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Soon after Chaucer introduced it here, whofe Romaunt of the Rofe, Court of Love, Flower and the Leaf, House of Fame, and some others of his writings, are master-pieces of this fort. In epic poetry, it is true, too nice and exact a pursuit of the allegory is justly esteemed a fault; and Chaucer had the discernment to avoid it in his Knight's Tale, which was an attempt towards an epic poem. Ariofto, with lefs judgement, gave entirely into it in his Orlando; which, though carried to an excefs, had yet so much reputation in Italy, that Taffo (who reduced heroic poetry to the jufter ftandard of the ancients) was forced to prefix to his work a scrupulous explanation of the allegory of it, to which the fable itself could scarce have directed his readers. Our countryman, Spencer, followed, whofe poem is almost entirely allegorical, and imitates the manner of Ariofto rather than that of Tafso. Upon the whole, one may obferve this fort of writing (however difcontinued of late) was in all times fo far from being rejected by the best poets, that some of them have rather erred by infisting on it too clofely, and carrying it too far; and that to infer from thence that the allegory itself is vicious, is a prefumptuous contradiction to the judgement and practice of the greatest geniuses, both ancient and modern.


IN that foft feafon, when descending show'rs
Call forth the greens, and wake the rifing flow'rs;
When op'ning buds falute the welcome day,
And earth relenting feels the genial ray;



* It was to the Italians we owed any thing that could be called poetry; from whom Chaucer, imitated by Pope in this vifion, copied largely, as they are faid to have done from the bards of Provence, and to which Italians he is perpetually owning his obligations, particularly to Boccace and Petrarch. But Petrarch had greater advantages, which Chaucer wanted, not only in the friendship and advices of Boccace, but still more in having found fuch a predeceffor as Dante. In the year 1359, Boccace sent to Petrarch, who, it seems, was jealous of Dante, and in the answer fpeaks coldly of his merits. This circumftance, unobferved by the generality of writers, and even by Fontanini, Crescembini, and Muratori, is brought forward, and related at large in the third volume (p. 507.) of the very entertaining Memoirs of the Life of Petrarch. In the year 1363, Boccace, driven from Florence by the plague, vifited Petrarch at Venice, and carried with him Leontius Pilatus, of Theffalonica, a man of genius, but of haughty, rough, and brutal manners. From this fingular man, who perished in a voyage from Conftantinople to Venice 1365, Petrarch received a Latin translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. Muratori, in his first book, Della Perfetta Pocfia, p. 18. relates, that a very few years after the death of Dante, 1321, a most curious work on the Italian poetry was written by a M. A. di Tempo, of which he had feen a manuscript in the great library at Milan, of the year 1332,


As balmy fleep had charm'd my cares to reft,
And love itself was banish'd from my breast,
(What time the morn mysterious vifions brings,
While purer fumbers fpread their golden wings)

A train



and of which this is the title: Incipit Summa Artis Ritmici vulgaris dictaminis. The chapters are thus divided: Ritmorum vulgarium Septem funt genera; 1. Eft Sonetus; 2. Ballata ; 3. Cantio extenfa ; 4. Rotundellus; 5. Mandrialis; 6. Serventefius; 7. Molus Confectus. But whatever Chaucer might copy from the Italians, yet the artful and entertaining plan of his Canterbury Tales was purely original and his own. This admirable piece, even exclufive of its poetry, is highly valuable, as it preferves to us the liveliest and exacteft picture of the manners, customs, characters, and habits, of our forefathers, whom he has brought before our eyes acting as on a ftage, fuitably to their different orders and employments. With thefe portraits the drieft antiquary must be delighted. By this plan, he has more judiciously connected thefe flories which the guefts relate, than Boccace has done his novels: whom he has imitated, if not excelled, in the variety of the fubjects of his tales. It is a common mistake, that Chaucer's excellence lay in his manner of treating light and ridiculous fubjects; for whoever will attentively confider the noble poem of Palamon and Arcite, will be convinced that he equally excels in the pathetic, and the fublime. It has been but lately proved, that the Palamon and Arcite of Chaucer, is taken from the Tefeide of Boccace, a poem which has been, till within a few years paft, ftrangely neglected and unknown, and of which Mr. Tyrwhitt has given a curious and exact fummary, in his Differtation on the Canterbury Tales, vol. iv. p. 135. I cannot forbear expreffing my furprize, that the circumftance of Chaucer's borrowing this tale, fhould have remained fo long unobserved, when it is fo plainly and pofitively mentioned in a book so very common as the Memoirs of Niceron; who says, t. 33. p. 44. after giving an abstract of the story of Palamon and Arcite, G. Chaucer, l'Homere de fon pays, a mis l'ouvrage de Boccace en vers Anglois. This book was published by Niceron 1736. He also mentions a French tranflation of the Tefeide, published at Paris, M. D. CC. 1597, in 12mo. The late Mr. Hans Stanley, who was as accurately fkilled in modern as in ancient Greek, for

