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E 'l mondo del mio mal tutto rinvedesi, pensa prego al bel viver preterito, Se nel passar di lete amor non perdesi."
The Eclogues consist chiefly of metaphysical and metaphorical discussions on the varieties and degrees of amorous misery, the beauty and coldness of shepherdesses, and consequent harmonious despair of pastors; the fidelity of dogs, the fierceness of wolves, the freshness of the morning, mid-day heats and evening shade, fill up the pauses in the sighing and weeping; which latter is sometimes on so large a scale, that Elpino, not the most lachrymose, declares
"Ben mille notti ho gia passate in pianto,
What a treasure to a grazing country! with proper locks (not of his mistress) what a system of irrigation!
As a specimen of the versification, we subjoin the follow
Per pianto la mia carne si distilla
O come al vento si disfà la nebbia
Nè so che far mi debbia
Or pensate al mio mal qual' esser deve.
Or pensate al mio mal qual' esser deve,
O come fuoco in acqua mi disfaccio
Nè cerco uscir, dal laccio,
Sì m'è dolce il tormento, e'l pianger gioco.
Sì m'è dolce il tormento, e'l pianger gioco.
E cantando, e ballando, al suon languisco,
Così vuol mia ventura, over mio fallo.
Così vuol mia ventura, over mio fallo,
Che vo sempre cogliendo
Di piaggia in piaggia fiori, o fresche erbette
Ecerco un Tigre umiliar piangendo."
which Uriano concludes in a more lively manner than we had any reason to hope.
"I' ho del pane, e più cose altre in tasca,
Such is the Arcadia, or more correctly, such is our view of it. We should appear extravagantly laudatory, if we were to mete to it its full measure of applause, when considered with regard to the age of the author, and the productions which were contemporary with it. It is written in the most choice Italian, and, as an imitation of the ancients, must stand in the first rank. A critic of the sixteenth century would have appreciated every variety of its grief, every new form of expression, and each step taken aside from the path of his great precursors of lamentation: but now, if we possessed the inclination to do thus, we should toil alone upon an unfruitful soil. Correctness of language, beauty of description, and melody of verse, are almost the only claim such works retain on our notice they do not, by pictures of the efforts or endurance of virtue, fortify or improve the soul, nor, by singularity of truth, of character, and incident, amuse it; they are the chroniclers of no time, of no nation; the imitation of an imitation; unlike every state of society, but most unlike the period in which they abounded, dissolute and ravaged Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But this objection applies to the subject, not to the author: he could not foresee that the simplest letter about his household affairs, or a sketch of his native city, and of the peasants about him, with their occupations and opinions, would be hereafter more valued than the most glowing picture of the most dilettevole piano of Arcadia, with its most faithful swains he could not know th
"un giorno S'apparecchia a voltarti in riso il pianto."
And though we cannot, with our cui bono minds, altogether applaud his pursuits or his choice, we are sure we should have been delighted to have known the man, who, in that jarring, guilty, and ambitious time, could turn the key of his study upon the world, and sit down placidly between Virgil and The
ART. IV.-The Defence of Poesy, by Sir Philip Sidney, Knt. 12mo. 1752.
Some time ago-(we are almost afraid to remember how long)-we held forth a sort of half promise, that Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesy should form the subject of a paper in our work. We now proceed to the fulfilment of that promise;-not, however, without taking something like blame to ourselves for having so long delayed it,-for if ever there was a work more than most others calculated to delight and benefit general readers, and at the same time less than most others known and appreciated by them, it is the Defence of Poesy. Indeed the somewhat cold and metaphysical character of Sir Philip Sidney's poetry, and the "high fantastical" style which he chose to adopt in his great work, the Arcadia, however they might be suited to the taste of the times in which he lived, were pretty sure to sink his writings generally into an undeserved obscurity, in an age like the present, the characteristic of whose literary style is simplicity-not to say an affectation of it. And in withdrawing themselves from that general gaze which they never courted, and for which, indeed, they were never intended, the above works- (viz. the Arcadia and the Poems of Sidney)-have carried with them one which in fact was written expressly for the public, and which, as far as its style is concerned, might have been written for the public of the present day. Be it our business, therefore, to present it to that public afresh; and in doing so, let us be allowed the privilege of saying a few words as to the character and pretensions of the stranger we are introducing.
