Lapas attēli

Peruse it not; or if you do it read,
Esteme it not, but as an idle bable;
Regard it not, or if you take some heed,

Believe it not, but as a foolish fable.' This is a very pleasing specimen of the happiness of the old translator. The original is equally characteristic of the jocundity of Ariosto.* It must be recollected that his errors are somewhat more venial than they would have been, had he lived in the present age. We cannot judge of ancient decency by a modern standard. The Queen of Navarre imitated the Decameron; and Boileau, the stern guardian of public morals, drew a parallel between La Fontaine and Ariosto, and invited the French public to the perusal of an indecent novel. Such levity, to give it no harsher name, could not now be tolerated. We may or may not be purer in our morals than our ancestors were; but it is quite evident that our taste is more chaste. It therefore becomes the duty of every writer to avoid offending delicacy; and if he sins against the feeling of the age, the genius which he prostitutes will not redeem him from contempt. The turpitude of Casti is rendered still more conspicuous by another circumstance. He wrote at a period when moral feeling was just dawning in Italy; and this feeling he laboured to extinguish. He does not wanton like Boccaccio or Ariosto; he spits his venom at virtue and religion, seeking to degrade them, as the sole expedient by which he can palliate his own immorality. Had Casti's morals been correct, he might have been denominated a wit, according to the true import of the term. His common conversation resembled the dialogues of his comic operas. Of these he composed but few; and they are the only ones of which the text pleases without the fiddle. King Theodore' is a master-piece. The subject is taken from Candide ; but Casti enhanced the humour of Voltaire's outline, by introducing certain traits which he had copied from nature, from a contemporary monarch, more remarkable for his quixotism than his power; and whose character, according to his usual practice, he had studied with the intention of turning him into ridicule when the good time should arrive. He made just as free with the great names of antiquity. In an opera buffa, entitled

* Donne, e voi che le donne avete in Mettendolo Turpino, anch' io lo messo, pregio,

Non per malivolenzia nè per gara : Per Dio non date a questa istoria orecchia, Ch'io v'ami, oltre mia lingua che l'ha A questa che l ostier dire in dispregio

espresso, E in vostra infamia e biasmo s' apparecchia: Che nai non fu di celebrarvi avara, Ben che nè macchịa vi può dar nèi fregio i N' ho fatto niille prove ; e v' ho dimostro Lingua sì vile, e sia l'usanza vecchia, Ch' io son, nè potrei esser se non vostro. Ch’’I volgare ignorante ognun riprenda Pasși chi vuol tre carte, o quattro, senza E parli più di quel che meno intenda. Leggerne verso, e chi pur legger vuole

Lasciate questo canto, chè senz' esso Gli dia quella medesima credenza Può star l' istoria, é non sarà men chiaļas - -. Che si suol dare a finzioni e fole.'

Catilina, Catilina, he plays the fool with Cicero and Cato. This opera has never been published; but we venture to prophesy that it will soon be given to the world. There are a great many pretended apostles of truth, who maintain that our happiness is promoted by dispelling all illusions, even those which incline us to believe that human nature has been ennobled by its virtues : some of these will print the Catilina of Casti.

After amusing himself with kings in comedy and heroes in tragedy, he renewed his satires upon royalty in the person of Catherine the Second; with whom he made free in a very long poem entitled Tarturó. Casti succeeded the Abbate Metastasio as Poeta Cesareo, and lived at Vienna in high favour with Joseph the Second, who used to set him on against the monks and friars. When the Poema Tartaro' appeared the Emperor Joseph was on very ill terms with the Empress Catherine; but when each had got a slice of the kingdom of Poland, they made up their differences. The Czarina insisted that the Poeta Cesareo should be turned away; and Casti was banished from Vienna: but the


directed that the poet's pension should continue payable during the remainder of his life. "Casti, with a spirit which would have honoured a better man, refused the gift, and when Joseph remitted the money to him, he would not touch it. The pecuniary losses consequent upon the publication of the Tartaro were not made in fame. Foreigners did not relish it, and the Italians did not understand it; for they knew nothing of the court of St. Petersburgh beyond what they read in the newspapers. Neither did it add much to Italian literature. The style is unimpassioned, and the diction without grace or purity. But the poem abounds with point, and it succeeded amongst certain readers, in the same way that small wits take in society. They amuse for a moment because they flatter the bad passions of the human heart, and they end by becoming tedious.

Casti employed the last years of his life in the composition of the Animali Parlanti. He had been an acute observer both of the follies of the multitude and of the absurdities of their rulers; and he brings his knowledge in full play against mobs and courtiers, against the sottishness of the demagogue and the ravings of the tyrant. Professing to be a lover of liberty, he mocks at popular freedom as a thing which cannot exist in reality : be attacks monarchy and religion with less ambiguous irony, but always by insinuating that it is impossible to change the nature of the human species; and that man is created to be ever bullied by the strong, and cheated by the crafty. Yet what is the result of such principles? They cause the multitude to lose themselves in Pyrrhonism, or to sink in the • slough of despair'; and no situation can be more productive of wretchedness to the individual, and of



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mischief to society at large. Ridicule is not so powerful a weapon
against tyranny as it is usually supposed to be. A nation accus-
tomed to laugh at every thing is exactly that which a government
may insult with the greatest impunity. At the time when Didot
printed the Animali Parlanti, and when the military court of
King Lion amused the Parisians, Buonaparte proclaimed himself
consul for life. In the name of Liberty and Equality be sur-
rounded himself with all the glare of monarchy, and he sum-
moned round him those prætorian bands which were soon to be
transformed into the imperial guard.

poem is an Æsopian fable spun out into three volumes. In a short apologue, the fiction which gives speech and reason to animals is accompanied by a sort of propriety and probability; they are made to express themselves conformably to their nature and their habits. The contrast between the practical wisdom of animals and human folly is impressive; we feel that the example may be applied to us : our curiosity is roused by the allegory, and our reason is satisfied when we discover the truth which it veils. The charms of the apologue appear to arise from these causes, but if they do not act simultaneously, rapidly and gracefully, the pleasure is lost.

