« السابقةمتابعة »
the ingenious Whistlecraft. The serious poems on Roncesvalles in the same language, and more particularly the excellent one of Mr. Merivale, are to be traced to the same source. It has never yet been decided entirely whether Pulci's intention was or was not to deride the religion which is one of his favourite topics. It appears to me, that such an intention would have been no less hazardous to the poet than to the priest, particularly in that age and country; and the permission to publish the poem, and its reception among the classics of Italy, prove that it neither was nor is so interpreted. That he intended to ridicule the monastic life, and suffered his imagination to play with the simple dulness of his converted giant, seems evident enough; but surely it were as unjust to accuse him of irreligion on this account, as to denounce Fielding for his Parson Adams, Barnabas, Thwackum, Supple, and the Ordinary in Jonathan Wild, or Scott, for the exquisite use of his Covenanters in the "Tales of my Landlord."
In the following translation I have used the liberty of the original with the proper names; as Pulci uses Gan, Ganellon, or Ganellone; Carlo, Carlomagno, or Carlomano; Rondel, or Rondello, &c., as it suits his convenience; so has the translator. In other respects the version is faithful to the best of the translator's
other did not mean to burlesque his heroes. It is a happy thing that, with regard to those two great writers, the war has ended by the fortunate intervention of the general body of readers, who, on such occasions, form their Judgment with less erudition and with less prejudice than the critics. But Pulci is little read, and his age is little known. We are told by Mr. Merivale, that the points of abstruse theology are discussed in the Morgante with a degree of sceptical freedom which we should imagine to be altogether remote from the spirit of the fifteenth century." Mr. Merivale follows M. Ginguéné, who follows Voltaire. And the philosopher of Ferney, who was always beating up in all quarters for allies against Christianity, collected all the scriptural passages of Pulci, upon which he commented in his own way. But it is only since the Council of Trent, that any doubt which might be raised on a religious dogma exposed an author to the charge of impiety; whilst, in the fifteenth century, a Catholic might be sincerely devout, and yet allow himself a certain degree of latitude in theological doubt. At one and the same time the Florentines might well believe in the Gospel and laugh at a doctor of divinity: for it was exactly at this era that they had been spectators of the memorable controversies between the representatives of the eastern and western churches. Greek and Latin bishops from every corner of Christendom had assembled at Florence for the purpose of trying whether they could possibly understand each other; and when they separated, they hated each other worse than before. At the very time when Pulci was composing his Morgante, the clergy of Florence protested against the excommunications pronounced by Sixtus IV., and with expressions by which his holiness was anathematised in his turn. During these proceedings, an archbishop, convicted of being a papal emissary, was hanged from one of the windows of the government palace at Florence: this event may have suggested to Pulci the idea of converting another archbishop into a hangman. The romantic poets substituted literary and scientific observations for the trivial digressions of the story. tellers. This was a great improvement; and although it was not well managed by Pulci, yet he presents us with much curious incidental matter. In quoting his philosophical friend and contemporary Matteo Palmieri, he explains the instinct of brutes by a bold hypothesis-he supposes that they are animated by evil spirits. This idea gave no offence to the theologians of the fifteenth century; but it excited much orthodox indignation when Father Bougeant, a French monk, brought it forward as a new theory of his own. Mr. Merivale, after observing that Pulci died before the discovery of America by Columbus, quotes a passage which will become a very interesting document for the philosophical historian. We give it in his prose translation: The water is level through its whole extent, although, like the earth, it has the form of a globe. Mankind in those ages were much more ignorant than now. Hercules would blush at this day for having fixed his coluinns. Vessels will soon pass far beyond them. They may soon reach another hemisphere, because every thing tends to its centre; in like manner as, by a divine mystery, the earth is suspended in the midst of the stars; here below are cities and empires, which were ancient. The inhabitants of those regions were called Antipodes. They have plants and animals as well as you, and wage wars as well as you.'-Morgante, c. 11v. st. 279, &c.
