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cheerfully embraced. Full of the idea of their new scheme, they immediately commenced the outline of an institution, the general feature of which was that of a literary republic. It was agreed, in order to give every possible scope to the exertions of its members, that its constitution should be purely democratical, that distinction of every kind, save only of talent, should be abolished, that every member should assume the name and bear the character of an Arcadian shepherd, and appear at the society in a mask. This republic, with truly radical magnanimity, published a manifesto, in which it was declared, that they would have neither protector, nor president, nor prince, nor any kind of authority whatever, but merely a custode; and this honourable office was conferred upon Crescembeni, now called Alfesibeo, not on account of any pre-eminence which he might claim, but merely as his patent sets forth, "che fu il primo chi mise piede in Arcadia." But though he was thus reminded that he was in no way superior to the other members of the society, his claim to that distinction was unanimously acknowledged in the poetical congratulations which accompanied his nomination. Thus, Nedisto, a pastore,
"Te di Parnaso il gran collegio scelse
E al tuo genio fecondo
Fidò dell' ardua impresa il grave pondo."
No sooner was the institution of the new academy made known than it increased to an enormous extent; and, whether they were attracted by the novelty of assembling in masks or the romantic miniature of pastoral life, cardinals, princes, and the most distinguished ladies, were emulous of becoming members of the new society. Under the mild
direction of their custode, the Arcadians immediately sought a retreat where they might indulge in their favourite exercises; and they chose a small garden on the Monte Gianicolo, which, though but a short time occupied by them, was ever after considered classic ground, and continually celebrated as such by their members.
The garden on the Monte Gianicolo, where the Pastori at first met, became soon too confined for the Iniziati; and Alfesibeo was very much perplexed for an enlarged place of meeting. From this difficulty he was relieved by the munificence of Girolamo Mattei, Duca di Paganica, who very generously offered the Arcadians the use of his magnificent pleasure-grounds, on the Monte Esquilino. This offer was gratefully accepted; and the procession of the Arcadi from the Gianicolo to the Esquilino, evinced by its splendour the reputation which the new academy had so speedily attained. On their arrival at the entrance of their new bosco, Alfesibeo threw open the gates, and the Arcadi luxuriated in the shade of the ample foliage, and the more delightful occupation of reciting to musical accompaniment their compositions upon the occasion. It was not long, however, before they outgrew their new seat; and several of the Arcadi, who belonged to the Royal Academy founded by Christina, Queen of Sweden, proposed to adjourn to the Reale Giardino annexed to the Palazzo Riari sulla via della Lungaro, where that princess had lived and died. On this occasion the Arcadi strained the licence of poets to an unusual extent; for in tender and grateful recollection of the many favours some of them had received from Christina, they voted her, though two years dead, a
member of the society. The haughty Scandinavian queen was immediately converted into the shepherdess Basilissa, and she was scarcely christened before she was made the subject of a couplet :
Hos si spectaret vivens Basilissa labores,
Præmia non voces, non rustica dona videres.
With the most extraordinary inconsistency they immediately commenced a solemn dirge; encomiastic funeral eclogues were written and performed by the Arcadi, and every thing was done to honour the departed patroness of genius that gratitude and inspiration could effect. Among the performances on this occasion, it is expressly stated in the records of the Academy, that one recited by the custode Alfesibeo, with Floriano Amigoni, alias Alpago, entitled Basilissa, received the most rapturous commendations. In order to fix the new academy upon a firm basis, it was thought proper to draw up a code of laws for its good government, to which the Arcadi promised submission, but which are of no particular interest, and too long for insertion here. They had about two years kept possession of the Giardino del Palazzo Riari, by the permission of the Marchese Pompeo Azzolini, alias Decilo, who had inherited the possessions and the liberality of Christina; but after his death, his property falling into the hands of a nobleman of a less imaginative turn, they received notice to quit. They immediately cast their longing eyes upon the Orti Palatini, now called Farnesiani, where the ancient Arcadian Evander had reigned, and which derived their name from his son Pallas. This very appropriate situation they obtained by the influence of the Conte Francesco Felini, chargé d'affaires at Rome from Ranuzzo the second Duke of Parma. Assisted by the liberality of that nobleman, the Arcadi immediately commenced, near the Fontana de' Platani, a spacious theatre, composed of several concentric rows of benches, decorated with laurel shrubs; in the midst of which was formed, from small plants of box-wood, a seringa or shepherd's pipe, which, by the growth of the trees and occasional trimming, became at length of considerable dimensions, and was considered the armorial bearing of the Academy. The Arcadi thought themselves extremely fortunate in obtaining this new Parnassus, as innumerable sonnets on its dedication to the tuneful Nine amply testified.
