Petrarch - Opera Omnia >>  The triumphs Complete text    


ilpetrarca testo integrale brano completo citazione delle fonti commedie opere storiche in prosa e versi, francesco petrarca, francecso, petarca

[ Text from the edition of the translation by Rev. Henry Boyd ]


The form of this collection, distinguished by the common appellation of TRIONFI, Pageants, or Visionary Representations, was borrowed immediately from Dante , and more remotely from the Provençal poets. From its unity of design it must be considered as one performance, and is among the first systematic pieces intended as correctives to the inordinate pursuit of pleasure and of fame. The topics indeed are not amplified, as they would have been by a professed moralist; but from the examples in the body of the work, the general inference is left to be drawn by the reader. In the concluding vision, however, the lessons to be learnt from the various exhibitions are given in one view, and the scattered beams of instruction are collected together, that they may fall with more effect upon the eye of the understanding.

The characters are all real, except some mythological beings, such as several of the heathen deities introduced in the TRIUMPH OF LOVE, as owning the universal sway of Cupid. But the Poet probably considered them in the light in which they are represented by history, as the spirits of departed men and women canonised by the Pagan world; and under this view they may justly claim a rank in the procession. Probably this may be more easily defended to the rigid critic, than the introduction of such allegorical personages as LOVE, FAME, DEATH, and TIME, among personages merely human. But the historical pictures occasionally introduced possess this advantage, that they give the Poem greater variety, than in so short a performance could otherwise have been attained. As they are often grouped together without comment or observation, the judgement is left at liberty. Hence an ample field of discussion and reflexion is opened, particularly to juvenile readers, which may be attended with some intellectual and moral advantages to them, under the inspection of those who can direct their inquiries, or lead them to make suitable observations. In this light it is hoped this performance may serve as a proper exercise of the judgement, as well as an agreeable employment to the imagination. Indeed the general impression on minds fitted to receive it, which will remain after the attentive perusal of such a work, is the same in kind, though far inferior in degree, to what we experience from Young and Cowper. The course of reflections in each of these poets nearly coincides: but Petrarch experienced much of the mischiefs of the passions, which the others learned through the spectacles of books. He could say with Æneas, in Virgil —

Quæsque ipse miserrima vidi
Et quorum pars magna fui.

This is particurarly the case with regard to the passion of LOVE, on which he is consequently more diffuse: nor was he less a fool to FAME, in some respects, than any of those whom Milton has introduced into the limbo of vanity. By many of his love poems he has justly obtained this reward: but it was far beneath his character to boast of such a reputation, or to dwell so much upon it. He had claims of a superior kind: his Triumphs are his palinode. In these he recants the futile imaginations of his youth, and gives in this Poem a striking picture of sublunary pursuits and enjoyments —

Fantastic chace of shadows, hunting shades.
Young's Night Thoughts.

The moral to be learned from it is of the more importance, as the lessons will be found to be more generally useful. Here there are few exhibitions of characters utterly abandoned and depraved. Though such pictures, in the hands of a master, may have the strongest poetical effect, yet, probably, the instruction to be learned from them is not so generally useful, as those suggested by the characters in the Trionfi of Petrarch. They are such as are too generally met with — personages of both sexes, whose love of pleasure overpowers their reason, and leads them into pursuits degrading to rational beings, and pernicious to themselves and others. That the poet has chosen to exhibit the passion of love in this disadvantageous light, even in his own case, may be accounted for from this circumstance, that though this passion do often excite to the noblest actions, and very often exalt and improve the human character when inspired by a proper object, yet this very property had been abused by the perversion of the ideas of chivalry, and the fantastic and often corrupt representations of the Provençal poets, and their imitators in prose and verse.

The Bard of Vaucluse commences his TRIUMPH OF LOVE by representing the deleterious effects of that passion upon his mental powers; when he describes his mind as so much debilitated by love, as to be utterly unable to withstand the attacks of sorrow. This we may suppose was really his condition after the death of Laura, at least for a time. In this situation it was natural for him (as it is for others whose minds are stored with images drawn from history and observation) to turn those thoughts which would have tormented him, on the situation of others who had been fellow-sufferers by the same passion. This is a benevolent contrivance of the Author of our nature; which serves a double purpose, as it relieves the distressed mind, and teaches it to sympathise with others. In this process, moreover, the passions grow insensibly cooler, and reason is enabled, through a clearer medium, to trace effects to their causes, and to observe the several miscarriages, errors, and crimes, of the several characters that become the objects of meditation, which occasions — sympathy with the wretched, remorse for the past, and caution for the future. This seems to have been the natural train of thought in the mind of Petrarch, as probably it is in that of every man of reflection; and these lessons naturally arise from that variety of personages which make their appearance in the first vision, and are such as due reflexion supplies.

The characters and fortunes described or alluded to in this part of the Poem, form a copious illustration of those lines of Lucretius, thus translated by Dryden: —

All offices of Friendship are decay'd,
Their fortunes ruin'd, and their friends betray'd;
And in the fountain whence the sweets are brought,
Some bitter bubbles up, and poisons all the draught;
For guilty Conscience does the minor bring,
And sharp Remorse shoots our her angry sting.
And various Thoughts, within themselves at strife,
Upbraid the long mispent luxurious life. . . . . 1. 5.

