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"In the dread hour when that last fire begins,
And heaven's artillery, charged with wrath and doom;
The attention of the angel of Abel is arrested by a struggle in the skies, between the guardian of Cain and that terrible demon, which had so fearfully alarmed him in the course of the preceding night, and a sublimé impression is produced by an incidental allusion to the state of unconscious danger in which Cain appears, while the dreadful conflict for his soul is maintained between the fiend and the seraph. Before the struggle is how ever terminated, the angel of Abel is drawn from his station on the mountain, by the appearance of an innumerable multitude of evil spirits throng ing in from all sides, towards the place where the mortals are assembled round the altars, and he hastens to the protection of his charge. The scene is then again changed, and the worshippers are introduced. Adam and Eve are represented as standing by themselves apart from their family; and from what passes between them we learn that Abel is kneeling with his face to the ground before his altar, humbly and resigned, awaiting the manifestation of the will of Heaven; while Cain is standing with the sacri ficial instrument dropping the blood of the victim in his left hand, and shading his eyes with his right, as he arrogantly looks towards the sun, in expectation of the coming fire. In this awful moment a solemn sound is heard; a glorious splendour fills all the air, and a cherub with wings of flame descends upon the altar of Abel, and with his touch kindles and consumes the accepted offering; at the
sight of which, Cain wildly rushes from the spot, while his brethren, with anthems of thankfulness, salute their brother Abel as the acknowleged priest of Jehovah.
The second act opens with an appalling communion between the an gels of the two brothers, in which the guardian of Cain sorrowing confesses that he had been mastered by the demon, and forced to abandon his charge, is returning to receive, if Providence so pleases, a renewal and augmentation of strength in heaven. The sorrow of the angel is calm and solemn, and his apprehension at what may befal Cain, exposed, in the “unguarded hour," to the temptations of the fiend, and prone to evil, by the consequences of Adam's forfeiture, is affectingly implied in the silence and dejection with which he parts from his companion, and ascends to heaven, foreboding that he is never to be again permitted to return.
The second scene exhibits Cain wandering solitary in a wild and rug→ ged upland country, where the trees are stunted in their growth, broken by the tempest, and blasted by the light ning. He throws himself on the ledge of a precipice which overlooks the plain, where the altar of Abel is still seen smoking, and abandons himself to the implacable feelings of a degra ded spirit; in the midst of which, however, occasional gleams of hope and piety sparkle out, and shew the war between the good and evil of his nature, which so agitates his bosom.
"Yes: he may serve their altars. What of that?..
My sacrifice and supplication scorn'd?
While thus indulging these humilia
of a cavern; but the fiend awfully advances, and bitterly taunts him with the rejection of his offering, and perpetual degradation from the natural right that belonged to the seniority of his birth
"But," says the deriding demon—
"What though no flame from Heaven your altar fired,
The demon then insinuates reasons
In the third division of the subject, Cain, gnawed by remorse, is represented as endowed with more than Promethean fortitude. The first scene introduces him returning after he had murdered his brother. Eve, seeing him approach, runs to meet him, uncon scious of the crime he had committed, and only anxious to sooth and console him; but on advancing towards him, she halts suddenly, alarmed and terrified at the alteration in his looks-the awful impress of his guilt. We are not told of what the mark set on his forehead consists; but the horror and aversion with which his heretofore too partial mother turns away and bids him hide his dreadful visage from her sight, is far more impressive than the most emphatic description. At her exclamation the fratricide sullenly retires, and the scene changes to an assembly of the fiends exulting at having gained, as they suppose, the soul of the first-born man, and triumphantly anticipating a tremendous increase of
power and dominion by their achievements over mankind. In the midst, however, of this terrific exultation, their joy is suddenly silenced by the glorious apparition of Abel's spirit seen ascending to heaven, welcomed by the angels, and conducted by the host of the cherubim and seraphim, rejoicing in the salvation of the first of the human race that has incurred the penalty of death. This magnificent apotheosis is succeeded by a scene of solitude and horror that has no ex, ample. Cain, having wandered into a wilderness where nature suffered the first and greatest shock of the curse which shattered and blasted the face of the earth at the fall of man, leans against a rock, and looking abroad on a vast expanse of gloomy precipices, dark woods, and troubled waters, watches the heavy and funereal progress of a thunder-cloud which lowers between him and the sun, covering the landscape with the mantle of its black and portentous shadow. When he has stood some time in the sullen contemplation of these dark and lugubrious objects, he breaks out into a soliloquy, which we dare not venture to quote, calling upon the slumbering fires and thunders of the cloud to burst upon his head, and relieve him from the horrors of existence. Maddening in impiety, he exclaims, stretching his right hand in defiance towards the skies,
"Thou dread, eternal, irresponsible,
Atone the evil, and resolve me back
I was invoked into this world of woe!"