One would think, that to write a " Defence of Poesy," were something like writing" an Apology for the Bible." And yet it appears that this was considered necessary, by the most poetical person of the most poetical age that England, or any other country, ever knew. It must be remembered, however, that the exact period to which we are now referring was but the early dawn of the bright Elizabethan day,-Shakspeare and the great dramatists having scarcely as yet commenced their immortal labours, and Sidney himself being, with the exception of Spencer, the best poet of the time. That this noble defence of his high art had some share in bringing forward the glories that followed so close upon its appearance, as well as in preparing the way for the due reception and appreciation of those glories, is what can scarcely be doubted; and that it was intended and calculated so to do, is certain: for, of all the characteristics that
belong to it, that of a fervid sincerity, speaking from the heart to the heart, is its most striking. In other respects, the excellencies of this admirable Essay are equally conspicuous, whether we regard the purity and simplicity of its style, the strength and soundness of its reasoning, the rich fervor of its eloquence, or the variety and aptness of its illustrations. In short, nothing is wanting to make the Defence of Poesy a piece of writing that, in a similar space, is not to be paralelled in our language. And regarding it as an Essay on the nature, objects, and effects of Poetry as an art, it is also beyond comparison the most complete work of the kind which we possess, even up to the present day;-which is not a little singular, considering that it was written before we had achieved a poetry of our own, and at a period, too, when it appears that the art itself was held in but slight respect at all events, if not in mere contempt. Unless there was a little of affectation in Sir Philip Sidney's estimate of the respect, or rather the disrespect, that was paid to poets and to poetry in his day-if he was not purposely placing them at a lower ebb than they had actually reached, in order that he might claim the more credit for stepping forward to their aid(and that he could be guilty, even unconsciously, of such insincerity, is scarcely to be believed of him)-then must there, indeed, have been occasion for his interference, and the work before us was not unduly named a " Defence of Poesy." Hear what he says on this part of the subject: And yet I must say, that as I have more just cause to make a pitiful* defence of poor poetry, which, from almost the highest estimation of learning, is fallen to be the laughing-stock of children, &c."—" But, truly, now, having named him, (David,) I fear I seem to prophane that holy name, applying it to poetry, which is, amongst us, thrown down to so ridiculous an estimation."-" And now, that an over-faint quietness should seem to strew the house for poets, they are almost in as good estimation as the mountebanks at Venice.".
If such was the condition of poetry and its practicers at the period in question, it was worthy the romantic and chivalrous spirit of Sir Philip Sidney to step forward in their behalf; and, indeed, it was no more than was to be looked for from him, as a sworn friend to beauty and virtue in distress, and one who was always ready to break a lance in their cause not to mention that cause being in some degree his own-for, he says, at the outset of his Essay, "I will give you a nearer example of myself, who, I know not by what mischance, in these my not
old years and idlest times, having slipped into the title of a poet, am provoked to say something unto you in defence of that my unelected vocation, &c."
We see, from this, that his heart was in the cause; and therefore, while we are the better prepared to expect the hearty and efficient manner in which he pleads it, we are the less entitled to suppose that he would speak of it as holding a lower place in public estimation than it actually did hold.
Sir Philip Sidney, in the opening paragraph of his Essay, gives himself out as "a piece of a logician;" and, in fact, the Defence of Poesy may be regarded as a logical discourse, from beginning to end-interspersed here and there with a few of the more flowery parts of eloquence, but every where keeping in view the main objects of all logic and of all eloquence— namely, proof and persuasion. It is, in fact, contrary to the general notion that prevails concerning it in the minds of those who do not take the trouble of judging for themselves,—a sober and serious disquisition, almost entirely rejecting the foreign aid of ornament," and equally free from dogmatism and declamation. It is evidently the result of a deep conviction in the mind of the writer, and a strong desire to impress that conviction upon others-to impress it, however, in a manner that shall render it not merely a sentiment of the heart, or a theory of the brain, but a settled and active belief of the reason and the judgment. To this end Sir Philip Sidney not only examines the nature and objects of poetry as an art, and brings forward all the arguments that have been urged in its favour, but he weighs and examines those arguments fairly, and contrasts them with those which have been or may be alledged on the opposite side of the question; and finally rejects or admits, as the proofs may seem to preponderate. He begins by shewing the antiquity of poetry, and arguing for the consequent inference, that it was the parent and source of all other learning; and this he addresses to those learned of his own and of other days who have inveighed against poetry as a vain thing. "And will you play the hedge-hog, (says he) that being received into the den, drove out his host? or rather the vipers, that with their birth kill their parents ?-Let learned Greece, in any of her manifold sciences, be able to shew me one book before Musæus, Homer, and Hesiod-all three nothing else but poets. Nay, let any history be brought, that can say any writers were there before them, if they were not men of the same skill-as Linus, Orpheus, and some others, are named, who having been the first of that country that made pens deliverers of their knowledge to posterity, may justly challenge to be called their fathers in learning." And so he goes on, through the earliest