"The more we consider the traces of ancient science, which break in transient flashes through the darkness of the middle ages, and which gradually re-illuminated the horizon, the more shall we be disposed to adopt the hypothesis suggested by Bailly, and supported by him with seductive eloquence. He maintained that all the acquirements of the Greeks and Romans had been transmitted to them as the wrecks and fragments of the knowledge once possessed by primeval nations, by empires of sages and philosophers, who were afterwards swept from the face of the globe by some overwhelming catastrophe. His theory may be considered as extravagant; but if the literary productions of the Romans were not yet extant, it would seem incredible, that, after the lapse of a few centuries, the civilisation of the Augustan age could have been succeeded in Italy by such barbarity. The Italians were so ignorant, that they forgot their family names; and before the eleventh century individuals were known only by their Christian names. They had an indistinct idea, in the middle ages, of the existence of the antipodes; but it was a reminiscence of ancient knowledge. Dante has indicated the number and position of the stars composing the polar constellation of the Austral hemisphere. At the same time he tells us, that when Lucifer was huried from the celestial regions, the arch-devil transfixed the globe; half his body remained on our side of
ability in combining his interpretation of the one language with the not very easy task of reducing it to the same versification in the other. The reader, on comparing it with the original, is requested to remember that the antiquated language of Pulci, however pure, is not easy to the generality of Italians themselves, from its great mixture of Tuscan proverbs; and he may therefore be more indulgent to the present attempt. How far the translator has succeeded, and whether or no he shall continue the work, are questions which the public will decide. He was induced to make the experiment partly by his love for, and partial intercourse with, the Italian language, of which it is so easy to acquire a slight knowledge, and with which it is so nearly impossible for a foreigner to become accurately conversant. The Italian language is like a capricious beauty, who accords her smiles to all, her favours to few, and sometimes least to those who have courted her longest. The translator wished also to present in an English dress a part at least of a poem never yet rendered into a northern language; at the same time that it has been the original of some of the most celebrated productions on this side of the Alps, as well as of those recent experiments in poetry in England which have been already mentioned.
the centre of the earth, and half on the other side. The shock given to the earth by his fall drove a great portion of the waters of the ocean to the southern hemisphere, and only one high mountain remained uncovered, upon which Dante places his purgatory. As the fall of Lucifer happened before the creation of Adam, it is evident that Danie did not admit that the southern hemisphere had ever been inhabited; but, about thirty years afterwards, Petrarch, who was better versed in the ancient writers, ventured to hint that the sun shone upon mortals who were unknown to us.
'Nella stagion che il ciel rapido inchina Vers' occidente, e che il dì nostro vola A gente che di là forse l' aspetta.'
"In the course of half a century after Petrarch, another step was gained. The existence of the antipodes was fully demonstrated. Pulci raises a devil to announce the fact; but it had been taught to him by his fellow-citizen Paolo Toscanelli, an excellent astronomer and mathematician, who wrote in his old age to Christopher Columbus, exhorting him to undertake his expedition. "A few stanzas have been translated by Mr. Merivale, with some slight variations, which do not wrong the original. They may be considered as a specimen of Pulci's poetry, when he writes with imagination and feeling, Orlando bids farewell to his dying horse.
His faithful steed, that long had served him well In peace and war, now closed his languid eye, Kneel'd at his feet, and seem'd to say Farewell! I've brought thee to the destined port, and die.' Orlando felt anew his sorrows swell When he beheld his Brigliadoro lie Stretch'd on the field, that crystal fount beside, Stiffen'd his limbs, and cold his warlike pride:
And, O my much-loved steed, my generous friend, Companion of my better years!' he said;
And have I lived to see so sad an end
"Dante has inserted passages from the Vulgate in his Divina Commedia ; and Petrarch, the most religious of poets, quotes Scripture even when he is courting. Yet they were not accused of impiety. Neither did Pulci incur the danger of a posthumous excommunication until after the Reformation, when Pius V. (à Dominican, who was turned into a saint by a subsequent pope) promoted the welfare of holy mother church by burning a few wicked books, and hanging a few troublesome authors. The notion that Pulci was in the odour of heresy influenced the opinion of Milton, who only speaks of the Morgante as a sportful romance.' Milton was anxious to prove that Catholic writers had ridiculed popish divines, and that the Bible
El Morgante Maggiore.
IN principio era il Verbo appresso a Dio;
E tu Vergine, figlia, e madre, e sposa
III. Era nel tempo, quando Filomena Con la sorella si lamenta e plora, Che si ricorda di sua antica pena, E pe' boschetti le ninfe innamora E Febo il carro temperato mena, Che 'l suo Fetonte l'ammaestra ancora ; Ed appariva appunto all' orizzonte, Tal che Titon si graffiava la fronte.
