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The most remarkable living poets of Italy are-Monti, who, like Milton, is blind: Foscolo, author of the Sepolcri, whom you have in London: Giambattista Nicolini, a tragic poet, born about the year 1790, lives at Florence, and sometimes writes in the Antologia: Silvio Pellico, author of Francesca da Rimini, and Eufemio di Messina, now in the fortress of Spielberg, is, I believe, about four-and-thirty: Alessandro Manzoni, born at Milan about the year 1780, has written some magnificent hymns, and two tragedies in which the unities are disregarded: Il Conte di Carmagnola and Adelchi.
Tommaso Grossi writes in the Milanese dialect, Buratti in the I Venetian. L'Abbate Meli wrote in Sicilian twenty years ago. imagine that your countrymen who governed Sicily at that time must have made you acquainted with the works of this extraordinary genius, the only modern, who, in my opinion, comes near Anacreon.
At Naples I met with all your latest tours in Italy; they all appeared to me completely silly and mawkish, and several of them canting and false. Among these stands pre-eminent that of the priest Eustace, whose cant poisons the minds of three-fourths of the English who visit Naples, and prevents their opening their eyes to the physical and moral beauties (yes, sir, moral) of this country. These beauties are not, indeed, precisely the same as those to be found in Portland-place, or the West India Docks. But what do people travel for if they do not wish to see any thing new or unaccustomed? The only man of sense among you who has written upon Italy is the late Joseph Forsyth. I have often differed from him in opinion, but the more I know of the country the more frequently do I give up my first-conceived notions, and come round to those of Forsyth.
Lady Morgan, whose books you praised, though I cannot conceive why, is, in the first place, about as good a judge of the fine arts as a Scotch presbyterian parson; now, ever since the tyranny of Philip II. Italy has had neither life, nor motion, nor voice, but in the fine arts. Lady Morgan does not seem to have the slightest perception of one capital peculiarity in Italian literature. The unfortunate writers of Italy are in a new and strange predicament-their language is failing under them-dying by inches..
The Italian with which you are acquainted, the Italian of Ariosto and of Alfieri, is spoken at Florence, Rome, and Siena. These are the only cities in all Italy which stand in the same condition, with respect to language, as London, Paris, Dresden, or Madrid. Now comes the terrible fact for literature: you enter Italy by Turin, you go into society, and to your great mortification and astonishment, you find that your perfect knowledge of Italian avails you nothing; you only catch a word here and there, which has some distant resemblance to the language of Goldoni and Metastasio. Every body at Turin speaks Piedmontese. Italian is indeed the written language, but a man would make himself supremely ridiculous at the parties of the beautiful Countess R- if he were to take it into his head to speak a word of it. If the Piedmontese ever use that language, it is only from politeness to some stranger who is recommended to them. It constrains every body. The Piedmontese, who are a sarcastic people, and much given to bitter sardonic laughter, cannot joke in Italian. You leave Turin, and arrive at Genoa; you hear nothing
but Genoese. Here you are worse off still, it is far more unintelligible than Piedmontese. It cost me three months pains to understand it, and yet, as you know, in the absence of better qualities, Nature has endowed me with a great facility of acquiring languages. I will give you one example of Genoese (Zenese)-Genoa is called Zena.-The three Italian words, Vostra Signoria sà, are reduced to the two Genoese words, Sha sa, the word Sha alone expressing the whole of Vostra Signoria. Well, you leave Genoa, which is only thirty leagues from Turin, and go to Milan, which is also thirty leagues from these two cities respectively, and there you come to the lingua della minga, that is, the language in which" nothing at all" is translated by minga. This is completely different from either Piedmontese or Genoese. Tommaso Grossi, a very poor young advocate, whom I look upon as perhaps the first living poet of Italy, has written in Milanese. This admirable poem, El di d'incoeu,* is restricted to a population of about six hundred thousand persons. At Brescia they speak Bressan, which has a great resemblance to Venetian; as also has Veronese. Venetian is delightful; in spirit and vivacity it is like French. The Venetians are perfectly sensible of the advantage they enjoy in the possession of wit, that faculty which enables a man to amuse his hearers, to please them, to make them happy for five minutes,-unless they are bankrupt, -or have a fit of the spleen, or are puritans. The Venetians, strong in this undisputed advantage, even now that their delightful capital, which in 1797 contained a hundred thousand inhabitants, is fallen off to forty thousand beggars, have an utter contempt for the language spoken by the pedants without ideas or passions, who inhabit Siena, or the country of Dante, once so fruitful in great men. The Bolognese, Neapolitan, and Sicilian languages, differ as widely from the language of Florence and Rome, as the Genoese or the Venetian. In the city of Naples alone, which contains three hundred and thirty thousand gesticulators, even I, a foreigner, was able to distinguish and to acquire three languages. The inhabitants of Pizzo-falcone do not speak like those of Ponte della Madelena.
