Page images
PDF
EPUB

The principal part of this little work contains the arguments of the author to prove, that Laura was in reality never married. Yet it was remarkable that Laura de Sade should have died on the same year with the Laura of Petrarch, and that the tomb of the latter should have been in the same cha. pel with that of the former. We ought, however, to add, that the plague was epidemic in that year, and more than one Laura may be supposed to have died of it; as well as that the chapel seems 'not to have been appropriated to the house of Sade only. On the other hand, Petrarch always gloried in his atfection as a merit rather than a crime : it was never considered, even in the supposed conversation with St. Augustin, where every argument is employed to wean him from it, as an improper attachment: he seems to have had at times access to his mistress ; to have received some little en. couragements, the slender food on which love is sometimes supported, and we never hear of a jealous husband, or of an indiscreet familiarity.

• The last argument advanced by the author in the Mémoires (viz. Memoires pour la Vie de Petrarque), which he gives as in a manner conclufive upon this point, is the explanation of the in word pubs. Having candidly enough acknowledged that all the preceding arguments amount only to conjectures, the author might certainly have included the last, with equal propriety, ander the same denomination. His interpretation of the word prbs, partubus, is certainly nothing more than a conjec. ture; to support which we have only his own opinion, and that of messrs. Caperonnier, Boudot, and Bejot, of the king's library. But, in opposition to their opinion, we have that of all the editors of the works of Petrarch. It will not be denied that the earlieft of these editors, who lived at no great distance of time from the age of Petrarch, were much better able to read the manuscripts of that age, and to interpret their abbrewiations, than the critics of the eighteenth century. But with þegard to this abbreviation, the author of the Mémoires is far from asserting that all the manuscripts of Petrarch contain the words so written, or that those which he mentions are the most ancient. He mentions only two; so that we may reasonably conclude that all the other manuscripts, of which the author's zeal upon this subject would lead him to examine a great number, muft bear the word written at full length, perturbationibus ; and many of these were, perhaps, prior in date to those which he mentions. Even of those two, it is probable, from their coincidence in fo uncommon an abbreviation, that the one must have been copied from the other. At the best, therefore, the argument comes to this point: among all the ancient manufcripts of the Dialogues of Petrarch, there are two which write the word pubs, the rest write at full length, perturbationibus. Before any conje&ural interpretation of this word, different from the other manuscripts, can be allowed, it muft, in the first place, be proved that these two manuscripts are the most ancient of all; and that the rest have only given interpretations of the contraction : but this is not attempted ; and the chance that these manuscripts are not the most ancient, is in the proportion of two to all the other manuscripts of the same work existing ; perhaps two hundred.'

fore

We think thefe, added to the other arguments, entirely decisive ; and we shall

agree

with the author that • The arguments produced by the author of the Mémoires, are totally infufficient to fupport his hypothesis ; which is still further discredited, if not directly confuted, by the internal evidence arising from the works of the poet himself.'

The Sonnets are translated with confiderable elegance. The author has only selected the forty-eighth, one hundred and thirty-second, two hundred and twelfth, two hundred and fifty-first, two hundred and fixtieth, two hundred and fixtyfirst, and the two hundred and feventieth. We hall transcribe, the one hundred and thirty-second.

Hor, che'l ciil, e la terra, e'l vento taco, &c.
• 'Tis now the hour when midnight Glence reigns

O’er earth and fea, and whisp'ring zephyr dies
Within his rocky cell, and Morpheus chains
Each beast that roams the wood, and bird that wings the

kies.
• More bleft those rangers of the earth and air,

Whom night a while relieves from toil and pain :
Condemn'd to tears, and fighs, and wasting care,

To me the circling sun descends in vain !
• Ah me! that mingling miseries and joys,

Too near allied, from one fad fountain How ;
The magic hand that comforts and

annoys,
Can hope and fell despair, and life and death bestow !
Too
great

the bliss to find in death relief,
Fate has not yet fill'd up the measure of my grief.'

Ifaiah verfified. By George Butt, Cler. A.M. 8vo. 55. in Boards.

Cadell. THE prefatory addess opens with a fhort

, but warm encomium on the prophetic writings of Isaiah, extracted from Dr. Lowth's Prelections: warm, however, and animated as it is, we presume not to arraign its justice, though we venture to condemn the high-flown panegyric on poetry which immediately follows it.

• Such,

• Such, many years pasled, was the character given of Ifaialt in one of the most consummate works of criticism: an important work indeed, whether we consider its subserviency to reli. gion, the supremest object of human concern, or its reference to poetry, that higheit energy of human intellect, that noblest and lovelieit expresion of human sentiment and passion, that last perfection of human language, that surelt embalmer of wisdom for all ages, that art for ever dignified by the practice of the holy prophets, and by the folemn Jančtion of the divine fpirit itself; in a few words, that art which can (if any can) alone give us the most perfect and attractive image of virtue, and with a sort of God-like faculty spread before us a fairer order of things, and create (as it were) a new heaven and a new earth to raise our drooping spirits.”

We believe the author would find some difficulty in proving that the prophets always exprefled themselves poetically, and in explaining to our satisfaction how the art itself has obtained the sanction of the divine Spirit. 'The latter assertion is an absurdity: the fo' mer, if we understand him righi, a nistake. If he means, that because the prophets used in general a poetic ftyle, that therefore something sacred is annexed to the nature of poetry, the idea is puerite. It might be proved that there is something noble and divine in prose, and equally subfervient to religion, by the same argument; for Chriit spoke, and his 'apostles wrote, without any artificial arrangement of words, or modulation of numbers. In regard to what follows, in the Preface, we heartily concur with the author in the praises bestowed on Dr. Lowth, but do not equally agree with him in other matters; not so much that we controvert his positions, as that we really do not comprehend them. What connection, for intance, can we find, or what meaning collect, from the following ill-forted sentences ? The whole chain of argumentation, if we may call it so, seems composed of broken links of heterogeneous materials.

