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prised into a sentimental passion for a French officer, who has been wounded in the battle of Albeck. The victories of Napoleon are chanted forth by the same officer, who it seems succeeds in persuading the bard of the advantages of imperial despotism, for he prophesies the absolute monarchy of the triumphant warrior.
This poem is in different metres, in blank verse, in heroical and in lyrical stanzas-a mixture which has had · great success with us, but is far from agreeable to the Italians, who have been taught by Dante to run into any embarrassments rather than facilitate the art of poetry.
Monti left this poem also incomplete; and Napoleon, to encourage the continuation of a prophecy so flattering, created him a knight of two orders, and gave him a thousand louis d’ors. The emperor also assigned him a pension, and made him his historiographer.
The foregoing censure of the bard of the Black Forest should be accompanied with the confession that it contains some admirable passages. Such is the description of the night after a bloody battle.
« Pallido intanto su l'Abnobie rupi
Che mestizia e terror mettea nel core.”
but he is as ardent an admirer of our great dramatist as he is of Dante. The writer has heard him pronounce his decided judgment, that the world has produced but three poets, properly so called ; and Homer, with the two just mentioned, form his triumvirate. The two following stanzas will be seen to have been copied from the speech of Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida,' where the necessity of a monarchy is deduced from the pre-eminence of the sun above the stars.
" Delle stelle monarca egli s'asside
Sul trono della luce; e con eterna
E cagion sola del mirando effetto
Monti undertook a translation of the Iliad ;' and he undertook it confessing that he knew nothing of Greek, but copied after the literal interpretations in Latin, the various commentators, and the poetical versions of all his predecessors. He depended solely upon his talents for versification, and the charms of his style. His readers were equally confident with himself; and their previous persuasion secured him the first applauses with which his translation was welcomed even by the Greek scholars, who were happy to accept of so powerful an ally in their contest with Cesarotti. It was, however, discovered that a translation made by one who was ignorant of the original could not be depended upon. The distrust spread even to those who were themselves equally unacquainted with the Greek text; and the censures of the learned were heard and multiplied in every quarter. They have by degrees been pushed to an extreme equally unjustifiable with the first praises of this translation. Monti had heard of the simplicity of Homer: he wished to imitate this quality, which is so much eulogised, and so little capable of definition. To accomplish this project, he sprinkled his phrases with Italian idiotisms; and he moreover was prodigal of words from the Latin, which, although they have a certain classical air, and are well chosen, expressive, and clear, and enrich the language, give, however, a prosaic and pedantic air, that renders his manner disagreeable and dry. He has almost always faithfully given the meaning of Homer, but he has frequently omitted to lay hold of those minute and accessory beauties which form in fact the exclusive merit of great writers, and which, as they are rather felt than seen, are the despair of the most expert translator.
Monti has given an agreeable colouring to the pictures of the “Iliad ;' but he has not always been sufficiently exact in his representation of him, who is as it were the master of design, and the father of all the great artists. He is simple and he is easy, but he is not natural : he has more fire than strength. · It must still be allowed that the verses and style of Monti render his · Iliad' more agreeable than it appears in the meagre translation of Salvini, or in the rifaccimento of Cesarotti. He may at least pretend to the double merit of having done better than others, and of having excited others to do better than him.
As to the general method, his style is founded upon the exquisite example furnished by Virgil in his imitations of the Greek poet; and as far as respects the versification, he has studied the translation of the “Eneid' by Hannibal Caro, which Monti considers as the purest model of blank verse, and the true depository of the riches and the elegance of the Italian language. His version, like that of his prototype, is, in fact, invariably flowing, and derives its chief excellence from periods well rounded, and a cadence always agreeable. The numbers and the accents of each verse are comparatively neglected. This manner of writing flatters the ear, and is not so varied as to be fatiguing, but it is liable to the monotony which offends us in Ovid, and is still more striking in a language more melodious and less sonorous than the Latin, and whose heroic verses have not the advantage of the hexametral length.
Monti has also translated Persius, and has given to him a clearness of idea and a softness of expression not to be found in the most obscure and the harshest of all the ancient poets. Yet he has rendered some satires line for line, and bound himself by the test before applied by Davanzati to Tacitus. This translation has ceased to be spoken of, except to cite those notes which were composed by the author in 1803, in the height of his enthusiasm for republics, and of his detestation of the vice and tyranny of the Roman Emperors.
The talents of Monti were devoted, with a constancy proportioned to the duration of the French power, to the praise of Napoleon, his unwearied patron. But neither the attachment of the poet, nor the liberality of the Emperor, contributed, in the expected degree, to the reputation of the author or to the glory of his imperial Mecænas. When Napoleon, after the battle of Jena, sent the sword of Frederic II. to Paris, Monti wrote a poem in one canto, and called it the · Sword of Frederic. But · La Spada di Federico’ had some defects, not only of composition and style, but even in the versification, which the partisans of Bonaparte themselves could not pardon, and accordingly attacked with a success dangerous to the superiority of Monti, who ran a second risk of losing his pre-eminence by a poem which he published two or three years afterwards, and called the ‘Palingenesis. This Regeneration was the system of Pythagoras demonstrated in the metamorphoses produced in the world by the genius of Bonaparte; and the apparent object of Monti was to rival the · Pronéa' of Cesarotti. Monti had not the same excuse as the Paduan poet: he was not very aged, nor did he write at the express order of the
Emperor. But his · Palingenesis' was 'not more fortunate than the ‘Pronéa.'
The odes published by Monti on the usual occasions of victories and treaties of peace, on the marriages and the births of princes, and which he struck off at a heat with inconceivable rapidity, are most of them finished to perfection. Even those which are on the whole but middling performances contain stanzas cited by the Italians as masterpieces in this way of writing.
“Lassù, dov' anco
Siede una Diva,
The series of Monti's poems would not be completely cited without mentioning three of considerable length—11 Prometeo,' 'La Musogonia,' and · La Feroniade, of which he has published only the first cantos and some fragments. The second of these is an imitation of Hesiod. The allegory of Prometheus furnishes a clear and poetical development of the merit and the perilous course of that superior order of beings who dedicate their lives to the enlightening of the human race, and displays the ingratitude of the people towards the defenders of their liberty, and the despotism which is the closing scene of every political drama. “La Feroniade,' a name borrowed from that of the nymph cited by Virgil and Horace, and who was one of the Roman deities that had a temple in the Pontine Marshes, was a poem composed for Pius VI., who had undertaken to drain and cultivate and people those marshes. The enemies of Monti republished some passages of these three poems, to show that he had substituted the eulogy of his new protectors by the erasure of those originally inserted in praise of the Pope.