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work may not be tried, either by the rigorists of the Aristotelian school, who constantly keep their eyes fixed on the perfect models of Homer and Virgil, or by the partial admirers of Ariosto.
It was thus that Tasso argued at eighteen. Tasso being deeply imbued with the reading of Virgil, whom he used to call his own poet, and with that of Homer and the other classics, could not but frequently imitate them, as may, indeed, be seen from some of the stanzas we have cited,--and a thousand other instances might be pointed out-but his imitations are not servile copies, nor are they simple translations enchaced in his work as misplaced ornaments : they are always, on the contrary, spontaneous and naturally rising from the subject; they are beauties suggested by poetic inspiration in a given circumstance, which he seizes on with pleasure, shapes and colours with a master hand, and, without ever recollecting that another had used them, renders them completely his own. Nor is he always an imitator; he oftener creates; and, on equal terms, vies with the great bards of antiquity, and with Ariosto, among the moderns, more than with any other. If his style in the Rinaldo has not the magnificent colouring and elevation so conspicuous in the Gerusalemme, it must, at least, be admitted, that it has fewer concetti and seicentismi : in fact, there is but a single one in all the stanzas we have given, and that we have marked in italics. C. IV. 50.
If the octaves have not that epic gravity, and that full and sounding swell, which afterwards rendered Tasso incomparable in that measure, they run spontaneously, and, at times, with the flow and ease of those of Ariosto, and give the ideas with astonishing force and beauty. The comparisons are frequent; original very often, and striking: the descriptions rich, full of fire, delicate, hit off with all the truth of nature, and without the least apparent art. If the characters are not sufficiently individualised, he has this defect in common with all the writers of the romantic epic; he, on all occasions, gives a heightening to his hero above all his other personages; and the reader's interest for him never for a moment slackens; the adventures are ingenious, well connected, arising out of each other, and full of variety; Rinaldo figures in some, even when he does not participate in them; although it is mortifying not to let us know what becomes of Isoliero, of whom we hear no more after the fourth canto, nor of the loves of Florindo, to which the oracle promises a happy result, at the end of the fifth. Lastly, the unity is as fully preserved as the young poet intended; but this unity cannot remedy the capital defect of the action, which is not great,—an essential quality in a real epicthe whol raonsisting in the marriage of Rinaldo with Clarice
two personages who, notwithstanding the matchless valour of the one, and the peerless beauty of the other, are quite insufficient to render the action deeply interesting.
We proceed to observe upon some passages, strewn, if we may so phrase it, with the seeds of some of the beauties which afterwards sprang up so richly in the Gerusalemme, and which we will, in general, content ourselves
with alluding to, and dwelling but for a moment on a few. The forest of Ismeno, at least in its qualities, seems to have originated in the Forest of Sighs, in the Rinaldo. Floriana, a copy of Dido, is the Armida of the Gerusalemme : the gardens of Armida are much improved, but still of the same kind as those in which the Palace of Courtesy stood, and those in which Rinaldo finds himself on leaving the Forest of Sighs. In the tomb of Ireno that suddenly rises up, we recognise that of the warrior slain by Rinaldo, in the seventh canto. The description of the death of Clorinda, of her face after death, of the grief of Tancredi on recognising it, seems sketched out in Clizia, and in her husband's account of her untimely end. The death of Lesbino, the Sultan's page, in the Gerusalemme, is an embellished copy of the death of Acteon, in the Rinaldo. Rinaldo slaying the proud Anselmo is the Rinaldo of the Gerusalemme who kills the proud Gernando; as the single combat between Rinaldo and Mambrino, is the rough draught of that between Tancredi and Argante, in the latter poem. Let us make a short comparison of the two pictures and their fellows in the Gerusalemme.
In both poems, Rinaldo is a young man full of fire and blood, who cannot put up with the shadow of an insult; in both cases, he takes ferocious vengeance : but whilst the youthful poet represents him as avenging himself with a poniard, without giving Anselmo an opportunity of defence, the hero of the Gerusalemme not only uses a sword, but does not aim a thrust till he has given his antagonist the lie in formal words, as much as to bid him defend himself; and in fact, Gernando, although he saw no chance of escaping his fate, preserves an intrepid mien.
“ E il gran nemico attende, e 'l ferro tratto
Gerus. Lib. C. V. st. 27.
