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ed with the situation of the speaker, except so far as the mode of expression would convey an idea of it, we should introduce some terms that evinced its having been dictated under the influence of passion; such as “ we will make our beloved chains of gold,” &c. We shall venture another example. If a gardener has been absent from home, and a labourer tells him on his return, “the fig tree hath put forth her green figs, the vines in flower yield their sweet smell," he talks very plain prose, because he speaks not under the influence of passion, but merely to inform his master of something of which he knows him to be ignorant; but when, as in the former instance, the spouse talks thus to her beloved, what language can be more poetic? In the case of the
spouse, however, we consider it poetic only because we know it is dictated by passion, though the language in itself bears no evidence of this passion. The Qu'il mourût of the old Horatius is frequently quoted as an instance of sublime poetry, but if we were ignorant of the state of mind which produced it, if we mistook it for the verdict of a jury, where would be its poetry?
If poetry, then, be, as we have already defined it, that mode of expression which evinces itself to have been dictated by passion, every subject is poetic which originates in, and is conducted throughout, by the agency of passion. Hence, the subject of the Iliad is poetic, because all the circumstances which it relates arise from the wrath of Achilles. The Æneid is poetic, because all the events which it records, result from the passion of Æneas to found a new kingdom in Italy, a passion to which he sacrificed his attachment to Dido, and all other considerations. The subject of the Jerusalem Delivered is poetic, because it is entirely founded on religious zeal; and the Orlando Furioso is, consequently, poetic, because the subject is love and heroism, the two strongest passions to which the mind acknowledges obedience.
“Love, strong as death, the poet led
We know, however, that strong as this passion is, it yields to the stronger dominion which the passion of military glory exercises over the mind. Hector, strongly as he is attached to his beloved Andromache, will not linger with her within the walls of Troy, and refrain from the fight. Æneas abandons the love-sick and distracted Dido; and Rogero, whom some critics make the chief hero of the poem now under our consideration, will not listen to the counsels of his dear Bradamant, until he first fulfils his vow to Agramant, from whom he first received the honour of knighthood. With regard to the sub
ject of the Orlando Furioso, there can, therefore, be no question of its being poetic.
As to the manner in which Ariosto has conducted it, and the privileges of which he has availed himself, the following observations will shew, that he has transgressed no law to which the nature of poetry, as we have described it, could possibly subject him, and that he has usurped no privilege which it could possibly deny him.
The critics finding, as we have already observed, that the Orlando Furioso approached nearer to the epic than to any other species of poetry, have called it an epic poem; but not imagining there could be different species of this poem, and finding it transgressed many of the laws observed by Homer, Virgil, and Tasso, the greater portion of them, if we except his own countrymen, have condemned the Orlando, and looked upon it as a mere attempt at epic poetry. They maintain that he has no chief hero, a hero without whom they imagine epic poetry cannot exist, and condemn his want of unity of design and eternal digressions. His transitions, they say, are too abrupt, and destroy all continuity of action. They cannot endure him to violate, not only the laws of the Stagyrite, but, according to them, all the laws which true criticism, unfettered by the canons of authority and the schools, hold necessary in the design and conduct of an epic poem. Gravina, a sensible and judicious critic, in his Ragione Poetica*, attributes all his faults to the imitation of Bojardo, among which he enumerates his tiresome interruption of the narrative, the levity which sometimes characterizes him when bis subject is most serious and important, the boldness of his exaggerations, and his idle interruption of and deviation from his subject. These are the faults which have stripped him, in the eyes of the critics, of those poetic laurels which they would have willingly bestowed upon him, had his conformity to the laws of the heroic epic equalled the beauty, the chastity, the exquisite finish and elegance of his style, the luxuriance of his imagery, the accuracy and variety of his descriptions, the richness of his colouring, and the magic charms which he has bestowed on the wizard scenes of that romantic world, through which he conducts his readers.
It is obvious, then, that the critics have viewed the Oro lando through the medium of the laws to which the Stagyrite and succeeding critics have thought proper to confine the heroic poet, and that if he be amenable to these laws, he is
* L. 11, No. XVI. p. 104.
