A History of Italian Literature/Chapter XVIII

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search



The year 1564 is memorable in the intellectual history of the world. It marks the beginning of the long ascent of the North, and of the slow depression of the South. In it Shakespeare was born; in it Michael Angelo died; in it the decrees of the Council of Trent were promulgated by one of the most liberal and enlightened of the Popes, even as the Society of Jesus had been established twenty-four years before by another entitled to the same commendation. Neither Paul nor Pius was free to gratify his personal inclinations at the expense of the institution over which he presided; and in fact the Society and the Council were less important in themselves than as indicative of the new spirit which was to prevail in Roman Catholic countries, destructive, so far as its influence extended, of science, and deadly to learning, literature, and art. The time was at hand when the policy of great states was to be controlled by confessors; when the clergy, under the influence of a training in special seminaries, were to be converted from an order into a caste; when the entire influence of State and Church was to be devoted to the repression of free thought, with the inevitable result of intellectual degeneracy, and mortifying inferiority to the nations which, with whatever limitations, acknowledged the principle of freedom.

From this period Italian literature, though still interesting in itself, becomes comparatively unimportant in its relation to general civilisation; it drops from the first place into the third, and every year widens the interval between the retrogressive and the progressive peoples. The results of eighty years of oppression are thus stated by an illustrious visitor on the authority of the Italians themselves: "I have sate among their learned men," says Milton, "and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom as they supposed England was, while they themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning among them was brought, that this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had been written there now these many years but flattery and fustian." These, it will be observed, are not Milton's own words, but report the views of the cultivated Italians with whom he associated, and who, enslaved but not subdued, slill nurtured hopes which our times have seen fulfilled. Could the foreigner have been excluded, could men like these have been left to settle by themselves with priest and prince, it is probable that the anti-Renaissance reaction and the counter-Reformation Would never have come to pass. Yet Italy cannot be wholly excused; the foreigner had brought the mischief, but who had brought the foreigner?

This age of decadence is nevertheless represented to posterity by one of the greatest poets of Italy; nor can his misfortunes be specially charged upon it. The sad story of Torquato Tasso has ever excited and ever must excite the deepest compassion; but it is not now believed that any fellow-mortal was responsible for his sorrows, or that they were materially aggravated by ill-usage from any quarter. The simple fact is that during the later part of his life Tasso was frequently either insane or on the borderland between sanity and insanity, and that, given his peculiar mental constitution, his double portion of the morbid irritability and sensitiveness commonly incidental to the poetical temperament, the same affliction must have befallen him under any circumstances or in any age of the world. It is indeed possible that his brain was in some measure clouded and warped by the unnatural discipline of the Jesuits into whose hands he fell in his boyhood, and that this determined the nature of some of the symptoms of mental alienation which he afterwards manifested. It was, moreover, his great misfortune that his age should have afforded no other sphere for a delicate and candid mind than a court honeycombed with intrigue and jealousy. Yet the fate of so morbidly sensitive a spirit could hardly have been materially different; it is only wonderful that he should have regained so much of his intellect and died master of himself. Courtly society and religious excitement between them admirably trained his magnificent genius to write the Jerusalem Delivered, in its relation to general culture the epic of the Roman Catholic revival, but, from the large-hearted humanity of the author, happily much more.

The circumstances of Tasso's youth were such as to intensify the innate melancholy of his disposition. His father Bernardo, whom we have met with as a poet and a high-minded cavalier, ruined himself and his family within a few years after Torquato's birth at Sorrento (1544) by the noble imprudence of the advice which he gave to his Neapolitan patron, and, though afterwards the servant of princes, died in poverty. When twelve years old Tasso lost his mother, poisoned, as was thought, by her relatives, to rob her husband of her portion. We have spoken of the Jesuitry which marred his early education; afterwards, however, he was brought up in a much saner manner. At Urbino, where his father found a temporary refuge, afterwards in busy Venice and at Padua, where he ineffectually studied law, he had become a master of classics, mathematics, and philosophy, and had not only read but annotated Dante. By the time (1565) when he became attached to the court of Ferrara, he had published his Rinaldo, in form an imitation of Ariosto, but indicative of a new spirit; and had less fortunately signalised the termination of a two years' residence at Bologna by a scrape in which he had involved himself by reciting a pasquinade upon the university, which not unnaturally caused him to be accused of having written it. This adventure at least evinced serious deficiency in tact—an endowment more essential than genius in the situation where he now found himself.

