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studied in such poems as *'La Ginestra," too long to
translate entire, and too complete to bear selection.
Their reading affords a sad pleasure ; which, when the
work of accurate version is attempted, becomes posi-
tive pain.

And with this very imperfect account of a very
great poet, sad as our last notes must be, I feel it is
expedient to bring these chapters to a close. The inspi-
ration of the men discussed in this chapter has
called forth many strains of brilliant and thoughtful
poetry from Italians of our own day, among whom
distinctly the most eminent is Joshua Cardueci, who,



244 THE ITALIAN POETS SINCE DANTE

after thrilling all Italy with his powerful songs for
long years, is even now sinking under the heavy
stroke of disease.* But the judgment of contempora-
ries on poets is a delicate and invidious task. I have
brought you far enough to see that the muse of Italy
is not yet dead, and that the beautiful land where is
heard the sound of si will go on singing to centuries
yet to be as she has to the centuries that have been.
Before we turn away from the fascinating subject, are
there some last words ?

And first, I beg you notice the remarkable fact that
almost all the great poets of Italy, from Dante to
Leopardi, were what their land calls noble— the sons
of ancient and powerful families. With but two ex-
ceptions, they cannot be called men of the people. We
in America may regret the existence of privileged
classes, especially when we consider the absurdity that
Pulci and Berni, Tasso and Leopardi, should still be
called noble when they had lost their money; but
surely such a glorious body of poetry is a noble price
to pay for noble names. Yet their songs have always
been loved by the people. Dante and Petrarch, Ari-
osto and Tasso, have always been loved by their hum-
blest countrymen. Even so Cowper, Byron, Scott,
and Shelley, all of whom Italy would call of noble
birth, fail to speak to the universal heart.

* Carducci died in the spring of 1904



SUMMARY 245

Again, these poets were all educated men. No doubt
in the age of most of them education was limited and
narrow; most of what was taught in the schools was
neither edifying nor stimulating ; but such as it was,
they eagerly took it in, and their poems are a grand
storehouse of such learning as their day could give.
Many of them were trained to the law ; and herein, if
I am not mistaken, they found their precision, their
freedom from cloudiness and vagueness, their coming
straight to the real issue of their subject, which saves
much of their poetry from being misty and perplexing.
By their position and their legal training they were
men of the world— men used to deal with other men
and women, well-trained in human passions and expe-
riences. In the present day, when all that is asked of a
poet is to oblige nature to talk, and to turn everything
into something else, this air of active life, of social
exercise, of interest in men as men, may seem common-
place, but in due time the wheel will come round and
people and critics will once more recognize that Homer
set the true key for all poetry. Watch Nature in all
her moods as you will— she is only the great palace
in which the Father has set His children to dwell ; and
the real shadow and sunshine is in the words and
hearts of men.

Once more— the Italian poets are devoted students
of form. They never would have understood the notion



246 THE ITALIAN POETS SINCE DANTE

that the rhythm is nothing, or is the better for being
unrhythmical ; they would have scouted the absurdity
of a "prose poem," or that the way to read poetry was
to take all the music out of it. They, no doubt, in the
course of time, came to sacrifice force, and even sense,
to mere melody. But that does not hinder the melodies,
the harmonies, nay, the symphonies, of those poets who
have force and sense, from being an eternal possession
of beauty, which in itself supplies a sense and force
that none of the uncouth joltings and prancings of
our modern Pegasus can give.

There is no question that the antique glories of
Italian poetry were an oppression to her later poets.
The central chord of Dante's great poem, that Virgil
was to be his master and guide, whatever he may have
meant by it, was literally true with his successors.
Those successors never dreamed of thinking— as why
should they?— that he and Horace, Ovid and Lucan,
Lucretius and Juvenal, belonged to any land or any
tongue but their own. They wrote in a little earlier
form of the Roman dialect, and that was all. Hence,
at every stage of their song, such masters as Petrarch,
Ariosto, Tasso, Filicaja, felt it a positive duty to
follow "where Virgil, not where fancy, led the way,"
as much as Milton felt bound to follow the Gospels
in "Paradise Regained," or the book of Judges in
"Samson Agonistes." This ancient fame of Italian



SUMMARY 247

verse was a collar of gold round her later sons' necks;
golden, but a fetter, and heavy.