This way of teaching by numerous examples possesses several advantages, which neither could be attained by the preceptive method observed by a tribe of poetical essayists, nor by the continued narration of the fortunes of one hero or heroine. But here the scene is continually shifting. That love of novelty which is innate in the mind, and placed there for the most salutary purposes, is amply gratified by a perpetual succession of new personages, and often of pleasing images. It is not, indeed, thickly strown with reflexions that grow out of each other, and are amplified to the utmost stretch of imagination, as in the NIGHT THOUGHTS, but materials for reflection are largely supplied; and probably, taking the whole contexture of visions as one Poem, in no equal number of lines are there so many striking and awful objects exhibited — striking, without the help of fiction, and awful, without the necessity of employing amplification. Plato, and his followers, when treating of LOVE, endeavoured to show that every degree in the scale of material beauty — or, in other words, every engaging object — is, or ought to be, steps, to lead us to the love of the First Beauty, or SOVEREIGN GOOD. This, in theory, is true; but it is to be feared that in practice it often has led to many and pernicious deviations, when the mind gives itself up to the impulse of passion, or the illusions of fancy, to attain, what is called by some enthusiasts, spiritual communion. How far the Poet had adopted the purest Platonic theory on this subject, can only be known from his writings in general. But in the TRIUMPH OF CHASTITY, which succeeds the Poem on Love, he seems to have been guided by another class of philosophers: there be dwells on the necessity of SELF-DENIAL and self-government; of keeping the passions under due restraint, that the mind might have leisure to recover that energy which it had lost. Other species of GOOD and FAIR, besides those of a material nature, are there exhibited to view. But this must be allowed, that much of the instruction meant to be given is rather implied than, expressed, with the exception of some very beautiful allegorical representations. But the contrast between this and the former exhibitions imprint the lessons (whether expressed, or to be inferred) on the mind with considerable efficacy.

LOVE, in the Poet's mind, is supposed to have given way at length; and the desire of FAME -

That last infirmity of noble minds —

succeeds to its dominion. This is a species of ambition that often possesses the whole soul when the juvenile passions subside: sometimes it springs up along with them, and either communicates vigour, or attains it from them, with various effects; sometimes salutary, often pernicious, according as they are directed. One of these combinations seems to have been the case with Petrarch, whose desire of fame divided his attention with love, and in him was mostly confined to poetical reputation. This, as in the former case, led him to the consideration of the passion for fame in general: and, in his usual way, he gives a pageant of the most illustrious heroes and sages, patriots and poets, that adorned the several preceding ages.

"The soul," says an amiable moralist, "considered abstractedly from its passions, is of a remiss and sedentary nature, slow in its resolves, and languishing in its execution. The use therefore of the passions is, to stir it up and to put it upon action, to awaken the understanding, to enforce the will, and to make the whole man more vigorous and attentive to the prosecution of his designs. This is particularly the end of AMBITION, which pushes the man on such actions as are apt to procure honour and reputation to the actor. It was necessary that arts should be invented and improved, books written, and nations civilised, by various means. Now, since the proper and genuine motives to such actions would only affect virtuous minds, there would be but small improvement in the world if there were not some common principle of action working equally in all. Such a principle is the love of fame!" The poet and the moralist follow the same track in their endeavours "to turn this passion to its proper objects, and to show the necessity of securing the approbation of HIM, who can see those virtues which are incapable of any outward representation; who does not, like created beings, view the soul through the false medium of outward actions, but weighs the goodness of our actions by the sincerity of our intentions, and is the only Being who can reward them."

As the Poet had, in the former part of his work, given a near and intimate view of many who had made an illustrious figure in the world, he gradually reverses the telescope, and shows both them and this earthly stage on which they appeared, diminished and distanced to the eye, and almost annihilated in the boundless regions of eternity and immensity.

The TRIUMPH OF TIME is filled with some very striking images of human vicissitude, which probably at this eventful period will be perused with some interest: certainly at no point of time in the latter ages was the emptiness of ambition more clearly shown. Some of the images in this and the subsequent part of the Poem have a resemblance to the descriptions in Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead; but probably Petrarch was unacquainted with his works, which I believe had not been then translated. In Lucian, however, the scenes of mortality and the fate of monarchs only give rise to the cold suggestions of a proud and stubborn - I might add, a sceptical philosophy. But in the Christian Poet they suggest such topics as Revelation alone can afford, and without which, often, what we fear and what we feel would be insupportable.

The translator finds himself under the necessity of apologising to the public for taking some liberties with his Author by way of amplification. He is conscious that he cannot plead the example of those who could compensate for the want of rigid exactness, by appropriate ornaments and a transfusion of the spirit rather than a servile adherence to the letter. The latter practice, however, is not without its advocates: yet on this question he declines to give his opinion, but will beg leave to refer his reading to the authority of Dryden, who ably points out the difference between a translation and a version. Where in the original only a name, with the addition perhaps of an epithet, is given, he has not scrupled to diversify, by a few characteristic marks, what in a less musical language than the Italian would seem a very-dry catalogue.