Tasso's immediate obligations at the court of Ferrara were to Luigi, Cardinal d'Este, brother of the Duke, who seems to have expected nothing from him but duteous attendance, and the completion of the great poem of which the Rinaldo had given promise, and whose theme was still unfixed. Nothing appears to the Cardinal's disadvantage; nor is any especial reproach addressed to his high-spirited brother the Duke, except the heavy taxation he imposed to maintain a magnificence disproportioned to his revenue. The two great ladies of the court, the Duke's sisters, were decidedly sympathetic, and there seems no reason to attribute malevolence to his fellow-courtiers. The situation of this child of genius at a court was indeed a false one, and could have no fortunate issue; yet the innate germ of insanity would almost certainly have developed itself, whatever the external circumstances of his lot. For five or six years all went well. Tasso chose the subject of his poem, laboured diligently at it, attracted universal admiration by the brilliancy and fluency of his occasional compositions, disputed successfully with the elite of Ferrara on the subject of Love, and in 1571 accompanied the Cardinal on a mission to France. The French court had not yet resolved upon the St. Bartholomew, and its coquettings with the Huguenots scandalised the devout poet. He composed two discourses upon France and its affairs, which, although in some respects fanciful, display much penetration. On his return he quitted the Cardinal's service for no very apparent reason, and shortly afterwards entered the Duke's. This would bring him into more intimate relations with the Duke's sisters. One of these, Lucrezia, soon contracted, avowedly for reasons of state, a marriage with the Duke of Urbino; but Leonora, weak in health and devoted to good works, remained single. With her the romance of Tasso's life is associated; and although the belief that a presumptuous attachment occasioned his imprisonment is undoubtedly groundless, the attachment itself is the evident inspiration of much of his lyrical poetry:

"Lady, though cruel destiny deny
To follow you, and eager feet enchains,
Ever the heart ufion your vestige strains,
And save your tresses knows not any tie.

And as the birdling doyh attendant fly,
Lured by the hand that tempting food detains,
Moved by like cause it follows you and plains,
Pining for consolation from your eye.
Gently within your hand the roamer take
Into your breast, and let it nestle there,
Soothed to great blissfulness in narrow span,
Until at length its soul in song awake,
And its dear woe and your great worth declare
From Adria's shore to shores Etrurian."

Such verses are too deeply felt for mere compliment, and, if sincere, could only be addressed to some one much above himself in station. In another sonnet a consciousness of presumption is clearly indicated:

"Of Icarus and Phaethon hast read?
Thou'lt know how one was in these waters whirled,
When he with orient light would wake the world,
And with sun's fire endiadem his head;
That other in the sea, which rashly spread,
His waxen wings he voyaging unfurled;
So headlong evermore the man be hurled
Who ways divine with mortal foot would tread.
But who shall quake in difficult emprise
If Gods attend him? What is not allowed
To Love, who knits in one all things divine?
Forsaking heavenly spheres that sing and shine,
By him Diana to a shepherd bowed,
And Ida's youth was rapt unto the skies."

Neither Tasso nor Leonora, however, was of an amorous temperament; and there is no reason to suppose that he experienced any great difficulty in keeping his passion within Platonic bounds. The hidden flame may well have wrought him to the production of his unsurpassed Aminta in 1572–73. But in 1574 a severe illness marks an era in his life; he is never again quite the same man. In 1575 we encounter the first decided symptoms of an unsettled mind in querulousness and morbid suspicion, augmented, we may well believe, by the vexations attendant upon the revision of his now completed epic. He thought, and with justice, that he had written a truly religious poem, and he now found the ecclesiastical reaction demanding by the mouth of Silvio Antoniano, a type of the Roman Catholic Puritan of that ungenial day, that it should be adapted to the reading of monks and nuns. Solerti, his chief modern biographer, seems inclined to consider "his two years' warfare with bigotry and pedantry" the principal cause of his insanity; Carducci rather accuses his Jesuit education. Both were actual causes, more potent and malignant than his sentimental attachment to Leonora; but in truth the germ of insanity had always been latent in his brain, and the special occasion of its manifestation was comparatively immaterial.

