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So, while my muse repeats her varied strains,
If each of the different adventures related in the Orlando were concluded before another begun, we would probably lay down the book at the end of each adventure, and take up the next at some other time. That Ariosto’s manner of arranging them is therefore the most interesting, appears evident from our unwillingness to lay the book out of our hands till we have gone through the entire work. We cannot, therefore, agree with Gravina, when he says, that Ariosto“ is reprehensible for the disagreeable breaks in his narrative;" nor with his translator, Mr. Hoole, that “ it is likewise to be feared, that those repeated breaks, by blending the adventures with each other, must rather tend to perplex and embarrass the story.” No embarrassment whatever can arise from dropping an adventure, in one place, and resuming it in another, as Ariosto, in taking it up, recals our attention to the part where he left off. In fact, though his plan of conducting his poem is perfectly original, and has a prima facie appearance of irregularity, few poets have been more observant of that order which he had planned out for himself at the commencement.
Whatever be Ariosto's faults, he has one merit that redeems them all, a merit which whoever possesses, possesses also the virtue of converting blemishes into beauties. This merit consists in the intense interest which he excites throughout the work. All his heroes are so interesting, that we imagine the present hero the most interesting of all, and we cannot endure to have him snatched from us suddenly, to hold converse with another. Our regret, however, is of a short duration, for the new hero or heroine soon becomes our principal favourite. If, then, the art of interesting be the true art of writing ; if, in the absence of this art, beauty be faded, and instruction insipid ; if it be the strong interest excited in the Iliad that renders it the first of all poems, Ariosto must be allowed to rank, if not in the first, at least in the second class of poets. Voltaire, in fact, does not hesitate to prefer the Orlando to the Odyssey, but with this opinion we cannot agree; for admitting Ariosto capable of excelling Homer in descriptive and pathetic powers, his subject would not permit him to equal him in either. In Homer, every thing has the appearance of reality: he never “oversteps the modesty of nature," for even when he introduces his gods and goddesses supporting their respective heroes in battle, we see no inconsistency, because we believe Homer had no higher idea of the subject gods of Jupiter. Jupiter himself he never introduces into the fight, which shews that if he had as high an opinion of them as he had of him, at whose nod
“ Great heaven with trembling the dread signal took,
And all Olympus to the centre shook, he would have been more sparing of celestial agency.
But though Ariosto’s heroes are of a more ideal character, and consequently less interesting, we must, to estimate his merits fairly, become as credulous as the age in which he wrote. We must have a firm belief in magic, or at least suffer Ariosto and his contemporaries to have a firm belief in it; and we shall then find the Orlando less ideal than it would otherwise appear. But whatever allowances we make for his idealisms, we can never compare him to Homer, in point of sublimity, though, in beauty and minuteness of description, he surpasses both him and all other writers. One flash of Homer's fire, however, rouses that electric thrill which all the luxury of description can never excite. Homer seizes at once whatever is calculated to inflame and inspire, and rejects whatever is not impregnated with this living principle; but Ariosto suffers nothing to escape him that associates with our ideas of grace and beauty. His pictures are therefore most luxuriant and delicious; but we easily perceive that they are not, like those of Homer, struck out at a heat. His description of Alcina, the sorceress, for instance, is quoted by Dolce, in his dialogue on painting, as a portrait of perfect beauty : but who does not perceive the art and study which was exercised in producing it? In this description there is not, perhaps, a word that we can alter, and yet we see, at a glance, it is not like Homer's descriptions, the work of inspiration. Every epithet, simile, and allusion, is true to nature, but it wants that fire that burns in Homer, and carries the mind forcibly and impetuously beyond its ordinary limits. Homer is rapid and impetuous in his engagements, while Ariosto is particular and circumstantial. He omits in fact no circumstance whatever, and if his battles, and particularly his single combats, have not all the rage and overwhelming impetuosity of Homer, they have at least all the truth and reality of nature. He is, of all poets, the happiest in combining, selecting, and imagining all the various turns and possible chances of battle.
Having taken this retrospect of the general design of the poem, the impropriety of selecting a chief hero and a main action, in a poem composed of such materials as Ariosto had fixed upon, the degree of credibility that may be attached to his relations and extravagant scenes, and the interest excited by his frequent interruptions of the story, by the introduction of new, or the resumption of adventures already commenced, we shall cônclude, in another number, with a view of his style and manner, and the character which he has impressed upon his work; a view which necessarily embraces his particular beauties and defects.