uiterly indefensible. Even the critics who have undertaken his defence, and who, to do so more effectually, have divided epic poetry into the heroic and the romantic, still admit, in all their force, the laws of the Stagyrite, and distinguish heroic from romantic poetry only where there is no distinction in nature, for the laws that really distinguish them are admitted to be the same. Ginguené, in his History of Italian Literature, devotes nearly two hundred pages to Ariosto, in which he undertakes his defence; but, in so doing, he certainly displays more zeal than ability. With the Italian critics, he distinguishes the epic poem into the heroic and romantic, but admits all the laws that render them essentially the same, particularly the necessity of a chief hero and of a main action, from which all the episodic or incidental narratives must naturally arise, and to the completion of which they should be instrumentally subservient. Now, if the romantic agree with the heroic poem in these two particulars, it is difficult to perceive wherein they can disagree, or how they can be considered different species of epic or narrative poetry; and if not, Ariosto's defence has been undertaken in vain. It avails nothing to call the Orlando a romantic, and the Iliad a heroic poem, if the materials of which they are composed be the same, and if they be put together in the same manner. But, says Ginguené, the laws are the same: the materials only are different. The romantic has, like the heroic, a chief hero and a main action, to which the poet must render all his other heroes and incidental actions subservient, but the materials he makes use of are not the same. “ The ground-work of the Orlando,” he says, " is the amours and exploits of Rogero and Bradamant: the love and folly of Orlando form its principal accessory. To these are joined other exploits, other amours, heroic achievements, the gallant adventures of a host of dames and knights, a mixture which essentially constitutes the romantic epic, and distinguishes it from the epopée, properly so called."*" Now, if the materials of the romantic poem be different from the heroic, would it not seem reasonable to think that they should be put differently together? Ariosto has done so; and it is for doing so, that he has been so generally censured and condemned. what replies Ginguené to this charge? Why, forsooth, he denies it stoutly, and maintains that Ariosto put his materials together like Homer and Virgil; that, like them, he has made all his minor actions and all his heroes bear the same relation to his main action and chief heto, that Homer and Virgil have done. Ariosto has done no such thing, nor had he
* Histoire Litteraire D'Italie, par P. L. Ginguené, tom. 4. p. 385.
sion to do it. On the contrary, he would not have treated his subject as he ought, had he done so; for the very circumstance of his having chosen his poetical materials from a different source, required of him to dispose of them in a different man
He has done so, and it is only by admitting that he has, we can ever hope to vindicate the conduct which he has pursued throughout the work. Nothing can be more obviously absurd, than to maintain, with Ginguené, that Rogero, not Orlando, is the chief hero of the poem, and that his marriage with Bradamant is the final object of the poem ; for, if so, why give it the name of Orlando? Why interest us more in his fate than in that of Rogero? Why endow him with that surpassing prowess, which seemed to exceed human might? Why has Ariosto conferred upon him the honour of killing the sea monster, on which Rogero, aided by the fiery griffin that carried him securely through the air, could not even inflict a wound, though his flying horse enabled him to ascend and descend, to watch his opportunity, and strike the monster when opportunity most favoured him, and where he thought the blow would prove most effectual in putting an end to his existence?
Rogero thus, with sword and spear pursues,
Did Ariosto ever intend to equal so light and skirmishing a warrior with the great Orlando, who, after giving the monster his death wound, dragged him to the shore, where
Firmly fixed upon the rock he stood,
To_suppose that such a warrior was inferior to the lightfooted Rogero, whose blows were all in vain, is to adopt an opinion unworthy the learned author of the listory of Italian Literature. Throughout the poem, Orlando unites the sinewy strength and stubborn uncommunicative character of Ajax, the noble heroism and magnanimous generosity of Hector, to the fierce rapidity and irresistible impetuosity of Achilles ; or, rather, he excels each of them in their respective characters.
Rogero, then, is not the hero of the poem, nor would Ginguené ever have thought of conferring this honour upon him, if he did not, in the first instance, unwarily admit the necessity of a chief hero, and, in the second, perceive very clearly, as every reader must, that the sequel of Orlando's history proves he was not intended for a chief hero. The fact is, that Ariosto has neither a chief hero, nor a main action, though, so far as regards bravery and prowess, Orlando is, beyond all comparison, the greatest hero in the poem. The nature and design of the poem, however, admitted neither a chief hero, nor a main action. Ginguené maintains it has both.-“ L'Arioste," he says, en courtesan delicat, n'annonca pas d'abord son projet ; il ne donna point pour titre à son poeme, le nom de Roger, que toutes les branches de la famille d'Este regardaient comme leur souche commune; il n'en parla, pour ainsi dire, qu' accidentellement, dans son invocation, addressée au Cardinal Hippolyte. Par une methode qui lui est particulière, tout son début expose, dans un ordre retrograde, les matiéres, qu'il doit embrasser.” Can any thing be more frivolous ? any thing farther from the truth ? Ariosto announces in the most direct and explicit terms the design and object of his poem. And, except those who read an author's meaning backwards, no one can mistake it.
« Le donne, i cavalier, l'arme, gli amori,
Le cortesie, l'audaci imprese io canto," &c.
From the opening of the poem, the reader must perceive, that Ariosto could not have explained in clearer or more explicit terms the subject and design of his poem. The two first lines give the general outline, from which outline it is obvious, that Ariosto did not propose or intend to treat of any particular amazon or hero; any particular action, love adventure, or heroic achievement; that all his dames and knights were equally dear to him, equally the object of his attention, and that he did not intend to place any .of them in the back ground to serve as a foil to more interesting and distinguished characters. Homer is equally clear: he tells us very distinctly, that the wrath of Achilles, and the misfortunes in which his impetuous and indomitable spirit involved the Greeks, is the subject of his song. His Odyssey opens with the same simple and obvious statement of his design: we perceive, at the very opening, that the wanderings of Ulysses, after the destruction of Troy,