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We are now arrived at the commencement of the sixteenth century. But before I proceed to a formal and particular examination of the poetry of that century, and of those that follow, some preliminary considerations of a more general nature, and which will have a reference to all the remaining part of our history, for the purpose of preparing the reader, and facilitating our future inquiries, appear to be necessary.
On a retrospect of the fifteenth century, we find much poetry written during the latter part of that period. It is certain, that the recent introduction into England of the art of typography, to which our countrymen afforded the most liberal encouragement, and which for many years was almost solely confined to the impression of English books, the fashion of translating the classics from French versions, the growing improvements of the English language, and the diffusion of learning among the laity, greatly contributed to multiply English composition, both in prose and verse. These causes, however, were yet immature; nor had they gathered a sufficient degree of power and stability, to operate on our literature with any vigorous effects.
But there is a circumstance, which, among some others already suggested, impeded that progression in our poetry, which might yet have been expected under all these advantages. A revolution, the most fortunate and important in most other respects, and the most interesting that occurs in the history of the migration of letters, now began to take place; which, by diverting the attention of ingenious men to new modes of thinking, and the culture of new languages, introduced a new course of study, and gave a temporary check to vernacular co:nposition. This was the revival of classical learning.
In the course of these annals we must have frequently remarked, from time to time, striking symptoms of a restless disposition in the human mind to rouse from its lethargic state, and to break the bonds of barbarism. After many imperfect and interrupted efforts, this mighty deliverance, in which the mouldering Gothic fabrics of false religion and false philosophy fell together, was not effectually completed till the close of the fifteenth century. An event, almost fortuitous and unexpected, gave a direction to that spirit of curiosity and discovery, which had not yet appeared in its full force and extent, for want of an object. About the year 1453, the dispersion of the Greeks, after Constantinople had been occupied by the Turks, became the means of gratifying that natural love of novelty, which has so frequently led the way to the noblest improvements, by the introduction of a new language and new books; and totally changed the state of letters in Europe'.
This great change commenced in Italy; a country, from many circumstances, above all others peculiarly qualified and prepared to adopt such a deviation. Italy, during the darkest periods of monastic ignorance, had always maintained a greater degree of refinement and knowledge than any other European country. In the thirteenth century, when the manners of Europe appear to have been overwhelmed with every species of absurdity, its luxuries were less savage, and its public spectacles more rational, than those of France, England, and Germany. Its inhabitants were not only enriched, but enlightened, by that flourishing state of commerce, which its commodious situation, aided by the combination of other concomitant ad
I But it should be remembered, that insults of these barbarians, came into some learned Grecians, foreseeing the England to seck redress or protection persecutions impending over their coun from Henry the Fourth. He landed try, frequented Italy, and taught their at Dover, attended by many learned language there, before the taking of Greeks; and the next day was honourConstantinople. Some Greeks who at- abiy received at Christ-church priory at tended the Florentine council, and never Canterbury, by the prior, Thomas Chylreturned for fear of the Turks, founded leaden. In a manuscript called SPECCthe prevent royal library in the city of LUM PARVULORUM, lib. 5. c. 30. MSS. Turenne. In the year 1401, the Greek Bibl. Lambeth. emperor, una
to resist the frequent
vantages, contributed to support. Even from the time of the irruptions of the northern barbarians, some glimmerings of the antient erudition still remained in this country; and in the midst of superstition and false philosophy, repeated efforts were made in Italy to restore the Roman classics. To mention no other instances, Alberti Mussato m of Padua, and a commander in the Paduan army against the Veronese, wrote two Latin tragedies, ECERRINIS", or the fate of the tyrant Ecerinus of Verona, and ACHILLEIS, on the plan of the Greek drama, and in imitation of Seneca, before the year 1320. The many monuments of legitimate sculpture and architecture preserved in Italy, had there kept alive ideas of elegance and grace; and the Italians, from their familiarity with those precious remains of antiquity, so early as the close of the fourteenth century, had laid the rudiments of their perfection in the antient arts. Another circumstance which had a considerable share in clearing the way for this change, and which deserves particular attention, was the innovation introduced into the Italian poetry by Petrarch: who, inspired with the most elegant of passions, and cloathing his exalted feelings on that delicate subject in the most melodious and brilliant Italian versification, had totally eclipsed the barbarous beauties of the Provencial troubadours; and by this new and powerful magic, had in an eminent degree contributed to reclaim, at least for a time, the public taste, from a love of Gothic manners and romantic imagery.
