Da l'altra parte odi che fama lascia Elissa, ch'ebbe il cor tanto pudico; Che riputata viene una bagascia, Solo perche Maron non le fu amico."
Canto xxxv. st. 26. ]
* * * * *
[Footnote 1: See p. 192.]
[Footnote 2: Ariosto is here imitating Pulci, and bearding Dante. See vol. i. p. 336.]
[Footnote 3: I know of no story of a cruel Lydia but the poet's own mistress of that name, whom I take to be the lady here "shadowed forth." See Life, p. 114.]
[Footnote 4: The story of Anaxarete is in Ovid, lib. xiv. Every body knows that of Daphne, who made Apollo, as Ariosto says, "run so much" (correr tanto). Theseus and Jason are in hell, as deserters of Ariadne and Medea; Amnon, for the atrocity recorded in the Bible (2 Samuel, chap. xiii.); and AEneas for interfering with Turnus and Lavinia, and taking possession of places he had no right to. It is delightful to see the great, generous poet going upon grounds of reason and justice in the teeth of the trumped-up rights of the "pious AEneas," that shabby deserter of Dido, and canting prototype of Augustus. He turns the tables, also, with brave candour, upon the tyrannical claims of the stronger sex to privileges which they deny the other; and says, that there are more faithless men in Hell than faithless women; which, if personal infidelity sends people there, most undoubtedly is the case beyond all comparison.]
[Footnote 5: "Che di soaevita l'alma notriva" is beautiful; but the passage, as a whole, is not well imitated from the Terrestrial Paradise of Dante. It is not bad in itself, but it is very inferior to the one that suggested it. See vol. i. p. 210, &c. Ariosto's Terrestrial Paradise was at home, among the friends who loved him, and whom he made happy.]
[Footnote 6: This is better; and the house made of one jewel thirty miles in circuit is an extravagance that becomes reasonable on reflection, affording a just idea of what might be looked for among the endless planetary wonders of Nature, which confound all our relative ideas of size and splendour. The "lucid vermilion" of a structure so enormous, and under a sun so pure, presents a gorgeous spectacle to the imagination. Dante himself, if he could have forgiven the poet his animal spirits and views of the Moon so different from his own, might have stood in admiration before an abode at once so lustrous and so vast.]
"De' frutti a lui del Paradiso diero, Di tal sapor, ch'a suo giudizio, sanza Scusa non sono i due primi parenti, Se pur quei fur si poco ubbidienti."
Canto xxxiv. st. 60.]
[Footnote 8: Modern astronomers differ very much both with Dante's and Ariosto's Moon; nor do the "argent fields" of Milton appear better placed in our mysterious satellite, with its no-atmosphere and no-water, and its tremendous precipices. It is to be hoped (and believed) that knowledge will be best for us all in the end; for it is not always so by the way. It displaces beautiful ignorances.]
[Footnote 9: Very fine and scornful, I think, this. Mighty monarchies reduced to actual bladders, which, little too as they were, contained big sounds.]
[Footnote 10: Such, I suppose, as was given at convent-gates.]
[Footnote 11: The pretended gift of the palace of St. John Lateran, the foundation of the pope's temporal sovereignty. This famous passage was quoted and translated by Milton.
"Di varii fiori ad on gran monte passa Ch'ebbe gia buon odore, or putia forte. Questo era il dono (se pero dir lece) Che Constantino al buon Silvestro fece."
Canto xxxiv. st. 80.
The lines were not so bold in the first edition. They stood thus
"Ad un monte di rose e gigli passa, Ch'ebbe gia buon odore, or putia forte, Ch'era corrotto; e da Giovanni intese, Che fu un gran don ch'un gran signor mal spese."
"He came to a mount of lilies and roses, that once had a sweet smell, but now stank with corruption; and be understood from John that it was a great gift which a great lord ill expended."
The change of these lines to the stronger ones in the third edition, as they now stand, served to occasion a charge against Ariosto of having got his privilege of publication from the court of Rome for passages which never existed, and which he afterwards basely introduced; but, as Panizzi observes, the third edition had a privilege also; so that the papacy put its hand, as it were, to these very lines. This is remarkable; and doubtless it would not have occurred in some other ages. The Spanish Inquisition, for instance, erased it, though the holy brotherhood found no fault with the story of Giocondo.]
[Footnote 12: "Sol la pazzia non v'e, poca ne assai; Che sta qua giu, ne se ne parte mai" St. 78.]
[Footnote 13: Part of this very striking passage is well translated by Harrington
"He saw some of his own lost time and deeds, And yet he knew them not to be his own."
I have heard these lines more than once repeated with touching earnestness by Charles Lamb.]
[Footnote 14: Readers need not have the points of this exquisite satire pointed out to them. In noticing it, I only mean to enjoy it in their company—particularly the passage about the men accounted wisest, and the emphatic "I mean, sense" (Io dico, il senno).]
[Footnote 15: Admirable lesson to frailty!]
[Footnote 16: I do not feel warranted in injuring the strength of the term here made use of by the indignant apostle, and yet am withheld from giving it in all its force by the delicacy, real or false, of the times. I must therefore leave it to be supplied by the reader according to the requirements of his own feelings.]
ARIODANTE AND GINEVRA.
The Duke of Albany, pretending to be in love with a damsel in the service of Ginevra, Princess of Scotland, but desiring to marry the princess herself, and not being able to compass his design by reason of her being in love with a gentleman from Italy named Ariodante, persuades the damsel, in his revenge, to personate Ginevra in a balcony at night, and so make her lover believe that she is false. Ariodante, deceived, disappears from court. News is brought of his death; and his brother Lurcanio publicly denounces Ginevra, who, according to the laws of Scotland, is sentenced to death for her supposed lawless passion. Lurcanio then challenges the unknown paramour (for the duke's face had not been discerned in the balcony); and Ariodante, who is not dead, is fighting him in disguise, when the Paladin Rinaldo comes up, discloses the whole affair, and slays the deceiver.
ARIODANTE AND GINEVRA.
Charlemagne had suffered a great defeat at Paris, and the Paladin Rinaldo was sent across the Channel to ask succours of the King of England; but a tempest arose ere he could reach the coast, and drove him northwards upon that of Scotland, where he found himself in the Caledonian Forest, a place famous of old for knightly adventure. Many a clash of arms had been heard in its shady recesses—many great things had been done there by knights from all quarters, particularly the Tristans and the Launcelots, and the Gawains, and others of the Round Table of King Arthur.
Rinaldo, bidding the ship await him at the town of Berwick, plunged into the forest with no other companion than his horse Bayardo, seeking the wildest paths he could find, in the hope of some strange adventure. He put up, for the first day, at an abbey which was accustomed to entertain the knights and ladies that journeyed that way; and after availing himself of its hospitality, he inquired of the abbot and his monks if they could direct him where to find what he looked for. They said that plenty of adventures were to be met with in the forest; but that, for the most part, they remained in as much obscurity as the spots in which they occurred. It would be more becoming his valour, they thought, to exert itself where it would not be hidden; and they concluded with telling him of one of the noblest chances for renown that ever awaited a sword. The daughter of their king was in need of a defender against a certain baron of the name of Lurcanio, who sought to deprive her both of life and reputation. He accused her of having been found in the arms of a lover without the license of the priest; which, by the laws of Scotland, was a crime only to be expiated at the stake, unless a champion could be found to disprove the charge before the end of a month. Unfortunately the month had nearly expired, and no champion yet made his appearance, though the king had promised his daughter's hand to anybody of noble blood who should establish her innocence; and the saddest part of the thing was, that she was accounted innocent by all the world, and a very pattern of modesty.
While this horrible story was being told him, the Paladin fell into a profound state of thought. After remaining silent for a little while, at the close of it he looked up, and said, "A lady then, it seems, is condemned to death for having been too kind to one lover, while thousands of our sex are playing the gallant with whomsoever they please, and not only go unpunished for it, but are admired! Perish such infamous injustice! The man was a madman who made such a law, and they are little better who maintain it. I hope in God to be able to shew them their error."
The good monks agreed, that their ancestors were very unwise to make such a law, and kings very wrong who could, but would not, put an end to it. So, when the morning came, they speeded their guest on his noble purpose of fighting in the lady's behalf. A guide from the abbey took him a short cut through the forest towards the place where the matter was to be decided; but, before they arrived, they heard cries of distress in a dark quarter of the forest, and, turning their horses thither to see what it was, they observed a damsel between two vagabonds, who were standing over her with drawn swords. The moment the wretches saw the new comer, they fled; and Rinaldo, after re-assuring the damsel, and requesting to know what had brought her to a pass so dreadful, made his guide take her up on his horse behind him, in order that they might lose no more time. The damsel, who was very beautiful, could not speak at first, for the horror of what she had expected to undergo; but, on Rinaldo's repeating his request, she at length found words, and, in a voice of great humility, began to relate her story.