Friend Bee, exclaimed a Fly, pray tell
The means you use to look so well?
With a mere scanty summer fare
You're fat and sleek throughout the year,
Whilst we, who eat much more than you,
Can never live the winter through.
We Bees, replied the other, eat
The sweetest, most delicious meat,

and all the race of Flies,
Will feast on every dog that dies.
Whatever moral may be appended to our little fable, it has the
characteristics which are indispensable in this species of compo-
sition. In the poem of Casti the character of the fable is exactly
the contrary. The animals do not occupy themselves according
to their real habits; they are introduced as actors in political
scenes, and placed in situations for which nature never intended
them. They debate about laws with which they have nothing
to do, and they prate about the pope and the mufti, although
they do not want any one to take care of their souls. The fiction
is destitute of probability. King Lion is a despot; Queen Lioness
is no better than she should be, and betrays her husband into
the bargain. Cub-Lion is a stupid crown prince;' the Dog
preaches democracy, and sells himself to the ministry; Jack Ass
becomes prime minister, and so on. After we have made out


this fine-drawn allegory the spirit of the poem flags. It could only have been sustained by inducing us to take an interest in the actions of the personages; but their actions can excite uone: they are mere abstract ideas, merely the generalizations of the characters of despots, and ministers, and courtiers. The events of the time gave a literary importance to the poem, which it lost when those events lost their novelty. Every body endeavoured to recogmize a leading personage of the day in the disguise of some one brute or another. Occasionally right guesses were made. But the allusions of Casti begin even now to become enigmatical. In the course of half a century no creature will be able to expound them without the help of a commentary; and the commentators, as usual, will work to no purpose, because many of the characters are persons whom history will forget; and those whose actions deserve the notice of posterity will certainly not be judged according to the malignant caricatures of the satirist.

At the time of the publication of the Animali Parlanti, Buonaparte bad put an end to the revolutionary struggles between parties and factions, but he had not silenced them. They busied themselves in disputing whether Buonaparte was bound to maintain the republic, or whether he had the right of re-establishing the monarchy. Casti kept clear of all subtle reasoning. In politics the war of words has three stages which succeed each other at short intervals. At the outset of a revolution, disputes increase its fury, and they are too serious to admit of pleasantry: but when one faction has gained the victory, the conquered continue skirmishing in print, and the conquerors laugh at their arguments and lamentations. Thus Butler ridiculed the presbyterians and the independents when the civil wars had ceased; and Casti, whether by chance or by design, profited, in like manner, by the interval of peace. Lastly, the generation which has beheld a revolution, drops off; the political disputes and arguments which agitated the combatants are buried in their graves; and the fame of political or party poetry will then depend upon its intrinsic worth.

Casti bantered all parties alike; and this boldness contributed greatly to the success of the poem. When Buonaparte became an emperor he suppressed the French translation, and prohibited the reprinting of the original in Italy; this coup de police' reminded the people of the existence of a satire which they had almost forgotten.

The poetry of Casti is poor and spiritless; he never paints, he describes.' We shall hereafter explain the meaning which we affix to these words. He treats upon bis subject, and it seldom happens that a sentence of his rhymed dissertations remains fixed in the memory of the reader. His jokes are destitute of urbanity,

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his expressions of propriety, and there is no variety of harmony in his verse.

He employed the sesta rima, a system of versification which, not being as short, or linked as closely as the terza rima of Dante, conveys the ideas of the poet with less energy. The ottava rima, the stanza of Ariosto, seems less monotonous because its cadences recur at longer intervals; and its length assists the development of poetical imagery. No one but Casti ever adopted the sesta rima in a long poem. It is an easy measure, agreeing with the garrulity of old age, and well adapted to one who wishes to gossip in verse, and whose enfeebled faculties cannot sustain much mental labour. Casti drawls, and he attempts to gain the semblance of vigour by the help of points and epigrams: but he resembles a withered beauty who flirts in the dance, exciting sensations which are at once ludicrous and mournful.

Mr. Rose speaks too modestly, we might almost say that he misleads his readers, in producing his Court of Beasts' as a translation from the Animali Parlanti. In his introduction he apologizes for the liberties which he has taken. I have let go,' he says,

my author's skirt Whenever he has plunged through filth and dirt.' And he has condensed the twenty thousand lines of his original in seven hundred English verses. Mr. Rose is too well acquainted with the classical authors of Italy not to despise the coarseness with which Casti burlesqued Æsop : but we regret that Mr. Rose has followed the measure of Casti instead of employing the stanza of the older poets. However, he has purified his satire. He has omitted whatever might offend delicacy, in rejecting the gallantries of the Lion court, and whatever is or might be considered as a satire on a subject on which the public has a right to be jealous. We do not know whether he has introduced any political anecdotes; but he never adopts the principles of any party in politics, though he often amuses himself at the expense of party-men. The eloquence of the Mob of Beasts is copied from real life.

'The Tyger first was put in nomination :
His tail, pied coat, the lightning of his pat,
But for the Dog's insidious intimation,
Had told. “ But he-he's after all a cat,
A better breed of cat." Here lay the sting,
For who is there would choose a cat for king ?

A mountain democrat propos’d the Bear:
On this the Dog: “I honour bis long pole;
I own him first jack-pudding of the fair;
A rogue in spirit, while he plays the droll.
But shall we choose a king, to make us laugh,
And change the sceptre for the ragged staff?"


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