spirit, when he once was free,
Than to betake himself to bed, and do
Nothing, and mind and matter so renew.


On this as on an art, he would dilate.

In grood set terms, and styled his bed a vest.
Which, as the wearer pleased, was small or

And of whatever fashion hked him best ;
A simple mantle, or a robe of state ;
With that a gown of comfort and of rest :
Since whosoever slipt his daily clothes
For this, put off with these all worldly woes.


4'.:> 5 , D





Gradasso, king of Sericane, meditates the invasion of
France, in order to obtain Bayardo and Durindana. In the
mean time Charlemagne is holding a court plenar at Paris ;
where the appearance of Angelica excites much confusion
amid the assembled knights. She returns towards her own
kingdom, pursued by Orlando and Rinaldo. Rinaldo having,
however, drunk of the waters of Disdain, while she has unfor-
tunately tasted those of Love, is seized with loathing for the
damsel, and is, in his turn, followed in vain by her, whom he
before pursued. He is now sent by Charlemagne in defence
of Marsilius, king of Spain, whose territories were invaded
by Gradasso, in his progress towards France. He is here
separated from his army by a device of Malagigi, his own
brother, who is become the tool of Angelica, and his troops,
left without their leader, return home. Marsilius, in conse-
quence of this desertion, buys peace of Gradasso, by assisting
him in his invasion of France. Here Charlemagne and his

; x^adins ^^re u&dejpjrisoners in a thorough rout of the Chris-
■ tiin army. Gruda3sc, however, offers him peace and liberty

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryMatteo Maria BoiardoThe Orlando innamorato → online text (page 2 of 13)