But before she begins, the poet interferes with an impatient remark.—"Of all the creatures in existence," cries he, "whether they be tame or wild, whether they are in a state of peace or of war, man is the only one that lays violent hands on the female of his species. The bear offers no injury to his; the lioness is safe by the side of the lion; the heifer has no fear of the horns of the bull. What pest of abomination, what fury from hell, has come to disturb, in this respect, the bosom of human kind? Husband and wife deafen one another with injurious speeches, tear one another's faces, bathe the genial bed with tears, nay, some times with bloodshed. In my eyes the man who can allow himself to give a blow to a woman, or to hurt even a hair of her head, is a violater of nature, and a rebel against God; but to poison her, to strangle her, to take the soul out of her body with a knife,—he that can do that, never will I believe him to be a man at all, but a fiend out of hell with a man's face."
Such must have been the two villains who fled at the sight of Rinaldo, and who had brought the woman into this dark spot to stifle her testimony for ever.
But to return to what she was going to say.—
"You are to know, sir," she began, "that I have been from my childhood in the service of the king's daughter, the princess Ginevra. I grew up with her; I was held in bonour, and I led a happy life, till it pleased the cruel passion of love to envy me my condition, and make me think that there was no being on earth to be compared to the Duke of Albany. He pretended to love me so much, that, in return, I loved him with all my heart. Unable, by degrees, to refuse him anything, I let him into the palace at night, nay, into the room which of all others the princess regarded as most exclusively her own; for there she kept her jewels, and there she was accustomed to sleep during inclement states of the weather. It communicated with the other sleeping-room by a covered gallery, which looked out to some lonely ruins; and nobody ever passed that way, day or night.
"Our intercourse continued for several months; and, finding that I placed all my happiness in obliging him, he ventured to disclose to me one day a design he had upon the princess's hand; nay, did not blush to ask my assistance in furthering it. Judge how I set his wishes above my own, when I confess that I undertook to do so. It is true, his rank was nearer to the princess's than to mine; and he pretended that he sought the alliance merely on that account; protesting that he should love me more than ever, and that Ginevra would be little better than his wife in name. But, God knows, I did it wholly out of the excess of my desire to please him.
"Day and night I exerted all my endeavours to recommend him to the princess. Heaven is my witness that I did it in real earnest, however wrong it was. But my labour was to no purpose, for she was in love herself. She returned in all its warmth the passion of a most accomplished and valiant gentleman, who had come into Scotland with a younger brother from Italy, and who had made himself such a favourite with every body, my lover included, that the king himself had bestowed on him titles and estates, and put him on a footing with the greatest lords of the land.
"Unfortunately, the princess not only turned a deaf ear to all I said in the duke's favour, but grew to dislike him in proportion to my recommendation; so that, finding there was no likelihood of his success, his own love was secretly turned into hate and rage. He studied, little as I dreamt he could be so base, how he could best destroy her prospect of happiness. He resorted, for this purpose, to a most crafty expedient, which I, poor fool, took for nothing but what he feigned it to be. He pretended that a whim had come into his head for seeming to prosper in his suit, out of a kind of revenge for his not being able to do so in reality; and, in order to indulge this whim, he requested me to dress myself in the identical clothes which the princess put off when she went to bed that night, and then to appear in them at my usual post in the balcony, and so let down the ladder as though I were her very self, and receive him into my arms.
"I did all that he desired, mad fool that I was; and out of the part which I played has come all this mischief. I have intimated to you that the duke and Ariodante (for such was the other's name) had been good friends before Ginevra preferred hint to my false lover. Pretending therefore to be still his friend, and entering on the subject of a passion which he said he had long entertained for her, he expressed his wonder at finding it interfered with by so noble a gentleman, especially as it was returned by the princess with a fervour of which the other, if he pleased, might have ocular testimony. "Greatly astonished at this news was Ariodante. He had received all the proofs of his mistress's affection which it was possible for chaste love to bestow, and with the greatest scorn refused to believe it; but as the duke, with the air of a man who could not help the melancholy communication, quietly persisted in his story, the unhappy lover found himself compelled, at any rate, to let him afford those proofs of her infidelity which he asserted to be in his power. The consequence was, that Ariodante came with his brother to the ruins I spoke of; and there the two were posted on the night when I played my unhappy part in the balcony. He brought Lurcanio with him (that was the brother's name), because he suspected that the duke had a design on his life, not conceiving what he alleged against Ginevra to be possible. Lurcanio, however, was not in the secret of his brother's engagement with the princess. It had been disclosed hitherto neither to him nor to any one, the lady not yet having chosen to divulge it to the king himself. Ariodante, therefore, requested his brother to take his station at a little distance, out of sight of the palace, and not to come to him unless he should call: 'otherwise, my dear brother,' concluded he, 'stir not a step, if you love me.' "'Doubt me not,' said Lurcanio; and, with these words, the latter entrenched himself in his post.
"Ariodante now stood by himself, gazing at the balcony,—the only person visible at that moment in all the place. In a few minutes the Duke of Albany appeared below it, making the signal to which I had been accustomed; and then I, in my horrible folly, became visible to the eyes of both, and let down the ladder.
"Meantime Lurcanio, beginning to be very uneasy at the mysterious situation in which he found himself, and to have the most alarming fears for his brother, had cautiously picked his way after him at a little distance; so that he also, though still hidden in the shade of the lonely houses, perceived all that was going on.
"I was dressed, as I had undertaken to be, in the identical clothes which the princess had put off that night; and as I was not unlike her in air and figure, and wore the golden net with red tassels peculiar to ladies of the royal family, and the two brothers, besides, were at quite sufficient distance to be deceived, I was taken by both of them for her very self. The duke impatiently mounted the ladder; I received him as impatiently in my arms; and circumstances, though from very different feelings, rendered the caresses that passed between us of unusual ardour.
"You may imagine the grief of Ariodante. It rose at once to despair. He did not call out; so that, had not his brother followed him, still worse would have ensued than did; for he drew his sword, and was proceeding in distraction to fall upon it, when Lurcanio rushed in and stopped him. 'Miserable brother!' exclaimed he, 'are you mad? Would you die for a woman like this? You see what a wretch she is. I discern all your case at once, and, thank God, have preserved you to turn your sword where it ought to be turned, against the defender of such a pattern of infamy.'
"Ariodante put up his sword, and suffered himself to be led away by his brother. He even pretended, in a little while, to be able to review his condition calmly, but not the less had he secretly resolved to perish. Next day he disappeared, nobody knew whither; and about eight days afterwards, news was secretly brought to Ginevra, by a pilgrim, that he had thrown himself from a headland into the sea.
"'I met him by chance,' said the pilgrim, 'and we happened to be standing on the top of the headland, conversing, when he cried out to me, 'Relate to the princess what you beheld on parting from me; and add, that the cause of it was my having seen too much. Happy had it been for me had I been blind!' And with these words,' concluded the pilgrim, 'he leaped into the sea below, and was instantly buried beneath it.'
"The princess turned as pale as death at this story, and for a while remained stupefied. But, alas! what a scene was it my fate to witness, when she found herself in her chamber at night, able to give way to her misery. She tore her clothes, and her very flesh, and her beautiful hair, and kept repeating the last words of her lover with amazement and despair.
The disappearance of Ariodante, and a rumour which transpired of his having slain himself on account of some hidden anguish, surprised and afflicted the whole court. But his brother Lurcanio evinced more and more his impatience at it, and let fall the most terrible words. At length he entered the court when the king was holding one of his fullest assemblies, and laid open, as he thought, the whole matter; setting forth how his unhappy brother had secretly, but honourably, loved the princess; how she had professed to love him in return; and how she had grossly deceived him, and played him impudently false before his own eyes. He concluded with calling upon her unknown paramour to come forth, and shew reasons against him with his sword why she ought not to die.
"I need not tell you what the king suffered at hearing this strange and terrible recital. He lost no time in sharply investigating the truth of the allegation; and for this purpose, among other proceedings, he sent for the ladies of his daughter's chamber. You may judge, sir,—especially as, I blush to say it, I still loved the Duke of Albany,—that I could not await an examination like that. I hastened to meet the duke, who was as anxious to get me out of the way as I was to go; and to this end, professing the greatest zeal for my security, he commissioned two men to convey me secretly to a fortress he possessed in this forest. 'Tis at no great distance from the place where Heaven sent you to my deliverance. You saw, sir, how little those wretches intended to take me anywhere except to my grave; and by this you may judge of the agonies and shame I have endured in knowing what a dupe I have been to one of the cruelest of men. But thus it is that Love treats his most faithful servants."
The damsel here concluded her story; and the Paladin, rejoicing at having become possessed of all that was required to establish the falsehood of the duke, proceeded with her on his road to St. Andrews, where the lists had been set up for the determination of the question. The king and his court were anxiously praying at that instant for the arrival of some champion to fight with the dreaded Lurcanio; for the month, as I have stated, was nearly expired, and this terrible brother appeared to have the business all his own way; so that the stake was soon to be looked for at which the hapless Ginevra was to die.