Happily, as Settembrini justly distinguishes, it was not obscuration or decay, but exalted tension of the mind, and left the power of thinking and writing almost unimpaired, except under the influence of violent paroxysm. The disorder assumed the special form of morbid suspicion, a constant dread of inimical machinations, and self-accusation of imaginary heresies. He fled from Ferrara only to return; and at length (July 1579) a frenzied attack upon a retainer of the court necessitated his confinement as a lunatic. He would not have been subjected to the indignity of chains in our day, but the psychiatry of that age knew no better, and the best proof that its methods were not utterly perverse is the speedy restoration of his reason in a much greater measure than could have been hoped. At first he was unquestionably maniacal; but his state gradually became one of apparent sanity infested by delusions, to which many of the painful particulars alleged in his letters are to be ascribed. One prevailing hallucination was the frequent visitation of a familiar spirit, with whom he held long dialogues. His treatment improved with his mental condition; though sometimes, by the inattention of his custodians, as we must think, short of necessary food, he had comfortable apartments, was allowed to carry on an extensive and apparently uncontrolled correspondence, and produced enough excellent work, chiefly prose dialogues, to prove at least the enjoyment of numerous lucid intervals. At length, in July 1586, he was permitted to retire to Mantua. Alphonso appears to have behaved becomingly to the poet, considered merely as an unhappy vassal: it is no special reproach to him to have been neither an Alexander the Great nor a Wolfe to rightly appraise the comparative worth of the Jerusalem Delivered and the ducal crown of Ferrara.

The remainder of Tasso's life was spent in restless wanderings to and fro between courts and cities, like the tossings of a sick man who vainly seeks ease by shifting his position upon his couch. He could not live without a patron, and no patron long contented him. I would be tedious to tell how often he forsook and resought Mantua, Florence, Rome, Naples; he even made overtures of reconciliation to Ferrara. It was not his fault, but sheer mental infirmity, by which, however, his reason, though, frequently obscured or misled, was never again overthrown. At Naples his friend Manso heard a profound argument between him and his familiar spirit; both voices were his own, but of this Tasso was unconscious. He had completed and published his tragedy, Torrismondo, at Mantua in 1586; at Naples the exhortations of Manso's mother led him to compose his blank-verse poem on the Week of Creation (Il Mondo Creato), chiefly remarkable for its evident influence on the style and versification of Milton. The latter books, written in sickness, evince some languor, but no symptoms of disordered faculties appear, although the servility of the pseudo-religious sentiment painfully evinces how much ecclesiastical influences had enslaved him, and how he had fallen away from the free spirit of the Renaissance.

Another work of Tasso's decline, the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Delivered under the title of the Conquest of Jerusalem, although an error of judgment, yet rather indicates undue sensitiveness to criticism than insanity. Imperfect as the first editions had been, the Jerusalem had been received with enthusiasm, but had also excited much pedantic and some bigoted censure. The general result had been to convince Tasso that his poem was too romantic and not sufficiently epical; which, abstractedly considered, was true, but simply arose from the fact that his genius was rather romantic than epic. In endeavouring to bring his poem nearer Homer he led it away from Nature, and the beauties which he introduced bore no proportion to those which he retrenched. The new recension fell entirely flat, and is now almost unknown; although had the Jerusalem Delivered never been published, the Conquest would undoubtedly have gained Tasso a considerable name. It was dedicated to a new patron. Cardinal Cinthio Aldobrandini, nephew of Pope Clement VIII., and all allusions to the house of Este, for whose heritage the Pope, "hushed in grim repose," was patiently waiting, were carefully expunged. Cinthio proved a kind and considerate patron; and Clement, who was endowed with a regal instinct for doing the right thing at the right time, was on the point of honouring Tasso with a public coronation after the example of Petrarch, when on April 25, 1595, death removed him from earthly honours and indignities in the convent of San Onofrio, where he had for some time found an asylum, and where the crown which should have arrayed his temples was placed upon his bier.

