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writer, and one of those before alluded to, who possess the reputation of great scholars, examining the works of Foscolo, calls them, "tenebrose per certo stile lor proprio di oscurita misteriosa e d'idee affollate e appena accennate, e d'eloquenza compressa sdegnosamente; quasi che questo autoro non voglia per lettori che i suoi pari." *
Hippolitus Pindemonte reproaches him with the same defect, but in the tone more of a poet than a critic, and less of a censor than of a friend. "Your style," he says, "resembles the Rhone, which flows rapidly from the limpid lake of Geneva, and is lost under the Alps, to the regret of the traveller, who knows not how it has disappeared, and who finds himself obliged to wander on for some distance before he again beholds its azure current, and hears the sound of its rapid stream." J The political topics which have been generally selected for the subject of his performances, have perhaps induced this writer to leave us to guess that which he did not like to say openly. It is, however, equally true that the constant intensity of thought which he requires of his readers must be traced either to the peculiar mode in which his ideas are originally conceived, or to his wish to give them a new turn. Indeed all his writings bear the mark of meditation, although much forethought cannot be discovered in his familiar conversation, in which he gives a loose to all his ideas as they first present themselves. A literary lady has described him as parlatore felicissimo e fecondo,\ and this copious eloquence is accompanied with an incessant agitation of limb and body, which, however, is, when he harangues in public, converted into an absolute inactivity. It is told of him that he has spoken for hours at the councils of war with his hands fixed on the back of a chair, without indulging in the slightest action.
* See —in the Milanese Review — the Poligrafo, the articles signed Y.
t See Pindemonte's epistle, in verse, addressed to Hugo Foscolo. t Ritratti, scritti dalla Contessa Isabella Albrizzi.
This fact, incredible as it may be to such as have seen Mr. Foscolo only in private society, will not be lost upon those who please themselves with discriminating between the different modes of intellectual exertion, and who will be obliged to account for so singular a discrepancy by recollecting that Foscolo may have deliberately preferred this motionless eloquence. The truth is, as we find in his ' Discourse upon Literature,' that he decries the quackery of the latter orators of Athens by praising the more ancient speakers, who harangued in the manner of Pericles, wrapped up in their clamys, without gesture or melody: Peroravano awolti, alV mo di Perich, nella clamide, senza gesto tie melodia.
The published poetry of this writer is confined to two odes and a little work, called 'I Sepolcri,' written when it was forbidden to bury the dead in family tombs :—
"Pur nuova legge impone oggi i sepolcri
According to the provisions of this new law, all bodies, without distinction, were to be interred in public cemeteries without the towns, and the size of the sepulchral stone was prescribed, and the epitaphs were subject to the revision and approval of the magistrates. The aim of Foscolo in this poem appears to be the proof of the influence produced by the memory of the dead on the manners and on the independence of nations.
It may be sufficient to quote a specimen which will be more easily understood by those who have visited the church of Santa Croco at Florence :—
"Io quando il monumento
t Michael Angelo.
Sotto l' etereo padiglion rotarsi
Più mondi, e il Sole irradiarli immoto,*
Onde all' Anglo che tanta ala vi stese t
Sgombrb primo le vie del Firmamento;
Te beata! gridai, per le felici
Aure pregne di vita, e pe' lavacri
Che da suoi gioghi a te versa Apennino:
Lieta dell' aer tuo, veste la Luna
Di luce limpidissima i tuoi colli
Per vendemmia festanti; e le convalli
Popolate di case e d' oliveti
Mille di fiori al Ciel mandano incensi:
E tu prima, Firenze, udivi il carme
Che allegrò l' ire al Ghibellin fuggiasco ; %
E tu i cari parenti e l'idioma
Desti a quel dolce di Calliope labbro §
Che Amore in Grecia nudo, e nudo in Roma
D'un velo candidissimo adornando
Rendea nel grembo a Venere Celeste.
Ma più beata che in un tempio accolte
Serbi le Itale glorie (ultime forse !)
Da che le malvietate Alpi e l' alterna
Onnijotenza delle umane sorti
Armi, e sostanze t' invadeano, ed are
E Patria, e, tranne la memoria, tutto."