Fast and eagerly the Paladin rode for St. Andrews, with his squire and the trembling damsel, who was now agitated for new reasons, though the knight gave her assurances of his protection. They were not far from the city when they found people talking of a champion who had certainly arrived, but whose name was unknown, and his face constantly concealed by his visor. Even his own squire, it seems, did not know him; for the man had but lately been taken into his service. Rinaldo, as soon as he entered the city, left the damsel in a place of security, and then spurred his horse to the scene of action, when he found the accuser and the champion in the very midst of the fight. The Paladin, whose horse, notwithstanding the noise of the combat, had been heard coming like a tempest, and whose sudden and heroical appearance turned all eyes towards him, rode straight to the royal canopy, and, begging the king to stop the combat, disclosed the whole state of the matter, to the enchantment of all present, except the Duke of Albany; for the villain himself was on horseback there in state as grand constable, and had been feasting his miserable soul with the hope of seeing Ginevra condemned. The combatants were soon changed. Instead of Lurcanio and the unknown champion (whom the new comer had taken care to extol for his generosity), it was the Paladin and the Duke that were opposed; and horribly did the latter's heart fail him. But he had no remedy. Fight he must. Rinaldo, desirous to make short work of him, took his station with fierce delight; and at the third sound of the trumpets, the Duke was forced to couch his spear and meet him at full charge. Sheer went the Paladin's ashen staff through the false bosom, sending the villain to the earth eight feet beyond the saddle. The conqueror dismounted instantly, and unlacing the man's helmet, enabled the king to hear his dying confession, which he had hardly finished, when life forsook him. Rinaldo then took off his own helmet; and the king, who had seen the great Paladin before, and who felt more rejoiced at his daughter's deliverance than if he had lost and regained his crown, lifted up his hands to heaven, and thanked God for having honoured her innocence with so illustrious a defender.
The other champion, who, in the mean time, had been looking on through the eyelets of his visor, was now entreated to disclose his own face. He did so with peculiar emotion, and king and all recognised with transport the face of the loved and, as it was supposed, lost Ariodante. The pilgrim, however, had told no falsehood. The lover had indeed thrown himself into the sea, and disappeared from the man's eyes; but (as oftener happens than people suppose) the death which was desired when not present became hated when it was so; and Ariodante, lover as he was, rising at a little distance, struck out lustily for the shore, and reached it. He felt even a secret contempt for his attempt to kill himself; yet putting up at an hermitage, became interested in the reports concerning the princess, whose sorrow flattered, and whose danger, though he could not cease to think her guilty, afflicted him. He grew exasperated with the very brother he loved, when he found that Lurcanio pursued her thus to the death; and on all these accounts he made his appearance at the place of combat to fight him, though not to slay. His purpose was to seek his own death. He concluded that Ginevra would then see who it was that had really loved her, while his brother would mourn the rashness which made him pursue the destruction of a woman. "Guilty she is," thought he, "but no such guilt can deserve so cruel a punishment. Besides, I could not bear that she should die before me. She is still the woman I love, still the idol of my thoughts. Right or wrong, I must die in her behalf."
With this intention he purchased a suit of black armour, and obtained a squire unknown in those parts, and so made his appearance in the lists. What ensued there I need not repeat; but the king was so charmed with the issue of the whole business, with the resuscitation of the favourite whom he thought dead, and the restoration of the more than life of his beloved daughter, that, to the joy of all Scotland, and at the special instance of the great Paladin, he made the two lovers happy without delay; and the bride brought her husband for dowry the title and estates of the man who had wronged him.
[Footnote 1: The main point of this story, the personation of Ginevra by one of her ladies, has been repeated by many writers—among others by Shakspeare, in Much Ado about Nothing. The circumstance is said to have actually occurred in Ferrara, and in Ariosto's own time. Was Ariosto himself a party? "Ariodante" almost includes his name; and it is certain that he was once in love with a lady of the name of Ginevra.]
[Footnote 2: Rinaldo is an ambassador, and one upon very urgent business; yet he halts by the way in search of adventures. This has been said to be in the true taste of knight-errantry; and in one respect it is so. We may imagine, however, that the ship is wind-bound, and that he meant to return to it on change of weather. The Caledonian Forest, it is to be observed, is close at hand.]
[Footnote 3: All honour and glory to the manly and loving poet!
"Lavezzuola," says Panizzi, "doubts the conjugal concord of beasts, more particularly of bears. 'Ho letto presso degno autore un orso aver cavato un occhio ad un orsa con la zampa.' (I have read in an author worthy of credit, that a bear once deprived a she-bear of an eye with a blow of his paw.) The reader may choose between Ariosto and this nameless author, which of them is to be believed. I, of course, am for my poet."—Vol. i. p. 84. I am afraid, however, that Lavezzuola is right. Even turtle-doves are said not to be always the models of tenderness they are supposed to be. Brutes have even devoured their offspring. The violence is most probably owing (at least in excessive cases) to some unnatural condition of circumstances.]
[Footnote 4: This is quite in Ariosto's high and bold taste for truth under all circumstances. A less great and unmisgiving poet would have had the lover picked up by a fisherman.]
It is impossible to conceive a nobler thing in the world than a just prince—a thoroughly good man, who shuns no part of the burden of his duty, though it bend him double; who loves and cares for his people as a father does for his children, and who is almost incessantly occupied in their welfare, very seldom for his own.
Such a man puts himself in front of dangers and difficulties in order that he may be a shield to others; for he is not a mercenary, taking care of none but himself when he sees the wolf coming; he is the right good shepherd, staking his own life in that of his flock, and knowing the faces of every one of them, just as they do his own.
Such princes, in times of old, were Saturn, Hercules, Jupiter, and others—men who reigned gently, yet firmly, equal to all chances that came, and worthy of the divine honours that awaited them. For mankind could not believe that they quitted the world in the same way as other men. They thought they must be taken up into heaven to be the lords of demigods.
When the prince is good, the subjects are good, for they always imitate their masters; or at least, if the subjects cannot attain to this height of virtue, they at least are not as bad as they would be otherwise; and, at all events, public decency is observed. Oh, blessed kingdoms that are governed by such hearts! and oh, most miserable ones that are at the mercy of a man without justice—a fellow-creature without feelings!
Our Italy is full of such, who will have their reward from the pens of posterity. Greater wretches never appeared in the shapes of Neros and Caligulas, or any other such monsters, let them have been who they might. I enter not into particulars; for it is always better to speak of the dead than the living; but I must say, that Agrigentum never fared worse under Phalaris, nor Syracuse under Dionysius, nor Thebes in the hand of the bloody tyrant Eteocles, even though all those wretches were villains by whose orders every day, without fault, without even charge, men were sent by dozens to the scaffold or into hopeless exile.
But they are not without torments of their own. At the core of their own hearts there stands an inflicter of no less agonies. There he stands every day and every moment—one who was born of the same mother with Wrath, and Cruelty, and Rapine, and who never ceased tormenting his infant brethren before they saw the light. His name is Suspicion.
Yes, Suspicion;—the cruelest visitation, the worst evil spirit and pest that ever haunted with its poisonous whisper the mind of human being. This is their tormentor by excellence. He does not trouble the poor and lowly. He agonises the brain in the proud heads of those whom fortune has put over the heads of their fellow-creatures. Well may the man hug himself on his freedom who fears nobody because nobody hates him. Tyrants are in perpetual fear. They never cease thinking of the mortal revenge taken upon tormentors of their species openly or in secret. The fear which all men feel of the one single wretch, makes the single wretch afraid of every soul among them.
Hear a story of one of these miserables, which, whatever you may think of it, is true to the letter; such letter, at all events, as is written upon the hearts of his race. He was one of the first who took to the custom of wearing beards, for, great as he was, he had a fear of the race of barbers! He built a tower in his palace, guarded by deep ditches and thick walls. It had but one drawbridge and one bay-window. There was no other opening; so that the very light of day had scarcely admittance, or the inmates a place to breathe at. In this tower he slept; and it was his wife's business to put a ladder down for him when he came in. A dog kept watch at the drawbridge; and except the dog and the wife, not a soul was to be discerned about the place. Yet he had such little trust in her, that he always sent spies to look about the room before he withdrew for the night.
Of what use was it all? The woman herself killed him with his own sword, and his soul went straight to hell.
Rhadamanthus, the judge there, thrust him under the boiling lake, but was astonished to find that he betrayed no symptoms of anguish. He did not weep and howl as the rest did, or cry out, "I burn, I burn!" He evinced so little suffering, that Rhadamanthus said, "I must put this fellow into other quarters." Accordingly, he sent him into the lowest pit, where the torments are beyond all others.
Nevertheless, even here he seemed to be under no distress. At length they asked him the reason. The wretch then candidly acknowledged, that hell itself had no torments for him, compared with those which suspicion had given him on earth.
The sages of hell laid their heads together at this news. Amelioration of his lot on the part of a sinner was not to be thought of in a place of eternal punishment; so they called a parliament together, the result of which was an unanimous conclusion, that the man should be sent back to earth, and consigned to the torments of suspicion for ever.