THE attachment of Petrarch to Laura, so much distinguished in the annals of poetry and love, on account of its continuance and effects, seems to have owed, if not its origin, at least its modification to the peculiar train of thinking which prevailed in the romantic and chivalrous times preceding. The peculiar veneration for the fair sex, which seemed in the days of erratic adventure to give the passion of love a tincture of idolatry, had a natural tendency to introduce in process of time that dissolution of morals which make so conspicuous a figure in the famous arrêts of the courts of love (as they were called) in Provence, and other parts of France, before the time of the Charleses sixth and seventh. It is well known, that the offices of defending religion and protecting the fair sex, were looked upon as the primary, and indispensible duties of the ancient knights errant. In the period of the first crusades, this combination produced many salutary effects, which it is not necessary here to detail: but, in later ages, when the swords of their gallant successors were unsheathed against the supposed enemies of the church, and they were led under the papal banner against the Albigenses, we may naturally conclude (and indeed the history of the times gives us no very equivocal testimony) that those champions were liberally compensated for their hazards by indulgences, which, according to circumstances, could either be obtained by purchase or military service. The translation of the papal residence from Rome to Avignon, in the 14th Century, had no tendency to retard the operation of these causes, which increased the corruption of the time, and gave but too much room for the spirited invectives of the satirists and reformers of the time. Among these Dante and Petrarch made a remarkable figure: but in this, as in other particulars of their poetical character, they trode in the steps of the more ancient Provençal bards or troubadours, a race of men, whose writings had in many respects a tendency, no less to corrupt than to expose the corruptions of the times. It is not improbable, that Dante as well as Petrarch had tasted of the cup of Circe, and been caught for a time in the vortex of dissipation: for this indeed we have the confessions of the former as well as the latter. The author of the Divina Commedia inveighed against the licentiousness of the times in a strain of peculiar acrimony. The latter, though he sometimes indulged in a strain of censure, yet seems to have made it his principal endeavour to refine the belle passion from its grosser terrestrial sediment, and to wing its flight and direct its views to nobler objects; and to exhibit those forms in an engaging light, as Plato and his followers had done before, with whose philosophy he was evidently acquainted. In his talents, and the mode in which they are directed, Dante may sometimes be thought to resemble Swift. In these particulars the Bard of Vaucluse exhibits a nearer similitude to Addison, as the one depicted vice in the most odious colours, the other exhibited virtue in her most engaging form, particularly in the second part of his miscellaneous poems, and in what he calls the Triumphs of Death and of Eternity. The latter has also imitated the former, but probably with less energy: yet when we consider what obligations we are under to each, were it only for opening the mines of modern poetry, and contributing to improve the gross morals of the times iu which they lived, it will probably tend to procure for this attempt a favourable reception from the English reader, and an allowance for the faults of the translation.

We find, in the Récherches sur les Prérogatives des Dames, chez les Gaulois, some curious particulars relative to the influence of the fair sex in the northern and Celtic nations from the earliest times. The author first quotes from Tacitus a description of their great ascendancy among the Germans, on account of their supposed prophetical powers, and their being looked upon as more intimately connected with the superior orders of beings. In consequence hereof, their opinions had a very high authority in their most important consultations. "It is remarkable," he continues, "that, among the Celts and Scythians, whose passion for the sex being moderated by the climate, is far more temperate than that of the Southern Asiatics and the natives of the torrid zones; yet the respect and veneration in which women are held by the former so far exceeds the regard paid to them by the latter, by whom they have been always held in a state of servitude: whereas, among the former, the empire of beauty is confirmed by a religious confidence."

"The Gauls," continues he, "were divided of old into sixty cantons, every one of which sent a female delegate to assist in a council composed of that sex, who deliberated on peace and war, and decided on the disputes which arose between the judges of the different cantons. This council was established in consequence of a spirited harangue made by a Gallic matron on the choice of a military leader, and the duties of his station. The time of their creation was about 1177 years before the Christian era. By this council the Gauls were governed at the time of Hannibal; for it appears, that in the treaty concluded with him, that if any Gaul committed an offence against a Carthaginian, the criminal should be judged by the assembly of dames. To their administration succeeded that of the Druids. The Gauls, always conquerors under the government of women, lost their liberty at last by the perfidy of the ministers of religion."

"A more singular trait of the character of the times exhibited itself nearly about the same period in Greece," according to the same author, "where the people of Elis, deeming themselves injured by the Pisans, and having in vain demanded satisfaction from Demophon, tyrant or chieftain of Pisa, after his death agreed with the Pisans to submit the matter in dispute to a court composed of six-teen matrons, chosen from the sixteen townships of Elis. The decision of these ladies was so agreeable to both parties, that they established a perpetual college of sixteen matrons, to preside over the Junonian Games, and assign the prizes.

The author goes on to mention a female senate under Heliogabalus, where his mother Sæmis presided; but as the sex could derive no great honour from an institution sanctioned by such a character as this emperor exhibited, he proceeds to mark the union of sentiment between the Gauls and Germans with regard to their opinion of the female character, and observes, from Millot, "that when the public manners have taken a strong direction, many of the traces will remain for ages, and that consequently the inhabitants of the French provinces (viz. Gauls and Germans) long preserved for women the same kind of respect, and that chivalry did not create a new system of manners and opinions on this subject, but refined and extended the former. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that every gallant knight should have a sovereign lady of his thoughts, as they are often called by romance writers. In the memoirs of St. Palaye, it is asserted, that the first lessons which the pages (candidates for knighthood) learned, was the love of God and of the ladies, and that they were taught their catechism and the art of love by fair preceptresses at the same time."