Captain Richard Franck, a Cromwellian trooper, and a gentle brother of the angle, drew the sword and flourished the rod about the latter end of the seventeenth century. He lived, as he himself gives out, a short time at Cambridge, but to very little mental profit if we may give credence to the many complaints, of want of education murmured throughout his book. He does not tell us how his thirst remained unquenched at the spring-head. After this he is supposed to have resided for a considerable time at Nottingham, but whether as a soldier, a fisherman, or a merchant, we are at a loss to determine. Certain it is, he spent much of this time by the side of the silver silent Trent,” for he speaks of it with the enthusiasm of a true haunter of its marge, and celebrates it manfully in fifty different places. It may be gathered from his pages, that he at one time served in the parliament cavalry during the Scottish wars, but whether before or after his residence at Nottingham it is impossible to say:-The few incidents of his life, indeed, which we are able to detect, are so distanced by
Time, that it is vain to attempt to place them His death, however, is pretty well settled--for our fighting and fishing captain after writing two books the one entitled Rabbi Moses, and stated to be “ writ in America, in a time of solitude;"the other, Northern Memoirs--the flowery, fantastic work now before us--died somewhere about 1694 of a good old age, a complaint of which we verily believe most honest and gentle anglers commonly perish!
This scanty account of Captain Richard Franck is taken from a shrewd and pithy preface prefixed to a republication of the Northern Memoirs, lately printed in Edinburgh. --The book is so flowery in its pictures of Scotland, that we only wonder it has escaped a reprint so long : the Scotch love to read of Scotland, and the Northern Memoirs surely offer a goodly profit, if only pulled off for exportation. The preface to this reprint is clearly of Scottish extraction (indeed we have heard it confidently attributed to the pen of Sir Walter Scott)-if no. other proof were to be found, the following passage would make out its origin,
" Franck's contests with salmon are painted to the life, and his directions to the angler are generally given with great judgement. Walton's practice was entirely confined to bait-fishing, and even Cotton, his disciple and follower, though accustomed to fish trout in the Dove, with artificial fly, would have been puzzled by a fish (for so the salmon is called, par excellence, in most parts of Scotland), of twenty pounds weight; both being alike strangers to that noble branch of the art, which exceeds all other uses of the angling rod, as much as fox-hunting excels hare-hunting.”
We have more than once met with this boasted Scottish monopoly of salmon-fishing. In an early number of a northern magazine, one of its contributors, in its accustomed extravagance of style, vaunted of the toil of salmon-fishing in his country, and of the utter inability of poor weak Southrons to compass the sport. How! Does the salmon only leap in the north countrie? Is that fish sacred to Scottish waters, and Scottish rods and lines? Is the Severn emptied of salmons ? Is the Thames only a brook for dace? We have seen menaye, good men and anglers-standing in the rapid waters, above Shrewsbury Town toiling in the true salmon line-aye, marry, and we have heard of English fishermen braving fatigue and mastering a fish of twenty pounds, with as untiring a spirit and as steady a wrist, as ever wrestled with fish by northern river. We know not how the preface writer comes to assert of Cotton and Walton, that “ both were alike strangers to that noble branch of the art,” (salmon-fishing). Walton, in his chapter on this “ branch of the art,” speaks of going out fishing with Oliver Henley, now with God, and after observing upon a way Master Oliver had of making his lob-worm a dainty relish, he says: “ he has been observed, both by others and myself, to catch more fish than I or any other body that has ever gone a fishing could do, and especially salmons." At any rate, Master Henley, with his worms scented with oil of ivy-berries, would have taken the river with the pen-fisherman in the north, and have pulled in, with an angler's ease, a fish as big as a bonassus. It is really laughable to hear a person hectoring about a salmon of twenty pounds, when it is by no means an uncommon thing to take a pike of that size.
Nevertheless, the introductory remarks of the editor are plainly and unaffectedly written, and we seldom remember to have seen a book which more required a master of the ceremonies to introduce it to the reader. It is writ in a wild bombastic style, and treats of angling, politics, and religion, now alternately-and“ now, altogether,” as Mr. Puff describes his martial prayer. At the end of every six or eight pages, the author breaks out into a fit of stark prose madness about fragrant banks, golden stars, enamelled dells, and verdant coverings; and not until he has raved himself clear of his extremely saffron mornings and extra gilt evenings, and not until his flowers have yielded him a rich double-distilled description, can he betake himself soberly to his rod and line, or pursue his more orderly course from Carlisle to Glasgow, or thence on to “ dirty Dumblain.” The book professes to give an account of the cities, towns, and rivers of Scotland, mixed up with choice collections of various discoveries, remarkable observations, theological notions, polemic inferences, &c. &c. together with instructions to the contemplative angler. Captain Franck pledges himself to this extent in his title-page; and the anxiety to redeem this liberal pledge, is doubtless the cause of an occasional rich confusion in parts of the book,—where the line becomes entangled in the weeds of theology, and remarkable observations get disordered by polemic inferences; and political axioms break in among fishing contemplations; and where, in short, Oliver Cromwell's stiff old angler stands lost and confounded amidst his own multifarious and distracting speculations. As his subjects thicken upon him, his language swells to the task of competing with them all, and hence we may account for the occasional superfine style, to which the Captain often ascends, and the utter break down which so frequently happens to his poor, crazy, overloaded prose. If authors were often to resemble Franck in his style, it would be found necessary to licence the English language not to carry more than four subjects inside, and six out; and even this limit would not insure a very secure journey. We rather think