He went; and the earthly fiend re-entered his being anew with a subtlety so incorporate, that their two natures were identified, and he became SUSPICION ITSELF. Fruits are thus engrafted on wild stocks. One colour thus becomes the parent of many, when the painter takes a portion of this and of that from his palette in order to imitate flesh.
The new being took up his abode on a rock by the sea-shore, a thousand feet high, girt all about with mouldering crags, which threatened every instant to fall. It had a fortress on the top, the approach to which was by seven drawbridges, and seven gates, each locked up more strongly than the other; and here, now this moment, constantly thinking Death is upon him, Suspicion lives in everlasting terror. He is alone. He is ever watching. He cries out from the battlements, to see that the guards are awake below, and never does he sleep day or night. He wears mail upon mail, and mail again, and feels the less safe the more he puts on; and is always altering and strengthening everything on gate, and on barricado, and on ditch, and on wall. And do whatever he will, he never seems to have done enough.
* * * * *
Great poet, and good man, Ariosto! your terrors are better than Dante's; for they warn, as far as warning can do good, and they neither afflict humanity nor degrade God.
Spenser has imitated this sublime piece of pleasantry; for, by a curious intermixture of all which the mind can experience from such a fiction, pleasant it is in the midst of its sublimity,—laughable with satirical archness, as well as grand and terrible in the climax. The transformation in Spenser is from a jealous man into Jealousy. His wife has gone to live with the Satyrs, and a villain has stolen his money. The husband, in order to persuade his wife to return, steals into the horde of the Satyrs, by mixing with their flock of goats,—as Norandino does in a passage imitated from Homer by Ariosto. The wife flatly refuses to do any such thing, and the poor wretch is obliged to steal out again.
"So soon as he the prison door did pass, He ran as fast as both his feet could bear, And never looked who behind him was, Nor scarcely who before. Like as a bear That creeping close among the hives, to rear An honeycomb, the wakeful dogs espy, And him assailing, sore his carcass tear, That hardly he away with life does fly, Nor stays till safe himself he see from jeopardy.
Nor stay'd he till be came unto the place Where late his treasure he entombed had; Where, when he found it not (for Trompart base Had it purloined for his master bad), With extreme fury he became quite mad, And ran away—ran with himself away; That who so strangely had him seen bestad, With upstart hair and staring eyes' dismay, From Limbo-lake him late escaped sure would say.
High over hills and over dales he fled, As if the wind him on his wings had borne; Nor bank nor bush could stay him, when he sped His nimble feet, as treading still on thorn; Grief, and Despite, and Jealousy, and Scorn, Did all the way him follow hard behind; And he himself himself loath'd so forlorn, So shamefully forlorn of womankind, That, as a snake, still lurked in his wounded mind.
Still fled he forward, looking backward still; Nor stay'd his flight nor fearful agony Till that he came unto a rocky hill Over the sea suspended dreadfully, That living creature it would terrify To look a-down, or upward to the height From thence he threw himself dispiteously, All desperate of his fore-damned spright, That seem'd no help for him was left in living sight.
But through long anguish and self-murd'ring thought, He was so wasted and forpined quite, That all his substance was consumed to nought, And nothing left but like an airy sprite; That on the rocks he fell so flit and light, That he thereby received no hurt at all; But chanced on a craggy cliff to light; Whence he with crooked claws so long did crawl, That at the last he found a cave with entrance small.
Into the same he creeps, and thenceforth there Resolved to build his baleful mansion, In dreary darkness, and continual fear Of that rock's fall, which ever and anon Threats with huge ruin him to fall upon, That he dare never sleep, but that one eye Still ope he keeps for that occasion; Nor ever rests he in tranquillity, The roaring billows beat his bower so boisterously.
Nor ever is he wont on aught to feed But toads and frogs, his pasture poisonous, Which in his cold complexion do breed A filthy blood, or humour rancorous, Matter of doubt and dread suspicious, That doth with cureless care consume the heart, Corrupts the stomach with gall vicious, Cross-cuts the liver with internal smart, And doth transfix the soul with death's eternal dart.
Yet can he never die, but dying lives, And doth himself with sorrow new sustain, That death and life at once unto him gives, And painful pleasure turns to pleasing pain; There dwells he ever, miserable swain, Hateful both to himself and every wight; Where he, through privy grief and horror vain, Is waxen so deformed, that he has quite Forgot he was a man, and Jealousy is hight."
Spenser's picture is more subtly wrought and imaginative than Ariosto's; but it removes the man farther from ourselves, except under very special circumstances. Indeed, it might be taken rather for a picture of hypochondria than jealousy, and under that aspect is very appalling. But nothing, under more obvious circumstances, comes so dreadfully home to us as Ariosto's poor wretch feeling himself "the less safe the more he puts on," and calling out dismally from his tower, a thousand feet high, to the watchers and warders below to see that all is secure.
[Footnote 1: This daring and grand apologue is not in the Furioso, but in a poem which Ariosto left unfinished, and which goes under the name of the Five Cantos. The fragment, though bearing marks of want of correction, is in some respects a beautiful, and altogether a curious one, especially as it seems to have been written after the Furioso; for it touches in a remarkable manner on several points of morals and politics, and contains an extravagance wilder than any thing in Pulci,—a whale inhabited by knights! It was most likely for these reasons that his friend Bembo and others advised him to suppress it. Was it written in his youth? The apologue itself is not one of the least daring attacks on the Borgias and such scoundrels, who had just then afflicted Italy.
Did Ariosto, by the way, omit Macchiavelli in his list of the friends who hailed the close of his great poem, from not knowing what to make of his book entitled the Prince? It has perplexed all the world to this day, and is not unlikely to have made a particularly unpleasant impression on a mind at once so candid and humane as Ariosto's.]
[Footnote 2: A tremendous fancy this last!
"Sta for la pena, de la qual dicea Che nacque quando la brutt'Ira nacque, La Crudeltade, e la Rapina rea; E quantunque in un ventre con for giacque, Di tormentarle mai non rimanea."]
Rodomont, King of Algiers, was the fiercest of all the enemies of Christendom, not out of love for his own faith (for he had no piety), but out of hatred to those that opposed him. He had now quarrelled, however, with his friends too. He had been rejected by a lady, in favour of the Tartar king, Mandricardo, and mortified by the publicity of the rejection before his own lord paramount, Agramante, the leader of the infidel armies. He could not bear the rejection; he could not bear the sanction of it by his liege lord; he resolved to quit the scene of warfare and return to Africa; and, in the course of his journey thither, he had come into the south of France, where, observing a sequestered spot that suited his humour, be changed his mind as to going home, and persuaded himself he could live in it for the rest of his life. He accordingly took up his abode with his attendants in a chapel, which had been deserted by its clergy during the rage of war.
This vehement personage was standing one morning at the door of the chapel in a state of unusual thoughtfulness, when he beheld coming towards him, through a path in the green meadow before it, a lady of a lovely aspect, accompanied by a bearded monk. They were followed by something covered with black, which they were bringing along on a great horse.
Alas! the lady was the widow of Zerbino, the Scottish prince, who spared the life of Medoro, and who now himself lay dead under that pall. He had expired in her arms from wounds inflicted during a combat with Mandricardo; and she had been thrown by the loss into such anguish of mind that she would have died on his sword but for the intervention of the hermit now with her, who persuaded her to devote the rest of her days to God in a nunnery. She had now come into Provence with the good man for that purpose, and to bury the corpse of her husband in the chapel which they were approaching.
Though the lady seemed lost in grief, and was very pale, and had her hair all about the ears, and though she did nothing but weep and lament, and looked in all respects quite borne down with her misery, nevertheless she was still so beautiful that love and grace appeared to be indestructible in her aspect. The moment the Saracen beheld her, he dismissed from his mind all the determinations he had made to hate and detest
The gentle bevy, that adorns the world.
He was bent solely on obtaining the new angel before him. She seemed precisely the sort of person to make him forget the one that had rejected him. Advancing, therefore, to meet her without delay, he begged, in as gentle a manner as he could assume, to know the cause of her sorrow.
The lady, with all the candour of wretchedness, explained who she was, and how precious a burden she was conveying to its last home, and the resolution she had taken to withdraw from a vain world into the service of God. The proud pagan, who had no belief in a God, much less any respect for restraints or fidelities of what kind soever, forgot his assumed gravity when he heard this determination, and laughed outright at the simplicity of such a proceeding. He pronounced it, in his peremptory way, to be foolish and frivolous; compared it with the miser who, in burying a treasure, does good neither to himself nor any one else; and said, that lions and serpents might indeed be shut up in cages, but not things lovely and innocent.
The monk, overhearing these observations, thought it his duty to interfere. He calmly opposed all which the other asserted, and then proceeded to set forth a repast of spiritual consolation not at all to the Saracen's taste. The fierce warrior interrupted the preacher several times; told him that he had nothing to do with the lady, and that the sooner he returned to his cell the better; but the hermit, nothing daunted, went on with his advice till his antagonist lost all patience. He laid hands on his sacred person; seized him by the beard; tore away as much of it as he grasped; and at length worked himself up into such a pitch of fury, that he griped the good man's throat with all the force of a pair of pincers, and, swinging him twice or thrice round, as one might a dog, flung him off the headland into the sea.