It is well known that the prizes at tournaments were given by ladies, and that they armed and disarmed the combatants; and that during the times of chivalry the chirurgic art was usually exercised by females of rank and condition on their wounded champions; nor was it unusual for the operations of a siege to be suspended, in order to give an opportunity to some champion to signalise himself for the honour of the sovereign lady of his thoughts.

The revolution produced in the manners of the times by the troubadours was highly favourable to the cause of female privilege — the charms of those whom they celebrated obtained a renown proportionable to the genius of the poet—many of the nobles of the south of France became members of that fraternity to which modern poetry is so much indebted. Were their only praise that of forming the taste and inspiring the genius of Dante and of Petrarch, it would be considerable: their madrigals tended to spread the use of the Provençal language through the greatest part of Europe, and among their patrons were enumerated the emperors Frederick the First and Second, Richard Cœur de Lion, and Thebaut Count of Champagne and King of Navarre; the poems of the last whom, in praise of his royal mistress, were highly celebrated in those times. He is recorded as having been president to a kind of poetical academy, the first of the name in France, where the works of the several bards were examined, and judgement passed upon them. This probably gave occasion to what was called the courts of love, established, under the pretext of mutual improvement in every thing laudable, by those of both sexes who allowed its jurisdiction. This desire of glory, however, soon became the principle of a warmer attachment among many ladies and gentlemen, under the decorous name of friendship; and such then was the simplicity of manners, that, even in the presence of their husbands, ladies scrupled not to give very unequivocal marks of their friendship to their faithful knights, or to the poets who had celebrated their names. "Gratitude and esteem" says the author, "were expressed in the language of love; and the most honourable sentiments of this kind were couched in terms the most impassioned. This sort of gallantry was so much in the prevailing spirit of the time, that it spread its influence over all the concerns of life, and constituted the ordinary subject of conversation. Ladies, knights, and troubadours, exercised themselves in disputing on questions connected with the belle passion: scarce a sentiment of the heart could escape their sagacity. Whatever finesse was employed to conceal them, every case that could be imagined was foreseen, examined, and decided on. Often, by way of challenge, questions were proposed, to which they affixed more importance, and which were discussed with more solemnity, than affairs of state. Hence these assemblies obtained the name of the Courts of Love, the presidents of which were annually elected, and were always some monarch of France, Spain, or England, or at least a Count of Auvergne or Provence, who generally were looked upon as equal in rank with crowned heads. A court of this kind, according to Nostradamus, "was held at Avignon during the residence of the Popes there, and the names of the ladies who composed it are recorded: some of the questions on which they decided were as follow : -—

"One lover is so jealous, that he takes alarm at the merest trifles. Another is so blinded by his passion, that he cannot see the plainest evidences that his mistress scorns him, or prefers another. — Which is the truer lover?

"Two ladies had each a lover, and each lover was a knight errant. The one was valiant and ardent in the pursuit of military fame; he had resolved to go to a tournament, where he expected to gain the honour of the day; but his sovereign mistress laid him under an interdict, and he relinquished his hopes with cheerfulness. The lover of the second could boast neither of courage nor of prowess, yet at the command of his mistress he took the field, and ventured his life, as the other had forfeited his honour. — Which was the truer lover?,

"Two ladies, who in the minutes of the court are called Florence and Blanchefleur, offered to its decision their contest upon the question — Whether a chevalier (a knight) or a churchman were the more proper object of a lady's regard, and the more accomplished character? — The court at this time consisted of a jury of gentlemen (besides the judges), who took the name of several birds. In this cause the Hawk, the Falcon, the Parrot, and the Jay declared for the chevalier: the cause of the church was supported by the Lapwing, the Lark, and the Nightingale. The latter (who also was called the counsellor of love) challenged the Parrot to decide the affair by combat; the challenge was accepted, the Parrot was unhorsed, and the lady who lost the cause died of grief at the triumph of the church."

A collection of the arréts or decisions of this court were published by Jean Martial D'Auvergne, an author who flourished in the 15th century, and a voluminous and learned commentary was added by Benoit le Court, enriched with a profusion of citations from the code, the digest, the decrees, the decretals, in short from the whole body of civil and canon law, with suitable illustrations from the orators and poets; not to mention authorities still more venerable.

In one of these arréts, a lady puts a question to the court; viz. Whether it were not simony to accept presents from her lover?" Benoit le Court very gravely answers in the affirmative, and quotes the third law of the digest, De Donatione inter Virum et Uxorem, to prove, that love, being an holy thing (quelque chose de Divin), consequently it is simony to purchase it." In another, a knight is plaintiff, who accuses his mistress of talking with his rivals, and receiving presents of bouquets, &c. from them, contrary to the oath she had taken to him. The commentator proves that this oath is null and void, as ladies have received from nature an unalienable right of discoursing with gentlemen, and receiving presents from them; and in the same code it is written, that the sovereign himself cannot deprive any one of a right which he or she has obtained from nature; and besides, the decree of Gratian has declared, that an oath which may occasion the demise of the party, is in itself null and void; and consequently the oath taken by the lady not to converse with gentlemen (whichy if kept, would probably occasion her death), is virtually nullified." There is in the continuator of Velly an account of a Cour Amoreuse, in the time of Charles the Sixth of France, "formed, as to the number and quality of its officers, on the model of the sovereign courts of justice, with president, counsellors, masters of requests, auditors, &c. &c.; and every thing that constitutes a superior jurisdiction was there specified. The greatest lords endeavoured to obtain a place in it. Princes of the blood were at the head of this association, entirely consecrated to LOVE: there were found in the list of the great officers, the names of the most ancient families of the realm, and of magistrates respectable from their age and station; and, what must appear singular in our times, one is astonished to find there the names of doctors of theology, grand vicars, chaplains, curés, canons of Paris and of many other cities— a monstrous assemblage, which characterises the depravity of a gross age, where they did not know how to cover their vices with the mantle of decency."