Seven times a year the Arcadi assembled at this Teatro to recite their compositions; and on important occasions, "the Palatino," says their annalist, "resounded with their songs," much in the same way, we humbly presume, as the neighbourhood of that London fairy-land, to which the juggler and the Fantoccini, and the fireworks, and Polly Hopkins and Mr. Tomkins, and the grand military band, have conspired to draw fashionables from the west, to the ceaseless wakefulness and musical satiety of the luckless inhabitants of Vauxhall. At the commencement of the institution it had been agreed, that in the computation of time, the Arcadi should adopt Olympiads; and Alfesibeo, with Francesco Bianchini, alias Selvaggio Afrodisio, undertook to make that method of calculation correspond with the Julian year, an operation for which, in the usual way, innumerable complimentary sonnets were their reward. On this occasion, too, Alfesibeo was honoured with the permission of adding to his family-arms those of the society; and a very splendid cornelian from the cabinet of Leone Strozzi, on which they
were engraved, was presented to him. Hitherto none of the compositions of the Arcadi had been permitted to transpire beyond the limits of their own members, and the public was anxiously expecting some proof of the reformation in taste, which was avowed as the original object of the institution. Crescembeni, with this view, published a pastoral poem, entitled "Elvio," which he dedicated to the Princess della Scalea, herself an Arcadian, under the name of Amarante Eleusina, and which he himself judiciously criticises in his celebrated work "Della Bellezza della volgar Poesia." This poem differed from all that until then had appeared in this particular, viz. that he introduced persons then alive into his dialogue, and accommodated the simplicity of pastoral life to the tenderness and dignity of tragic sentiment, in such a manner that the one in no way appeared to interfere to the disparagement of the other; and for this excellence he is particularly commended in a canzone, by his brother Arcade, Nedisto Collide.
Crescembeni's uncle perceiving that his nephew had become quite poetry mad, and being himself of opinion that, whether "invitá Minerva" or otherwise, his nephew should have pursued the noble study of the law, determined to punish his desertion, and forbade him his house. In these circumstances, poverty, "the badge of all his tribe," reduced him to such extremities, that, like Torquato Tasso, he had not
Candele per iscrivere suoi versi.
Thus pitiably situated, his friends took compassion on him, and Alessandro Guidi received and entertained him for several months in the Palazzo Farnese. From these embarrassments, however, he was soon relieved by the opportune demise of the old gentleman, his uncle, from whom he inherited a comfortable independence.
Pope Innocent XII. dying A. D. 1700, Clement XI. was chosen his successor, an appointment which was particularly agreeable to the Arcadi, for he had been the first of the Cardinals to join the infant academy, in which he was known by the pastoral name of Alnano Melleo. On his elevation, Crescembeni, in his character of custode, was allowed the honour of kissing the foot of his Holiness. On this occasion he also ordered the celebration of the Olympic games as a tribute of respect to the new pope, and prescribed the formula by which these poetical amusements were to be conducted. While engaged in these literary occupations, which endeared him not only to the private circle of his friends, but likewise to the most distinguished characters in Italy, Crescembeni fell dangerously ill. By the care, however, of the Cardinal Ottoboni, he at length recovered, and was able, though still weak, to resume his duties as custode. On this occasion the whole strength of the Arcadi was put into requisition, and he was overwhelmed with congratulations upon his happy convalescence.