But they were patriots; they did love their native
land. With scarcely an exception, with no exception
of any importance, they did give to her the richest
treasures of their verse, the deepest ponderings of
their souls, the warmest feelings of their hearts. They
rejoiced in all her triumphs, they rebuked all her sins,
they wept over all her woes. Her rulers were often
faithless and tyrannical; her merchants were greedy
and selfish; her soldiers were mercenary and cow-
ardly; her priests were lazy and superstitious, nay,
betrayed their country and their God in ways that
may not be named; her inspired artists turned their
pencil and their chisel to bring out forms unworthy
of their divine gift: but from first to last, when all
these had failed, her poets stnick from their lyres
and pealed from their clarions strains

that might create a soul
Under the ribs of death;

and that country, maimed, despoiled, fettered, stifled,
was not dead, as long as her life was perpetuated in
their heavenly songs. And now that the chains are
struck off ; now that she stands on her feet among her
sisters; now that, under Agrippa's dome, there rises
in eternal honor, face to face with the urn of her celes-



248 THE ITALIAN POETS SINCE DANTE

tial artist, that of her patriot king ; now that the dia-
dem crowns her forehead, let every friend of beauty, of
freedom, of truth, thank the Lord of all that is lovely,
free, and true that in her darkest days he spared her
to be the mother of Petrarch and Ariosto, of Tasso and
Filicaja, of Alfieri and Leopardi— her laureate sons
of glory.



INDEX



TO THE PASSAGES TRANSLATED



AUTHORS POEMS PAGES

Alfieri Maria Stuarda, Act V, scene 1 207, 208

Filippo Secondo, Act II, scene 2 202 et seqq.
Saul, Act III, scene 4 212 etseqq.

Ariosto Orlando Furioso, Canto I, stanza

22 83

Canto II, stanza

5 85, 86

Canto III, stan-
za 72 84

Canto VI, stan-
zas 21, 22 84

Canto VII, stan-
zas 53-55 84, 85

Canto VII, stan-
za 71 85

Canto X, stanza
105 86

Canto XXIII,
stanzas 125-
135 86-88

Canto XXXVII,
stanzas 16-18 90

Canto XXXIX,
stanzas 25-28 89
Innamorato, Book I,
Canto III,
stanzas 38-45 56, 57

Book III, Canto
VII, stanzas
42 etseqq. 57-58

249



Berni Orlando



250



INDEX



AUTHORS

Boccaccio
Boiardo

Buonarroti,

Michael Angelo

Casti



Colonna,
Vittoria
Filicaja

Foscolo
Goldoui
Guarini

Leopardi



Manzoni

Marino

Metastasio



Monti

Parini

Petrarch



POEMS PAGES

Filostrato, Canto VI, stanzas 9-11 33, 34

Orlando Innamorato, Book II,

Canto X, stanzas 11-13 53

V Del mondo scese 97

) Poscia ch' appreso 96

Gli Animali Parlanti, Canto XIII,

stanzas 27-35 179-181

Canto XVIII,

stanzas 25-28 181

) Nel mio bel sol 95

) Quando il turbato 96

Italia, Italia 157

Le corde d' oro elette 157-158

Carme dei Sepolcri 227

La Dalmaziana, Act II, scenes 4, 5 175

Pastor Fido, Act II, chorus 137

Act III, scene 8 136

II passero solitario 241

II sabato del villaggio 240

Paralipomeni, Canto I, stanzas 24-

27 243

II cinque Maggio 231

Adone, Canto I, stanzas 81-84 143, 144

Achille, Act II, scene 8 166 et seqq.

Artaserse, Act III, scene 2 169

Catone, Act I, scene 8 168

Clemenza di Tito, Act I, scene 2 168

Denoiof oonte. Act II, scene 4 165

Elegy on Basseville 225

II Giorno, Part II 220

Benedetto sia 24

Chiare, fresche e dolce acque 29

E mi par d' or in ora 31

Erano i capei 28

Fiamma dal del 27

Gloriosa Colonna 25

Vaerc gravato 26

Millefiate 28



INDEX



251



AUTHORS POEMS


PAGES


Petrarch S'avrei pensato


30


Sennuccio mio


30


Sjpirto gent 11


25


Foi ch' ascoltate


24


Trionfo di Morte, I, 129-139


31


Pulci Morgaute Maggiore, Canto I, stan-




zas 61-65


46


BeJnlTdol'^"^'''^^*''"^'^^


92


Tasso ?
„ ' \ Gerusalemme Liberata, Canto II,
Torquato )

stanzas 16, 33-




36


113, 114


Canto II, stan-




zas 83-86


114-115


Canto IV, stan-




zas 3-7


115-116


Canto IV, stan-




za 87


116


Canto XII, stan-




zas 75-78


121-122


Canto XIII,




stanzas 53-63


117-119


Canto XVI,




stanzas 14, 15


119


Canto XIX,




stanzas 21-26


119-121


Aminta, Act II, scene 2


131


Act 11, chorus


132


Tassoni La Secchia Kapita, Canto II, stan-




zas 15-18


149


Canto V, stan-




zas 25-28


150



I



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Online LibraryWilliam EverettThe Italian poets since Dante → online text (page 15 of 15)