In page 162 of this work, in the notes, there is a quotation from the Modern Universal History, translated into French (tom. 76, page 576) relative to the same subject: — "Some years ago there was found an ancient manuscript, in which details were given of a society devoted to gallantry, who took the name of La Cour Amoureuse. In this were found the names of the principal lords and gentlemen (members), ranged under their several titles: it appeared that this court was composed of degrees of office correspondent to those in royal establishments and similar jurisdictions. It constituted an association modified for the design of promoting pleasure, and, at the same time, of turning every thing important and serious into ridicule — a certain but melancholy symptom of the ruin of a state. The disasters which befel that unfortunate kingdom in that and the succeeding reign, are too well known to be enlarged on here." But the more ancient courts of love followed the fortunes of the troubadours, and with them they rose and fell for want of encouragement. As the French author asserts, they flourished from about the year 1130 to 1382: their last patroness was Joan queen of Naples and Sicily, celebrated for her misfortunes and her crimes. How far the writings of these poets contributed to the licentiousness of manners which prevailed during the greatest part of this period, can only be inferred from concomitant circumstances, as their productions have suffered in the wreck of ages the fate of more valuable monuments. The author indeed attempts to defend the characters of the first troubadours, who (many of them) were not only knights errant, but religious missionaries,

Who proved their title orthodox,
By apostolic blows and knocks.

One evidence of their fervent zeal is adduced; viz, that they refused to form any compact of love or friendship with any person of an opposite faith: conversion and baptism were the only conditions on which their favour could be obtained. The manners of these ancient military bards are said to have been so correct, that "not a word or insinuation could be heard from them which could raise an alarm in the most apprehensive modesty." Even so late as the 15th century some individuals were found who still adhered to the strictness of the ancient institution, on the noblest and most rational principles.

But, whatever degree of credit we may be induced to allow these ancient chevaliers for their purity and zeal, it is much to be feared that the perversion of the latter contributed at least to the corruption of the former. We at least are certain that the spirit of religious enterprise, which had been turned against the foes of the Christian name in Paiestine, was soon directed into another channel against the unfortunate Albigeois, and that the persecution incited by papal influence raged with the greatest fury in the south of France, where this combination of licentiousness and foppery, which was, distinguished by the name of the Court of Love, shortly afterward, and probably at the very time, was so prevalent. Who that is acquainted in the slightest degree with the history of indulgences, can doubt that the bigotry of the times was the parent of much depravity, and that the means of sensual gratification were purchased by the blood of the devoted? — That the court and politics of Rome were sometimes made the subjects of satirical invective by the Provençal poets, is not to be denied: but this was only incidental: their opposition to ecclesiastical tyranny was not an effect of a general cause, uniform in its operation, like that impulse which they felt from the combined influence of ambition and pleasure. This policy of Rome was similar to that which Catiline had practised many ages before; but the result was different — the schemes of the latter were crushed in their commencement by the father of his country: those of the former were permitted by Providence to run their career, till their excess tended to produce the most salutary consequences in the REFORMATION.

From many parts of the writings of Petrarch, both in prose and verse, it appears with what indignation he beheld the corruption of manners which had arisen to an alarming height, and been much increased by the translation of the papal see to Avignon, in a country where all the causes mentioned above had contributed to the dissolution of morals in a very uncommon degree. As this, in a great measure, was indebted for its' origin to those celebrated associations called the Courts of Love, it is at least probable that he might have been induced, in the first poem, which he denominates the Triumphs of Love, to counteract the depravity which they had occasioned. The design of all these Poems, to which he has given the name of Trionfi, is evidently to direct the mind from degrading pursuits, to such objects as become a rational and immortal being. This, it is hoped, will be some apology for the present undertaking, to which might be added the encouragement given by a person highly distinguished for his genius and taste. Inducements, arising from circumstances, similar to those which might have weighed with Petrarch, were supplied by the period in which the translation was undertaken. The times of the ancient troubadours seem, in some respects, to be revived. Whether their genius has arisen from the tomb, it is not for the translator to determine; but so many productions have lately appeared on Love and its congenial topics, and in such variety of forms and questionable shapes, that, if they possess that degree of poetical merit which their authors certainly arrogate (else they would not write), their effects on juvenile minds may demand some attention; for, if what certain philosophers assert be true, that, to give certain ideas too much scope, either paralyses the mind, or fosters those passions which are hostile to every mental energy, the circulation of such effusions, at any time, particularly at this period, ought to be deplored. If this, which may be called a physical inconvenience, were the only consequences of such studies, it ought to condemn them in the eyes of every philosopher who has any regard to the improvement of the mind, even with respect to intellectual pursuits. But other considerations, though intimately connected with this, deserve a more serious regard. Let any person take a view of his own mind, after indulging in such meditations as some of these writings inspire, for any time, and see what a set of features it exhibits to the reflecting faculty. If he be disgusted with the picture, it is well; but if he be not displeased with the representation, it is a symptom that the feeling is nearly lost, which constitutes a sort of internal evidence of the truths of religion, and creates what (if we may be allowed the expression) may be called a prejudice in its favour. It is not to be expected that external proofs would find easy admittance into such a mind as this. Prejudice takes the other side; and against what we do not wish to find true, it is easy to find or to frame abundance of cavils.