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A train of phantoms in wild order rofe,
And join'd, this intellectual scene compose.


I ftood, methought, betwixt earth, feas, and skies, The whole creation open to my eyes:


for a long time was of opinion, that this poem, in modern political Greek verses, was the original; in which opinion he was confirmed by the Abbé Barthelmy, at Paris, whofe learned correspondence with Mr. Stanley on this fubject I have read. At laft Mr. Stanley gave up this opinion, and was convinced that Boccace invented the tale. Crescembini and Muratori have mentioned the Tefeide more than once. That very laborious and learned antiquary. Apoftolo Zeno, speaks thus of it in his notes to the Bibliotheca of Fontanini, p. 450. t. i. Questa opera paftorale (that is, the Ameto) che prende il nome dal paftore Ameto, ha data l'origine all egloga Italiana, non fenza lode del Boccacio, a cui pure la noftra lingua deve il ritrovamento della ottava rima (which was first used in the Tefeide), e del poema eroico. Gravina does not mention this poem. Crefcembini gives this opinion of it, p. 118. t. i. Nel medefimo fecolo del Petrarca, il Boccacio diede principio all' Epica, colla fua Tefeide, e col Filoftrato; ma nello ftile non accede la mediocrita, anzi fovente cadde nell' umile. The fashion that has lately obtained, in all the nations of Europe, of republishing and illuftrating their old Poets, does honour to the good taste and liberal curiofity of the prefent age. It is always pleafing, and indeed useful, to look back to the rude beginnings of any art brought to a greater degree of elegance and grace.

Aurea nunc, olim fylveftribus horrida dumis. VIRG. VER. 1. In that foft feafon, &c.] This Poem is introduced in the manner of the Provencial Poets, whofe works were for the moft part Visions, or pieces of imagination, and constantly descriptive. From these Petrarch and Chaucer frequently borrow the idea of their poems. See the Trionfi of the former, and the Dream, Flower and the Leaf, &c. of the latter. The author of this therefore chose the fame fort of exordium. P.

VER. 11. I flood,] This poem was elegantly translated into French by Madame du Boccage, who also wrote three poems of the epic kind: The Paradife, from Milton; the Death of Abel, from Gefner; and the Exploits of Columbus, in ten cantos.


In air felf-balanc'd hung the globe below,
Where mountains rife, and circling oceans flow;
Here naked rocks, and empty wastes were seen, 15
There tow'ry cities, and the forests green,
Here failing fhips delight the wand'ring eyes;
There trees, and intermingled temples rife:
Now a clear fun the fhining scene displays,
The tranfient landscape now in clouds decays,
O'er the wide Profpect as I gaz'd around,
Sudden I heard a wild promifcuous found,
Like broken thunders that at distance roar,
Or billows murm'ring on the hollow fhore:
Then gazing up, a glorious pile beheld,
Whose tow'ring fummit ambient clouds conceal'd,
High on a rock of Ice the structure lay,
Steep its afcent, and flipp'ry was the way;



VER. 27. High on a rock] Milton, in his poem on the Fifth of November, (Works, vol. ii. p. 506. v. 170.), has introduced a defcription of the Temple or Tower of Fame, copied from the 12th book of Ovid's Metamorphofis, v. 39. and from this vifion of Chaucer, with the addition of many circumstances and images.

"Tho' beheld I fields and plains,
"Now hills, and now mountains,
"Now valeis, and now foreftes,
"And now unneth great beftes,
"Now rivers, now citees,



VER. 11. &c.] These verfes are hinted from the following of Chaucer, Book ii.

"Now towns, now great trees,
"Now fhippes fayling in the fees."



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