« הקודםהמשך »
E are now arrived at the commencement of the six
teenth 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 compofition, both in profe and verfe, 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 tem
porary check to vernacular composition. 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 ftate, and to break the bonds of barbarism. 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 kad 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 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,
1 But it Ihould be remembered, that some learned Grecians, foreseeing the persecutions impending over their country, frequented Italy, and taught their language there, before the taking of Constantinople. Some Greeks, who attended the Florentine council, and never returned for fear of the Turks, founded the present royal library in the city of Turenne. In the year 1401, the Greek cmperor, unable to resist the frequent insults
of these barbarians, came into England to seek redress or protection from Henry the fourth. He landed at Dover, attended by many learned Greeks; and the next day was honourably received at Christ-church priory at Canterbury, by the prior, Thomas Chyllenden. In a manuscript called Speculum PARVULORUM, lib. 5. c. 30. MSS. Bibl. Lambeth.
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 advantages, contributed to fupport. 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 falfe philosophy, repeated efforts were made in Italy to restore the Roman classics. To mention no other inftances, Alberti Muffato * of Padua, and a commander in the Paduan army against the Veronefe, 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 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 elo, quence; and at the same time were instrumental in
propa, gating a more just and general relish 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 fort 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, eftablished public rewards at Rome 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 .
• See u Dominei Georgii DISSERTATIO « Viros Patrocinio.” Rom. 1742. 4to. Add" de Nich. quinti erga Lite et Literat. ed to his Life.
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'. 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 munificence in restoring letters, descended so far from his apoftolical dignity, 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 decorations': 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, thàt a perpetual indulgence was granted for rebuilding the church of a monastery, which possessed a manuscript of Tacitus '.
P See Fr. Burmanni PRÆFAT. ad In free of Rome. P. Jovius, Hist. lib. xi. ad fcription. Gruterian. Amftel. 1707. fol. calc. And Vit. Leon. lib. iii. p. 145. Baluz. MiscelL. tom. vi. p. 539. Ant. Jovius says, that the actors were Romana Augustini DIALOG. DE Numismat. ix. juventutis lepidissimi. And that several piexi. Voff. de HISTOR. LAT. p. 8cg. His ces of poetry were recited at the same time. ITINERARIUM was printed at Florence, by Leo was alto present at an Italian comedy, L. Mehus, 1742. 8vo. See Leon. Aretini written by cardinal Bibienna, called CAEPISTOL. tom. ii. lib. ix. p. 149. And LANDER, in honour of the Duchess of GIORNAL, de Letterati d'Italia, tom. xxi. Mantua. It was acted by noble youths in P. 428. See the COLLECTION of Infcrip the spacious apartments of the Vatican, and tions, by P. Apianus, and B. Amantius, In. Leo was placed in a sort of throne. Jov. goldftat. 1634. fol. at the MONUM. GA
in VIT. p. 189. DITAN.
• Paulus Jovius relates an anecdote of 4 Philelph. EPIST. xxiv. 1. xxxvi. 1. pope Leo the tenth, which thews that some In the EPISTLE of Philelphus, and in his passages in the clasics were studied at the ten books of SATIRES in Latin verse, are court of Rome to very bad purpofes. I must many curious particulars relating to the li give it in his own words. « Non caruit terary history of those times. Venet. fol. « ctiam infamia, quod parum honefte non1502. His NICOLAUS, or two books of “ nullos e cubiculariis fuis (erant enim e Lyrics, is a panegyric on the life and acts “ tota Italia nobiliffimi) adamare, et cum of pope Nicholas the fifth.
“ his tenerius atque libere jocari videretur.” was in the year 1513, on occafion of
In Vita Leonis X. p. 192.