This blasphemous apostrophe leads on to reflections of a singularly appalling character, in which the original non-existence of the Universe is considered as an entire and beautiful perfection that was broken at the creation.
"These rolling worlds of stars and miseries
While he stands venting these wild and desperate fancies, the demon comes to him again, and urges him to selfdestruction; but he rejects this counselling with a stern and sublime vehemence. In this crisis he hears the voice of the venerable Adam at a distance calling on him to return, and smitten with the sense of guilt, and conscious of the sorrow he has occasioned, he rushes from the spot, pursued by the fiend, and the scene changes to a dark and woody valley where he enters, and exhausted by fatigue and agitation, sinks upon the ground. The demon believes him dying, and exulting in having gained his soul, summons together the evil spirits who are abroad on the earth to bear it-their first trophy—in triumph to perdition. But while they are gathering in, and hovering and gloating over their prey, a sudden brightness opens in the skies, and the angel of mercy descending, disperses the fiends, and compells the
victor demon to resign his prize, who in the meantime had fallen asleep. The gracious influences of the celestial visitant are shed over Cain as he lies on the ground, and when he awakes he discovers a fresh and flowery scene, glittering with sunny dewdrops, and joyous with the melody of birds. His frenzy has subsided, and melted to humility by the universal benevolence that breathes and smiles around him, he kneels, and with a lowly and contrite spirit, confesses his guilt and unworthiness, and resigns himself unto the compassion of his Maker, whom, in the delirium of remorse, he had so awfully defied. His prayer and penitence are accepted, and the spirit of Abel, in the glorious vestment of its heavenly change, invites him to par take of the joys of the celestial paradise. The penitent, thus assured of pardon and mercy, dies in the confi dent expectation of a happy resurrec tion.
*Notwithstanding the gravity with which this critique is managed, we suspect that the author intends it for an anticipatory quiz of Lord Byron's forth coming Poem of CAIN.
Tis midnight,-and there is no moon in heaven:
Mid shapes that startle, and mid shades that freeze:→→→
The weary heart oppress.-Mid solitudes,
Ever to man unknown, where only dwell
Serpent and beckoning forms, the vision broods,
ON THE DECLINE OF THE TUSCAN ASCENDENCY IN ITALIAN
THE infinite superiority attained by the Tuscan writers, over all the other Italian authors in the early ages of their literature, and successfully maintained for a period of four hundred years, had inspired a general belief that the highest excellence in composition, and the utmost originality in point of thought, must, with few exceptions, be sought for in vain at a distance from the banks of the Arno. In Tuscany more especially, the pride of a noble literary ancestry had blinded all classes to the decline of their ancient fame, and insensible to the long and death-like torpidity of the Academicians, they still continued to dream over the time when the chiefs of the famous "Quatordici Ambasciatori" might be numbered among the citizens of Florence. More lately, however, the zeal and ability displayed throughout the Lombard states, and in other districts of Italy, has greatly tended to dispel this illusion, and the Tuscans find that something more substantial than a proud reference to the deeds of other days, must be exhibited as a proof of their existing superiority. The director of the Biblioteca Italiana, a Milanese Journal, has been among the most active and successful in his endeavours to break the sceptre of the Tuscans, and to assert not only the equality, but the superiority of the other Italian states for more than a hundred years. The countrymen of Dante and Boccacio were, of course, horror-struck, and considered such an assertion as little less than heresy. Much idle disputation followed, in which there was, perhaps, on both sides somewhat more of declamation than of argument. Yet to an indifferent spectator, facts seem to do more for the Lombard party, than for the standard-bearers of the Cruscan Academy. A long letter was written by a gentleman of Empoli, accusing the director of the Biblioteca Italiana, of blind injustice in thus invading the majesty of Florence, To this the director replied by a statement of his reasons for lowering the Tuscans in the ranks of modern literature, and we have translated the most material part of it, that our readers may judge for themselves, whether some of the other Italian states have not now an equally good claim to literary precedence.
