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Thus closes his tragedy, of which at least the last act is wrought with consummate skill and admirable scenic effect. If we lay out of the account the nature of the plot, which some may think too horrible for legitimate tragedy, though we confess ourselves of a different opinion, the defects of the drama are too great an uniformity of situation, and an obscurity of style. Our terror is so often appealed to, lest the father should slay his child, that we become in some degree familiarised with the danger, and are of course less moved by it. On the second point we must refer to our former observations on the unfitness of the Latin language for dramatic poetry, most of which apply to the close and pregnant style of Foscolo. It displays indeed great mastery over the language, to comprise so many ideas in so few words; but when our feelings are addressed, we like not the having to dwell on sentences, the antithetical force and fullness of which occasionally remind us of Tacitus. We either hurry on without having received into our minds the whole meaning of the author, or we pause so long as to lose the spirit of the scene. But these defects are nobly counterbalanced by the general impression of poetic power which the whole piece bears ; by the conception and execution of the characters which appear to us truely tragic and original. There is something tremendous in Guelfo, whose vigilant suspicion finds aliment in the most trivial circumstances; and who is so deep in guilt, as to take pride in hardening himself in his atrocity. God to him, he thinks, must be a God of vengeance; he has sinned beyond hope of mercy, therefore he must go on; his is a fine exemplification of that faith of the devils, 'who believe and tremble. Yet, even in him, nature sometimes speaks; gleams of parental affection pass across the gloom of his spirit; he wavers and is irresolute, till some new occurrence excites him again to frenzy, and he abandons himself to the guidance of furious passion. Ricciarda, with the exception which we hinted above, is uniformly pleasing: willing to be the sacrifice, and only anxious that her father may escape the guilt of her death; for this, foregoing even her love for Guido-for this, offering herself to commit suicide. Guido, from his peculiar situation, is more inactive than we should have wished; but there is something imposing in his calm and uniform generosity.
The “ Francesca da Rimini," of Silvio Pellico, is the poem of ardent and unstudied feeling. There is a natural ease in every expression, and the artifice of the plot seems to originate rather in the instinctive delicacy of the poet's mind, which shrunk from the undisguised relation of an incestuous passion, and felt intuitively the right way of securing the reader's commiseration for the unhappy pair. The play opens with the father (Guido of
VOL. XXIV. NO. XLVII.
Ravenna) and (Lancelot of Rimini) the husband of Francesca, who mutually deplore the melancholy which perpetually broods over her, and wbich they attribute to grief for the death of her brother, by the hand of Paulo, the younger brother of her husband. On the intelligence of the approach of Paulo to Rimini, she had intreated to be sent away; to be sent any where rather than meet him. When she enters she acknowledges her secret sadness.
God hath laid a weight incredible
Lancelot. Oh dutiful, though cruel! still afflict me; Steep all my hours in poison-only live.' Lancelot hints at the possibility of her being melancholy from some concealed attachment; he recalls some ambiguous words which she had once uttered.
• Francesca. Ah-even in their delirium, of the wretched
Gladly, so I may fly the face of man.'
of the East. He knew not, and is now first informed by Lancelot, that Francesca of Ravenna is his wife. Paulo's confusion is attributed to his having slain her brother in battle, and he declares, in agitation, that he must depart again, and go where she is not. In the first scene of the second act, Francesca is about to reveal her dreadful secret to her father; she hints to him that she is the slave of an unlawful, though yet ungratified, passion; but while her father is in the first access of anger, and before she declares the object of her attachment, Lancelo enters
to intreat her, at Paulo's desire, to see him once before he departs for ever. He too has betrayed to his brother that he is the victim of a hopeless passion, and concealed the object of it. In the third act they meet by accident, and betray their mutual passion in a scene of exquisite simplicity and beauty. They had before met, they had read together in the romance, and (here the author differs from the tradition, to which Dante so tenderly alludes,) they had parted without any declaration. Paulo had afterwards slain her brother by accident, and thought himself hated by her. She, abandoned by him, had thought herself forgotten. They part in the presence of her husband and father ; the secret flashes at once upon the former. In the fourth act is an interview between the father and Lancelot. The father had made Francesca swear, at the foot of the altar, that she was still innocent; and with this certainty, that Paulo loves her and is beloved, but that their love is still guiltless, the brothers meet in mingled hostility and affection.