Rinaldo, in the Gerusalemme, coolly and quietly retires without a hand raised to oppose him, in the midst of the fellows of his fallen foe: and who would have dared to stop him? But Rinaldo, in the poem before us, waits the assault of the whole host of the Maganzesi, and, at length, retires in the noble attitude we have above read, and which gives rise to the comparison of the bull beset by dogs. This simile is repeated in the Gerusalemme, when Clorinda retires with her face to the enemy, at this moment assailing, the next assailed, then flying, then putting to flight, so that it is impossible to say whether she pursues or flees.
“ Tal gran tauro talor nell' ampio agone,
S'arretran essi; e se a fuggir si pone,
Gerus. Lib. C. III. st. 32.
We here see Tasso, when his judgment was matured, saying more in four verses than he had before done in double the number, exactly assimilating to the bull the warlike maid, now advancing, now retreating, whilst, in the Rinaldo, the bull is represented as advancing towards the dogs, and the latter retiring; besides, Rinaldo does not put the Maganzesi to flight as the bull does the dogs, but retreats himself, so that they could not run away in terror whenever he wheeled about. The verses are very picturesque and fine.
In the combat between Mambrino and Rinaldo, if the young poet does not shew that profound acquaintance with swordmanship, in which he afterwards excelled, and which has led the Italian professors of that art to introduce his verses into their books, as precepts, he, however, both here, and in the seventh canto, in the fight between Rinaldo and Orlando, shews he was no stranger to it, and the latter description deserves the perusal of amateurs.
Gentili, speaking of the very beautiful comparison of Tancredi and Argante to two vessels of war engaging, observes, that Tasso's comparison surpasses that of Virgil
, in the fifth book of the Eneid, v. 539, &c. where Dares is compared to some great captain carefully eyeing every place round a fortress, to discover a favourable point of attack. To be convinced that Gentili is right, it will be sufficient to read the following stanza.
“ Così pugna naval, quando non spira
Gerus. Lib. C. XIX. st. 13.
Guastavini adds, that the comparison of a battle between a lion and an elephant would have been more striking and original, and not less elegant and apposite, and cites the testimony of Plato. But it is sufficient to observe, and Gentili might have done it, that Tasso here uses the simile of the ships, after having said, whilst describing the combat between Bremondo and Argante,
“Qual capitan, che oppugni eccelsa torre
Gerus. Lib. C. VII. st. 90.
So that Tasso has used his own very fine comparison after having availed himself of that of Virgil. If Guastavini, then, had read Rinaldo, he might have cited Tasso himself, without troubling Plato.
“ Chi visto ha mai nell' Affricane arene,
Rinaldo, C. XII, s. 59. In the Gerusalemme, in order to describe the progress that the spirit of revolt was making, and which afterwards broke out, among the Crusaders, at the instigation of Argillano, in imitation of Homer and Virgil, he employs the following simile:
“ Così nel cavo rame umor che bolle,
Gerus. Lib. C. VIII. st. 74. In the Rinaldo, when the hero discovers that he is slighted by Clarice, who will not receive even a letter from him, his grief so overpowers him, that he can neither utter a word nor shed a tear; afterwards,
Qual suole spesso chiuso umor fervente
Poi con impeto ratto e vïolente,
C. XI. st. 43. It is apparent, that this comparison is as much out of place here, as it is appropriate in the Gerusalemme. For, as the heat increasing expands the water, and forces it over the edges of the vessel, in like manner seditious speeches infiame the passions of some, who still, from old grudges, keep their hatred rankling in their breasts against the French and Godfrey, and lead the misguided multitude to open revolt; but it cannot be said that tears flow as the intensity of the grief increases. Tears come when reason and time have somewhat softened and diminished the excess of suffering ; and the comparison of water boiling over is then false; for it would seem that this might occur when the fire becomes lower. Ariosto was so fully aware of this, that, after describing Orlando, when he was betrayed by Angelica, as bereft of motion and speech, and unable to shed a tear, he does not compare the poor knight to water boiling over from excessive heat, but to water confined in a capacious vessel with a narrow neck, from which, when turned upside down, the water cannot escape, but drop by drop, and with much difficulty.
“Così veggiam restar l'acqua nel vase,
Orlando Fur. C. XXIII. st. 113. The last line is one of the very best specimens of imitative harmony.
These observations, which are very far from being a full critical analysis of the Rinaldo, will suffice to shew that the poem deserves a perusal, as containing passages of great beauty and truly wonderful execution, when we consider the author's youth, who, perhaps, more than any thing else contributed to the oblivion in which it lies, by the unequalled splendor of his Gerusalemme.
The name of the author, and the excellencies we have pointed out in this youthful work of one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived, are a sufficient apology for bringing it before the notice of the lovers of Italian literature. We cannot conclude, without apprising our readers of another stanza in the