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predecessors, conspired to raise this poem to perhaps a higher degree of fame, than it could justly claim. It is rather without striking defects, than rich in peculiar beauties ; more the work of a tasteful scholar than of an inspired poet. At all events, as its excellence consists rather in the general effect than in any detached passages, it will not allow us to illustrate our opinions by any specimen.

At length Alfieri arose, and at a fortunate period; for the peculiar talents of Metastasio, the exquisite purity of his language, the occasional felicity of his plots, the elegant faultlessness of his manner, and the music of his verse, were rapidly confirming the prejudice, that effeminacy was the distinguishing character of Italian literature; and that the language of Dante and Machiavelli could not aspire to a higher flight than an amorous madrigal or a pastoral dialogue. Tragedy itself gave way to, or was travestied into opera : instead of sweeping by in her gorgeous pall, she began to move with false pomp and bravura energy ;-she had cast aside her indignant harp, to which every lofty emotion of the heart once replied,

* To caper nimbly in a lady's chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.' From this disgrace she was rescued by the stern and haughty Piedmontese; whose merits it is extremely difficult to appreciate with correctness ; as the contrast between the character of the writer and that of his works, forms the most singular problem in literary history, with which we are acquainted. We should have expected from the vehement and impetuous Alfieri, passion violating every rule, and lawless energy trampling upon the established canons of his art; we find him cool, and enslaved to artificial laws. We should have expected at one moment a passage of careless vigour, at another, of deep and soul-felt tenderness; we find the whole laboured into a calm and uniform dignity. We should have expected to shudder and weep; but Alfieri excites neither terror nor tears. We should have guarded against errors of excess and exaggeration, but his love has not much fire, nor his ambition much turbulence : even the furious hater of kings declaims against tyranny in his Timoleon and his Brutus, with something of measured solemnity and elaborate pomp. He aspired, in short, as Mr. Schlegel happily observes, to be the Cato of the theatre, forgetful that the dramatic poet must be of any philosophy rather than the stoic. His tragedy, therefore, has neither the simplicity of the Greek, nor the rich variety of the Shakspearian drama: his characters have neither the high ideal grandeur of the former, nor the distinct identity and perfect

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nature of the latter. They are neither purely poetical, nor the personages of real life in poetical colours. They are a sort of abstract beings of his own creation, with a strong family resemblance; whether they are Romans or Spaniards or Italians, they are like each other in their manner of speaking and acting. His style also bears evident marks of the toilsome process with which he wrought his works. We want the ease, the sudden flow, the, heat of inspiration. The very absence of ornament and figurative expression is evidently studied, and his speeches are too often cut up into brief apothegmatic sentences. . Celare artem,' is doubtless the great excellence of a tragic writer, but Alfieri's art is obtrusive ;, even in his Myrrha, which is so much admired by the Italians, the effect has always appeared to us too evidently laboured. It is not the incestuous daughter burying her own guilty passion in her heart, and involuntarily betraying it ; but. the poet delaying the disclosure in order to sustain the interest of his play. Still the tragedies of Alfieri are noble poems. He displays consummate skill in unfolding and eonducting his plots; he is always eloquent, always able to keep the imagination alive i and the uniform dignity of his manner is in the highest degree imposing : he reconciles us to his want of passionate flights, and the ardent and exalting raptures of poetry, by never deviating into the low or the ludicrous—and if Italy may still hope to possess a greater tragic poet, let her recollect that Alfieri was the first splendidly to vindicate her from the disgrace of entire barrenness; and that the poet who shall transcend him will bow his head to few of ancient or of modern times.

The Aristodemo of Vincenzo Monti justly excited great expectations. While Alfieri, in the words of Mr. Hobhouse, regarded as a wild irregular genius, scarcely within the pale of literary civilization, Monti was the tragic writer of Italy, and was confidently hailed as the successful candidate for an eminence as yet never occupied.' The faults of Aristodemo are an insufficiency of plot for the length of five acts, and an apparent feebleness in the working up of the last scene. The fable is simply as follows. The gods, consulted by the Messenians as to the event of the war with Lacedæmon, had commanded a virgin to be sacrificed to Pluto. The maiden appointed by lot, was stolen away, and Aristodemo, ambitious of dazzling the people into his views upon

the

crown, voluntarily offered his own daughter Dirce. Her lover and mother conspired to declare her disqualified for the purity required in the victim. In his wrath Aristodemo slew her, and in a manner too offensively dwelt upon, discovered her to be innocent. His only remaining daughter, a child, had been surprised by the enemy, and, it

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was supposed, had perished. Here the play opens. Aristo-
demo is the victim of remorse, and is perpetually haunted by
the shade of his murdered daughter. The only tie which binds.
him to life is a sort of parental fondness for Cesira, a captive
maiden, whom, at the peace which is agreed upon, he must re-
store to her home. The mysterious attachment is returned by
the affectionate girl. The skill of the poet is employed, with
some violation of probability, in delaying the departure of Cesira,
who, just as Aristodemo has given himself his death blow in a
paroxysm of horror, is discovered to be his lost daughter. A
breathless interest pervades the whole piece; the vision, with the
objection hinted at above, is in the highest style of poetry, and the
language is remarkably pure, and at the same time rich. We shall
select as a specimen the parting scene of Aristodemo and Cesira;
she is come to offer a garland at the tomb of Dirce, feeling a
tender interest for her, because she was the daughter of Aristo-
demo. Aristodemo breaks from among the tombs, as though
flying from the spirit which pursues him
Aristodemo.