IV. Quand'io varai la mia barchetta, prima Per ubbidir chi sempre ubbidir debbe La mente, e faticarsi in prosa e in rima, E del mio Carlo Imperador m'increbbe; Che so quanti la penna ha posto in cima, Che tutti la sua gloria prevarrebbe : E stata quella istoria, a quel ch' i' veggio, Di Carlo male intesa, e scritta peggio.
Che s'egli avesse avuto scrittor degno,
had been subjected to private judgment, notwithstanding the popes had prohibited the reading of it. His ardour did not allow him to stop and ex. amine whether this prohibition might not be posterior to the death of Pulci. Milton had studied Pulci to advantage. The knowledge which he ascribes to his devils, their despairing repentance, the lofty sentiments which he bestows upon some of them, and, above all, the principle that, notwith. standing their crime and its punishment, they retain the grandeur and per. fection of angelic nature, are all to be found in the Morgante as well as in Paradise Lost. Ariosto and Tasso have imitated other passages. When great poets borrow from their inferiors in genius, they turn their acquisitions to such advantage that it is difficult to detect their thefts, and still more difficult to blame them.
"The poem is filled with kings, knights, giants, and devils. There are many battles and many duels. Wars rise out of wars, and empires are conquered in a day. Pulci treats us with plenty of magic and enchantment. His love adventures are not peculiarly interesting; and, with the excep tion of four or five leading personages, his characters are of no moment. The fab e turns wholly upon the hatred which Ganellon, the felon knight of Maganza, bears towards Orlando and the rest of the Christian Paladins. Charlemagne is easily practised upon by Ganellon, his prime confidant and man of buun. So he treats Orlando and his friends in the most scurvy manner imaginable, and sends them out to hird service in the wars against France. Ganelion is despatched to Spun to treat with King Marsilius, being also instructed to obtain the cession of a kingdom for Orlando; but he concerts a treacherous device with the Spaniards, and Orlando is killed
The Morgante Maggiore.'
CANTO THE FIRST.
In the beginning was the Word next God;
Of thinking, and without him nought could be: Therefore, just Lord! from out thy high abode,
Benign and pious, bid an angel flee, One only, to be my companion, who Shall help my famous, worthy, old song through.
And thou, oh Virgin! daughter, mother, bride
Of the same Lord, who gave to you each key Of heaven, and hell, and every thing beside,
The day thy Gabriel said " All hail!" to thee, Since to thy servants pity 's ne'er denied,
With flowing rhymes, a pleasant style and free, Be to my verses then benignly kind, And to the end illuminate my mind.
III. 'Twas in the season when sad Philomel
Weeps with her sister, who remembers and Deplores the ancient woes which both befel,
And makes the nymphs enamour'd, to the hand Of Phaeton by Phoebus loved so well
His car (but temper'd by his sire's command) Was given, and on the horizon's verge just now Appear'd, so that Tithonus scratch'd his brow:
As it should still obey, the helm, my mind,
Of Charles the Emperor, whom you will find By several pens already praised; but they
Who to diffuse his glory were inclined, For all that I can see in prose or verse, Have understood Charles badly, and wrote worse.
Leonardo Aretino said already,
That if, like Pepin, Charles had had a writer Of genius quick, and diligently steady,
No hero would in history look brighter; He in the cabinet being always ready,
And in the field a most victorious fighter, Who for the church and Christian faith had wrought, Certes, far more than yet is said or thought.
at the battle of Roncesvalles. The intrigues of Ganellon, his spite, his patience, his obstinacy, his dissimulation, his affected humility, and his inexhaustible powers of intrigue, are admirably depicted; and his character constitutes the chief and finest feature in the poem. Charlemagne is a worthy monarch, but easily gulled. Orlando is a real hero, chaste and disinterested, and who fights in good earnest for the propagation of the faith. He baptizes the giant Morgante, who afterwards serves him like a faithful squire. There is another giant, whose name is Margutte. Morgante falls in with Margutte; and they become sworn brothers. Margutte is a very infidel giant, ready to confess his failings, and full of drolery. He sets all a-laughing, readers, giants, devils, and heroes; and he finishes his career by laughing till he bursts."]
1["About the Morgante Maggiore, I won't have a line omitted. It may circulate or it may not, but all the criticism on earth sha'n't touch a line, unless it be because it is badly translated. Now you say, and I say, and others say, that the translation is a good one, and so it shall go to press as it is. Pulci must answer for his own irreligion: I answer for the translation only."- Lord Byron to Mr. Murray, 1820."Why don't you publish my Pulci,- the best thing I ever wrote."-Ib. 1821.]