« ForrigeFortsæt »
cal poem, in the Milanese dialect, L'Ombra di Prina, abandoning comic poetry with nobler views, subsequently produced his Melodie Lombarde, a charming little volume of national lays; L' Ildegonda, a romantic legend of the thirteenth century; La Fuggitiva, a tale of woe, an episode of the Russian campaign of 1812, originally written in the native dialect of the poet, and lately by him translated into Italian verse; and I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata, an heroico-chivalrous work in fifteen cantos, which he did not choose to call an epic poem, something like a Jerusalem Delivered in a romantic garb. Lastly, after a long interval employed by him in the production of his historical novel, Marco Visconti, he published, last year, Ulrico e Lida, another tale in verse, an episode of the long wars between the two republics of Milan and Como, in the earlier part of the twelfth century.
Grossi, the Bellini of poetry, as he is commonly called in Italy, is the true poet of the heart. We know of few poets, in whose lines gentle thoughts issue more pure and spontaneThe affections, occupying the most eminent place in his poems, are entirely free from that affectation, from that artificial refinement, the capital fault of Italian poets from the days of Petrarch, which, known under the name of concetti among poets, and maniera among painters, has caused strangers to say, that the Italians have their feelings in their head instead of their heart. Grossi has nothing epic in his poetry, and we have reason to rejoice at it. Italy had already heroic poems in sufficient number. In our days, when mind decides the chances of combat, and even military courage has assumed altogether a moral stamp, the everlasting battles of Homer and Tasso have become wearisome. Grossi understood this. In his tales, even in his poem on the Crusades, the chief struggle is carried on by the heart; heroism is, in his verse, only chivalrous enthusiasm. Religion is resignation and hope; love is devotion, purity, and sorrow. As Raffael has been called the painter of Madonnas, and Correggio the painter of children, so we would call Grossi the poet of broken-hearted maidens, in their final agony.
La Fuggitiva, a runaway Milanese girl, following her lover beyond the Danube and the Mosqua, losing him in the last victory of the French in Russia, involved alone and helpless among the disasters of that woful retreat, surviving all hardships only to expire in the arms of her mother, repentant and pardoned;— Ildegonda, a new Juliet, atoning for a pure,
guileless love, with long torture and anguish in a nunnery, insulted, harassed by cowled fiends, haunted by terrific visions, feverish, delirious, and with a vigorous, reluctant vitality, emptying to the last drop the cup of woe that had been filled for her by Providence ; — Giselda, the fair pilgrim of the Po, riding on her white palfrey by the side of her brother, tender, inexperienced, a prisoner in Antioch, in love with a handsome infidel, erring, repenting, relapsing, innocent in her apostasy as in her conversion ;- such are the creations of the fancy of Grossi ; a poet, whose festive harp, apparently tuned to an exuberant effusion of lively images, suddenly turns to mournful strains, rising higher by far than you would have fancied pathos could reach. And yet such emotions are reserved for a few hearts; popular as Grossi is in Italy, it is only a gentle spirit that can choose him for a favorite poet. The taste of Oltremonte, especially the modern French school, aims not to shake the fibres, but to rend them asunder. They anatomize the darkest corners of the human heart; they plunge into the lowest abyss of crime and infamy; they delight in scenes of torture and scaffolds. They are true to nature, indeed, and produce an ephemeral effect; but it is ever at the expense of taste, as well as delicacy, innocence, and virtue. The Italians have preserved themselves pure from the dangerous contagion; and, though their productions must appear tame and insipid to a taste perverted by the continual perusal of Victor Hugo, or Madame George Sand, one day, perhaps, they will feel the happy results of their moderation. The faster we advance in a wrong course, the longer it will take us to return to the right one.