• Lancelot. Advance, thou wretched man!
I am not used
To a brother.
Speak, then-thy bride
Paulo. Francesca-never would I brook
If thy brother
He should be no more my brother.
Lancelot. Me too even now that fierce desire assails-
Paulo. Oh! 'twere less cruel, wouldst thou with thy sword
I am not base--seduce!
Lancelot. And most immodest art thou too of men
Wretched for ever.' While this generous dialogue is unfinished, Francesca appears; the jealousy of Lancelot breaks out anew, and at the close of the scene he orders his brother into custody, and preparations to be made for Francesca's departure to Ravenna. In the fifth act, the husband, through the father's intervention, entreats a parting interview with Francesca; she is awaiting him, when on a sudden Paulo breaks in with a drawn sword, having bribed his guard. In a vision he fancied that he had seen Francesca slain by her jealous husband, and weltering in her blood; and he is come to defend her. Their language is growing more impassioned, when Lancelot enters; in his fury he attacks his brother. Francesca springs between them, and falls by the hand of Lancelot; Paulo then rushes on his brother's sword and dies.
We consider that this single beautiful example would be sufficient to justify our opinions, that the Italians should look at home
for their tragic subjects. Why should not Dante be to them what Homer was to the Greek tragedians ? What they will lose in that conventional grandeur which our imaginations attach to the heroic and mythological ages of Greece, they may gain in the truth and natural eloquence of their delineations from the human heart. We are aware that Altieri, in the opinion delivered by himself on his Don Garzia, pronounces that the fable of that play would have been more truly tragic had the scene been laid in Mycenæ, or Thebes. Why this should be we see not, and we think that we could point out far more true and sufficient reasons for the inferiority of Don Garzia. Alfieri's other play, on a national subject, the · Congiura dei Pazzi,' is too evidently the work of a political partizan. But we look with confidence for a still further confirmation of our theory from Signor Pellico. From his power of touching us so deeply, when employed on a subject, even in his hands objectionable, we can conceive with what effect his flow of highly passionate feeling, and the exquisite facility of his language, might be employed on some more pleasing fable. We hope that he will soon allow us to make known to our readers some new production, to which we trust that some of our writers will repay the high compliinent of translating it, in return for Signor Pellico's endeavour to make his countrymen acquainted with the ' Manfred' of Lord Byron; a translation of which in prose (it should have been in verse) is appended to the Francesca da Rimini. To Signor Foscolo, who is resident amongst us, we may address ourselves more personally. To him, whose mind is so richly stored, not merely with the intellectual treasures of his own country, but those of ancient Greece and Rome; to him, who is a scholar in the highest sense of the word, not merely from skill in recollecting the anomalies of language, and the peculiar usages and force of words (though from the notes appended to his specimen of a translation of the Iliad, we should suppose him profound in this department of learning also,) but from his intuitive power of entering into the spirit and character of the great ancient writers; to him, whose mastery over his own language, the language of Dante, Petrarch, and Tasso, is only so great as to lead him to a somewhat wanton and capricious display of power in inverting it, and condensing it into epigrammatic conciseness; to him we would say, that the name of Foscolo should be known to posterity as something greater than that of the author of Ortis's Letters, or even of Ricciarda. The former work, though eloquent, is far too like Werter, and one of that race is assuredly enough for the world; and we think that the author may be expected to excel even the latter: and let him rest assured, that whatever may be the destiny of his beloved Italy,