The literary taste of a people must in part be imputed to literary principles, and in this respect we are right or wrong not only from what we commonly do, but from what we commonly read, from the habit of our speculations as well as actions. -To be prejudiced, is a difpofition to which one is subject more than is usually suspected, and therefore we too much admire as well as despise the works of antiquity, overlooking the gains as well as losses of time.-It is God-like in many inkances to be pleased with variety, for variety characterises the works as well as word of God. We, too often condemn as wrong what we thould rather say we dinike, and we thence form theories to justify prejudice, and to rivet infirmity on the mind, instead of such as would increase its Itrength, enlarge its fympathy with whatever excellency, and dispose it to enCO age the advancement of laudable things. The works of men, that are now no more, and which are come down to us 5

precious precious from the fiery searching of many ages, affuredly de. mand the stamp of praise from the present times.'

We are fory to observe that, in too many other places where the author aims at being argumentative, he becomes abstruse ; and where he attempts an elevation of style, he degenerates into bombast. As a specimen of his poetical abilities we shall give his version of the seven first verses of the fifty-third chapter, which contains the remarkable prediction of our Saviour's humble appearance on earth, and is probably as interesting and pathetic a passage as any in the prophecies of Isaiah.

• Who (shall he fay) hath our report receiv'd?
And unto whom from heav'n hath been reveald
Jehovah's arm? Behold by mortal eyes
Low from the ground he seem'd a shoot to rise
Tender, ill-rooted in a barren earth,
Yea of a mean presentment from his birth.
In him nor air nor form majestic move
Rev'rence, nor all-attractive beauty love.
Despis'd, and to rejecting scorn a prey,
As one that had not where his head to lay,
Held in th' account of poverty's worit state
As shame-sunk, woe- e-begone, and desolate ;
A man indeed of such supremest grief
As seem'd to human fight beyond relief.
He was despis’d, he was upon our scorn
Cast, yet our frailties all hath kindly borne.
But though our sorrows have his burthen been,
Still in our scorn as justly stricken seen
As troubled by God's self and fmitten, we
With cruel censure point calamity.
Yet not for his offences but our own
He with his fórrows pays our fin's vast loan;
For us is wounded, his benign intent
Our peace to purchase with his punishment,
And with his bruises heal us, from our way
Wand'ring aside as careless sheep astray.

Thence hath Jehovah made on him to fall
The fin-wrought sentence hait’ning on us all,
And from us all exactéd, but his grace
Pow'rful came in impleaded in our place.
Then as the lamb approaching flaughter's hand,
And as the sheep before the Meerer stand
Mute, unrefilting, thus from rev'rence meek
This gen'rous victim deems it blame to speak,
And yielding filent to the folemn law

Deigås on his head our mortal doom to draw." The sense is here fufficiently dilated; but, we apprehend, the {pirt and pathos of the original proportionably diminished. In

fome places Mr. Butt has wrote in a more fpirited manner, and consequently succeeded better ; and we would recommend to him in any future compofition, not to be so poetical in his prose, and to be lefs prosaic in his verse.

[ocr errors]

Abelard to Eloisa: an Epile. With a new Account of their Lives

and References to their Original Correspondence. Small 8vo. 6d.

Dilly. TH

HIS Epiftle, or rather the sketch of it, appeared in a small

poetical collection, of which we gave some account, vol. lvii. p. 5. It is now altered and considerably enlarged. We then took notice that the author, 'confidered as an imitator, not a rival, of Pope, appeared in a respectable light;' and we obferve, with pleasure, that the present poem approaches still nearer to that author's in grace and harmony. As our first opinion was given without any quotation to establish its justice, we shall submit the following in vindication of our sentiments. The first lines allude to the abbey of St. Gildas, in Britanny, from whence Abelard's epistles are said to be written. The concluding ones, which describe his former affection as re. kindled at the name of Eloisa, mixed with the enthusiastic fené timents his situation would most naturally be supposed to produce, are truly beautiful.

Miftaking man! who thinks in shades to find
The charms that lull ehe long-impallion'd mind;
Or dreams the cloister'd cell alone secure
From common woes that all his race endure.

Ye naked hills, unbless'd by nature's care!
Ye vales, unconscious of the labouring share,
Stretch'd many a league, whence issuing to the day
The Shaggy tenant leeks a distant prey !
Unsightly cliffs, within whose cavern'd fides
Her talon'd young the screaming vulture hides !
Ye seas, that round yon rocky-cinctur’d tower
With deepless fury vex the midnight hour!
In your defpire an absent world retains
Her joyless slaves in sublunary chains,
Or gross debauch, and lullen foth combine,
To check remorse, and quench the ray divine.
For as the maniac, in his fordid cell,
Will oft on fancy'd thrones and fceptres dwell;
So these fad exiles from the social kind
As falsely rate the toys they left behind. ·

• In vain remonftrance lends her feeble aid,
They scorn the doctrine, and the guide upbraid.
" And dare that hand assume the pastor's rod ?
Behold the frontless delegate of God!
In other climes thy forward zeal be shown,
And preach where Abelard is yet unknown;

Or

« PreviousContinue »