On another account, we have reason to congratulate Italy. Since 1800, there has not been an immoral book, of note, printed in that country, not even one not conscientiously directed to a severe reformation of moral principles. All sketch-books of travellers contain some abuse against the Italian name. The Italian character stands in all English and French novels as a model of all villany and profligacy. Yet sixty years have elapsed since the Abate Casti gave Italy, in his Novelle Galanti, a book written with as much elegance, and with as much impudence, as Byron ever displayed in his Don Juan, or Paul de Kock in his novels; and this work of Casti is now a rare book in Italy, and is never reprinted but at Paris. True enough, the Italians, since the loss of their liberties,
have been systematically corrupted by their governments. True, the highest classes, even in our days, condemned to inactivity, lead a life of disorder and scandal; but there is need of all the uncharitableness of ignorant travellers, not to recognise a striking general improvement. The day will come, perhaps, when the nations shall cherish towards each other more brotherly feelings; till then, it is consoling, that the Italians have no such teachers of morals as Byron, Moore, or Bulwer; Paul de Kock, or Victor Hugo.
L' Esule, by Pietro Giannone, a Modenese exile residing at Paris, does not exhibit, perhaps, an equal skill in composition; though it is equally commendable on account of the noble sentiments that pervade its pages. Rather a novel in verse than a poem, written in various measures, this juvenile effort of a generous mind is the relation of a dark deed of vengeance and blood, the sudden execution of a sentence pronounced in a secret meeting of Carbonari; a nocturnal enterprise, of which an exile, furtively restored to his home, is the hero; a tragic tale, founded on facts, happily relieved by the contrast of softer colors and gentler images, varied by brilliant narratives and glowing descriptions, and overshadowed by a well-sustained veil of awful mystery.
We have no time to devote to such names as Pietro Sestini and Cesare Cantù, Carrer and Giorgini, Betteloni and Biava, young rhymers of high expectation in their country, but whose names are still too faint a sound ever to have reached these shores; all of them either rapidly advancing in the footsteps of Manzoni, or opening new paths for themselves. Far less could we occupy ourselves with such poets as Nicolini, Rosini, Torti, Leopardi, and other names formerly numbered among the great, but now falling into comparative insignificance, either because their talents have been turned to other pursuits, or because, understanding but imperfectly the change of taste that has taken place in the last twenty years, they have been left behind their age.
It remains only to give some notice of Giovanni Berchet, a Lombard exile in London, "whose poetry," according to Maroncelli's expression, "produces homesickness in the poor exile, and kindles the fire of independence in the bosom of those who breathe the air of our adored Peninsula."
The Romanze of Berchet, the immediate expression of the feelings of the present age, are, without contradiction,
the most romantic production of Romanticism. They have hitherto been regarded only on account of their national importance, only as the war-song of the Italians, in their mute but not passive struggle against foreign oppression. None, in fact, of the modern poets has been better able to conceive the pining depression, the ardent impatience, under which the Italians are laboring, none to express the inveterate rancor long cherished in Italy, and especially in Lombardy, against the Austrian name. The spirit of the exile has roamed amidst the favorite haunts of his childhood; he has descended into the privacy of afflicted mansions; he has interrogated the tears of sisters and wives, and has revealed their secret anguish to the sympathies of all Europe.* Here,
It will, perhaps, be agreeable to our readers, if we give some short fragments of two of his most popular ballads, as they are utterly unknown in this country.
"Sotto i pioppi della Dora,
under the poplars of the Dora, in its most lonely recesses, is Clarina, the betrothed of an exile and his widow; here, when he started to join the standards of the insurrection of 1821, when she adorned the helmet of her warrior with the national colors, in the midst of her terrors she had still for him a word of encouragement; here, when all was lost, when she met him once more to exchange a last farewell, she had still for him a word of consolation and hope here now she sits alone and deserted, and none has for her a word of sympathy or encouragement. - There, a man of the north, a foreign visiter, hastening to breathe the air of sweet Italy, is accosted on the summit of the Alps by one of the hermits of Mount Cenis, who points out to him the vale of the Po lying at their feet, smiling like a garden, outspreading like an ocean. Before that bewildering sight, the venerable old man covers his face with both hands, and a tear steals from his eyes. Pressed by the stranger, he talks of his private chagrins; he tells of the sorrows of those hundred cities glittering on the plain; and, on the threshold of Italy, the desire of Italy dies in the heart of the stranger. To the fair hills and vineyards, saddened by tears, to the fair cities, crowded with the victims of tyranny, he prefers the gloomy pines of his forests, the fogs and the dismal blast of the east wind of his own shores.* Such is the poetry Italy is in need of; and while such verses are sung in England, or Egypt, or Barbary, or in any land that may offer the exile a shelter, the echo of millions of