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prodigality of Rome," he might visit his Sabine farm, inspect the labours of his faithful steward, survey his agricultural improvements, and wander among scenes which would remind him of those in which he had spent his childhood. There is no reason to reproach Horace with either insincerity or servility in his praises of Mecenas and Angustus. They had given him more than life for they afforded him the means of moderate and innocent happiness. In his youth he had witnessed under many aspects the waste and ruin of war. In the camp of Brutus he had associated with the hot and heady youth (minaces) who had set all upon a cast, that they might regain their patrician parks and fish ponds, or revel amid the groans of plundered provinces. In his declining age he could not but contrast its happy repose with the perils and vicissitudes of his early manhood. That he should be grateful to the restorers of peace, and subside into philosophic contentment with the existing order of things, was surely in character with his sociable and reasonable nature. His buckler had been well lost; his flight from Philippi bad been propitious; his adverse and his prosperous fortunes had alike disciplined his mind, and the Epicurean poet had attained a portion of the calm of his own secure and contemplative Jupiter.
But we must now pass on to a more turbulent and tragic aspect of poetic life. In the second part of Faust, the wand of Mephistopheles waves over the palace of Menelaus; and the Atreid halls, the choral and sacrificial trains, and Helen and her captive handmaidens, dislimn into the billowy mists that descend upon the valley of the Eurotas. In the next act of the mystic drama, the Cyclopean palace, the captives and the choir, the victims and the priest, and all the accompaniments of the old ethnic life, have vanished, and Helen alone survives, beloved by a Gothic paladin, and surrounded with the pomp of feudal chivalry. The spirit of beauty survives the dismemberment of empires; and Art, having accomplished its ethnic cycle, informs the fresh and lusty youth of mediæval Christendom. The apologue of the poet, if such be its interpretation, was realised in the history of Italy. Rome had fallen with not less dismay and perplexity of nations than the Babylon of apocalyptic vision. There was a new earth; and tribes unknown to the Cæsars inhabited it. A carpet of desolation was spread over the fairest provinces of the empire. The sacred fire of Vesta was quenched for ever; the mours could no more divine;' the pontiff and the silent virgin w unger ascended the stairs of the Capitol ; the seventh of the birrusean years had passed away; the city of Quirinus was tmurned by an unwarlike priest, and professed obedience to a
German Cæsar. Of the seven hills of Rome five were as solitary as when the Arcadian Evander, according to the legend, raised the shrine of Hercules on Mount Palatine. And around the walls of Rome, from the lake of Bolseno to the Liris; stretched wide and monotonous wastes of heath and wood-land, so that he who approached the capital from Naples or from Siena, seemed to himself to be entering a city of the dead. But in the 16th century of the Christian era, beyond the boundaries of the Papal States, the northern and southern provinces of the Italian peninsula were thickly set with fair and flourishing cities. Somewhat of their original lustre had indeed passed away; for already, like the Rome of Augustus, the Italian republics had exchanged their turbulent freedom for a brilliant and, in some cases, a rigid despotism. Venice, Genoa, and Florence, however, still retained much of the vigour and alacrity of liberty, and surpassed all the capitals of transalpine Europe in the extent of their commerce, in refinement of manners, and in the cultivation of learning and the arts. The lonely majesty of Rome had been more imposing; but the vitality of the Italian communities penetrated deeper, and was impregnated with principles more generally conducive to the progress of mankind. It might have seemed as if the twenty-four cities of Etruria had revived again, and Magna Græcia had risen from the dust and ashes of decay and invasion. The Helen of the ancient peninsula, to resume for a moment Göthe's symbol, had bequeathed her single cestus to a group of younger and more blooming nymphs.
of the cities which inherited her rich bequest, none, in the sixteenth century, was more flourishing than Ferrara. The princes of Este, who held by right or by usurpation the helm of government, were derived by genealogists from the Trojan Atys or Astyanax — from which of the two they are not agreed - and probably descended, in reality, from a Lombard margrave who, under the Carlovingian sovereigns, governed the northern provinces of Italy. A succession of fortunate marriages aggrandised the progeny of Astyanax as well as the family of Rudolph of Hapsburg; and a series of skilful intrigues had combined with their noble and royal alliances to render the Ferrarese princes conspicuous among the ducal sovereigns of the peninsula. At that period, no Italian city, except Florence, could compete with Ferrara in wealth, splendour, or luxury; and the lords of Este had always affected to court the friendship of men of learning and genius. Their patronage, indeed, was not always judicious or even liberal. They at times mistook a Mævius for a Maro. The salaries they gave and the homage they exacted were often in an inverse ratio to each other; and in his poor wardenship of Graffagnana, even the good-humoured Ariosto murmured at the scanty guerdon afforded him by the first Alphonso. Poets and artists, nevertheless, flocked to the provincial capital; and, if they were generally disappointed, the court itself was brilliant; and an eager, although not always a generous, rivalry among the dependent wits rendered the intellectual harvest unusually prolific.
It was towards the close of autumn, in the year 1565, that Torquato Tasso arrived at the court of Ferrara. We mark this epoch as the crisis of his fortunes; but, before rushing at once into the midst of his dramatic story, we must briefly glance at his previous career. Bernardo Tasso, his father, who is still remembered because his son is still illustrious, was himself one of the most conspicuous and unfortunate persons of his age. He was a politician unlucky in the choice of his party, a client unlucky in the choice of his patrons, and a poet unlucky in the choice of a theme. Accordingly, his patrimony was confiscated, he died in exile, his wife was widowed by separation from him long ere death released her from sorrow, and when his epic · Amadigi,' the labour of a life, was published, it fell almost still-born from the press. He was, however, a man of a sanguine and generous temper; and he continued to write verses to his dying day. His patrons wearied of him, yet he persisted in soliciting their favour; his son's 'Rinaldo' eclipsed the paternal • Amadigi’; and the good Bernardo expired in the faith that the House of Tasso had produced two immortal poets.