The defence by the Tuscan of Empoli has greatly deceived my expectations. By placing before me his much boasted literary riches, of which I, in common with all Italy, had hitherto remained ignorant, he would have increased the patrimony of our common country, for we have a community in interests and cares. Whatever is the cause of detriment to him and his brethren, is equally hurtful to the national honour, of which all good Italians should be alike regardful. It is, therefore, far from being an agreeable task for me to confute him, and to bring forward proofs which may prove hurtful to the splendour of Tuscany, which forms so beautiful and so illustrious a portion of our peninsula. It is this reflection alone which consoles me, that by shewing how other parts of Italy have attained a rank equal to if not higher than that from which Tuscany has fallen, I convert the partial loss into a national gain, or at least prove that what has been abstracted from one side, has been added with
interest to another. Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries, has greatly excelled the preceding ages in every branch of useful discipline; but Tuscany has not taken in that elevation the part which she held of old, and which she ought to have retained, in order to preserve her right to that precedency and importance to which it seems both she and her Academy still consider themselves as entitled. "The Tuscans appear to have remained stationary amid the advancement of the other provinces of Italy, and especially of those of the north. For some time past, the best Italian poets and prose writers have not been from Tuscany; and this truth, not easily comprehended by the Tuscans, must have greatly contributed to lessen that authority which the tribunal of the Crusca enjoyed in the days of Magalotti, Salvini and Redi. The people of Tuscany are the best speakers, and its literary men the worst writers in Italy.' These are my assertions, and they have for a foundation our modern literary his
tory. The hasty and general nature of my prooemium* necessarily debarred me from entering into any thing like a detail of circumstances. But I am now forced to follow another course, and we must proceed to facts. Let us take a rapid glance of the literary history of Italy, from the commencement of the 18th century down to the present time. One hundred and twenty years is a good tract of time, and of him who has slept during all that period it is surely no calumny to own that he has " slept a long sleep."
Now it may be asked, where were the flowers of all knowledge to be found during this long period? In all other parts of Italy sooner than in Tuscany. Who were the greatest and most learned men? Gravina, Muratori, Maffei, Corvini, Pacciaudi, Saverio, Mattei, &c. &c. not one of whom is Tuscan. Who was the Prince of Antiquaries? Ennio Quirino Visconti, a Roman. Who is the chief of the living archæologists and lapidaries? The Abate Morcelli, provost of Chiari. Who attained the highest rank as a writer of political history during the above mentioned period? Will the Tuscans name as such their Galluzzi, their Cambiaso, their Pignotti? But who would place these names in competition with the great luminaries of history, with Bianchini, Giannone, Muratori, Denina? And who is our most illustrious living historian, proclaimed as such by the voice of the whole Italian nation? Without any doubt Botta the Piedmontese.
In the history of the arts, Tuscany was wont to boast of Vasari, Baldinucci, Dati, now almost forgotten and neglected; and the lead in that department of literature has long been taken from the Tuscans. The Storia della pittura of the Abate Lanzi-the Cose del Milizia-the Lettere Senesi of P. della Valle-the Cenacolo of Leonardo, by the painter Bossi-the Storia della Scultura of Cicognara-the Enciclopedia Metodica Critico-ragionata of the Abate Zani, are among the greatest and most remarkable works of the times, and their authors are all from other districts than Tuscany. The Tuscans have only the works of Gori Gandellini, augmented
by De Angelis, and some few things by the Canonico Moreni, whose principal merit consists not so much in the style, as in his great tenderness for the sacred office of the Inquisition. To these works we may well oppose those of Signorelli, Foscarini, Ticozzi, May er, and many others.
And now that we speak of the fine arts, by whom is the only History of Music which Italy can yet boast of? By a Bolognese, the Father Martini. And who is the author of those Lettere (Haydine) Sulla Estetica Musicale, which all classes have read with so much delight? One of our own Milanese, G. Carpani.
To whom has been granted the first rank among the writers of the literary history of Italy? No Tuscan will dare to contend with Tiraboschi, the Bergamasque. And all the other works of the same class, which preceded and followed that of Tiraboschi, from whence have they proceeded? Crescimbeni's is from Macerata, Quadrio's from the Valtellina, Bettenelli's from Mantova, Signorelli's from Na ples, Foscarini's from Venice, Mazzu→ chelli's and Corniani's from Breschia, Serassi's from Bergamo; and so it may be said of many other works, which we here omit, per brevita.
If we turn our regards upon philosophy, we shall find, that the first and deepest thinkers have been produced out of Tuscany. It would suffice to name Vico alone, without alluding to Genovesi, Stellina, Pietro Verri, and others. And if to philosophy we add politics, and the principles of legisla tion, where is the Tuscan name which can stand to be confronted with Gravina, Niccola Spedalieri, Filangeri, Beccaria? In political economy, no Italian writer equals Genovisi, Galiani, Pietro Verri, and no Tuscan can be measured with our Gioja. Indeed, this part of philosophical discipline, prior to and since the time of Pompeo Neri, was entirely neglected in Tuscany, but has, on the contrary, been cultivated with success and honour among ourselves, by Mangotti, Valeriani, Cagnazzi, Bosellini, Ressi, Beretta, Padovani, and many others.
Sacred eloquence does not boast a single writer of celebrity in Tuscany.
* Discorso Proemiale premesso al Volume XVII. del Giornale Letterario-Scientifico intitolato Biblioteca Italiana. Di Guiseppe Acerbi. Milano, 1820.