Leave me-avaunt-
Mercy! thou cruel! mercy!
Cesira.

Where shall I hide me?
Me miserable! I cannot look on him ;
Nor cry, nor flee-who, who will counsel me?
What should I do!-assist him? - ah! he's covered
All over with the paleness of the dead !
How doth his brow burst out in clammy dews,
And all his hair stands up!—The sight of him
Heaps terror on memoh, Aristodemo,
Aristodemo, hear'st thou noti-
Aristodemo.

Avaunt,
Depart—and touch me not-relentless shade-

Cesira. Open thine eyes-look on me once again-
Tis I, my Lord, that call thee.
Aristodemo.

Who ?-'tis gone!
Where hath it fled ? who saved me from the wrath
Of that most cruel
Cesira.

And of whom dost speak?
My Lord, why glarst thou round?
Aristodemo.

Didst thou not see it?
Didst thou not hear it ?
Cesira.
Whom? whom? all

my

limbs
Tremble to hear thee.
Aristodemo.

Who art thou, that comest
In pity to mine aid ? Be thou from heaven-
A deity-reveal thee-at thy feet
I'll cast me and adore
Cesira.

Oh Gods! what dost thou,
Wilt thou not know me then I-I am Cesira.

Aristodemo.

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Aristodemo. Who is Cesira?-
Cesira.

Ah me! he hath lost
All knowledge--dost thou then not recognize
My face?
Aristodemo. I have it stamped within my

heart-
My beart speaks to me and the veil falls off.
My consolation! who hath sent thee here
Into these arms?-oh let me then with thine
Mingle my tears--my heart would burst with anguish,
If still my tears refused to succour it.

Cesira. Yes, pour it all into my faithful bosom-
Thou wilt not find another, that will be
More deeply pierced with pity and with sorrow:-
I heard some words thou uttered'st from thy lips,
That made me shudder. Tell me, then, what is it,
This cruel spectre that doth still pursue thee.

Aristodemo. The innocent that doth pursue the guilty!
Cesira. Who is the guilty?
Aristodemo.

I.
Cesira.

Thou !-why dost wish
That I should think thee guilty-
Aristodemo.

I did murder her-
Cesira. Whom didst thou murder ?
Aristodemo.

Mine own daughter!
Cesira.

Heavens!
He raves—what madness hurried thee to set
Thy foot within there? -Oh ye merciful Gods,
If merciful it plea

ye to be called,
Oh give him back again his wandering reason-.
Have pity on him.-Still, my Lord, thou tremblest !
What look'st thou on so intently?-
Aristodemo.

It comes back!
"Tis there! itself!--and seest thou not?-ah save me !
Hide me in the name of mercy from its sight.

Cesira. My Lord, thou wanderest-Nothing can I see But yonder tomb

Aristodemo. Look on't-'tis fixed there
Erect and fierce upon

the
open

threshold
Look on't-its motionless eyes it rivets on me-
And rages-Cruel, be appeased !- If thou'rt
In truth, my daughter's spirit, why dost wear
A form so terrible, and who gave thee right,
Unnatural! t'afflict thy father thus?
She's silent—she draws back—she disappears-
Ah me, how cruel and how dread she is ! -

Cesira. I too did feel chill creeping through my veins
The frost of terror-nothing did I see,
Nothing, no truly :--but that broken groan,
So feebly heard, the silent horror breathed
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From

From the open sepulchre :-thy words--the paleness
Upon thy face-still more my soul's wild tumult,
Forbid me more to doubt-that there within
The horrid spectre doth abide; but wherefore,
Still visible to thy eyes-avoids it mine?

Aristodemo. Thou’rt innocent. The pupils of thine eyes
No, no, they are not made to see the secrets
Which the gods' wrath reveals to guilty eyes,
To strike them dead with awethou never shed'st
A mother's blood-nature condemns not thee.

Cesira. Art thou in truth then guilty ?
Aristodemo.

I have said it;
But do not, I beseech thee, ask me further.
Fly, Ay me, far away, abandon me.

Cesira. I-I abandon thee! ah no, whatever
Be thy misdeed, within my heart is written
Thy full defence.

Aristodemo. Ah, still 'tis written in heaven,
My condemnation, written in the blood
Of th' innocent.

Cesira. And what, my Lord, the dead,
Can they not pardon?

Aristodemo. No. Beyond the tomb
The gods reserve unto themselves alone
The power of pardon; and if thou thyself
Hadst been my daughter, if with impious arm
I had murdered thee-Ab tell me, then, wouldst thou,
A merciful spirit, to thy fell assassin
Have given a pardon? wouldst thou, oh Cesira,
Have given a pardon.
Cesira.

Ah! peace, peace !
Aristodemo.

And thinkest thou
That heaven would have consented ?
Cesira.

Doth heaven grant
Unto the souls of children wrath so long

Against their fathers, and such barbarous vengeance ? We break off with reluctance, for the scene continues to the end wrought with the same skill and power, and if Monti had continued to write thus, the high expectations of Italy would not have been disappointed. But the tragediografo of the Cisalpine republic, (for to that office he was appointed,) after having in turn virulently libelled and basely flattered every predominant power, offers a striking instance of the deterioration of talent in proportion to the abandonment of high and generous principle. His Caio Gracco contained, indeed, eloquence, and the last scene would furnish a most splendid opportunity for the display of such female acting, as we have seen in Mrs. Siddons, but which we fear that we shall see no more : but the Galeotto Manfredi of the same

writer

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