Francesco Gasparri particularly distinguished himself by a sonnet on this occasion, from which we extract the following lines, in order to shew the great esteem in which Crescembeni was held.
"Vivane Alfesibeo, vivane eterno
Lieto, lieti i suoi paschi il Sol rimiri,
His health being at length perfectly re-established, the first use he made of it was to express his acknowledgments to the Cardinal, to whom he was particularly indebted for it, in an eclogue, entitled "Il Ferragosto." This poem excited universal admiration, not only by its novelty and the circumstances under which it was written, but likewise by the polished elegance of the dialogue, and the enchanting songs with which it was interspersed.
It would be impossible here to enumerate all the works with which Crescembeni enriched the literature of his country, and which contributed to uphold the reputation he had so deservedly acquired. The most remarkable of these are, his "Storia della Poesia Volgare d'Italia,” and "Trattato della Bellezza della Poesia Volgare," which, as Tiraboschi says, though not remarkable for depth of learning or research, are well deserving the attention of the dilettanti in Italian literature. It would equally surpass our limits to mention the various colonies of Arcadians which branched from the academy of which he was the founder. Arezzo, Macerata, Venice, Bologna, Ferrara, Sienna, Verona, and almost every town of consequence in Italy, possessed an Arcadia in connexion with that of Rome, and submitted to the regulations of their common parent. On the literature of Italy their effect has by some been declared injurious, by inducing too general an application to poetry among the youth of that country; but they, beyond a doubt, contributed to reform that ampullated and pedantic style which had prevailed before their establishment. We are aware that to many of our readers it will appear perfectly incredible that any considerable number of sensible men should agree to assemble in masks and under assumed names for the purpose of reciting poetical compositions. But they must recollect the diversity of manners between the two countries; and if they have travelled, or have at all associated with Italian literati, they cannot have failed to remark the indulgence with which they consider the productions of one another. The diversity of manners also renders it almost impossible to adhere to accuracy on the present subject without degenerating into the ludicrous and burlesque. We are quite willing to shew every decent deference to the customs and feelings of our neighbours; but we cannot help remarking that an establishment in this country of the kind we have described, would shock every preconceived notion of taste or delicacy. Crescembeni died on the 8th of March, 1728, of an ossification of the heart, and his obsequies were performed with great pomp by the Arcadians.
Whatever may be thought of the eligibility of the plan which Crescembeni adopted, there can be no doubt that he was actuated by a sincerely patriotic desire of advancing the literature of his country; and he seems to have had no other ambition than that those "nobili studi,” in which he was himself engaged, should, through his exertions, be held after his death in honour and estimation.
"Basta, che segno vile oggi non sieno
Di scherno, e chi gli udrà dopo mia morte
Oн what a scene! the moon to-night
Open the lattice, Ellen dear,
And tell me, do I dream or hear?
For every hand some gift must bear.
The biscuit wallet one may take,
And one the cheese and Christmas cake;
One fill the foaming pitcher, one
Bear the full cider firkin on ;—
And, what! my waken'd puppet here!
This ancient rustic merry-making has been, I believe, very generally misunderstood,-Milton having alluded to the rude Wassailers of night, and Shakspeare, if I recollect rightly, has rendered them in no more respectable guise than "drunken revellers." I know not how this happened: I suppose the Wassail was once generally practised throughout England, though lately confined to the western counties, and now it is only the privilege of a few villages. As I remember, it was a rustic festival that ushered in the Christmas holidays: the peasantry of each village used to assemble and proceed from door to door, provided with large pitchers, singing the wassail song in the manner I have described. The song cannot be charged with any ribaldry, nor was it accompanied with any mummery, except that the group, passing on to the home-orchard, laid a toast dipped in cider on one of the trees, cut a branch of misletoe, and sung a few rude rhymes, charming the apple-tree" from blight and blast," and charging her "to blow and to bear." A simple address of thanks and good wishes was made to the master of the house and his family; and receiving some beer, cider, cake, cheese, &c. they departed. When they had gone through the village, they repaired to some house previously agreed upon, where meeting their wives and children, they passed the night in the usual gambols of the season.