It is granted that those sort of writings have a principle of morality in themselves, which in some measure counteracts the poison which they convey: their tendency to fire the mind to one idea is so incongruous with the natural activity of the human mind, and its love of change, that they soon become insipid and die away, or are neglected; yet, as they make their appearance in constant succession, and in no inconsiderable numbers, their pernicious qualities have still some time for their operation. In general, however, at least in these kingdoms, the public mind requires more solid entertainment, something that does not show experimentally how the soul embodies and embrutes, till it quite loses the divine property of its first being, but what points its high destination, discloses nobler views, reanimates its declining energies, and discovers new scenes of activity. In fact, we find an incessant call for the works of Milton, Young, and Cowper, of which every year produces new editions in every various form, suited to the demands of the patrician and the peasant, with all their intermediate degrees; while their gay contemporaries, who fostered or flattered the vices of the times, are sunk in merited oblivion, like the troubadours of old. And I will venture to augur that the authors of Thalaba and the Pleasures of Hope will be remembered as long as our language endures; while ---- and ---- , with all the Asmodean fraternity, will sleep with Sir Pandarus of Troy. I mention these two living writers (not derogating from the merit of their contemporaries, several of whom possess uncommon genius), on account of that moral sublime, and what I may call peculiar sanctity and elevation of thought, which prevail in their most finished compositions.

I would not have it supposed that I presume to pass a general censure on love sentiments or love tales, as that would be to condemn some of the finest and most instructive compositions of modern times, both in verse and prose. Love is like other passions, of which we must form an estimate by their direction, their combination with principle, or their opposition to that which ennobles the nature of man. When it is excited by virtue, where it is founded on excellence of character, joined with those personal graces which are often the visible stamp of inward perfection, and where no paramount claims interfere, it is sanctioned by nature, and is one of the most genuine sources of that portion of happiness which is allotted to us in this world: but though this be a delightful state to the parties themselves, it has too much uniformity to interest the mind in poetical description, and can scarcely make a figure even in a pastoral. It is true, it is a passion whose influence spreads as far as human nature. Hence it is, that, by exciting our sympathy, it is rendered so interesting and instructive, where it is represented by a master-hand as revolting against the authority of reason, and leading to the most tranquil events. The Spanish and Italian writers abound with examples of this kind. Even amid the grand and terrific displays of the effects of the stormy passions in epic poetry, amid the contests of potentates and the wreck of nations, when Ocean and Earth seem engaged in the decison, a love episode, from the nature of sympathy and the force of contrast, has the most pleasing effect. In this particular Tasso excels most other poets. I need only mention Sophronius and Olinda, and the Loves of Tancred. Our own Glover has given a fine specimen in his story of Teribazus, in Leonidas, and another ending fortunately in the character of Amarantha, in the Athenaïd. A virtuous attachment, when it encounters obstacles from similar passions of a baser origin, from tyranny, jealousy, or hatred, excites our congenial feelings of the moral kind, in proportion not only to our corresponding sentiments, but to the merit of the sufferers. The final cause seems to be, that our benevolence and regard to virtue should be kept duly exercised. Our sympathy with Lovelace, in the hardships he meets with in his pursuits, is checked by our consciousness of the villainy of his designs. Yet that character is interesting, and the reasons appear to me to be these: he sometimes utters the sentiments of genuine tenderness; and we find his passion, though perverted and combined with some of the least amiable sort, is however undissembled. But what seems to me the part of his character which lays the strongest hold on the attention, is his struggles between the dictates of conscience, love, and honour, on one side; and revenge and libertinism on the other. When the latter obtain the victory, that mingled sensation of compassion for a rational soul in such a state of degradation and indignation, at the metamorphosis of the man into the fiend, is a feeling of the utmost importance to the cause of virtue, and which, I believe, few can experience without becoming wiser and better.