What became of the poor creature I cannot say. Reports are various. Some tell us that he was found on the rocks, dashed all to pieces, so that you could not distinguish foot from head; others, that he fell into the sea at the distance of three miles, and perished in consequence of not knowing how to swim, in spite of the prayers and tears that he addressed to Heaven; others again affirm, that a saint came and assisted him, and drew him to shore before people's eyes. I must leave the reader to adopt which of these accounts he looks upon as the most probable.
The Pagan, as soon as he had thus disposed of the garrulous hermit, turned towards Isabella (for that was the lady's name), and with a face some what less disturbed, began to talk to her in the common language of gallantry, protesting that she was his life and soul, and that he should not know what to do without her; for the sweetness of her appearance mollified even him; and indeed, with all his violence, he would rather have possessed her by fair means than by foul. He therefore flattered himself that, by a little hypocritical attention, he should dispose her to return his inclinations.
On the other hand, the poor disconsolate creature, who, in a country unknown to her, and a place so remote from help, felt like a mouse in the cat's claws, began casting in her mind by what possible contrivance she could escape from such a wretch with honour. She had made up her mind to perish by her own hand, rather than be faithless, however unwillingly, to the dear husband that had died in her arms: but the question was, how she could protect herself from the pagan's violence, before she had secured the means of so doing; for his manner was becoming very impatient, and his speeches every moment less and less civil.
At length an expedient occurred to her. She told him, that if he would promise to respect her virtue, she would put him in possession of a secret that would redound far more to his honour and glory, than any wrong which he could inflict on the innocent. She conjured him not to throw away the satisfaction he would experience all the rest of his life from the consciousness of having done right, for the sake of injuring one unhappy creature. "There were thousands of her sex," she observed, "with cheerful as well as beautiful faces, who might rejoice in his affection; whereas the secret she spoke of was known to scarcely a soul on earth but herself."
She then told him the secret; which consisted in the preparation of a certain herb boiled with ivy and rue over a fire of cypress-wood, and squeezed into a cup by hands that had never done harm. The juice thus obtained, if applied fresh every month, had the virtue of rendering bodies invulnerable. Isabella said she had seen the herb in the neighbourhood, as she came along, and that she would not only make the preparation forth-with, but let its effects be proved on her own person. She only stipulated, that the receiver of the gift should swear not to offend her purity in deed or word.
The fierce infidel took the oath immediately. It delighted him to think that he should be enabled to have his fill of war and slaughter for nothing; and the oath was the more easy to him, inasmuch as he had no intention of keeping it.
The poor Isabella went into the fields to look for her miraculous herb, still, however, attended by the Saracen, who would not let her go out of his sight. She soon found it; and then going with him into his house, passed the rest of the day and the whole night in preparing the mixture with busy solemnity,—Rodomont always remaining with her.
The room became so hot and close with the fire of cypress-wood, that the Saracen, contrary to his law and indeed to his habits, indulged himself in drinking; and the consequence was, that, as soon as it was morning, Isabella lost no time in proving to him the success of her operations. "Now," she said, "you shall be convinced how much in earnest I have been. You shall see all the virtue of this blessed preparation. I have only to bathe myself thus, over the head and neck, and if you then strike me with all your force, as though you intended to cut off my head,—which you must do in good earnest,—you will see the wonderful result."
With a glad and rejoicing countenance the paragon of virtue held forth her neck to the sword; and the bestial pagan, giving way to his natural violence, and heated perhaps beyond all thought of a suspicion with his wine, dealt it so fierce a blow, that the head leaped from the shoulders.
Thrice it bounded on the ground where it fell, and a clear voice was heard to come out of it, calling the name of "Zerbino," doubtless in joy of the rare way which its owner had found of escaping from the Saracen.
O blessed soul, that heldest thy virtue and thy fidelity dearer to thee than life and youth! go in peace, then soul blessed and beautiful. If any words of mine could have force in them sufficient to endure so long, hard would I labour to give them all the worthiness that art can bestow, so that the world might rejoice in thy name for thousands and thousands of years. Go in peace, and take thy seat in the skies, and be an example to womankind of faith beyond all weakness.
[Footnote 1: The ingenious martyrdom in this story, which has been told by other writers of fiction, is taken from an alleged fact related in Barbaro's treatise De Re Uxoria.It is said, indeed, to have been actually resorted to more than once; and possibly may have been so, even from a knowledge of it; for what is more natural with heroical minds than that the like outrages should produce the like virtues? But the colouring of Ariosto's narration is peculiarly his own; and his apostrophe at the close beautiful.]
Critical Notice of his Life and Genius.
TASSO'S LIFE AND GENIUS. 
The romantic poetry of Italy having risen to its highest and apparently its most lawless pitch in the Orlando Furioso, a reaction took place in the next age in the Jerusalem Delivered.It did not hurt, however, the popularity of Ariosto. It only increased the number of poetic readers; and under the auspices, or rather the control, of a Luther-fearing Church, produced, if not as classical a work as it claimed to be, or one, in the true sense of the word, as catholic as its predecessor, yet certainly a far more Roman Catholic, and at the same time very delightful fiction. The circle of fabulous narrative was thus completed, and a link formed, though in a very gentle and qualified manner, both with Dante's theocracy and the obvious regularity of the Aeneid, the oldest romance of Italy.
The author of this epic of the Crusades was of a family so noble and so widely diffused, that, under the patronage of the emperors and the Italian princes, it flourished in a very remarkable manner, not only in its own country, but in Flanders, Germany, and Spain. There was a Tasso once in England, ambassador of Philip the Second; another, like Cervantes, distinguished himself at the battle of Lepanto; and a third gave rise to the sovereign German house of Tour and Taxis. Taxus is the Latin of Tasso. The Latin word, like the Italian, means both a badger and a yew-tree; and the family in general appear to have taken it in the former sense. The animal is in their coat of arms. But the poet, or his immediate relatives, preferred being more romantically shadowed forth by the yew-tree. The parent stock of the race was at Bergamo in Lombardy; and here was born the father of Tasso, himself a poet of celebrity, though his fame has been eclipsed by that of his son.
Bernardo Tasso, author of many elegant lyrics, of some volumes of letters, not uninteresting but too florid, and of the Amadigi, an epic romance now little read, was a man of small property, very honest and good-hearted, but restless, ambitious, and with a turn for expense beyond his means. He attached himself to various princes, with little ultimate advantage, particularly to the unfortunate Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, whom he faithfully served for many years. The prince had a high sense of his worth, and would probably have settled him in the wealth and honours he was qualified to adorn, but for those Spanish oppressions in the history of Naples which ended in the ruin of both master and servant. Bernardo, however, had one happy interval of prosperity; and during this, at the age of forty-six, he married Porzia di Rossi, a young lady of a rich and noble family, with a claim to a handsome dowry. He spent some delightful years with her at Sorrento, a spot so charming as to have been considered the habitation of the Sirens; and here, in the midst of his orange-trees, his verses, and the breezes of an aromatic coast, he had three children, the eldest of whom was a daughter named Cornelia, and the youngest the author of the Jerusalem Delivered. the other child died young. The house distinguished by the poet's birth was restored from a dilapidated condition by order of Joseph Bonaparte when King of Naples, and is now an hotel.
Torquato Tasso was born March the 11th, 1544, nine years after the death of Ariosto, who was intimate with his father. He was very devoutly brought up; and grew so tall, and became so premature a scholar, that at nine, he tells us, he might have been taken for a boy of twelve. At eleven, in consequence of the misfortunes of his father, who had been exiled with the Prince of Salerno, he was forced to part from his mother, who remained at home to look after a dowry which she never received. Her brothers deprived her of it; and in two years' time she died, Bernardo thought by poison. Twenty-four years afterwards her illustrious son, in the midst of his own misfortunes, remembered with sighs the tears with which the kisses of his poor mother were bathed when she was forced to let him go.
