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THE TEMPLE OF FAME.

WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCXI.

ADVERTISEMENT.

The hint of the following piece was taken from Chaucer's House of Fame. The design is in a manner entirely altered, the descriptions and most of the particular thoughts my own : yet I could not suffer it to be printed without this acknowledgment. The reader who would compare this with Chaucer, may begin with his third Book of Fame, there being nothing in the two first books that answers to their title : wherever any hint is taken from him, the passage itself is set down in the marginal notes.-P.

The following note was prefixed to the first edition of this poem :

“Some modern critics, from a pretended refinement of taste, have declared themselves unable to relish allegorical poems. It is not easy to penetrate into the meaning of this criticism ; for if fable be allowed one of the chief beauties, or, as Aristotle calls it, the very soul of poetry, it is hard to comprehend how that fable should be the less valuable for having a moral.

The ancients constantly made use of allegories. My Lord Bacon has composed an express treatise in proof of this, entitled, The Wisdom of the Ancients ; where the reader may see several particular fictions exemplified and explained with great clearness, judgment, and learning. The incidents, indeed, by which the allegory is conveyed, must be varied according to the different genius or manners of different times ; and they should never be spun too long, or too much clogged with trivial circumstances, or little particularities. We find an uncommon charm in truth, when it is conveyed by this sideway to our understanding : and it is observable, that even in the most ignorant ages this way of writing has found reception. Almost all the poems in the old Provençal had this turn; and from these it was that Petrarch took the idea of his poetry. We have his Trionfi in this kind ; and Boccace pursued in the same track. Soon after, Chaucer introduced it here, whose Romaunt of the Rose, Court of Love, Flower of the Leaf, House of Fame, and some others of his writings, are master-pieces of this sort. In epic poetry, it is true, too nice and exact a pursuit of the allegory is justly esteemed a fault; and Chaucer had the discernment to avoid it in his Knight's Tale, which was an attempt towards an epic poem. Ariosto, with less judgment, gave entirely into it in his Orlando ; which, though carried to an excess, had yet so much reputation in Italy, that Tasso (who reduced heroic poetry to the juster standard of the ancients) was forced to prefix to his work a scrupulous explanation of the allegory of it, to which the fable itself could scarce have directed his readers. Our countryman, Spenser, followed, whose poem is almost entirely allegorical, and imitates the manner of Ariosto rather than that of Tasso. Upon the whole, one may observe this sort of writing (however discontinued of late) was in all times so far from being rejected by the best poets, that some of them have rather erred by insisting on it too closely, and carrying it too far; and that to infer from thence that the allegory itself is vicious, is a presumptuous contradiction to the judgment and practice of the greatest geniuses, both ancient and modern."

It was to the Italians we owed any thing that could be called poetry ; from whom Chaucer, imitated by Pope in this vision, copied largely, as they are said to have done from the bards of Provence, and to which Italians he is perpetually owning his obligations, particularly to Boccace and Petrarch. But Petrarch had greater advantages, which Chaucer wanted, not only in the friendship and advices of Boccace, but still more in having found such a predecessor as Dante. In the year 1359, Boccace sent to Petrarch, who, it seems, was jealous of Dante, and in the answer speaks coldly of his merits. This circumstance, unobserved by the generality of writers, and even by Fontanini, Crescembini, and Muratori, is brought forward, and related at large in the third volume (p. 507) of the very entertaining Memoirs of the Life of Petrarch. In the year 1363, Boccace, driven from Florence by the plague, visited Petrarch at Venice, and carried with him Leontius Pilatus, of Thessalonica, a man of genius, but of haughty, rough, and brutal manners. From this singular man, who perished in a voyage from Constantinople to Venice, 1365, Petrarch received a Latin translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. Muratori, in his first book, Della Perfetta Poesia, p. 18, relates, that a very few years after the death of Dante, 1321, a most curious work on the Italian poetry was written by a M.A. di Tempo, of which he had seen a manuscript in the great library at Milan, of the year 1332, and of which this is the title : Incipit Summa Artis Ritmici vulgaris dictaminis. The chapters are thus divided : Ritmorum vulgarium Septem sunt genera : 1. Est Sonetus ; 2. Ballata ; 3. Cantio extensa ; 4. Rotundellus ; 5. Mandrialis ; Serventesius ; 7. Molus Confectus. But whatever Chaucer might copy from the Italians, yet the artful and entertaining plan of his Canterbury Tales was purely original and his own. This admirable piece, even exclusive of its poetry, is highly valuable, as it preserves to us the liveliest and exactest picture of the manners, customs, characters, and habits, of our forefathers, whom he has brought before our eyes acting as on a stage, suitably to their different orders and employments. With these portraits the driest antiquary must be delighted. By this plan, he has more judiciously connected these stories which the guests relate, than Boccace has done bis novels : whom he has imitated, if not excelled, in the variety of the subjects of his tales. It is a common mistake, that Chaucer's excellence lay in bis manner of treating light and ridiculous subjects ; for whoever will attentively consider the noble poem of Palamon and Arcite, will be convinced that he equally excels in the pathetic and the sublime. It has been but lately proved, that the Palamon and Arcite of Chaucer is taken from the Teseide of Boccace, a poem which has been, till within a few years past, strangely neglected and unknown, and of which Mr. Tyrwhitt has given a curious and exact summary, in his Dissertation on the Canterbury Tales, vol. iv. p. 135. I cannot forbear expressing my surprise,

, that the circumstance of Chaucer's borrowing this tale should have remained so long unobserved, when it is so plainly and positively mentioned in a book so very common as the Memoirs of Niceron ; who says, t. xxxiii. p. 44, after giving an abstract of the story of Palamon and Arcite, G. Chaucer, l'Homère de son pays, a mis l'ouvrage de Boccace en vers Anglois. This book was published by Niceron, 1736. He also mentions a French translation of the Teseide, published at Paris, MDcc. 1597, in 12mo. The late Mr. Hans Stanley, who was as accurately skilled in modern as in ancient Greek, for a long time was of opinion, that this poem, in modern political Greek verses, was the original; in which opinion be was confirmed by the Abbé Barthélemy, at Paris, whose learned correspondence with Mr. Stanley on this subject I have read. At last Mr. Stanley gave up this opinion, and was convinced that Boccace invented the tale. Crescembini and Muratori have mentioned the Teseide more than once. That very laborious and learned antiquary, Apostolo Zeno, speaks thus of it in his notes to the Bibliotheca of Fontanini, p. 50. t. i. Questa opera pastorale (that is, the Ameto) che prende il nome dal pastore Ameto, ha data l'origine all' egloga Italiana, non senza lode del Boccaccio, a cui pure la nostra lingua deve il ritrovamento della ottava rima, (which was the first used in the Teseide), e del poema eroico. Gravina does not mention this poem. Crescembini gives this opinion of it, p. 118. t. i. Nel medesimo secolo del Petrarca, il Boccaccio diede principio all'Epica, colla sua Teseide, e col Filostrato ; ma nello stile non accede la mediocrità, anzi sovente cadde nell' umile. The fashion that has lately obtained, in all the nations of Europe, of republishing and illustrating their old Poets, does honour to the good taste and liberal curiosity of the present age. It is always pleasing, and indeed useful, to look back to the rude beginnings of any art brought to a greater degree of elegance and grace. Aurea nunc, olim sylvestribus horrida dumis. Virg.

Warton. If Chaucer was indebted to any of the Italian poets for the idea of his House of Fame, it was to Petrarca, who in his Trionfo della Fama has introduced many of the most eminent characters of ancient times. It must however be observed, that the poem of Petrarca is extremely simple and inartificial, and consists only in supposing that the most celebrated men of ancient Greece and Rome pass in review before him ; whilst that of Chaucer is the work of a powerful imagination, abounding with beautiful and lively descriptions, and forming a connected and consistent whole. That the imagination of Chaucer was warmed by bis intercourse with the early poets of Italy, is indisputable ; but although it appears that his Palamon and Arcite was founded on the Teseide of Boccaccio ; yet there is reason to conclude, that his House of Fame was, as well as the design of his Canterbury Tales, originally his own.

