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But notwithstanding the plan and conduct of Spenser, in the poem before us, is highly exceptionable, yet we may venture to pronounce, that the scholar has more merit than his master in this refpect; and that the Faerie Queene is not fo confused and irregular as the Orlando Furioso. There is indeed no general unity which prevails in the former : but, if we consider every book, or adventure, as a separate poem, we shall meet with to many distinct, however imperfect, unities, by which an attentive reader is less bewildered, than in the maze of indigestion and incoherence, of which the latter totally consists, where we seek in vain either for partial or universal integrity :: :.
Cum nec pes nec caput uni “ Reddatur formæ.” Hor. Art. Poet. v. 8. Ariosto has his admirers, and most deservedly. Yet every classical, every reasonable critick must acknowledge, that the poet's conception in celebrating the MADNESS, or, in other words, describing the irrational acts, of a hero, implies extravagance and absurdity. Orlando does not make his appear: ance till the eighth book, where he is placed in a situation not perfectly heroick. He is discovered to us in bed, defiring to sleep.'. His ultimate design is to find Angelica, but his pursuit of her is broken off in the thirtieth book; after which there are fixteen books, in none of which Angelica has the leaft share. Other heroes are likewise engaged in the same pursuit. After reading the first stanza, we are inclined to think, that the subject of the poem is the expedition of the Moors into. France, under the emperor Agramante, to fight against Charles magne ; but this business is the most infignificant and inconsiderable part of it. Many of the heroes perform exploits equal, if not superiour, to those of
Orlando; particularly Ruggiero, who closes the poem with a grand and important achievement, the conquest and death of Rodomont. But this event is not the completion of a story carried on, princi, pally and perpetually, through the work. .
This fpirited Italian passes from one incident to another, and from region to region, with such in- ' credible expedition and rapidity, that one would think he was mounted upon his winged steed Ippogrifo. Within the compass of ten stanzas, he is in England and the Hesperides, in the earth and the moon. He begins the history of a knight in Europe, and suddenly breaks it off to resume the unfinished catastrophe of another in Afia. The reader's imagination is distracted, and his attention harrassed, amidst the multiplicity of tales, in the relation of which the poet is at the fame instant equally engaged. To remedy this inconvenience, the compassionate expositors have affixed, in some of the editions, marginal hints, informing the be, wildered reader in what book and stanza the poet intends to recommence an interrupted episode. This expedient reminds us of the aukward artifice practised by the first painters. However, it has proved the means of giving Ariosto's admirers ą
However, it has proved the means of giving Ariosto's ad. mirers a clear comprehenfion of his Nories, &c.] There was a work of another kind published, in the age of Spenser, calculated to augment the fame of Ariosto, and to excite a desire in the reader, by the curious expositions given of particular passages, to peruse the whole of such a marvellous compofition, It was entitled “ Bellezze del Furioso di M. Lodovico Ariosto; Scielte da Oratio Toscanella : Con gli Argomenti et Allegorie de i Conti: Con l'Allegorie de i nomi proprii principali dell' opera: et coi luochi communi dell’-autore per ordine di alfabeto; del medesimo.” Printed at Venice, in 1574, 4to. The work is embellished with the usual ornaments ofdthat pem riod, wooden cuts well designed and well finished. Todo.
clear comprehension of his stories, which otherwise they could not have obtained, without much difficulty. This poet is seldom read a second time in order; that is, by passing from the first canto to the second, and froin the second to the rest in succefsion: by thus pursuing, without any regard to the proper course of the books and stanzas, the different tales, which though all somewhere finished, yet are at present so mutually complicated, that the incidents of one are perpetually clashing with those of another. The judicious Abbe du Bos ob, serves happily enough, that. “Homer is a geometrician in comparison of Ariosto.” His miscellaneous contents cannot be better expressed than by the two first verses of his exordium. Borse ,,,
** Le Donne, i Cavalier, l'Arme, gli Amori,
" Le Cortesie, l'audaci Imprese, io canto." . · But it is absurd to think of judging either Ariosto or Spenser by precepts which they did not attend to. We, who live in the days of writing by rule, are apt to try every composition by those laws which we have been taught to think the sole criterion of excellence. Critical taste is universally diffused, and we require the same order and design which every modern performance is expected to have, in poems where they never were regarded or intended. Spenser, (and the fame may be said of Ariosto,.). did not live in an age of planning. His poetry is the careless exuberance of a warm imagination and a strong fenfibility. It was his business to engage the fancy, and to interest the attention by bold and striking images, in the formation, and the dispofi
Montesquieu has partly characterised Spenfer, in the judgement he has passed upon the English poets, which is not true with regard to all of them. “ Leurs poetes auroient plus souvent cette rudesse originale de l'invention, qu'une cer
tion of which, little labour or art was applied. The various and the marvellous were the chief sources of delight. Hence we find our author ransacking alike the regions of reality and romance, of truth and fiction, to find the proper decorations and furniture for his fairy structure. Born in such an age, Spenser wrote rapidly from his own feelings, which at the same time were naturally noble. Exactness in his poem would have been like the cornice which a painter introduced in the grotto of Calypso. Spenter's beauties are like the flowers in Paradise :
" Which not nice Art 6 In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon. “ Pour'd forth profuse, on hill, and dale, and plain,
“ Both where the morning fun first warmly smote · “ The open field, and where the unpierc'd shade
“ Imbrown'd the noon-tide bowers.” Par. L. B. iv. 241 ,
If the Faerie Queene be destitute of that arrangement and economy which epick severity requires, yet we scarcely regret the loss of these while their place is so amply supplied by something which more powerfully attracts us : fomething, which engages the affections, the feelings of the heart rather than the cold approbation of the head. If there be any poem, whose graces please, because they are situated beyond the reach of art, and where the force and faculties of creative imagination delight, because they are unaffifted and unrestrained by those of deliberate judgement, it is this. In read. ing Spenser if the critick is not satisfied, yet the reader is transported. T. WARTON.
force anbeyond the mees, please, h
“ taine delicatesse que donne le gout: on y trouveroit quelque “ chose qui approcheroit plus de la force de M. Ange, que de “ la grace du Raphael.” L'Esprit du Loix. liv. 19. chap. 27. The French criticks are too apt to form their general notions of English poetry, from our fondness for Shakspeare.
T. WARTON: VOL. 11.
SPENSER'S IMITATIONS FROM OLD ROMANCES.
ALTHOUGH Spenser formed his Faerie Queene upon the fanciful plan of Ariosto, yet it must be confessed, that the adventures of his knights are a more exact and immediate copy of those which we meet with in old romances, or books of chivalry, than of those which form the Orlando Furioso. Ariosto's knights exhibit surprising examples of their prowess, and achieve many heroick actions. But our author's knights are more professedly engaged in revenging injuries, and doing justice to the distreffed; which was the proper business, and ultimate end of the ancient knight-errantry. And thus though many of Spenter's incidents are to be found in Ariosto, such as that of blowing a horn, at the found of which the gates of a castle fly open, of the vanishing of an enchanted palace or garden after fome knight has destroyed the enchanter, and the like; yet these are not more peculiarly the property of Ariosto, than they are common to all ancient romances in general. Spenser's first Book is, indeed, a regular and precise imitation of such a series of action as we frequently find in books of chivalry. For instance; A king's daughter applies to a knight, that he would relieve her father and mother, who are closely confined to their castle, upon account of a vast and terrible dragon, that had ravaged their country, and perpetually laid wait to destroy them.