This poem contains only three hundred lines, hut it called forth pamphlets and criticisms in every shape and from all quarters. The younger writers tried to imitate it: the critics pronounced it to have brought about a reform in the lyrical poetry of Italy. The academy of Brescia proposed a prize for the best Latin translation, and awarded their premium to the professor Frederic Borgno, who soon after published his version in hexameters, accompanied with a dissertation, a passage of which may be quoted to show the tone of Italian criticism :—"
"It is the business of lyrical poetry, properly so called, to present to us interesting facts so as to excite our strongest feelings, and to promulgate those opinions which tend to the prosperity of nations. Any ten verses which do not furnish the painter with images sufficient to compose an historical picture, which do not shake the soul by the noble recollections they recall, by the generous passions they
awaken, which do not engrave in luminous characters some useful truth upon the mind—these verses may, I confess, be admirable in their kind, but they do not belong to lyrical poetry. The prophetic portion of the Bible, some of the hymns attributed to Homer, Pindar, Catullus in his marriage of Peleus, the sixth eclogue of Virgil, the episodes in the Georgics, a dozen of the odes of Horace, six of the canzoni of Petrarch, a few of Chiabrera, of Guidi, of Filicaja, those of Dryden, and two of Gray, are really lyrical. All the other poetry of Petrarch, and of those called lyrical, may be justly praised, and may charm a greater number of readers even than those above cited, but it is necessary to adopt the division of Cicero, in his distinction between ' poete lyrici' et 'melici.' Pindar belongs to the first; Sappho, Anacreon, and Simonides, to the second."
The Italians are fond of these classifications, and indulge in them more than we should esteem profitable to the study of language. But it is also true that their critics seldom praise even their favourite authors with the indiscriminate fury of our eulogists. Mr. Borgno subjoins to his notice of Chiabrera, Guidi, and Filicaja, a list of exceptions to their merits which might surprise a foreigner, accustomed to think of the name, rather than the works of their authors. According to this authority, sonorous words and a magnificence of verse and of phrase are substituted by these writers for the requisite variety of harmony and of imagery, whilst they are totally deficient in the chiaroscuro of poetry, and have chosen subjects which either are not national, or, what is as bad, are totally incapable of interesting their nation.
Mr. Borgno quotes other poetical works of Foscolo, which appear to be in the same style, and, amongst others, his 'Alceus,' which describes the political vicissitudes of Italian poetry from the fall of the eastern empire to the present day. He alludes also to ' The Graces,' a poem, in three cantos. Both the one and the other are, however, inedited, and are known only by some fragments.
The blank verses of Foscolo are totally different from those of any other author. Each verse has its peculiar pauses and accents placed according to the subject described. His melancholy sentiments move in a slow and measured pace, his lively images bound along with the rapid march of joy. Some of his lines are composed almost entirely of vowels, others almost entirely of consonants; and whatever an Englishman may think of this imitation of sense by sound (a decried effort since the edict of Dr. Johnson), the Italian poet has at least succeeded in giving a different melody to each verse, and in varying the harmony of every period.
It is perhaps necessary to he an Italian to feel the full effect of these combinations; but the scholar of even" country may perceive that Foscolo has formed himself on the Greek model, not only in this particular, but in other branches of his art. In fact, he was born in the Ionian islands, as he himself tells us in some beautiful verses at the end of one of his odes :—
"Pra P Isole Che col selvoso dorso
Rompono agli Euri, e al grande Ionio il corso,
Ebbi in quel mar la culla:
Two tragedies, the ' Ricciarda' and the 'Ajaz,' by the same author, were stopped by the government after the first representation. They excited a great curiosity from motives not altogether poetical. It was reported that Moreau was his Ajax, that Napoleon was to figure in his Agamemnon, and that his holiness the Pope would be easily recognised in Chalcas. The known principles of Foscolo facilitated the recognition of these originals, who, after all, perhaps, never sat to the poet for their likenesses. Whatever were his intentions, he received immediate orders to quit the kingdom of Italy and to reside in some town of the French empire. He accordingly fixed his abode at Florence, at that time a department of France.
Foscolo has lived and written in a state of open war with the writers of the day and the reigning political parties. It is not surprising, therefore, that he has been severely handled in publications of every kind, and particularly in the journals, which will be found to contain imputations against