Imágenes de páginas

pretended charge of having favoured the brief usurpation of Pesaro by Cæsar Borgia.

Of this eventful history few particulars remained. The author of the memoirs before us was indebted for his first knowledge of the subject to a paper by Count Giulio Perticari, in the "Biblioteca Italiana," for 1816, which was brought under his notice, many years ago, by Mr. Panizzi, of the British Museum, "whose talents and acquirements," it was almost unnecessary to remind us, have (in addition to greater services) "done much to increase our knowledge of Italian literature."* Count Perticari's paper opened a way to other information, which was enthusiastically followed up during residences in Italy, Germany, and France, and the present volume is the result; many characteristic accessories having been gathered round the somewhat slender thread of the personal narrative.

Its contents are arranged in two chapters, divided into sections. One of them contains Memoirs connected with Collenuccio's life; the other, Memoirs connected with his writings. To these are added some sixty pages of notes, and a copious appendix. The title of "Memoirs Connected" is well chosen as regards his life, for it is seen rather by reflected than by direct lights. We have descriptions of the offices he held, and anecdotes of those he came in contact with, rather than of himself. Of the celebrated jurist Diplovatazio, the protector of his children when they were left fatherless, we have a biographical sketch, for instance, which occupies about seven pages. But it has an interest of its own.

The Memoirs connected with his writings bring before us the whole of the works that he is known to have left. As an historian, his "History of Naples" was popular for more than a century after his death, and had passed through many more editions than the Florentine history of Macchiavelli. We are told by one of its editors that it was "reprinted every year, and sometimes even every six or seven months; and when Costanzo had been pressed to undertake a rival work, he declared it hopeless to supersede the labours of his predecessor. His History was in every hand, and was translated into almost every language of civilised Europe.f Alas! for earthly immortality. Who reads it now?

Of his Poems, the best known is the Ode to Death (Canzone alla Morte), which, after a lapse of three hundred years, was first printed by Count Perticari, in 1816, with the n.emoir already referred to. Though written with his fate immediately before him, it may be regarded, says its present editor (who translated it at the suggestion of Mr. Panizzi), as one of the most interesting compositions that have ever united to lofty thoughts the graces of

*Preface of 1834; since when the work had remained unprinted.
† Memoirs, p. 148.

the richest and most poetical language in Europe. Its obvious defects (he adds) are an occasional obscurity, and a blending— common at the time-of Christian feeling with platonism, and with pagan imagery. In this case they were discords ably harmonised. The beauties of the Canzone alla Morte are said to be scattered over every stanza. Some of the similes, however striking, may have lost their freshness; but there is, throughout the poem, a tone of elevated thought and feeling.

Next in importance to the canzone is a didactic poem (the first ever written in Italian) on the cultivation of the orange; and now first printed in the Appendix to the Memoirs, from a manuscript in the Library of the Vatican. This is curious in every way, and also contains some well-written verses.

His drama of "Joseph," one of the earliest that was acted at Ferrara, is compared, in some of its best passages, with the much later production of Trissino-his "Sofonisba;" and it is a comparison which it bears. In one of these passages we find a thought and expression so like some well-remembered lines in the "Merchant of Venice," that it is difficult to think the resemblance accidental. We are tempted to quote them, as translated:

To punish justly, or avenge a wrong,
Is but the common and mere act of man;
But pardon is a heavenly attribute;
In this his noblest work be like thy God;
For 'tis alone by Mercy we become
An image of the Deity himself.

In the original they are

Far le giuste vendette, e dar le pene,
Molte il san fare, ed opra è di mortali;
Ma il perdonare solo a Dio conviene :
Imita in questo il grand Iddio immortale
Con le altre divine opre; che tu sai
Che la clemenza a Dío fa l'uomo eguale!

"But such examples," we are reminded, "are not conclusive evidences of imitation." There is a passage quoted from the same play

Il mal commun

Non tol del proprio male ad alcun la doglia.

of which Tennyson's

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter.

(In Memoriam, vi. 2.)

might seem a translation; and yet it is more than probable that the "Joseph" had never even been seen by our distinguished poet laureate. There is scarcely a doubt that "some of the plays

* Regole da piantare e conservare Melarance.

acted at Ferrara had become known to our early dramatists;" for at no time was Italian literature so current in England. Shakespeare ingrafted his "Taming of the Shrew" upon the plot of Ariosto's "I Suppositi," of which a translation by George Gascoigne appeared in 1566; and it is as likely that the "Comedy of Errors" and the "Timon" were taken from the Duke of Ferrara's translation of the "Menæchmi," and Boiardo's "Timone"-or suggested by them-as that they were taken from Plautus and Lucian.

Collenuccio's contributions to natural history are in a short treatise "De Vipera," and in his "Defensio Pliniana." The latter were reprinted by Brunfelsius in his "Herbarium": Strasburg, 1531; and, in connexion with these, his biographer refers us to a passage in the "De Vipera," which he considers as "one of the earliest approaches upon record" to the principles upon which Galileo philosophised and Bacon founded his "Novum Organon."

Of his miscellaneous works one of the most curious is a treatise upon "The Mode adopted by the Ancients in Educating their Children;" but it seems doubtful whether it was taken from an authority no longer extant, or whether it is "merely the ingenious fabrication of an accomplished scholar."