The little Torquato following, as he says, like another Ascanius, the footsteps of his wandering father, joined Bernardo in Rome. After two years' study in that city, partly under an old priest who lived with them, the vicissitudes of the father's lot took away the son first to Bergamo, among his relations, and then to Pesaro, in the duchy of Urbino, where his education was associated for nearly two years with that of the young prince, afterwards Duke Francesco Maria the Second (della Rovere), who retained a regard for him through life. In 1559 the boy joined his father in Venice, where the latter had been appointed secretary to the Academy; but next year he was withdrawn from these pleasing varieties of scene by the parental delusion so common in the history of men of letters—the study of the law; which Bernardo intended him to pursue henceforth in the city of Padua. He accordingly arrived in Padua at the age of sixteen and a half, and fulfilled his legal destiny by writing the poem of Rinaldo, which was published in the course of less than two years at Venice. The goodnatured and poetic father, convinced by this specimen of jurisprudence how useless it was to thwart the hereditary passion, permitted him to devote himself wholly to literature, which he therefore went to study in the university of Bologna; and there, at the early age of nineteen, he began his Jerusalem Delivered; that is to say, he planned it, and wrote three cantos, several of the stanzas of which he retained when the poem was matured. He quitted Bologna, however, in a fit of indignation at being accused of the authorship of a satire; and after visiting some friends at Castelvetro and Correggio, returned to Padua on the invitation of his friend Scipio Gonzaga, afterwards cardinal, who wished him to become a member of an academy he had instituted, called the Eterei(Ethereals). Here he studied his favourite philosopher, Plato, and composed three Discourses on Heroic Poetry, dedicated to his friend. He now paid a visit to his father in Mantua, where the unsettled man had become secretary to the duke; and here, it is said, he fell in love with a young lady of a distinguished family, whose name was Laura Peperara; but this did not hinder him from returning to his Paduan studies, in which he spent nearly the whole of the following year. He was then informed that the Cardinal of Este, to whom he had dedicated his Rinaldo, and with whom interest had been made for the purpose, had appointed him one of his attendants, and that he was expected at Ferrara by the 1st of December. Returning to Mantua, in order to prepare for this appointment with his father, he was seized with a dangerous illness, which detained him there nearly a twelvemonth longer. On his recovery he hastened to Ferrara, and arrived in that city on the last day of October, 1565, the first of many years of glory and misery.
The cardinal of Este was the brother of the reigning Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso the Second, grandson of the Alfonso of Ariosto. It is curious to see the two most celebrated romantic poets of Italy thrown into unfortunate connexion with two princes of the same house and the same respective ranks. Tasso's cardinal, however, though the poet lost his favour, and though very little is known about him, left no such bad reputation behind him as Ippolito. It was in the service of the duke that the poet experienced his sufferings.
This prince, who was haughty, ostentatious, and quarrelsome, was, at the time of the stranger's arrival, rehearsing the shows and tournaments intended to welcome his bride, the sister of the Emperor Maximilian the Second. She was his second wife. The first was a daughter of the rival house of Tuscany, which he detested; and the marriage had not been happy. The new consort arrived in the course of a few weeks, entering the city in great pomp; and for a time all went happily with the young poet. He was in a state of ecstasy with the beauty and grandeur he beheld around him—obtained the favourable notice of the duke's two sisters and the duke himself—went on with his Jerusalem Delivered, which, in spite of the presence of Ariosto's memory, he was resolved to load with praises of the house of Este; and in this tumult of pride and expectation, he beheld the duke, like one of the heroes of his poem, set out to assist the emperor against the Turks at the head of three hundred gentlemen, armed at all points, and mantled in various-coloured velvets embroidered with gold.
To complete the young poet's happiness, or commence his disappointments, he fell in love, notwithstanding the goddess he had left in Mantua, with the beautiful Lucrezia Bendidio, who does not seem, however, to have loved in return; for she became the wife of a Macchiavelli. Among his rivals was Guarini, who afterwards emulated him in pastoral poetry, and who accused him on this occasion of courting two ladies at once.
Guarini's accusation has been supposed to refer to the duke's sister Leonora, whose name has become so romantically mixed up with the poet's biography; but the latest inquiries render it probable that the allusion was to Laura Peperara. The young poet, however, who had not escaped the influence of the free manners of Italy, and whose senses and vanity may hitherto have been more interested than his heart, rhymed and flattered on all sides of him, not of course omitting the charms of princesses. In order to win the admiration of the ladies in a body, he sustained for three days, in public, after the fashion of the times, Fifty Amorous Conclusions; that is to say, affirmations on the subject of love; doubtless to the equal delight of his fair auditors and himself, and the creation of a good deal of jealousy and ill-will on the part of such persons of his own sex as had not wit or spirits enough for the display of so much logic and love-making.
In 1569, the death of his father, who had been made governor of Ostiglia by the Duke of Mantua, cost the loving son a fit of illness; but the continuation of his Jerusalem, an Oration spoken at the opening of the Ferrarese academy, the marriage of Leonora's sister Lucrezia with the Prince of Urbino, and the society of Leonora herself, who led the retired life of a person in delicate health, and was fond of the company of men of letters, helped to divert him from melancholy recollections; and a journey to France, at the close of the year following, took him into scenes that were not only totally new, but otherwise highly interesting to the singer of Godfrey of Boulogne. The occasion of it was a visit of the cardinal, his master, to the court of his relative Charles the Ninth. It is supposed that his Eminence went to confer with the king on matters relative to the disputes which not long afterwards occasioned the detestable massacre of St. Bartholomew.
Before his departure, Tasso put into the hands of one of his friends a document, which, as it is very curious, and serves to illustrate perhaps more than one cause of his misfortunes, is here given entire.
Memorial left by Tasso on his departure to France.
"Since life is frail, and it may please Almighty God to dispose of me otherwise in this my journey to France, it is requested of Signor Ercole Rondinelli that he will, in that case, undertake the management of the following concerns:
"In the first place, with regard to my compositions, it is my wish that all my love-sonnets and madrigals should be collected and published; but with regard to those, whether amatory or otherwise, which I have written for any friend, my request is, that they should be buried with myself, save only the one commencing "Or che l'aura mia dolce altrove spira." I wish the publication of the Oration spoken in Ferrara at the opening of the academy, of the four books on Heroic Poetry, of the six last cantos of the Godfrey (the Jerusalem), and of those stanzas of the two first which shall seem least imperfect. All these compositions, however, are to be submitted to the review and consideration of Signor Scipio Gonzaga, of Signor Domenico Veniero, and of Signor Battista Guarini, who, I persuade myself, will not refuse this trouble, when they consider the zealous friendship I have entertained for themselves.
"Let them be informed, too, that it was my intention that they should cut and hew without mercy whatever should appear to them defective or superfluous. With regard to additions or changes, I should wish them to proceed more cautiously, since, after all, the poem would remain imperfect. As to my other compositions, should there be any which, to the aforesaid Signor Rondinelli and the other gentlemen, might seem not unworthy of publication, let them be disposed of according to their pleasure.
"In respect to my property, I wish that such part of it as I have pledged to Abram — for twenty-five lire, and seven pieces of arras, which are likewise in pledge to Signor Ascanio for thirteen scudi, together with whatever I have in this house, should be sold, and that the overplus of the proceeds should go to defray the expense of the following epitaph to be inscribed on a monument to my father, whose body is in St. Polo. And should any impediment take place in these matters, I entreat Signor Ercole to have recourse to the favour of the most excellent Madame Leonora, whose liberality I confide in, for my sake.
"I, Torquato Tasso, have written this, Ferrara, 1570."
I shall have occasion to recur to this document by and by. I will merely observe, for the present, that the marks in it, both of imprudence in money-matters and confidence in the goodwill of a princess, are very striking. "Abram" and "Signor Ascanio" were both Jews. The pieces of arras belonged to his father; and probably this was an additional reason why the affectionate son wished the proceeds to defray the expense of the epitaph. The epitaph recorded his father's poetry, state-services, and vicissitudes of fortune.
Tasso was introduced to the French king as the poet of a French hero and of a Catholic victory; and his reception was so favourable (particularly as the wretched Charles, the victim of his mother's bigotry, had himself no mean poetic feeling), that, with a rash mixture of simplicity and self-reliance (respect makes me unwilling to call it self-importance), the poet expressed an impolitic amount of astonishment at the favour shewn at court to the Hugonots—little suspecting the horrible design it covered. He shortly afterwards broke with his master the cardinal; and it is supposed that this unseasonable escape of zeal was the cause. He himself appears to have thought so. Perhaps the cardinal only wanted to get the imprudent poet back to Italy; for, on Tasso's return to Ferrara, he was not only received into the service of the duke with a salary of some fifteen golden scudi a-month, but told that he was exempted from any particular duty, and might attend in peace to his studies. Balzac affirms, that while Tasso was at the court of France, he was so poor as to beg a crown from a friend; and that, when he left it, he had the same coat on his back that he came in. The assertions of a professed wit and hyperbolist are not to be taken for granted; yet it is difficult to say to what shifts improvidence may not be reduced.
The singer of the house of Este would now, it might have been supposed, be happy. He had leisure; he had money; he had the worldly honours that he was fond of; he occupied himself in perfecting the Jerusalem; and he wrote his beautiful pastoral, the Aminta, which was performed before the duke and his court to the delight of the brilliant assembly. The duke's sister Lucrezia, princess of Urbino, who was a special friend of the poet, sent for him to read it to her at Pesaro; and in the course of the ensuing carnival it was performed with similar applause at the court of her father-in-law. The poet had been as much enchanted by the spectacle which the audience at Ferrara presented to his eyes, as the audience with the loves and graces with which he enriched their stage. The shepherd Thyrsis; by whom he meant himself, reflected it back upon them in a passage of the performance. It is worth while dwelling on this passage a little, because it exhibits a brief interval of happiness in the author's life, and also chews us what he had already begun to think of courts at the moment he was praising them. But he ingeniously contrives to put the praise in his own mouth, and the blame in another's. The shepherd's friend, Mopsus (by whom Tasso is thought to have meant Speroni), had warned him against going to court
"Pero, figlio, Va su l'avviso," &c.
