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WILEY AND PUTNAM'S

LIBRARY OF

CHOICE READING.

STORIES FROM THE ITALIAN POETS.

he is like an angel enclosed for penance in some furious giant, and permitted to weep through the creature's eyes.

The stories from goodnatured Pulci I have been obliged to compress for other reasons-chiefly their excessive diffuseness. A paragraph of the version will sometimes comprise many pages. Those of Boiardo and Ariosto are more exact; and the reader will be good enough to bear in mind, that nothing is added to any of the poets, different as the case might seem here and there, on comparison with the originals. An equivalent for whatever is said is to be found in some part of the context generally in letter, always in spirit. The least characteristically exact passages are, some in the love-scenes of Tasso; for I have omitted the plays upon words and other corruptions in style, in which that poet permitted himself to indulge. But I have noticed the circumstance in the comment. In other respects, I have endeavoured to make my version convey some idea of the different styles and genius of the writers, of the severe passion of Dante, the overflowing gaiety and affecting sympathies of Pulci, several of whose passages in the Battle of Roncesvalles are masterpieces of pathos; the romantic and inventive elegance of Boiardo; great cheerful universality of Ariosto, like a healthy anima mundi; and the ambitious irritability, the fairy imagination, and tender but somewhat effeminate voluptuousness of the poet of Armida and Rinaldo. I do not pretend that prose versions of passages from these writers can supersede the necessity of metrical ones, supposing proper metrical ones attainable. They demand them more than Dante, the tone and manner in their case being of more importance to the effect. But with all due respect to such translators as Harrington, Rose, and Wiffen, their books are not Ariosto and Tasso, even in manner. Harrington, the gay "godson" of

the

FROM THE

ITALIAN POETS:

BEING A SUMMARY IN PROSE

OF THE

POEMS OF DANTE, PULCI, BOIARDO, ARIOSTO AND TASSO;

WITH COMMENTS THROUGHOUT,

OCCASIONAL PASSAGES VERSIFIED,

AND

CRITICAL NOTICES OF THE LIVES AND GENIUS OF THE AUTHORS.

BY LEIGH HUNT.

IN THREE PARTS.

PART I.

NEW YORK:

WILEY AND PUTNAM, 161 BROADWAY.

estimate of his genius, and singularly demanded by certain phenomena of the present day. I hold those phenomena to be alike absurd and fugitive; but only so by reason of their being openly so proclaimed; for mankind have a tendency to the absurd, if their imaginations are not properly directed; and one of the uses of poetry is, to keep the faculty in a healthy state, and cause it to know its boundaries. Dante, in the fierce egotism of his passions, and the strange identification of his knowledge with all that was knowable, would fain have made his poetry both a sword against individuals, and a prop for the support of the superstition that corrupted them. This was reversing the duty of a Christian and a great man; and there happen to be existing reasons why it is salutary to shew that he had no right to do so, and must not have his barbarism confounded with his strength. Machiavelli was of opinion, that if Christianity had not reverted to its first principles, by means of the poverty and pious lives of St. Francis and St. Dominic,* the faith would have been lost. It may have been; but such are not the secrets of its preservation in times of science and progression, when the spirit of inquiry has established itself among all classes, and nothing is taken for granted, as it used to be. A few persons here and there, who confound a religious reaction in a corner with the reverse of the fact all over the rest of Europe, may persuade themselves, if they please, that the world

* Discorsi sopra la Prima Deca di Tito Livio, lib. iii. cap. i. At p. 136 of the present volume I have too hastily called St. Dominic "the founder of the Inquisition." It is generally conceded, I believe, by candid Protestant inquirers, that he was not, whatever zeal in the foundation and support of the tribunal may have been manifested by his order. But this does not acquit him of the cruelty for which he has been praised by Dante: he joined in the sanguinary persecution of the Albigenses.

ΤΟ

SIR PERCY SHELLEY, BART.

MY DEAR SIR PERCY.

As I know no man who surpasses yourself in combining a love of the most romantic fiction with the coolest good sense, and, in passing from the driest metaphysical questions to the heartiest enjoyment of humour,-I trust that even a modesty so true as yours will not grudge me the satisfaction of inscribing these volumes with your name.

That you should possess such varieties of taste is no wonder, considering what an abundance of intellectual honours you inherit; nor might the world have been the better for it, had they been tastes, and nothing more. But that you should inherit also that zeal for justice to mankind, which has become so Christian a feature in the character of the age, and that you should include in that zeal a special regard for the welfare of your Father's Friend, is a subject of constant pleasurable reflection to

Your obliged and affectionate

LEIGH HUNT.

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