Apart irom the failings without which he Would hardly have been a poet, and the infirmities for which it would, be unjust to make him responsible, Tasso's deportment throughout life was that of an amiable, high-minded, and accomplished gentleman. Two defects alone produce a painful impression—the entire lack of any sense of humour, and the apparent indifference to all public interests outside of court and ecclesiastical life. The former of these was congenital, irremediable, and bitterly expiated by the undignified predicaments in which it involved him; the latter would not have existed if he had lived in a better age. He did, indeed, like Spenser and Tennyson, attribute a didactic and allegorical purpose to his poem which may have been patent to his own mind, but with which no reader, if not a commentator also, ever concerned himself. Yet the significance of the Jerusalem Delivered does not solely consist in the beauty of the language and the exquisiteness of the characters; although an artificial, it is in some sense a national epic. Thanks mainly to the pressure of foreign tyrants, Protestantism and the Renaissance both had for the time been crushed in Italy, and the Italian poet who would be national must write in the spirit of the reaction. Catholicism was putting forth its utmost strength to drive back the Ottoman and the heretic; and although, when Tasso began his Jerusalem, he could have foreseen neither Lepanto nor the St. Bartholomew, it is a remarkable instance of the harmony which pervades all human affairs, that both should have happened ere he had completed it. Had either been the subject of his poem, the result would have been utter failure; but the great theme of the Crusades exhibits the dominant thought of his own day exalted to a commanding elevation, set at an awful distance, and purged of all contemporary littleness; transfigured in the radiance of poetry and history. A nobler subject for epic song could not well be found, save for the defect which it shares with almost all epics which have been created by study and reflection, and have not, like the Iliad, grown spontaneously out of the heart and mind of a great people. The principal action is insufficient for the poem, and needs to be eked out and adorned by copious episodes. The Æneid would present a poor figure without the burning of Troy, the death of Dido, and Æneas's descent to the shades; the Jerusalem is still more indebted to Clorinda and Armida, and the embellishment is still more loosely connected with the poem's ostensible purpose. Tasso's genius was in many respects truly epical; yet, the nearer he approaches lyric or pastoral, the more thoroughly he seems at home. That his Saracens should be more interesting than his Christians, and his Christians most interesting when least Christian, was perhaps inevitable. It is a proof of the essential excellence of human nature that, unless in very extreme cases, its sympathies are always most readily enlisted by the weaker side. Homer himself could not avoid making Hector more attractive than Achilles. Another defect lay less in the nature of things than in the spirit of the age, the occasional anticipation of the false taste of the seventeenth century. Italy was weary of the elegant exteriors and empty interiors of the compositions of Bembo and Molza. A Wordsworth, arising to proclaim a return to nature, might have endowed her with a new age of great literature, but the circumstances of the time absolutely forbade any such apparition, and the craving for vitality and vigour had to be appeased by a show of intellectual dexterity and mere exaggeration. Tasso betrays just enough of the premonitory symptoms of this literary plague to call down the wrath of Boileau, whose outrageous denunciation has been remembered where measured reproof would have been forgotten.

When all has been said that can be said, the Jerusalem Delivered remains a very great poem, the greatest of all the artificial epics after the Æneid and Paradise Lost (for Ariosto's poem, so frequently paralleled with it, is not an epic at all). That Tasso should approach Virgil more nearly than any other poet is perhaps unfortunate for him; the Jerusalem and the Æneid constantly admit of comparison, and wherever comparison is possible the former is a little behind. To compare Tasso with Milton seems almost profanation; and indeed, if, as so often assumed, the greatness of an epic poet is to be measured by his sublimity, the Jerusalem is entirely out of the field. Milton is the sublimest of non-dramatic poets after Homer: Tasso, always dignified and sometimes grand, rarely attains sublimity, and falls particularly short of it in the description of the infernal council, where comparison with Milton is most obvious. Yet he has advantages which it would be unjust to deny. He has not, like Milton, proposed to himself an unattainable object: he has not to justify the ways of God to man, but to recount the conquest of Jerusalem. He is more uniform in merit: it cannot be said of his poem that the catastrophe takes place in the middle, and that the interest steadily declines thenceforth.

What, however, especially distinguishes Tasso, not only from Milton, but from modern epic poets in general, is the number and excellence of his characters, mostly of his own creation. Rinaldo, Tancred, Argante, Emireno, Solimano, Clorinda, Armida, Erminia, form a gallery of portraits whose picturesqueness and variety redeem Tasso's inferiority in other respects; while at the same time, even were his canvas less brilliantly occupied, it could not be said that his poem wanted either the unity, the interest, the dignity, the just proportion, the poetical spirit, the elevated diction, or the harmonious versification essential to a great epic. The great defect of the poem, regarded as an epic, is that Tasso's bent, like Virgil's, was rather towards the pathetic, the picturesque, and the romantic, than towards the sublime and majestic. He can command dignity and grandeur en occasion; but, even as the Æneid opens most readily at Dido, Marcellus, or Euryalus, so the Jerusalem attracts most by its female characters, Erminia, Clorinda, and Armida. Armida is a charming personage, an improvement upon the Alcina of Ariosto, but a passage like the following, rendered by Miss Ellen Clerke, would be more appropriately placed in an Orlando or an Odyssey than in an epic on so high and grave a theme as the redemption of the holy city from the unbeliever:

"Arrived on shore, he in review doth pass
The spot with eager glance, but nought descries,
Save caves and water-flowers, and trees and grass,
So deems himself befooled; but in such wise
The place doth tempt—such charms did nature mass
Together there—that on the sward he lies,
His forehead from its heavy armour eases,
And bares it to the sweet and soothing breezes.
Then of a gurgling murmur he was 'ware
Wiihin the stream, and thither turned his eyes,
And saw a ripple in 'mid current there
Whirl round about itself in eddying guise,
And thence emerge a glint of golden hair,
And thence a maiden's lovely face uprise;
Her voice the ear enthralled, her face the vision,
And heaven hung tranced upon her notes Elysian.
And now the false one's song of treacherous wile
Overpowers the youth with slumberous heaviness,
And by degrees that serpent base and vile
Subdues his senses with o'ermastering stress,
Nor death's still mimicry, wrought by her guile,
Could thunders rouse from; other sounds far less.
Then the foul sorceress from her ambush showing,
Stands over him, with hate and fury glowing.
But as she gazing scans the gentle sighs,
The stir of whose soft breathing she can mark,
The smile that lurked around the beauteous eyes,
Now closed (what then their living glances dark?),
She pauses thrilled, then droops in tender guise,
Beside him—quenched her hatred's every spark,
As rapt above that radiant brow inclining,
She seems Narcissus o'er the fountain pining.
The dew of heat there starting, she ne'er tires
With tender fingers in her veil to dry;
While his cheek softly fanning, she desires
The heat to temper of the summer sky;

Thus (who could have believed it?) smouldering fires
Of hidden orbs dissolved the frosty whereby
That adamantine heart its core did cover,
And the harsh foe becomes the tender lover.

Pale privet, roses red, and lilies white,
Perennial blooming on that lovely shore,
Blent with strange art, she wove in fetters light
Yet close of clasp, and flung them softly o'er
His neck and arms and feet; thus helpless quite
She bound and held him fast, and sleeping bore
Unto the prison of her car aerial,
And carried in swift flight through realms ethereal."

Few of the great artificial epics of the world, those which have not been moulded out of songs and legends welling up spontaneously fronx the heart of the people, can sustain very strict criticism of their poetical economy, and the Jerusalem Delivered perhaps less than any other. The subject of the Crusades, indeed, is a very great one, too vast even to be embraced in a single poem; and the capture of Jerusalem, though of all its incidents incomparably the most fit for poetical treatment, is not of itself sufficiently extensive for an epic poem. It must consequently be enriched by episodes, which in Tasso's hands have the double fault of jarring with the spirit of the main action, and of obscuring its due predominance by their superior attractiveness. It might perhaps have been otherwise if Tasso had been cast in the mould of Milton or had lived in an austerer age. Italian poetry, however, was so saturated by the influence of Petrarch and Ariosto that any embellishments of the chief action must of necessity partake of the character of love and romance. The former class, however charming in themselves, inevitably depressed the character of an epic so largely depending upon them as the Jerusalem, below that proper to an heroic poem. The romance and sorcery, though recommended to Tasso as introducing the supernatural, then considered indispensable to epic poetry, provoke criticism by their inconsistency. If the enchanters Ismeno and Armida could do so much, they might have done a great deal more. Ismeno has all the infernal hosts at his command, and makes hardly any use of them. Pluto is a most lazy and incompetent devil. Armida might easily have made her magic island impregnable. The whole contrivance of the enchanted wood, though full of descriptive beauties, is weak as poetical machinery; it could have offered no real obstacle to the Christians. And it is almost comical to observe that amid all the confusion the venerable Peter the Hermit knows perfectly well what is to happen, can remedy every misfortune when he chooses, and could have prevented it but for the convenience of the poet, more inexorable than the fiat of the Fates.

The merit of the Jerusalem, then, consists mainly in details whose beauty requires no exposition. Mention has already been made of the merit of the character-painting, which greatly surpasses Ariosto's. The latter's personages are in comparison puppets; Tasso's are living men and women. The passion of love in the three principal female characters is exquisitely painted, and admirably discriminated in accordance with the disposition of each. Erminia, in particular, calls up the sweetest image conceivable of womanly tenderness and devotion. Rinaldo is less interesting than he should have been; but Tancred is the mirror of chivalry; and the difficulty of delineating a perfect hero without provoking scepticism or disgust is overcome as nearly as possible in the character of Goffredo. The veteran Raimondo's insistence upon the post of honour and danger; the indomitable spirit of Solimano; the circumspect valour of Emireno, devoid of illusion, and with no aim but the fulfilment of duty—are noble traits, and the more so as the poet found them in himself. The very last incident in the poem, Goffredo's interference to save his gallant enemy Altamoro, is one that could have occurred to no one less noble and courteous than the author of the Jerusalem. It is very different from Bradamante's behaviour to Atlante in the Orlando Furioso.

Another honourable characteristic is Tasso's love of science and discovery, revealed by many passages in his minor poems and his dialogues, and in the Jerusalem by the noble prophecy of the Columbus to be. His sonnet to Stigliani, hereafter to be quoted, appears to hint that with better health and fortune he would himself have taken the exploits of Columluis as the subject of another epic; and he is said to have remarked that the only contemporary poet against whom he felt any hesitation in measuring himself was Camoens, the singer of the discoveries of the Portuguese. This theme, often essayed, and never with success, would have favoured Tasso's genius in so far as it exempted him from describing single combats and pitched battles. His battle-pieces are not ineffective, but he is evidently more at home among the sorceries of Armida's enchanted garden:

" 'Ah mark! he sang, 'the rose but now revealed,
Fresh from its veiling sheath of virgin green,
Unfolded yet but half, half yet concealed,
More fair to see, the less it may be seen.
Now view its bare and flaunting pride unsealed;
All faded now, as though it ne'er had been
The beauteous growth, that while it bloomed retired,
A thousand maids, a thousand youths desired.

'Thus passeth in the passing of a day

Life's flower, with green and roseate tints imbued:
Think not, since Spring leads back the laughing May,
The mortal bloom shall likewise be renewed.
Cull we the rose in morning's prime, ere grey
Dims the fair vaults and cloud and gloom intrude.
Cull we Love's roses in the hour approved,
When whoso loves may hope to be beloved.'

He ceased, and with one voice the feathered choir,
Applauding as it seemed, resume their strain;
Again the billing, amorous doves suspire,
And every creature turns to love again;[1]
Chaste laurel burns, the thrilling sap mounts higher
In rugged oaks, light foliage flutters fain;
And earth and ocean seem to throb and move
With softest sense and sweetest sighs of Love."

The alterations introduced by Tasso when he remodelled his epic amount to an admission of the justice of the charges brought against him, of having deviated too much into picturesque episodes, and been, in short, too lyrical. It might therefore have been expected that he would have taken a supreme place in lyrical poetry, and the anticipation would have been confirmed by the triumph of his Aminta. It is not entirely justified by his other lyrical performances; few of his numerous canzoni and multitudinous sonnets being absolutely in the front rank. The cause is probably want of concentration; he was always ready with a sonnet at call, and composed far too many upon petty and trivial occasions. His best lyrics, nevertheless, have a property which no other Italian poetry possesses in like measure—a certain majestic vehemence, like that of a mighty river, or what Shakespeare describes as "the proud full sail of his great verse." It has even been argued, mainly on the strength of "that affable familiar ghost," that Tasso was the rival of whom Shakespeare complains; however this may be, no description could better express the peculiarity of his lyrical style. The manner, unfortunately, is often far in advance of the matter. There is no more splendid example, for instance, than his "Coronal"[2] of sonnets, where a sonority and impetuosity that might have celebrated the battle of Lepanto are squandered upon the house of Este. The same qualities, however, are always present when his feelings are deeply moved, as when he accompanies in thought his lady to the verge of the sea:

"Silver and diamond and gem and gold—
Wealth from wrecks anciently by tempests rent—
And coral of its own with pearl besprent,
The sea in homage at thy feet uprolled;—
For whom might Jupiter again be bold
In shape of bull to plough the element—
And, foaming at thy feet in billows spent,
With liquid tongue its murmuring story told:
O Nymph, O Goddess, not from cavemed bower
Of ocean sprung, but heaven, who canst enchain
My seething turbulence, not now the power
Of gentle moon conducts the obedient main,
But thine; fear nothing; I but swell to shower
My gifts, and turn me to my deeps again."

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

  1. "Ogni animal di amar si riconsiglia." A line taken bodily out of Petrarch.
  2. A series of twelve sonnets on the same subject, interlinked by each successive piece beginning with the last line of the preceding.