In this country, so happily calculated for their favourable reception, the learned fugitives of Greece, when their empire was now destroyed, found shelter and protection. Hither they
* He was honoured with the laurel, tural Causes and Fate. And three books and died 1329.
in heroic verse, on the War against the * Printed at Venice, 1636. fol. with Veronese above mentioned. The name his EpistoLÆ, ELEGI, SOLILOQUIA, Ec- and writings of Mussato were hardly LOGÆ, CENTO OVIDIANUS, Latin History known, till they were brought forward of Italy, and Bavarus ad Filium. And to the public notice in the Essay ON in Muratori's Rer. ITAL. SCRITTOR. Pope; which I shall not be accused of tom. x. Mediolan. 1727. P. 1. 123. 569. partiality, as I only join the voice of the 769. 785. See also in THESAUR. Ital. world, in calling the most agreeable and tom. vi. part ii. Lugd. Bat. 1722. Among judicious piece of Criticism produced by his inedited works are mentioned, LIBER the present age. DE LITE NATURÆ ET FORTUNA, on Na
imported, and here they interpreted, their antient writers, which had been preserved entire at Constantinople. These being eagerly studied by the best Italian scholars, communicated a taste for the graces of genuine poetry and eloquence; and at the same time were instrumental in propagating a more just and general relisha for the Roman poets, orators, and historians. In the mean time a more elegant and sublime philosophy was adopted : a philosophy more friendly to works of taste and imagination, and more agreeable to the sort of reading which was now gaining ground. The scholastic subtleties, and the captious logic of Aristotle, were abolished for the mild and divine wisdom of Plato.
It was a circumstance, which gave the greatest splendour and importance to this new mode of erudition, that it was encouraged by the popes: who, considering the encouragement of literature as a new expedient to establish their authority over the minds of men, and enjoying an opulent and peaceable dominion in the voluptuous region of Italy, extended their patronage on this occasion with a liberality so generous and unreserved, that the court of Rome on a sudden lost its austere character, and became the seat of elegance and urbanity. Nicholas the Fifth, about the year 1440, established public rewards at Ronie for composition in the learned languages, appointed professors in humanity, and employed intelligent persons to traverse all parts of Europe in search of classic manuscripts buried in the monasteries. It was by means of the munificent support of pope Nicholas, that Cyriac of Ancona, who may be considered as the first antiquary in Europe, was enabled to introduce a taste for gems, medals, inscriptions, and other curious remains of classical antiquity, which he collected with indefatigable labour in various parts of Italy and Greece P.
• See“ Dominei Georgii DISSERTATIO Baluz. MISCELL. tom. vi. p. 539. Ant. de Nich. quinti erga Lit. et Literat. Vi. Augustini Draloc. DE NUMISMAT. ix. xi. ros Patrocinio." Rom. 1742. 4to. Added Voss. de HISTOR. Lat. p. 809. His to his LIFE.
ITINERARIUM was printed at Florence, P See Fr. Burmanni Præfat. ad In- hy L. Nehus, 1742. 8vo. See Leon. scription. Gruterian. Amstel. 1707. fol. Aretini Eristol. tom. ii. lib. ix. p. 149.
He allowed Francis Philelphus, an elegant Latin poet of Italy, about 1450, a stipend for translating Homer into Latin Leo the Tenth, not less conspicuous for his jaunificence in restoring letters, descended so far from his apostolical digcity, as to be a spectator of the POENULUS of Plautus ; which was performed in a temporary theatre in the court of the capitol, by the flower of the Roman youth, with the addition of the most costly den eorațions": and Leo, while he was pouring the thunder of his anathemas against the heretical doctrines of Martin Luther, published a bulle of excommunication against all those who should dare to censure the poems of Ariosto *. It was under the pontificate of Leo, that a perpetual indulgence was granted for rebuilding the church of a monastery, which possessed a manuscript of Tacitus. It is obvious to observe, how little conformable, this just taste, these elegant arts, and these new amusements, proved in their consequences to the spirit of the papal system: and it is remarkable, that the court of Roine, whose sole design and interest it had been for so many centuries, to enslave the minds of men, should be the first to restore the religious and intellectual liberties of Europe. The apostolical fathers, aiming at a fatal and ill-timed popularity, did not And GIORNAL. de' Letterati d'Italin. of the Duchess of Mantua. It was tom. xxi. p. 428. See the COLLECTION acted by noble youths in the spacious of Inscriptions, by P. Apianus, and B. apartments of the Vatican, and Leo was Amantius, Ingridstat. 1634. fol. at the placed in a sort of throne. Jov. in Vit. Monum. GADITAN.
, Philelph. Epist. xxiv. 1. xxxvi. I. *(This bull of Leo's was nothing In the EPISTLE of Philelphus, and in more than the customnary papal license his ten books of Satires in Latin verse, for printing the work; and in which was are many curious particulars relating to included the usual denunciation against the literary history of those times. Venet. those who might attempt to pirate it. fol. 1502. His Nicolaus, or two books See Mr. Roscoe's Life of Leo X. vol. iv. of Lyrics, is a panegyric on the life and - Enit.] acts of pope Nicholas the Fifth.
Paulus Jovius relates an anecdote of " It was in the year 1513, on occasion pope Leo the Tenth, which shews that of Julian Medicis, Leo's brother, being some passages in the classics were studied made free of Rome. P. Jovius, Hist. at the court of Rome to very bad purlib. xi, ad calc. And Vir. Leon. lib. iii. poses. I must give it in his own words. p. 145. Jovius says, that the actors were « Non caruit etiam infamia, quod parum Romanæ juventutis Lepidissimi. And that honeste nonnullos e cubiculariis suis several pieces of poetry were recited at (erant enim e tota Italia nobilissimi) the same time. Leo was also present at adamare, et cum his tenerius atque lian Italian comedy, written by cardinal bere jocari videretur." In Vita Leonis Bibienna, called CALANDER, in lionour X. p. 192.