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JACQUES DE LA TAILLE.
MR. TODD, in his Life of Spenser, has made many ingenious remarks on the false taste of some of our Poets of that period, and particularly on that absurd propensity which distinguished many of them, to accommodate the English language to the metres of the ancients. The absurdity, however, did not escape the animadversions of the critics and satirists of those times. Bishop Hall terms such effusions
rhymeless numbers.” In his Sixth Satire he thus speaks of them :
Whoever saw a colt wanton and wild,
Strange as it may seem, there was not long since, an attempt to revive this foolery, but the very happy ridicule of the writers of the Poetry in the Periodical Work of the Antijacobin, extinguished it, it may be hoped for ever. Few can forget
the humourous effusion of the “Needy Knife Grinder.”
The absurdity, however, was not confined to our countrymen. The French also had a similar ambition. . By the kindness of the Bishop of Rochester, I am enabled to describe the following very singular and uncommon French book.
" LÀ MANIERE DE FAIRE DES VERS EN FRANÇOIS COMME EN GREC ET EN LATIN,
Par feu JACQUES DE LA TAILLE, du pays de Beauce. Paris
Frederic Morel 1573." 12mo. This is a regular prosodical Treatise, and proceeds, after having laid down and adjusted the quantities of syllables, to treat of the different metres, and to exemplify them in French verses. These examples are very curious and amusing, though they prove, that the attempt to introduce the classical metres into a modern language, was as unsuccessful in France as it was with us.
It requires no common sagacity to find out that the following line is an Hexameter.
Dessus tous animāux Dieu formā l'hommě malheureux.
When the discovery is made it is not easy to bring the ear to acknowledge that it is so.
The same may be observed of the Pentameter.
Il nous faūt ābolir toūtě súpērstitiôn.
'The following is an example of the long Asclepiad.
O le seul auteur de se monde parfait,
It is not unworthy of observation, that the Sapphic metre is that which seems best to accommodate itself to the form of both languages.
The author of this curious little volume died of the Plague in the year 1562, before he had compleated his twenty-first year. Young as he was, he had written five Tragedies besides other Poems, which were collected and published, together with the works of his Brother, who was named JOHN DE LA TAILLE, who also was a Poet in 1573 or 1574.
It is important to state the time of his death, because it offers a question to those who are well versed in Old English Literature, whether the idea of adopting the ancient metres, which towards the end of the sixteenth century prevailed so much with our English Poets, might not be borrowed from this French writer.
IT is now sufficiently well known, that Chaucer borrowed the tale of his Palamon and Arcite from the Theseida of Boccace. It is not so notorious that our old English Poet is indebted to the Filostrato of Boccace for his Troilus.
Filostrato is very scarce, even in Italy; but the edition which enables me to give this account is, probably unique in this country.
The learned Mr. Tyrwhitt was induced first to suspect the obligation of Chaucer to Boccace, from reading the title of Fylostrato at large in Saxii Hist. Lit. Typog. Mediolan. ad an. 1498, but he afterwards met with a printed copy of the work itself in the valuable collection of Mr. Crofts.
I give its title at length.
Che tracta de lo inamoramento de Troylo e Gryseida: et de molte altre infinite ballaglie.
At the end is,
Impresso nella inclita cita de Milano per Magistro Uldericho Scinzenzeler nell anno M.CCCCLXXXXVIII. a di XXVII. di mese de Septembre.”
Quadrio Vol. VI. P. 473. mentions two later editions of this Poem.