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criticises the modern Latin poets, beginning with Marullus; His critique for, what is somewhat remarkable, he says that Latin poets. he had been unable to see the Latin poems of Petrarch. He rates Marullus low, though he dwells at length on his poetry, and thinks no better of Augurellus. The continuation of the Eneid by Maphæus he highly praises; Augerianus not at all; Mantuan has some genius, but no skill; and Scaliger is indignant that some ignorant schoolmasters should teach from him rather than from Virgil. Of Dolet he speaks with great severity; his unhappy fate does not atone for the badness of his verses in the eyes of so stern a critic; "the fire did not purify him, but rather he polluted the fire." Palingenius, though too diffuse, he accounts a good poet, and Cotta as an imitator of Catullus. Palearius aims rather to be philosophical than poetical. Castiglione is excellent; Bembus wants vigour, and sometimes elegance; he is too fond, as many others are, of trivial words. Of Politian Scaliger does not speak highly; he rather resembles Statius, has no grace, and is careless of harmony. Vida is reckoned, he says, by most the first poet of our time: he dwells, therefore, long on the Ars Poetica, and extols it highly, though not without copious censure. Of Vida's other poems the Bombyxis the best. Pontanus is admirable for every thing, if he had known where to stop. To Sannazarius and Fracastorius he assigns the highest praise of universal merit, but places the last at the head of the whole band.
22. The Italian language, like those of Greece and Rome, had been hitherto almost exclusively treated by grammarians, the superior criticism. having little place even in the writings of Bembo. But soon after the middle of the century, the academies established in many cities, dedicating much time to their native language, began to point out beauties, and to animadvert on defects beyond the province of grammar. The enthusiastic admiration of Petrarch poured itself forth in tedious commentaries upon every word of every sonnet; one of which, illustrated with the heavy prolixity of that age, would sometimes be the theme of a volume. Some philosophical or theological pedants spiritualized his meaning, as had been attempted before: the absurd paradox of
Critical influence of the academies.
denying the real existence of Laura is a known specimen of their refinements. Many wrote on the subject of his love for her; and a few denied its Platonic purity, which however the academy of Ferrara thought fit to decree. One of the heretics, by name Cresci, ventured also to maintain that she was married; but this probable hypothesis had not many followers."
23. Meantime a multitude of new versifiers, chiefly close copyists of the style of Petrarch, lay open to the Dispute of malice of their competitors, and the strictness of Castelvetro. these self-chosen judges of song. A critical controversy that sprang up about 1558 between two men of letters, very prominent in their age, Annibal Caro and Ludovico Castelvetro, is celebrated in the annals of Italian literature. The former had published a canzone in praise of the king of France, beginning-
Venite all' ombra de' gran gigli d' oro.
Castelvetro made some sharp animadversions on this ode, which seems really to deserve a good deal of censure, being in bad taste, turgid, and foolish. Caro replied with the bitterness natural to a wounded poet. In this there might be nothing unpardonable, and even his abusive language might be extenuated at least by many precedents in literary story; but it is imputed to Caro that he excited the Inquisition against his suspected adversary. Castelvetro had been of the celebrated academy of Modena, whose alleged inclination to Protestantism had proved, several years before, the cause of its dissolution, and of the persecution which some of its members suffered. Castelvetro, though he had avoided censure at that time, was now denounced about 1560, when the persecution was hottest, to the Inquisition at Rome. He obeyed its summons, but soon found it prudent to make his escape, and reached Chiavenna in the Grison dominions. He lived several years afterwards in safe quarters, but seems never to have made an open profession of the reformed faith."
24. Castelvetro himself is one of the most considerable among the Italian critics; but his taste is often lost in
Crescimbeni, Storia della Volgar Poesia, ii. 295-309.
Muratori, Vita del Castelvetro, 1727.
on Aristotle's Poetics.
subtilty, and his fastidious temper seems to have sought Castelvetro nothing so much as occasion for censure. greatest work is a commentary upon the Poetics of Aristotle; and it may justly claim respect, not only as the earliest exposition of the theory of criticism, but for its acuteness, erudition, and independence of reasoning, which disclaims the Stagirite as a master, though the diffuseness usual in that age, and the microscopic subtilty of the writer's mind, may render its perusal tedious. Twining, one of the best critics on the Poetics, has said, in speaking of the commentaries of Castelvetro, and of a later Italian, Beni, that "their prolixity, their scholastic and trifling subtilty, their useless tediousness of logical analysis, their microscopic detection of difficulties invisible to the naked eye of common sense, and their waste of confutation upon objections made only by themselves, and made on purpose to be confuted-all this, it must be owned, is disgusting and repulsive. It may sufficiently release a commentator from the duty of reading their works throughout, but not from that of examining and consulting them; for in both these writers, but more especially in Beni, there are many remarks equally acute and solid; many difficulties will be seen clearly stated, and sometimes successfully removed; many things usefully illustrated and clearly explained; and if their freedom of censure is now and then disgraced by a little disposition to cavil, this becomes almost a virtue when compared with the servile and implicit admiration of Dacier."t
25. Castelvetro in his censorious humour did not spare Severity of the greatest shades that repose in the laurel groves of Parnassus, nor even those whom national pride had elevated to a level with them. Homer is less blamed than any other; but frequent shafts are levelled at Virgil, and not always unjustly, if poetry of real genius could ever bear the extremity of critical rigour, in which a monotonous and frigid mediocrity has generally found refuge." In Dante he finds fault with the pedantry
Twining's Aristotle's Poetics, preface, p. 13.