In speaking of him as an antiquary, we think his knowledge of Etruscan antiquities is too vaguely estimated. Peticari gives two authorities to substantiate his claim; and the one into which we have looked (Giraldi Dial., i.) states distinctly, "Jam verò ad Latinos redeo, qui Hetruscorum literis primùm uti solebant, Hetruscorum inquam, quorum literarum adhuc extant characteris à Latinis diversissimi, ut memini me vobis alias ostendere, simul inscriptiones ex iis vetustas collectas à Collenuccio et Annio, et post etiam ab aliis vulgatas."

The style in which these memoirs are written has been described elsewhere as "clear and elegant." In some parts it might have been more florid or "embossed;" but if to be plain and unexaggerated be a fault, it is at any rate not, in our time, a common one. Under this head a single example may be sufficient. Collenuccio's chief protector, Duke Ercole of Ferrara (of whom an authentic likeness is prefixed to the first chapter*), is described as follows:

"The patron he had chosen was endowed with every princely quality. He was of a noble presence-brave, generous, a protector of learning, and himself a scholar. His own life had not been a course of uninterrupted prosperity. Both his brother and himself were mere boys at the death of their father Nicolò, and (though no usurpation of power was ever attended with fewer evils) they had to encounter some of the wrongs to which, in

*It is photographed from a medal of the time.


those turbulent times, a minority was more especially liable. We may trace him in his exile at the court of Naples, distinguished for his accomplishments, the favourite of King Alfonso, the cavaliere senza paura: we may see him, through the vivid descriptions of the early chroniclers, in his chivalrous conflict with the Neapolitan knight Galeazzo Pandone; in his spirited remonstrance to the successor of Alfonso when envy had deprived him of his favour; in his eloquent appeal to his companions in arms on being at last compelled to pass over to the service of the enemy; and in his knightly revenge (at the battle of Sarno) of the insults he had received from the young king. Recalled to Ferrara, and afterwards, at the head of fourteen hundred lances, in the service of Venice, distinguishing himself at the sanguinary battle of Molinella, we may imagine the gallant bearing that won him the affection of his future subjects, and compelled the admiration even of the kinsman who filled his throne. We find him afterwards described as accompanying the usurper to Rome, and displaying his prowess in the tournaments that attended this visit of homage to the Pope, and he finally himself succeeded to the sovereignty as much from a conviction of his merits as from a sense of justice; but the history of the court of Ferrara has been made familiar to us by its connexion with other subjects; and I have already said sufficient to renew our recollection of the vicissitudes that preceded the elevation of the duke to a throne which he surrounded with talent and genius, and with a splendour unrivalled even by the most powerful princes of his age." (Chap. i. § 2.)

But we shall make one more extract. At the close of the section on Collenuccio's Poetry, and in reference to the literary character of the age, it is observed:

"These brief and imperfect notices, and the poems I have reprinted, will probably afford sufficient proof that Collenuccio had the mind and feelings of a poet. His occasional deficiencies in style are to be attributed to his having written before the language had yet recovered from long disuse and neglect. They were amongst the faults inseparable from an age when the discovery and illustration of the classics were the only pursuits thought worthy of the scholar; and when, compared with these, the cultivation of Italian verse was considered as little more than an idle amusement. The greater part of the fifteenth century will be remembered as an epoch in literary history distinguished rather by learning than by genius. At its commencement, generations had passed away since Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio had burst upon the mental night of Italy. At its close Ariosto's magnificent poem had not appeared. Tasso's Christian epic was to shed its lustre upon the following century. Macchiavelli was then scarcely

* The lance is said to have comprised from four to six men (note, p. 128).

known. . . . It is true that there was Leonardo da Vinci, great in many arts, and in one amongst the greatest. At other courts as well as at Florence and Ferrara there were men of talents. But (unless we except Boiardo) no one, as a poet, stood pre-eminently forth. It was distinctively the age of scholars, statesmen, and military chiefs." (Chap. ii. § 2.)

In the Appendix (with many extracts from scarce and curious books and manuscripts) there is an interesting narrative of events connected with the assassination of the Duke of Milan; and a minute and vivid description of the entry of Charles VIII. into Florence.

From the translated poetry we take the following sonnet by Alessandro Sforza:


Weary and sad, and feeble from the blow,

My weight of earthly care has borne me down,
And long-offended Heav'n with angry frown
Regards me, 'till I sink beneath my woe.
My cheeks are pale, my tears unceasing flow,
My heart is pierced, as one who lies o'erthrown
A bleeding captive, and I make my moan
That time misspent has wrought my overthrow.
'Tis not my planet: 'tis not in my fate,
My star, my fortune, or my destiny;

My own unbridled passions have alone

Provoked Heav'n's wrath; and to my wretched state
Suits the lone cell where humbled misery,
Weeping, its long transgressions may atone.

(Appendix, p. 254.)

We have lingered over this volume longer than we intended; and we cannot help thinking that there are some of our readers who will regret that "only fifty copies" of it have been printed.



THERE lived of old a learned man,
Whose name was Thomas More;

I do not mean the Irish Bard,
But he who lived before;
He wrote a book about an isle,
Somewhere mid-ocean hid,
And all about the islanders,
And what they said and did.

« AnteriorContinuar »