My opinion is that Genoese, Milanese, and Neapolitan, are anterior to Latin. Milanese, according to my theory, goes back, at least, to the year 600 B. C. at which time the Gauls made an irruption into the country lying between the Tesino, the Po, and the Alps; and Bellovesus converted the town or burg of Milan into a city, which was first completely conquered by the Romans, under Scipio Nasica, in the year 191 B. C.
In the year 452 Milan was taken by Attila, and subsequently occupied by Odoacer, Theodoric, Uraja, &c. It was therefore in possession of the Romans only 643 years.
In the twelfth century Florence, which carried on an immense commerce, and filled nearly the station in Europe which, from its fortunate insular position and the wisdom of its inhabitants, England now holds, Florence might be considered as the capital of Italy. She was more peculiarly the metropolis of letters and of intellect. This advantage she owed to the liberty she then enjoyed, and to the lucky
This poem is founded on the history of the assassination of Count Prina, a minister of Napoleon, which was perpetrated on the 21st of April, by some assassins hired by the secret Commissaries of Austria, at least sic fama narrat.
accident which made her the birth-place of Dante, the father of the Italian tongue; of Petrarca, Boccaccio, Politian, Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Lorenzo de Medici, of whom your Roscoe has given a portrait, ridiculously decked out in modern colours. But Lorenzo il Magnifico, though a very different personage from the composition manufactured by his English biographer, was, nevertheless, one of the greatest sovereigns who has appeared in the world, from the beginning of monarchy down to this hour.
In 1339 absolute monarchy was established at Milan by Lucchino Visconti. The successors of this man, equally conspicuous for his wit and his villainy, were several times on the point of becoming sovereigns of all Italy. Had they succeeded, the Milanese tongue would, in all probability, have, spite of the genius of Dante, taken the place which is now held by the Florentine. The latter, which it is impossible to speak quickly, would have been superseded by the former, which is susceptible of rapid utterance.
As we find it in 1825, the Tuscan language may be compared to a young Turkish prince who has not succeeded in putting all his brothers to death, and consequently does not sit quite secure upon his throne. Thence arises its want of clearness. If you are speaking of the simplest, the most material object-of a sieve, for instance-its name in Milanese, Venetian, Genoese, Neapolitan, &c. instantly presents itself to the mind of the Milanese, the Venetian, &c. &c., with whom you are speaking. They are obliged to use an effort of memory to recall the Florentine name. Judge how it must be with those words which express the shades and fluctuations of passion-for instance, the first workings of jealous uneasiness in the heart of a young husband, when he sees the same partner dancing all the evening with his wife at a ball.
For things of this nature, and, observe, upon such delicate fare does poetry almost entirely subsist, the Venetian, the Neapolitan, the Genoese, three times out of four, do not know which is the appropriate Tuscan word; whilst they are hunting in the dictionary their poetical enthusiasm evaporates. We are come then to this conclusion, and a tenable one it is for Italian literature-the Florentine language-that which forms the basis of the Dictionary della Crusca, is, in fact, a dead language at Turin, Genoa, Milan, Verona, Venice, Ferrara, Bologna, Naples, and Sicily. It is true, that in all these cities the newspapers and advertisements of every kind are printed in what pretends to be Italian. But the pedants of Tuscany are perfectly right when they cry out that this Italian is not Italian. It is the patois of the place translated into Italian, with the help of the dictionary, &c., as school-boys say, word for word. The words are translated; but not the terms of expression, which retain their Piedmontese, Venetian, or Neapolitan character. Will you believe what I am now going to tell you? When I was at Leghorn, a very well-educated and rich Lucchese said, in my hearing, to a Florentine of the same class: "Our government is so bigoted that it obliged us to shut up our boxes (logge) on the eve of such a Saint." The Florentine did not at first understand the word logge, and took it to mean shops-yet Lucca and Florence are only fifty miles apart. Such is the state of Italy as to language.
You will, I think, acknowledge, that a man can be a poet in that language alone which he talks to his mistress and to his rivals. The Tuscan must be used as a dead language by every man not born at Florence, Siena, or Rome. Hence arises the sustained, the unrelenting emphasis, the lengthiness of the poems, written in Tuscan in those parts of Italy where it is not spoken..*
Unfortunately, the least poetical people in Italy are, at this moment, the Florentines and Sienese. It is at Bologna, at Reggio, at Venice, that you must look for the poetical tone of feeling-the incipient madness, if you will-which makes poets.
What is the conclusion to be drawn from all these observations? Why, that the greatest living poets are Tommaso Grossi, who writes in Milanese, and Pietro Buratti, whose exquisite satires are in Venetian.. Every body admires Niccolini's Tuscan verses, (see his tragedy of Nabucco, which is a continual allusion to Napoleon,) but nobody reads them. What, indeed, can be more cold and uninteresting than a parallel, run through five mortal acts, between Nabuchodonosor and Napoleon? It might have passed for very clever in 1650.