When a love story has no tendency to give young people a romantic idea of human life, and when the principles of religion and virtue are woven into the narrative, or poem, by a master-genius like Richardson, who has all the avenues of the soul at his command, the occupation of the novelist, or poet, becomes of high importance indeed: for there (if we be allowed the expression) Virtue rides triumphant into the soul on the spring - tide of the passions. When love struggles with adversity, and is not highly objectionable in itself, it is an interesting object; but when it contends in vain with honour, conscience, principle, and religion — when the contest is described by one, who, by an intuitive glance, can survey the very inmost movements of the soul, and who can "render audible the march of thoughts," — it blends the noblest moral lessons with a delight, perhaps, the most exquisite of its sort that can be enjoyed here by an unadulterated mind, not merely because the subject is love but because it exhibits passion gradually subdued by principle, the great business and prime lesson of life. I need only mention the names of Grandison and Clementina, and some of the characters in Marivaux, with those of several authors recently dead or still living. In the dramatic province, the reader will naturally recollect the names of Corneille, Racine, Crebillon the Elder, and Metastasio. These must ever interest; because, in combination with those opinions which in some degree are common to all, they excite the noblest energies of our nature. The natural sentiments of pure attachment is always pleasing where it is refined into tender friendship. Many instances of this may be seen in the songs of Burns, when his Muse, in consequence of a virtuous connexion, had lost that dingy, libertine hue, which she had contracted in her former associations. Such, too, is that beautiful song beginning, O Nanny wilt thou go with me, &c. But as to sentiments of another nature, the mere whinings of animal passion against the sanctions (very often) of virtue, decency, and every thing respectable — in the ear of reason, notwithstanding they may be distinguished by the name of Tibullus, they only express the sensations of a Gryllus, though they may be couched in "elegant terms of the best," according to the taste of the male and female DAME QUICKLYS of the day.

In short, we must either admit, the monstrous position, that our animal propensities are to be stimulated incessantly at the expense of every nobler principle of our nature (for they cannot subsist, with due efficacy, together), or allow that such writings have a very pernicious effecti particularly on juvenile minds: they destroy the mental balance, as they weaken that moral feeling which is bestowed by nature for the purpose of counteracting the dangerous passions. Our active powers are limited for the most beneficial purposes, if we could at once indulge in unworthy pursuits to the utmost excess, and, immediately after, apply our faculties to intellectual improvement with undiminished vigour. It is hard to conceive the degree of corruption which would naturally result from such powers combined with such depravity. Our enjoyments must be adapted to give us pleasure adequate to the whole of our nature. That gloomy despondence and debasement of intellect which generally succeeds a course of vicious indulgence, is a state of mind so unnatural that it often proves intolerable, and not seldom ends in suicide or madness; and the victim becomes a deplorable warning to the votaries of dissipation. That the mind in such a state should recover its tone, is scarcely, if ever, to be expected: for, generally, before that can be the case, in the natural course of things, the season for mental exertion and moral improvement is past, never to return!

A learned father of the church has given an elaborate detail of the means employed by Providence, from age to age, to complete that spiritual edifice which he denominates the CITY of GOD, and describes at large the hostile attempts of the Powers of Darkness to work its overthrow. Had he lived in our times, he might have observed the combined efforts of the necessarian and fatalist to storm this fortress, and the more insidious attempts of the ministers of voluptuousness to undermine its foundations. By the doctrines of the former, the difference between right conduct and wrong is, in effect, denied; and of course all moral restraint an human actions is removed; depravity is (as far as they succeed) established on the foundation of destiny; and the mind is gradually prepared for that political slavery which is threatened by the sudden and portentous increase of a formidable continental dynasty.

It is curious to observe to what miserable subterfuges the advocates for fatalism are driven, when they are pressed by the common sense and experience of all mankind, who feel, that, in the words of our immortal Bard, "Reason also is choice." One expressly denies the existence of moral freedom even in perception; another allows the reality of the perception, but says that (in the case of remorse, for instance) it is only an illusion of passion; and, in his preface, congratulates himself, and, the whole philosophical world, on the wonderful discovery! - Now, if we cannot depend upon our internal perceptions, the consequences drawn from this doctrine by sceptical writers subsist in their full force, and I do not see what barriers can be opposed to the most impious conclusions on these principles.

As to the second class of authors, who, by their licentious writings, scatter among unwary readers "firebrands, arrows, and death," and pretend they are "only in sport," some of them probably may think to avail themselves of the curious apology of Sterne - "I wish I never had wrote it - but as I never blot any thing out, let us use some honest means to get it out of our heads directly." - If this apology stand good at another tribunal than that of the arbiters of pleasure, they may congratulate themselves. I cannot hope that they should be startled by any consequences of their conduct that I have endeavoured to point out, but I hope I shall be excused for endeavouring to support my feeble arguments by the opinions of two authors, whose endeavours to promote religion, virtue, and genuine taste, have raised them to a very distinguished rank in the public opinion, notwithstanding the depravity of the times.

"Novels" (says the author of the Pursuits of Literature, speaking of celebrated romance) "of this seductive and libidinous tendency, excite disgust, fear, and honour, in every man and woman who reflect upon those virtues which alone give support, comfort, and continuance to human society. Its interests, and the essential welfare, and ever the very existence of this kingdom, authorise any man, though conscious of manifold frailties, to speak in the manner I have done; for we cannot long deceive ourselves. Poetical men, of loose and ungoverned morals, can offer to us and to themselves but feeble consolations from wit and imagery, when left to solitary reflection and the agony of remorse. I never found this so well represented, or so unanswerably enforced to every understanding capable of recalling itself from vicious conduct and irregular inclination, as in this short sentence - ' Whoever wholly give them selves up to lust, will soon find it to be the least fault they are guilty of. '"

This, indeed, is the natural progress of this vice in particular; for it not only contracts the intellect, but deadens the finer sympathetic feelings so far, that it is a general remark, that no person is so completely selfish as the habitual voluptuary, though few make such arrogant claims to public spirit, as if they (as Cowper observes) "could love their country, who scarce can be said to love any person in it."