One of his censures falls on the minute particularity of the prophecy of Anchises in the sixth Eneid; peccando
Virgilio nella convenevolezza della profetia, la quale non suole condescendere a nomi proprj, ne a cose tanto chiare e particolari, ma, tacendo i nomi, suole manifestare le persone, e le loro azioni
that has filled his poems with terms of science, unintelligible and unpleasing to ignorant men, for whom poems are chiefly designed. Ariosto he charges with plagiarism, laying unnecessary stress on his borrowing some stories, as that of Zerbino, from older books; and even objects to his introduction of false names of kings, since we may as well invent new mountains and rivers, as violate the known truths of history. This punctilious cavil is very characteristic of Castelvetro. Yet he sometimes reaches a strain of philosophical analysis, and can by no means be placed in the ranks of criticism below La Harpe, to whom, by his attention to verbal minuteness, as well as by the acrimony and self-confidence of his character, he may in some measure be compared.
26. The Ercolano of Varchi, a series of dialogues, belongs to the inferior but more numerous class of Ercolano of critical writings, and, after some general observa- Varchi. tions on speech and language as common to men, turns to the favourite theme of his contemporaries, their native idiom. He is one who with Bembo contends that the language should not be called Italian, or even Tuscan, but Florentine, though admitting, what might be expected, that few agree to this except the natives of the city. Varchi had written on the side of Caro against Castelvetro, and, though upon the whole he does not speak of the latter in the Ercolano with incivility, cannot restrain his wrath at an assertion of the stern critic of Modena, that there were as famous writers in the Spanish and French as in the Italian language. Varchi even denies that there was any writer of reputation in the first of these, except Juan de la Mena, and the author of Amadis de Gaul. Varchi is now chiefly known as the author of
con figure di parlare alquanto oscure, si come si vede nelle profetie della scrittura sacra e nell' Alessandra di Licophrone, p. 219 (edit. 1576). This is not unjust in itself; but Castelvetro wanted the candour to own, or comprehensiveness to perceive, that a prophecy of the Roman history, couched in allegories, would have had much less effect on Roman readers.
Rendendola massimamente per questa via difficile ad intendere e meno piacente a uomini idioti, per gli quali
principalmente si fanno i poemi. P. 597. But the Comedy of Dante was about as much written for gl' idioti, as the Principia of Newton.
Castelvetro, p. 212. He objects on the same principle to Giraldi Cinthio, that he had chosen a subject for tragedy which never had occurred, nor had been reported to have occurred, and this of royal persons unheard of before, il qual peccato di prendere soggetto tale per la tragedie non è da perdonare. P. 103.
a respectable history, which, on account of its sincerity, was not published till the last century. The prejudice that, in common with some of his fellow-citizens, he entertained in favour of the popular idiom of Florence, has affected the style of his history, which is reckoned both tediously diffuse, and deficient in choice of phrase."
27. Varchi, in a passage of the Ercolano, having extolled Dante even in preference to Homer, gave rise to a controversy wherein some Italian critics did not hesitate to point out the blemishes of their countryman. Bulgarini was one of these. Mazzoni undertook the defence of Dante in a work of considerable length, and seems to have poured out, still more abundantly than his contemporaries, a torrent of philosophical disquisition. Bulgarini replied again to him." Crescimbeni speaks of these discussions as having been advantageous to Italian poetry. The good effects, however, were not very sensibly manifested in the next century.
28. Florence was the chief scene of these critical wars. Academy Cosmo I., the most perfect type of the prince of Machiavel, sought by the encouragement of literature in this its most innocuous province, as he did by the arts of embellishment, both to bring over the minds of his subjects a forgetfulness of liberty, and to render them unapt for its recovery. The Academy of Florence resounded with the praises of Petrarch. A few seceders from this body established the more celebrated academy Della Crusca, of the sieve, whose appellation bespoke the spirit in which they meant to sift all they undertook to judge. They were soon engaged, and with some loss to their fame, in a controversy upon the Gierusalemme Liberata. Camillo Pellegrino, a Neapolitan, had published in 1584 a dialogue on epic poetry, entitled Il Caraffa, wherein he gave the preference to Tasso above Ariosto. Though Florence had no peculiar interest in this question, the academicians thought themselves guardians of the elder bard's renown; and Tasso had offended the citizens by some reflections in one of his dialogues. The academy permitted themselves, in a formal reply, to place even
Hist. della Volgar Poesia, ii. 282.
versy about Dante.
* Corniani, vi. 43.
Id. vi. 260. Ginguéné, vii. 491.