Somebody at Genoa has just published a comedy, from which the letter R is excluded. When one sees such puerilities, one is ready to believe that the fortunate seventeenth century is about to return, for the good of the Jesuits.
I have just heard that Tommaso Grossi, whom I thought really a man of genius, is seriously occupied in writing a poem in Florentine Italian. It will be as thoroughly tedious as his Ildegonda. Vale, e me ama, L. C. D.
NARRATIVE OF THE IMPRISONMENT AND ADVENTURES OF JOSHUA DONE, IN VARIOUS PARTS OF FRANCE.†
I ARRIVED at Paris in July, 1802, in order to pursue my studies in music and French. War suddenly broke out in the May of 1803. I resided, however, at Paris, till the December of that year, when I was ordered to Verdun, the dépôt of British prisoners on parole. A dispute with some Frenchmen concerning Mortier's conquest of Hanover, and the results they pretended to foresee, accelerated my departure. When I arrived at Verdun, the inhabitants had become
* Nevertheless, the facts, as opposed to this theory of our ingenious correspondent, stand thus:-Ariosto was born at Ferrara; Bernardo Tasso, at Bergamo; Torquato Tasso, at Torrento; Sannagard, at Naples; Costunzo, at Naples; Tassoni, at Modena; Maggio, at Milan; Guidi, at Pavia; Guarini, at Ferrara; Frugoni, at Genoa; Metastasio, at Assisi; Chiabura, at Savona; Alfieri, at Asti, in Piedmont; Parini, at Milan; Pindemonte, at Verona; Fortiguerra, at Pistoja; Monti, at Fusignan; Ugo Foscolo, at Venice; Silvio Pellico, at Turin; Manzoni, at Milan.
Assisi and Fusignand are indeed in the Roman States, but neither Metastasio nor Monti received their education at Rome; and Fortiguerra, the only Tuscan in the list, was educated at Pavia.
All these, therefore, fall under the description of men who cannot be poets, since the dialects of their respective birth-places were, in the time of the earlier of them, pretty much what they are at this day.
One of Mr. Done's principal motives for making his adventures public, is the hope that the Government of the country may be induced to consider, that the circumstances of his case entitle him to some indemnification for the sufferings he has sustained.-ED,
reconciled to the English, whom they at first disliked and despised; but numerous personal rencounters had proved to them the erroneous opinion they had imbibed from the exaggerated accounts of the revolutionary papers. The superiority of our countrymen at boxing and wrestling tended greatly to suppress the pugnacious disposition of the natives. I remained at Verdun, on parole, until January 1805, when, having failed to attend muster, I was escorted by gens-d'armes from prison to prison, being destined for the fortress of Bitche, in Lorraine, about twenty leagues from the Rhine. At the very first stage (Mars la Tour) I was robbed of a double Louis d'or, by a gend'arme, and was exceedingly ill used for being so unreasonable as to complain of it. The thief was discovered shortly after my departure, and dismissed from his situation; but they never returned me my money.
On my road to Saare Louis I met several Englishmen frozen to death, in an open cart, in which they were being conveyed to Metz. At that period the British sick at Saare Louis were sent to Metz, a distance of twelve leagues, there being no regular hospital at the former place. However incredible it may appear, this practice was continued for several years.
After a painful march, in the midst of a severe winter, I at length arrived at the fort of Bitche, famous for its assault by the Prussians, in the Revolution. The French assert that their opponents lost four thousand men in their desperate attempt to take it by a coup de main. Its gloomy, but majestic appearance, as it suddenly strikes the eye from the opposite eminence, is appalling in the extreme, to one who is doomed to be its inmate. It is nearly surrounded by a thick wood; on the right is a lake which yields a plentiful supply of fish; in front of the fortress stands the town of Bitche, containing about two thousand inhabitants. The fortress is divided into three parts, connected with each other by means of draw-bridges; the extreme height is about eighty feet. On the spectator's right is the "petite tête," on his left the "grosse tète," and in the centre the main fort, barracks, subterraneous vaults, &c. In this latter place were confined about two hundred British prisoners, who were sent thither for punishment from different dépôts: the greater part had failed in attempting to
In the summer preceding my arrival at this dismal place, two unfortunate Englishmen, named Cox and Marshal, were barbarously murdered, in endeavouring to regain their liberty. A plan had been matured, but, through the information of some Jerseymen who were confined with them, the French Commandant, Colonel Clement, formed the resolution of making a dreadful example, in order to intimidate the prisoners from any future attempts to escape. At midnight, Cox and Marshal entered the fatal aperture which would have conducted them to the exterior of the fort, when they were assailed by gens-d'armes, who were lying in wait for them, and who literally cut them to pieces. Poor Cox's face was so disfigured that his comrades could not recognise a single feature. The fate of the manly, good-natured Cox was heart-rending in the extreme; he had been carpenter's mate on board "La Minerve," Captain Brenton; having a short time previously reached the Rhine, he was retaken on one of the islands in that