"Therefore, my son, take my advice. Avoid The places where thou seest much drapery, Colours, and gold, and plumes, and heraldries, And such new-fanglements. But, above all, Take care how evil chance or youthful wandering Bring thee upon the house of Idle Babble." "What place is that?" said I; and he resumed;— "Enchantresses dwell there, who make one see Things as they are not, ay and hear them too. That which shall seem pure diamond and fine gold Is glass and brass; and coffers that look silver, Heavy with wealth, are baskets full of bladders.
* * * * *
The very walls there are so strangely made, They answer those who talk; and not in syllables, Or bits of words, like echo in our woods, But go the whole talk over, word for word, With something else besides, that no one said. The tressels, tables, bedsteads, curtains, lockers, Chairs, and whatever furniture there is In room or bedroom, all have tongues and speech, And are for ever tattling. Idle Babble Is always going about, playing the child; And should a dumb man enter in that place, The dumb would babble in his own despite. And yet this evil is the least of all That might assail thee. Thou might'st be arrested In fearful transformation to a willow, A beast, fire, water,—fire for ever sighing, Water for ever weeping."—Here he ceased: And I, with all this fine foreknowledge, went To the great city; and, by Heaven's kind will, Came where they live so happily. The first sound I heard was a delightful harmony, Which issued forth, of voices loud and sweet;—Sirens, and swans, and nymphs, a heavenly noise Of heavenly things;—which gave me such delight, That, all admiring, and amazed, and joyed, I stopped awhile quite motionless. There stood Within the entrance, as if keeping guard Of those fine things, one of a high-souled aspect, Stalwart withal, of whom I was in doubt
Whether to think him better knight or leader. He, with a look at once benign and grave, In royal guise, invited me within; He, great and in esteem; me, lorn and lowly. Oh, the sensations and the sights which then Shower'd on me! Goddesses I saw, and nymphs Graceful and beautiful, and harpers fine As Linus or as Orpheus; and more deities, All without veil or cloud, bright as the virgin Aurora, when she glads immortal eyes, And sows her beams and dew-drops, silver and gold.
In the summer of 1574, the Duke of Ferrara went to Venice to pay his respects to the successor of Charles the Ninth, Henry the Third, then on his way to France from his kingdom of Poland. Tasso went with the duke, and is understood to have taken the opportunity of looking for a printer of his Jerusalem, which was now almost finished. Writers were anxious to publish in that crafty city, because its government would give no security of profit to books printed elsewhere. Alfonso, who was in mourning for Henry's brother, and to whom mourning itself only suggested a new occasion of pomp and vanity, took with him to this interview five hundred Ferrarese gentlemen, all dressed in long black cloaks; who walking about Venice (says a reporter) "by twos and threes," wonderfully impressed the inhabitants with their "gravity and magnificence." The mourners feasted, however; and Tasso had a quartan fever, which delayed the completion of the Jerusalem till next year. This was at length effected; and now once more, it might have been thought, that the writer would have reposed on his laurels.
But Tasso had already begun to experience the uneasiness attending superiority; and, unfortunately, the strength of his mind was not equal to that of his genius. He was of an ultra-sensitive temperament, and subject to depressing fits of sickness. He could not calmly bear envy. Sarcasm exasperated, and hostile criticism afflicted him. The seeds of a suspicious temper were nourished by prosperity itself. The author of the Armida and the Jerusalem began to think the attentions he received unequal to his merits; while with a sort of hysterical mixture of demand for applause, and provocation of censure, he not only condescended to read his poems in manuscript wherever he went, but, in order to secure the goodwill of the papal licenser, he transmitted it for revisal to Rome, where it was mercilessly criticised for the space of two years by the bigots and hypocrites of a court, which Luther had rendered a very different one from that in the time of Ariosto.
This new source of chagrin exasperated the complexional restlessness, which now made our author think that he should be more easy any where than in Ferrara; perhaps more able to communicate with and convince his critics; and, unfortunately, he permitted himself to descend to a weakness the most fatal of all others to a mind naturally exalted and ingenuous. Perhaps it was one of the main causes of all which he suffered. Indeed, he himself attributed his misfortunes to irresolution. What I mean in the present instance was, that he did not disdain to adopt underhand measures. He skewed a face of satisfaction with Alfonso, at the moment that he was taking steps to exchange his court for another. He wrote for that purpose to his friend Scipio Gonzaga, now a prelate at the court of Rome, earnestly begging him, at the same time, not to commit him in their correspondence; and Scipio, who was one of his kindest and most indulgent friends, and who doubtless saw that the Duke of Ferrara and his poet were not of dispositions to accord, did all he could to procure him an appointment with one of the family of the Medici.
Most unhappily for this speculation (and perhaps even the good-natured Gonzaga took a little more pleasure in it on that account), Alfonso inherited all the detestation of his house for that lucky race; and it is remarkable, that the same jealousies which hindered Ariosto's advancement with the Medici were still more fatal to the hopes of Tasso; for they served to plunge him into the deepest adversity. In vain he had warnings given him, both friendly and hostile. The princess, now Duchess of Urbino, who was his particular friend, strongly cautioned him against the temptation of going away. She said he was watched. He himself thought his letters were opened; and probably they were. They certainly were at a subsequent period. Tasso, however, persisted, and went to Rome. Scipio Gonzaga introduced him to Cardinal Ferdinand de' Medici, afterwards Grand Duke of Tuscany; and Ferdinand made him offers of protection so handsome, that they excited his suspicion. The self-tormenting poet thought they savoured more of hatred to the Este family, than honour to himself. He did not accept them. He did nothing at Rome but make friends, in order to perplex them; listen to his critics, in order to worry himself; and perform acts of piety in the churches, by way of shewing that the love-scenes in the Jerusalem were innocent. For the bigots had begun to find something very questionable in mixing up so much love with war. The bloodshed they had no objection to. The love bearded their prejudices, and excited their envy.
Tasso returned to Ferrara, and endeavoured to solace himself with eulogising two fair strangers who had arrived at Alfonso's court,—Eleonora Sanvitale, who had been newly married to the Count of Scandiano (a Tiene, not a Boiardo, whose line was extinct), and Barbara Sanseverino, Countess of Sala, her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law, who was a Juno-like beauty, wore her hair in the form of a crown. The still more beautiful daughter-in-law had an under lip such as Anacreon or Sir John Suckling would have admired,—pouting and provoking,—[prokaloymenon phileama]. Tasso wrote verses on them both, but particularly to the lip; and this Countess of Scandiano is the second, out of the three Leonoras, with whom Tasso was said by his friend Manso to have been in love. The third, it is now ascertained, never existed; and his love-making to the new, or second Leonora, goes to shew how little of real passion there was in the praises of the first (the Princess Leonora), or probably of any lady at court. He even professed love, as a forlorn hope, to the countess's waiting-maid. Yet these gallantries of sonnets are exalted into bewilderments of the heart.
His restlessness returning, the poet now condescended to craft a second time. Expecting to meet with a refusal, and so to be afforded a pretext for quitting Ferrara, he applied for the vacant office of historiographer. It was granted him; and he then disgusted the Medici by pleading an unlooked-for engagement, which he could only reconcile to his applications for their favour by renouncing his claim to be believed. If he could have deceived others, why might he not have deceived them?
All the lurking weakness of the poet's temperament began to display itself at this juncture. His perplexity excited him to a degree of irritability bordering on delirium; and circumstances conspired to increase it. He had lent an acquaintance the key of his rooms at court, for the purpose (he tells us) of accommodating some intrigue; and he suspected this person of opening cabinets containing his papers. Remonstrating with him one day in the court of the palace, either on that or some other account, the man gave him the lie. He received in return a blow on the face, and is said by Tasso to have brought a set of his kinsmen to assassinate him, all of whom the heroical poet immediately put to flight. At one time he suspected the duke of jealousy respecting the dedication of his poem, and at another, of a wish to burn it. He suspected his servants. He became suspicious of the truth of his friend Gonzaga. He doubted, even, whether some praises addressed to him by Orazio Ariosto, the nephew of the great poet, which, one would have thought, would have been to him a consummation of bliss, were not intended to mystify and hurt him. At length he fancied that his persecutors had accused him of heresy to the Inquisition; and, as he had gone through the metaphysical doubts, common with most men of reflection respecting points of faith and the mysteries of creation, he feared that some indiscreet words had escaped him, giving colour to the charge. He thus beheld enemies all around him. He dreaded stabbing and poison; and one day, in some paroxysm of rage or horror, how occasioned it is not known, ran with a knife or dagger at one of the servants of the Duchess of Urbino in her own chamber.
Alfonso, upon this, apparently in the mildest and most reasonable manner, directed that he should be confined to his apartments, and put into the hands of the physician. These unfortunate events took place in the summer of 1577, and in the poet's thirty-third year.