Could the sanguine Bernardo have, for a moment, lifted the veil from Torquato's destiny, he might indeed have exulted in his son's posthumous renown; but he must have recoiled from the dreary prospect of his earthly pilgrimage. Poets, as a class, have had their full share of the original malediction. "Toil,
envy, want, the patron and the jail, fill up their category of gạiefs. Of the 'importuna è grave salma' of life, Tasso endured more than even a poet's portion: and the burden was, in his case, aggravated by an irritable organisation and by sensibilities unusually morbid. The woes of his contemporary Spenser fell upon the great Elizabethan allegorist with the evening shadows of life: the agony of Chatterton was brief; the madness of Collins and Cowper admitted of physical or domestic alleviations; the
pard-like spirit of Shelley consoled itself with dreams of human perfectibility; the blindness of Milton was cheered by the thought that all Europe rang from side to side' with the burning words of his defence of the people of England; and Dante's exile was lightened by the assurance that the dooms of
his sacred poem' would be ratified by generations which knew neither Guelf nor Ghibeline. But Tasso was the dupe of tomorrow even from a child. His father's restoration to home and honour was the subject of perpetual hope and perpetual disappointment. For twelve years, like the orphan whom Homer, in some of his most touching verses, describes as the prey and mockery of unjust kinsmen and corrupt judges, his patrimony was invaded by litigants or withheld by the Neapolitan government. From his twelfth year to his nineteenth he shared the restless exile of Bernardo; and from his twentieth year to his death he experienced, with few intermissions, the coldness of friends, the bitterness of foes, the jealousy of rivals, and the caprice of princes. During his agitated life his only havens of rest were, his early childhood, and his death-bed. All the interim was like Christian's passage through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in Bunyan's vision. Without were fightings, within were fears. On the one hand, were penury and exile, and frequent partings from those he loved; on the other, were jealousies and terrors, the lazar-house and the madhouse. In the reckoning of the calendar, he died at the age of fifty-one; but his infelicities might have filled a Platonic year, for they comprised all griefs, which
On the purest spirit prey,
It is unnecessary for us, even if our limits would permit our doing so, to describe minutely the events of Tasso's life. For the English reader, besides Mr. R. Milman's interesting volumes, there is a biography of the poet, in two 4to. volumes, by Dr. Black; while the sketches by Muratori, Tiraboschi, Ginguéné, and Sismondi, leave the student of Italian literature little to desire. The sentiments and opinions of Tasso himself can only be gathered from his numerous critical and epistolary writings, and from the study of his lyrical poems; which, far more than his better-known · Gierusalemme' and Aminta, reveal the strength and the weaknesses of his character. The common sources of the general biographies are, the work of Manso, Marquis della Villa, and that of the Abate Serassi. The friendship and the hexameters of Milton have rendered the name of Manso at once familiar and musical to English ears.' He was the contemporary and most generous friend of the muchsuffering poet. Serassi was a philologer and biographer of the last century, and in some respects better qualified than the noble marquis for the office they undertook; since he was intimately
acquainted with Tasso's works and with every record of his career. Yet the two biographers do not merely differ materially from one another; each has disqualifications peculiarly his own, which prevent him from being a complete chronicler. Manso would seem to have derived most of his information from Tasso himself; but at a time when the poet's mind, and perhaps his memory also, had been unhinged and impaired by his overwhelming calamities. Manso did not write, at least he did not publish his record, until some years after the poet's decease; and his memoir is accordingly rather a series of recollections than a regular biography. Serassi far surpasses Manso in the abundance and accuracy of his materials. But Gurth was not more the bounden-thrall of the Saxon Cedric, than the Abate was, in his prejudices at least, the servant of the House of Este. He contradicts Manso with or without reason; gain
saying,' says Ginguéné, and not refuting facts, which could neither have been forged by Tasso, nor imagined by Manso.' The particular inducements to Serassi's partiality are obvious. His work is dedicated to Maria Beatrice of Este, the wife of Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria ; and in whatever relates to the conduct of her ancestor Alphonso, or to the honour of the House of Este, the courtly biographer prefers · Plato to truth.' Professor Rosini suspects the Abate, and not without reason, of neglecting or suppressing all documents or allusions in the least degree unfavourable to the princes of Ferrara. Dr. Black, on the other hand, has far too often taken Serassi's view ; so that Mr. R. Milman, in vindicating Tasso, has discharged a pious office, for which all lovers of worth and genius will feel themselves his debtors.
Cities have contended for the honour of having given Torquato Tasso to the world. It was not, indeed, a controversy for the honour of his birth, since the claims of Sorrento are beyond dispute. But it was a controversy for the distinction of having contributed the most to the formation of his genius, -and so far it was a nobler strife than that of the candidates for the birthplace of Homer. Sorrento was a cradle befitting the future poet of the gardens of Armida. • It is so pleasant and delightful,' says Bernardo Tasso, that the poets feigned it to be the dwelling of
the sirens.' They still show the chamber in which Torquato was born. But envy, which is of all countries, has affirmed not only that the cottage at Stratford-upon-Avon was never Shakspeare's property, but also that Tasso's birth-chamber has long since been at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Like Horace's, his childhood was distinguished by signs and wonders. The peasants of Bante and Acherontia pointed out to strangers. the marvel