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the Italian Parnassus; for the greater the pleasure a translation affords, the more exquisite must be the delight derived from the perusal of the original poem. At any rate, my objections, no matter whether they be instinctive or a priori, have been effectively silenced by my conviction that Madame de' Lucchi's translations will bring about this much to be desired result. Of their inherent merit I would rather say nothing, for I am confident that all readers will be impressed by it even though they be not fully alive to the difficulties that a translator has to overcome. It will be found that the renderings are as faithful to the originals as the genius of the English, so different from the genius of the Italians, permits. They pleased me mainly because I could often detect and recognize at once, in spite of different phraseology, the familiar melody of the originals : in the same way readers of the translations will no doubt recognize as familiar the meaning and spirit of the originals when they come to study the Italian texts. That almost all will attempt such a task, and many a reader accomplish it, is, I think, certain, and surely no greater praise could be desired or a higher hope entertained by Madame de’ Lucchi.
About the selection itself I must say a little more. It will be manifest to all who are in a position to judge that Madame de' Lucchi has been at pains to make use of the most trustworthy editions of the original texts, thus rendering this anthology easily the best which has been published in England from the scholar's point of view. But could one expect to find specimens representative of all tendencies of Italian lyrical poetry in some eight score poems ? The Italian would be the poorest of literatures if one could ; and a much bulkier selec
; tion would still prove inadequate to such an ambitious undertaking. There is, however, enough that is both excellent and characteristic to render more undesirable. No small selection could be more satisfactory.
There are at least four chief subjects of lyrical poetry : love, religion or philosophy, politics, and nature. Of these four subjects only one has, I think, been somewhat sacrificed.
Italians are averse to parading their beliefs, and much of their religious and philosophic poetry is difficult and doctrinal, so that its omission is justified, even though certain poems of Dante or Campanella may be missed. There is a further difficulty which must be borne in mind. Much as Italians are disinclined to parade their beliefs, they are prone to make a show of their feelings and to indulge in a vein of Pan-like naturalism that would seem mere coarse ribaldry in an English rendering. Poems of this kind must needs be excluded from any English anthology, whether they be old popular lyrics, such as Bolognese lawyers were pleased to copy or Boccaccio to quote ; semi-literary“ canti carnascialeschi " such as “ Il Magnifico Lorenzo ” and his courtiers composed, poems full of passionate realism such as Ariosto wrote, skits and satires such as several of the poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not disdain to circulate. With few exceptions they are better ignored, though it is well to remember that they exist, for their existence explains an occasional realistic expression in more refined lyrics.
Likewise it would not be legitimate to infer from the fact that we have here no religious poems after St. Francis and Iacopone until Michelangelo, and after Michelangelo until Manzoni, that Italians and their poets were little affected by religion throughout those centuries. Such a conclusion has often been drawn, however, and on the strength of it the character of Italians has been unwarrantably extolled or maligned according to the personal bias of individual critics.
With these exceptions, which circumstances rendered unavoidable, the selection seems to me an adequate representation of Italian lyrical poetry. This poetry was tentative at its beginnings and was often under the influence of French and Provençal models : it acquired a distinct individuality when Aristotelian and Averrhoistic theories were allowed to recreate the conception of love, and made giant strides when Dante took over the lyre from Guinizelli and Cavalcanti ; it gained a new tenderness by the work of Cino and a miraculous power of minute introspection in the poems of Petrarch.
So far almost every poet had accepted or expounded in his verses a poetical theory. Petrarch was as remote as any of his forerunners from being a purely instinctive poet, but he elaborated his philosophy, for whatever it was worth, in his Latin treatises and not in his Italian lyrics, so that his teaching was overlooked or misunderstood by those who came after him, and who admired his Italian verse as much as they disapproved of his still immature Latin style. Į The pre-eminence of intellect among Italians was once more exemplified by the enormous popularity of Petrarch: no lyric could be written, as it seemed, which was not a conscious imitation of Laura's poet. Love, nature, and patriotism were described or exalted according to Petrarch's example; no subjects were deemed worthy of poetical treatment which Petrarch had not taken as his. Even the rugged Michelangiolo, the intimate Gasparina Stampa, or the melodious Tansillo show in varying degrees that they knew their Petrarch. The rediscovery of Aristotle's Poetics helped to crystallize imitation and to encourage the search after conceits, only the stronger personalities being able to resist the infection which prevailed during the long crisis out of which was evolved a new conception of the world. At the beginning of modern times, after the delicate artificiality of Arcadian poetry by means of which a veil was drawn over the tragic Italian despair, there gradually arose new voices : the voices of poets who aimed at improving society and at reawakening patriotism in Italians. Then a storm came from France, in the shape of a revolution, and swept the country; it brought with it an unwonted realization of facts : facts which turned Manzoni's mind to religion and hope, and which caused Leopardi to despair of Italy and mankind. The men of a later generation were too busy making the new Italy to have much leisure for verse, and their poems are of country and war; particularly Mameli's, Giusti's, and Poerio's. When Italy was once more united, the reality fell short of the dream, and during Carducci's long career he expressed in turn the rebellion of the youthful idealist and the resignation and compromise of more mature years.
Madame de' Lucchi's anthology suggests such reflections, and a reader who starts thinking about the history of Italian lyrical poetry will be readier to understand the aspirations and the feelings of the country which " has taken Madame de' Lucchi to her heart," and which is so often misunderstood, I will not say by whom more grievously, whether by those who ascribe to her romantic virtues that she never possessed or by others who charge her with vices and crimes of which she is innocent.