Tasso shewed so much affliction at this treatment, and, at the same time, bore it so patiently, that the duke took him to his beautiful country seat of Belriguardo; where, in one of his accounts of the matter, the poet says that he treated him as a brother; but in another, he accuses him of having taken pains to make him criminate himself, and confess certain matters, real or supposed, the nature of which is a puzzle with posterity. Some are of opinion (and this is the prevailing one), that he was found guilty of being in love with the Princess Leonora, perhaps of being loved by herself. Others think the love out of the question, and that the duke was concerned at nothing but his endeavouring to transfer his services and his poetic reputation into the hands of the Medici. Others see in the duke's conduct nothing but that of a good master interesting himself in the welfare of an afflicted servant.
It is certain that Alfonso did all he could to prevent the surreptitious printing of the Jerusalem Delivered in various towns of Italy, the dread of which had much afflicted the poet; and he also endeavoured, though in vain, to ease his mind on the subject of the Inquisition; for these facts are attested by state-papers and other documents, not dependent either on the testimony of third persons or the partial representations of the sufferer. But Tasso felt so uneasy at Belriguardo, that he requested leave to retire a while into a convent. He remained there several days, apparently so much to his satisfaction, that he wrote to the duke to say that it was his intention to become a friar; and, yet he had no sooner got into the place, than he addressed a letter to the Inquisition at Rome, beseeching it to desire permission for him to come to that city, in order to clear himself from the charges of his enemies. He also wrote to two other friends, requesting them to further his petition; and adding that the duke was enraged with him in consequence of the anger of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who, it is supposed, had accused Tasso of having revealed to Alfonso some indecent epithet which his highness had applied to him. These letters were undoubtedly intercepted, for they were found among the secret archives of Modena, the only principality ultimately remaining in the Este family; so that, agreeably to the saying of listeners hearing no good of themselves, if Alfonso did not know the epithet before, he learnt it then. The reader may conceive his feelings. Tasso, too, at the same time, was plaguing him with letters to similar purpose; and it is observable, that while in those which he sent to Rome he speaks of Cosmo de' Medici as "Grand Duke," he takes care in the others to call him simply the "Duke of Florence." Alfonso had been exasperated to the last degree at Cosmo's having had the epithet "Grand" added by the Pope to his ducal title; and the reader may imagine the little allowance that would be made by a haughty and angry prince for the rebellious courtesy thus shewn to a detested rival. Tasso, furthermore, who had not only an infantine hatred of bitter "physic," but reasonably thought the fashion of the age for giving it a ridiculous one, begged hard, in a manner which it is humiliating to witness, that he might not be drenched with medicine. The duke at length forbade his writing to him any more; and Tasso, whose fears of every kind of ill usage had been wound up to a pitch unbearable, watched an opportunity when he was carelessly guarded, and fled at once from the convent and Ferrara.
The unhappy poet selected the loneliest ways he could find, and directed his course to the kingdom of Naples, where his sister lived. He was afraid of pursuit; he probably had little money; and considering his ill health and his dread of the Inquisition, it is pitiable to think what he may have endured while picking his long way through the back states of the Church and over the mountains of Abruzzo, as far as the Gulf of Naples. For better security, he exchanged clothes with a shepherd; and as he feared even his sister at first, from doubting whether she still loved him, his interview with her was in all its circumstances painfully dramatic. Cornelia Tasso, now a widow, with two sons, was still residing at Sorrento, where the poet, casting his eyes around him as he proceeded towards the house, must have beheld with singular feelings of wretchedness the lovely spots in which he had been a happy little boy. He did not announce himself at once. He brought letters, he said, from the lady's brother; and it is affecting to think, that whether his sister might or might not have retained otherwise any personal recollection of him since that time (for he had not seen her in the interval), his disguise was completed by the alterations which sorrow had made in his appearance. For, at all events, she did not know him. She saw in him nothing but a haggard stranger who was acquainted with the writer of the letters, and to whom they referred for particulars of the risk which her brother ran, unless she could afford him her protection. These particulars were given by the stranger with all the pathos of the real man, and the loving sister fainted away. On her recovery, the visitor said what he could to reassure her, and then by degrees discovered himself. Cornelia welcomed him in the tenderest manner. She did all that he desired; and gave out to her friends that the gentleman was a cousin from Bergamo, who had come to Naples on family affairs.
For a little while, the affection of his sister, and the beauty and freshness of Sorrento, rendered the mind of Tasso more easy: but his restlessness returned. He feared he had mortally offended the Duke of Ferrara; and, with his wonted fluctuation of purpose, he now wished to be restored to his presence for the very reason he had run away from it. He did not know with what vengeance he might be pursued. He wrote to the duke; but received no answer. The Duchess of Urbino was equally silent. Leonora alone responded, but with no encouragement. These appearances only made him the more anxious to dare or to propitiate his doom; and he accordingly determined to put himself in the duke's hands. His sister entreated him in vain to alter his resolution. He quitted her before the autumn was over; and, proceeding to Rome, went directly to the house of the duke's agent there, who, in concert with the Ferrarese ambassador, gave his master advice of the circumstance. Gonzaga, however, and another good friend, Cardinal Albano, doubted whether it would be wise in the poet to return to Ferrara under any circumstances. They counselled him to be satisfied with being pardoned at a distance, and with having his papers and other things returned to him; and the two friends immediately wrote to the duke requesting as much. The duke apparently acquiesced in all that was desired; but he said that the illness of his sister, the Duchess of Urbino, delayed the procuration of the papers, which, it seems, were chiefly in her hands. The upshot was, that the papers did not come; and Tasso, with a mixture of rage and fear, and perhaps for more reasons than he has told, became uncontrollably desirous of retracing the rest of his steps to Ferrara.
Love may have been among these reasons—probably was; though it does not follow that the passion must have been for a princess. The poet now, therefore, petitioned to that effect; and Alfonso wrote again, and said he might come, but only on condition of his again undergoing the ducal course of medicine; adding, that if he did not, he was to be finally expelled his highness's territories.
He was graciously received—too graciously, it would seem, for his equanimity; for it gave him such a flow of spirits, that the duke appears to have thought it necessary to repress them. The unhappy poet, at this, began to have some of his old suspicions; and the unaccountable detention of his papers confirmed them. He made an effort to keep the suspicions down, but it was by means, unfortunately, of drowning them in wine and jollity; and this gave him such a fit of sickness as had nearly been his death. He recovered, only to make a fresh stir about his papers, and a still greater one about his poems in general, which, though his Jerusalem was yet only known in manuscript, and not even his Aminta published, he believed ought to occupy the attention of mankind. People at Ferrara, therefore, not foreseeing the respect that posterity would entertain for the poet, and having no great desire perhaps to encourage a man who claimed to be a rival of their countryman Ariosto, now began to consider their Neapolitan guest not merely an ingenious and pitiable, but an overweening and tiresome enthusiast. The court, however, still seemed to be interested in its panegyrist, though Tasso feared that Alfonso meant to burn his Jerusalem. Alfonso, on the other hand, is supposed to have feared that he would burn it himself, and the ducal praises with it. The papers, at all events, apparently including the only fair copy of the poem, were constantly withheld; and Tasso, in a new fit of despair, again quitted Ferrara. This mystery of the papers is certainly very extraordinary.
The poet's first steps were to Mantua, where he met with no such reception as encouraged him to stay. He then went to Urbino, but did not stop long. The prince, it is true, was very gracious; and bandages for a cautery were applied by the fair hands of his highness's sister; but, though the nurse enchanted, the surgery frightened him. The hapless poet found himself pursued wherever he went by the tormenting beneficence of medicine. He escaped, and went to Turin. He had no passport; and presented, besides, so miserable an appearance, that the people at the gates roughly refused him admittance. He was well received, however, at court; and as he had begun to acknowledge that he was subject to humours and delusions, and wrote to say as much to Cardinal Albano, who returned him a most excellent and affecting letter, full of the kindest regard and good counsel, his friends entertained a hope that he would become tranquil. But he disappointed them. He again applied to Alfonso for permission to return to Ferrara—again received it, though on worse than the old conditions—and again found himself in that city in the beginning of the year 1579, delighted at seeing a brilliant assemblage from all quarters of Italy on occasion of a new marriage of the duke's (with a princess of Mantua). He made up his mind to think that nothing could be denied him, at such a moment, by the bridegroom whom he meant to honour and glorify.
Alas! the very circumstance to which he looked for success, tended to throw him into the greatest of his calamities. Alfonso was to be married the day after the poet's arrival. He was therefore too busy to attend to him. The princesses did not attend to him. Nobody attended to him. He again applied in vain for his papers. He regretted his return; became anxious to be any where else; thought himself not only neglected but derided; and at length became excited to a pitch of frenzy. He broke forth into the most unmeasured invectives against the duke, even in public; invoked curses on his head and that of his whole race; retracted all he had ever said in the praise of any of them, prince or otherwise; and pronounced him and his whole court "a parcel of ingrates, rascals, and poltroons." The outbreak was reported to the duke; and the consequence was, that the poet was sent to the hospital of St. Anne, an establishment for the reception of the poor and lunatic, where he remained (with the exception of a few unaccountable leave-days) upwards of seven years. This melancholy event happened in the March of the year 1579.