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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, 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.
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
chiuso umor fervente
a poco a poco ;
Poi con impeto ratto e violente,
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 inflame 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
poem, from which it appears that Tasso, even at that early age, felt what a fine subject for an Epic the Crusades were: for, in the first canto, he proposes to sing the glories of the Cardinal Luigi d'Este, when, on bis exaltation to the papal throne, he shall proclaim a Crusade for the deliverance of Jerusalem.
“ Ma quando il crin di tre corone cinto
C. I. st. 6.
Art. VI.—Psyche: or Love's Misterie. In Twenty Cantos: Displaying the Intercourse between Christ and the Soule.
ο Θεός 'Αγάπη εστί,
S. Greg. Naz. de Carminibus suis. By Joseph Beaumont, Master in Arts, and Ejected Fellow of S. Peter's College, in Cambridge. London, Printed by John Dawson for George Boddington, and to be sold at his Shop in
Chancery-lane, near Serjeants-Inn. 1648.* Psyche : or Love's Mystery, in XXIV. Cantos : displaying, &c.
By Joseph Beaumont, D.D. late King's Professor of Divinity, and Master of St. Peter's College in Cambridge. The Second Edition, with- corrections throughout, and Four new Cantos, never before printed. Cambridge, printed at the UniversityPress, for Thomas Bennet, at the Half-Moon in St. Paul's Church-Yard, London, 1702.
The “ Psyche” of Dr. Beaumont, and the “Philosophical Poem” of Dr. Henry More (reviewed in our Tenth Number,
* In some copies another title-page is pasted over the first, without motto or publisher's name, containing the date 1652, and the name of Francis Beaumont, without any addition, as the author. This has obviously been an artifice of the bookseller's, to pass off an
p. 223) deserve to be associated together, as the two most considerable efforts of English poetry during the era of the Commonwealth. There are, indeed, many other points of resemblance between the two poems. Both were the work of retired scholars, devout and simple-minded men, in whose minds learning and piety formed an amicable union; both were written under the inspiration of a high moral purpose, with little view to profit or reputation, or to any thing but the promotion of truth and virtue. They resemble each other, too, in their didactic prolixity, of which they are almost unique specimens. In other points, however, there is considerable difference between the two works. The tone of Beaumont's poem
is more purely devotional ; in that of his contemporary, the philosophical or argumentative preponderates. More's general manner is dry and hard, with but little of that sparkling though illregulated fancy which enlivens the poetry of Beaumont. His stream rolls in a deeper channel, but it is ever and anon losing itself in the swamps of metaphysical disputation; that of Beaumont, though somewhat shallow, is always visible, always clear, and always sparkling. On the other hand, More, in the few passages where his genius finds an unobstructed field to exercise itself in, shews himself the far higher poet. There is nothing in Beaumont equal to some of the extracts quoted in the article abovementioned, and which are not unworthy of an English Lucretius. Thus, too, in minor points ; though Beaumont's language and rhyme are in general more correct than More's, yet, in select passages, the latter displays a beauty and variety of both, far surpassing that of his rival.
“Psyche,” however, is deserving of notice on various accounts; among others, it possesses the singular distinction of being (to the best of our knowledge) the longest poem in the English language. The number of lines it contains is nearly forty thousand; or rather (to speak with all possible accuracy on so important a point) 38,922, and, including the metrical arguments, 39,066 ; being considerably longer than the “Faërie Queene,” nearly four times the lengtă of Paradise Lost," or Henry More's poem; five or six times as long as the “Excursion,” and reducing the versified novels of modern times to utter insignificance. We have purposely limited the remark to our own language, and the range of our own personal reading : what krakens may lie in the unexplored ocean beyond, it is
unsaleable work by attributing it to the more celebrated Beaumont. There were also two other Francis Beaumonts of the same family, both poets, contemporary with the dramatist.-Some copies of
Psyche" have also the date 1651 (with some other trifling variations), probably to give the book an appearance of novelty.
impossible for us to guess. In the continental languages, which are, for the most part, more fruitful in ponderosities than ours, it is not improbable that many instances of rival, or even superior prolixity, may be found. Conrad of Würzburg, an early German poet, is said to have written an epic on the Trojan war, of which the first twenty-five thousand verses brought the action down to the sacrifice of Iphigenia. A similar story is told of Antimachus, of Colophon. And the “Shah-nameh” of Ferdusi, according to the estimate given in our account of that poet, (No. VIII, p. 204-5) contains no less than a hundred and twenty thousand verses ; an aggregate sufficient, if bulk were the criterion of excellence, to weigh down the whole collective body of our western heroics.
In our own days, when brevity (at least in these matters) is so generally considered indispensable, we are apt to wonder how our forefathers could find time or patience for the perusal, much more for the composition, of such productions as the one before us. True it is, that they had much fewer books to read, and could, consequently, tolerate a greater degree of diffuseness in those which they were called upon to peruse. Moreover, copiousness was as much the fashion in those days, as brevity (we hesitate to say conciseness) is in ours; nor was extraordinary length considered objectionable in a poem, any more than in a sermon or a system of philosophy. Their taste, too, was purer-we speak of the readers of poetry as a body, and as compared with the corresponding class in our own times. - They required no interest of story, or other adventitious aid, to make poetry palatable; it was enough for them that it was poetry. A poem, according to their ideas, (we will not say how far they were right,) was nothing more than a series of verses written under the genuine influence of the imaginative power; it was a line, not a circle--and the line might stretch out to infinity for any thing they cared, provided only the materials were golden throughout. Among modern poems, Keate's “Endymion” is the most complete case in point; a work belonging to the seventeenth century, full of inspiration, and altogether destitute of factitious allurements. It may be safely maintained, for the reasons here mentioned, that this poem could never have attained general popularity in our own age, even had it escaped the tender mercies of the critics in office. So, too, with the writers of poetry; they felt little solicitude as to the track they should select, or the lengths to which it might lead them, so long as they proceeded under the visible guidance of the animating god; they followed whithersoever their fancies invited them, and wrote on, and on, with a tranquil and well-placed confidence in the patience of their readers. Books of such a kind possess this peculiar advan