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but their author had one singular advantage over the political statesmen of Florence :-he did not coldly laugh at the human race, while he endeavoured to correct its follies by exposing them. He was too much in earnest to be playful, too vehement and atrabilarious not to wound sharply when he chose to strike. With more of Juvenal than Horace, (though he imitated both) in the character of his genius, he occasionally displays, with the strength of the former, too much of his coarseness. But the prevailing manners of his day and country account for, without excusing, this unpardonable fault; which, though the least in the eyes of contemporary critics, must always lessen his merit in the estimation of a more refined and fastidious posterity. It is, however, notable, that if, like his great Latin prototype, he is sometimes offensive in terms, still he never falls into the immoral indelicacies of his influential countryman, Marini, and is rarely guilty of those disgustingly coarse allusions to human depravity, with which the great censor-critic of England charges the “ melancholy Cowley,” the “courtly Denham," the “witty Donne," and other contemporary British poets, who were deemed the “grace and ornament” of an English court, and are still ranked among the brightest luminaries in the galaxy of British classics. Salvator, indeed, never for a moment relaxes from the highest tone of Christian and philosophical morality. His works, whether of the pen or the pencil, were all in alliance with Virtue and her cause ; and he neither spáres Ariosto nor Giulio Romano, (whom he so much admired) when expressing his abhorrence of that perversion of genius, which lends its mighty powers to the corruptions of society, by pandering to its passions. The immediate precursor of Filicaja, he was the first who dared to write in the cause of liberty, and to expose the abuses in morals and manners which result from despotism in government ; and this too, after a century of timid silence upon such perilous subjects, which, even now to treat, would be to incur the horrors of an Italian dungeon, or an Hungarian fortress.
In despite of literary and party feuds, of the opposition of the great and the attacks of the little, the poetical works of Salvator Rosa were read with avidity, and circulated universally, during his life-time, and long before they were printed or published. The brilliant success they met with from the impartial public, served but to embitter the spirit of party against their author. When it was found no longer possible to decry the merits of his poems, his enemies denied they were his; and reports were industriously circulated, that they were in part the compositions of Salvator Rosa's old and deceased friend, Fra Reginaldo Sgambati, and in part the works of Ricciardi. It was this calumny that produced his concluding satire L'Invidia, (one of his best and bitterest,) and induced his friends to come forward and prove the authenticity of those satires, which it was a perilous honour to father. • While the professsed Trecentisti and Della Cruscans of the present day place Salvator Rosa in the second class of poets,—while his works are anathematized by the “ Parnasso Italiano,” and “damned with faint praise” by those cold, dry, literary annalists, Tiraboschi and Crescembeni, there are even among those of the modern Italians, whose own principles are
in full coincidence with the political opinions and philosophical views of Salvator Rosa, many who shrink from opposing their own private judgment in favour of the poet of liberty, to the decision of those authorized and “time-honoured” tribunals which condemned Torquato Tasso. But Italy is daily becoming more worthy of appreciating the genius of one, whom England has always cherished; nor can it be supposed, that they who now dare to admire the nervous strength and free breathings of an Alfieri—who dwell with enthusiasm on the bold, imaginative, and philosophical poetry of a Byron, (of all modern English poets the one most read in Italy)—could remain insensible to the same quality of genius in a native poet, though marked by less polished forms, and draped in less modern modes. The fact is so much the contrary, that the Satires of Salvator Rosa are daily becoming more read and admired throughout Italy. His political opinions, his philosophy, his taste, all belong to the present times, as they were splendid exceptions to the tameness, ignorance, and literary degradation of those in wbich he flourished: and did he now live to illustrate Italy and her troubled dawn of regeneration, with his powerful and brilliant talents, it may be presumed, that the cause which led him to abandon the painted galleries of Rome for the murky tower of Masaniello, would still have directed his pencil and guided his pen in favour of that liberty which, like a pure and persecuted religion, has been miraculously preserved by some few warm and zealous worshippers, even in a region where every institute has long been, and still is, armed against its existence.
Lady Morgan's Life and Times of Salvator Rosa. THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE PRESENT AGE
Were I called upon to state what the Characteristic of the present age of Poetry, in my opinion, was, I should without any hesitation reply-Sensuality.
The language of philosophy is almost always the same, but the different ages of polite literature have their corresponding characteristics; in fact, it is from the existence of such distinct characteristics, that the whole period of a nation's literature is divided into ágcs. Thus the golden age of English poetry (otherwise called the Elizabethian) is differenced from all those which succeeded it, by the characteristic of energetic simplicity,—a characteristic which unites the two best qualities of language, strength and artlessness. The tinsel age (that of Charles II.) is characterized by meretricious superficiality. It is not easy to conjecture by what stretch of metaphor the epithet of golden age could be applied to the reign of our “good Queen Anne;" its characteristic-elaborate elegance,-certainly entitles it to no higher name than the silver, or, rather, the plated age. Whether its impudence, in calling itself the “ Augustan,” should not mark it as the age of brass, may be a question. Finally; Lord Byron has denominated the present the age of bronzebut this is said in a general moral respect, not in a purely literary. If the characteristic of sensuality be rightly assigned, the age of copper would be a more appropriate name,-that being the metal which denotes, astronomically, the queen of physical pleasure.
Let me first explain the term I have used, and then adduce the proofs that it is rightly applied. Modern poetry is addressed almost exclusively to the senses : its subject-matter consists almost wholly of voluptuous pictures, on which the eye of the imagination may gloat till it grows dim with the vicious exercise ; of descriptions,-of forms, whose touch, even in thought, sets the libertine blood on fire, of odours and relishes which debauch the mental taste by their intensity, of sounds too grossly delicious for the ear of fancy to admit without becoming depraved. The feelings, the earthly desires, the animal passions, are alone and always the object of appeal; a modern author seldom deals in imagery which can be held as intellectual; we do not often meet, in a work of the present age, such lines as these,—where there is nothing of “sensuous” pleasure annexed to the images presented: (Macbeth reflecting upon the innocence of his intended victim)And pity, like a naked new-born babe Striding the blast, or heav'n's cherubim horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind : Or these: (the Lady in Comus speaking of her brothers) They left me then, when the gray-hooded Even (Like a sad votarist in Palmer's weeds,) Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phæbus' wain: