Obrazy na stronie

As balmy sleep had charm'd my cares to rest,
And love itself was banish'd from my breast
(What time the morn mysterious visions brings
While purer slumbers spread their golden wings),


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 ; 6. 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 his 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 his manner of treating light and ridiculous subjects ; for who ever 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 à 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. 33. p. 44, after giving an abstract of the story of Palamon and Arcite, G. Chaucer, l'Homere 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, M. D. CC. 1597, in 12mo. The late Mr. Hans Stanley, who was as accurately skilled in modern as in ancient

[ocr errors]

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 :


That very

Greek, for a long time was of opinion, that this poem, in modern political Greek verses, was the original; in which opinion he was confirmed by the Abbé Barthelmy, at Paris, whose learned cor. respondence 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.

laborious and learned antiquary, Apostolo Zeno, speaks thus of it in his notes to the Bibliotheca of Fontanini, p. 450. 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 Boccacio, a cui pure la nostra lingua deve il ritrovamento della ottava rima (which was 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 Boccacio diede principio all'Epica, colla sua Teseide, e col Filostrato; ma nello stile non accede la mediocrita, 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. Ver. 1. In that soft season, &c.] This Poem is introduced in the manner of the Provencial Poets, whose works were for the most part Visions, or pieces of imagination, and constantly de. scriptive. From these Petrarch and Chaucer frequently borrow the idea of their poems. See the Trionsi 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 Gesner; and the Exploits of Columbus, in ten cantos.

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

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 conceal’d. High on a rock of ice the structure lay, Steep its ascent, and slipp'ry was the way;


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


Ver. 11. &c.] These verses are hinted from the following of Chaucer, book ïi.

“ 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."


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;
Yet wide was spread their fame in ages past,
And Poets once had promis'd they should last,
Some fresh engrav'd appear'd of Wits renown'd;
I look'd again, nor could their trace be found. 36
Critics I saw, that other names deface,
And fix their own, with labour, in their place :


Ver. 27. High on a rock of ice, &c.] 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,
A rock of ise and not of stele."

Ver. 31. Inscriptions here, &c.]

“ Tho' saw I all the hilly-grave
With famous folkes names fele,
That had been in much wele
And her fames wide y-blow;
But well unneth might I know
Any letters for to rede
Their names by, for out of drede
They weren almost off-thawen so,
That of the letters one or two
Were molte away of every name,
So unfamous was woxe her fame;
But men said, what may ever last.”


Their own, like others, soon their place resign'd,
Or disappear'd, and left the first behind.

Nor was the work impair'd by storms alone,
But felt th' approaches of too warm a sun;
For Fame, impatient of extremes, decays
Not more by Envy than excess of Praise.
Yet part no injuries of heav'n could feel,

45 Like crystal faithful to the graving steel :


Ver. 41. Nor was the work impair'd] Does not this use of the heat of the sun appear to be puerile and far-fetched conceit? What connexion is there betwixt the two sorts of excesses here mentioned? My purpose in animadverting so frequently as I have done on this species of false thoughts, is to guard the reader, especially of the younger sort, from being betrayed by the authority of so correct a writer as Pope into such specious and false refinements of style. For the same reason the oppo

66 Tho'

IMITATIONS. Ver. 41. Nor was the work impair'd, &c.]


I in myne harte cast,
That they were molte away for heate,

And not away with storms beate."
Ver. 45. Yet part no injuries, &c.]

“ For on that other side I sey
Of that hill which northward ley,
How it was written full of names.
Of folke, that had afore great fames,
Of old time, and yet they were
As fresh as men had written hem there
The self day, or that houre
That I hem gan to poure :
But well I wiste what it made ;
It was conserved with the shade
(All the writing that I sye)
Of the castle that stoode on high,
And stood eke in so cold a place,
That heate might it not deface.”



« PoprzedniaDalej »