THE TEMPLE OF FAME.

In that soft season, when descending show'rs
Call forth the greens, and wake the rising flow'rs ;
When op'ning buds salute the welcome day,
And earth relenting feels the genial ray;
As balmy sleep had charm’d my cares to rest,

5 And love itself was banish'd from my breast, (What time the morn mysterious visions brings, While

purer slumbers spread their golden wings) A train of phantoms in wild order rose, And join'd, this intellectual scene compose.

10 I stood, methought, betwixt earth, seas, and skies; The whole creation open to my eyes :

NOTES.

THE TEMPLE OF FAME.] One of the noblest, though earliest, productions of the author, displaying a fertile invention and an uncommon grandeur and facility of style. It is confessedly founded on Chaucer's House of Fame ; but the design is greatly altered and improved, and many of the thoughts and descriptions are entirely his own ; yet such is the coincidence and happy union of the work with its prototype, that it is almost impossible to distinguish those portions for which he is indebted to Chaucer from those of his own invention. The conclusion, as descriptive of his own feelings at an early period of his own life, is particularly interesting

Ver. 1. In that soft season, &c.] This poem is introduced in the manner of the Provençal Poets, whose works were for the most part Visions, or pieces of imagination, and constantly descriptive. From these, Petrarch and Chaucer frequently borrowed the idea of their poems. See the Trionfi of the former, and the Dream, Flower and the Leaf, &c. of the latter. The Author of this therefore chose the same sort of exordium.-P.

Ver. 11. I stood,] This poem was elegantly translated into French by Madame du Boccage, who also wrote three poems of the epic kind : The Paradise, from Milton ; the Death of Abel, from Gessner; and the Exploits of Columbus, in ten cantos.-Warton.

IMITATIONS.
Ver. 11, &c.] These verses are hinted from the following of Chaucer,
Book ii.

“ Tho beheld I fields and plains,
“ Now hills, and now mountains,
“ Now valeis, and now forestes,
And now unneth great bestes,

Now rivers, now citees,
“ Now towns, now great trees,
“ Now shippes sayling in the sees.”—P.

In air self-balanc'd hung the globe below,
Where mountains rise, and circling oceans flow;
Here naked rocks, and empty wastes were seen,

15
There tow'ry cities, and the forests green;
Here sailing ships delight the wand'ring eyes ;
There trees, and intermingled temples rise :
Now a clear sun the shining scene displays;
The transient landscape now in clouds decays. 20

O’er the wide prospect as I gaz’d around, Sudden I heard a wild promiscuous sound, Like broken thunders that at distance roar, Or billows murm'ring on the hollow shore: Then, gazing up, a glorious pile beheld,

25 Whose tow'ring summit ambient clouds conceald. High on a rock of ice the structure lay, Steep its ascent, and slipp’ry was the way; The wond'rous rock like Parian marble shone, And seem'd, to distant sight, of solid stone.

30 Inscriptions here of various names I view'd, The greater part by hostile time subdu'd ;

NOTES. Ver. 27. High on a rock of ice] Milton, in his Poem on the Fifth of November (Works, vol. ii. p. 506, ver. 170), has introduced a description of the Temple or Tower of Fame, copied from the 12th book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, ver. 39, and from this vision of Chaucer, with the addition of many circumstances and images.--Warton.

The Temple of Fame is represented on a foundation of ice, to signify the brittle nature and precarious tenure, as well as the difficult attainment of that possession ; according to the poet himself, ver. 504, So hard to gain, so easy to be lost.-Wakefield.

IMITATIONS.
Ver. 27. High on a rock of ice, fc.] Chaucer's third book of Fame.

“ It stood upon so high a rock,

Higher standeth none in Spayne-
“ What manner stone this rock was,
“ For it was like a lymed glass,

But that it shone full more clere ;
But of what congeled matere
It was, I niste redily ;

But at the last espied I,
“ And found that it was every dele,

rock of ise and not of stele.”-P. Ver. 31. Inscriptions here, &c.]

“ Tho'saw I all the hill y.grave

“ With famous folkes names fele, VOL. II.

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