"I cannot help," he continues, " to recommend with peculiar earnestness the attentive perusal of one of the most instructive and useful short pieces of biography which I ever read, in the Life of Dr.Johnson by Sir John Hawkins, from p.222 to 232: it is peculiarly important to many young men who live in the allurements of a great and high-viced town, or among freethinking literati, and the more calm and sober sensualists. Men who live in London, and keep much company, will feel the force of the observation. It is the account of Mr. John Dyer, a man of genius, politeness, and learning: the conclusion of it, in the words of Sir John Hawkins, is very impressive: — ' I have been thus particular in the history of this accomplished and hopeful young man, whom I once loved with the affection of a brother; with a view to show the tendency of idleness, and to point out at what avenue vice may gain admittance in minds seemingly the most strongly fortified. The assailable part of his mind was laxity of principle: at this entered infidelity, which was followed by temptations to pleasure, such as he could see no reason to resist. This led on desires after the means of gratification; and the pursuit of them was his destruction. '"

On a very impudent apology for publishing such writings, given by a late editor of a celebrated author, he thus observes: — "Dr.W. tells us, first, from Sir Thomas Browne, that there is a certain list of vices committed in all ages, and declaimed against by all authors, which will last as long as human nature; or, digested into common places, may serve for any theme, and never be out of date till doomsday. Instead of a spirited vindication of moral satire, Dr. W. laughs at the effects of it, and very unadvisedly seems to discourage even the endeavour after reformation of manners. If I am asked how? I answer thus: Dr. W. tells us from a certain wit, ' Mount in the pulpit with Bourdaloue, or take the pen with La Bruyère — it is only so much time lost — the world will go on as before. ' — The morality of Voltaire surely cannot be the morality of Dr. W . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I may add, if this way of arguing against every endeavour to reform the manners of mankind, and to recall them to virtue and wisdom, is to be adopted, we are indeed in the high road to ruin: fortunately there is as much sense as there is policy and truth in this indiscreet and dangerous doctrine. I might as well say, there is always a certain list or catalogue of diseases, infirmities, and miseries attendant upon every human being in every stage of his earthly existence; and which will appear to disquiet and lay waste the species in all ages. The art of medicine never can wholly remove them, and they will never be out of date till doomsday. What is the use of the physician and his skill? we should never apply to him, but suffer silently till our dissolution takes place, without any attempt to remove the pain and misery that ' flesh is heir to, ' even when it is in our power to mitigate, or perhaps to cure them. I really cannot pass by doctrines like this without animadversion, especially when they are recommended or approved by one whose office is to declare, pronounce, and enforce the doctrine of moral reformation. He should not forget the constitution of the natural and moral world, ' Good is set against evil, and life against death: so look upon the works of the Most High — there are two and two, one against the other. ' — I feel I am right in laying these remarks before the public."

Cowper addresses with uncommon severity those who make the pen —

Worse than a poignard in the basest hand:
It stabs at once the morals of the land.
--   --   --   --   --
Ye writers of what none with safety reads,
Footing it to the dance that Fancy leads;
Ye novelists, that mar what ye would mend,
Snivelling and drivelling folly without end,
Whose corresponding misses fill the ream
With sentimental frippery and dream,
Caoght in a delicate soft silken net
By some lewd earl or rakefull baronet;
Ye pimps, who under virtue's fair pretence
Steal to the closet of young innocence,
And teach her, unexperienced yet and green,
To scribble as jou scribbled at fifteen,
Who, kindling a combustion of desire.
By some cold moral think to quench the fire.
--   --   --   --   --
O that a verse had power and could command
Far, far away, the flesh-flies of the land;
Who fasten without mercy on the fair,
And suck, and leave a craving maggot there! -
Howe'er disguis'd th'inflammatory tale,
And cover'd with a fine-spun specious veil,
Such writers and such readers owe the gust
And relish of these pleasures all to lust.
--   --   --   --   --
Woe to the man whose art disclaims its use,
Glittering in vain, or only to seduce;
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but steps the lesson by;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys;
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim!

The following lines of Cowper, might have been inserted with more advantage in a note on the concluding canto of the Triumphs of Love; but that part of the work having gone to press before I met with the passage, I thought it better to place them here than entirely to pass them by, as they contain a lesson which cannot be inculcated too frequently: —

With caution taste the sweet Cercæen cup,
He that sips often, at last drinks it up.
Habits are soon assum'd; but when we strive
To strip them off, 'tis being flay'd alive.
Call'd to the temple of impure delight,
He that abstains, and he alone, does right,
If a wish wander that way, call it home —
He cannot long be safe whose wishes roam:
But if jou pass the threshold, you are caught,
Die then, if Power Almighty save you not;
There, hard'ning by degrees, till, double-steel'd,
Take leave of nature's God, and God reveal'd;
Then laugh at all you trembled at before,
And joining tlie freethinkers' brutal roar,
Swallow the two grand nostrums they dispense —
That Scripture lies, and blasphemy is sense!

The inference which he makes is tremendous: —

If clemency, revolted by abuse,
Be damnable — then damn'd without excuse.

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