Page images
PDF
EPUB

writings of those authors who had so many greater beauties to atone for them.

If clearness and perspicuity were only to be consulted, the poet would have only to clothe his thoughts in the most plain and natural expressions. But since it often happens that the most obvious phrases, and those which are used in ordinary conversation, become too familiar to the ear, and contract a kind of meangess by being used by the vulgar, a poet should take particular care to guard himself against idiomatic ways of speaking. Oyid and Luçan abound with vulgarisms arising from the immediate adoption of low phrases, without scrupulous attention to words best adapted to convey sentiments exalted and sublime, which are so essential to the excellence of an epic poem. Miltop has but a few failings of this kind. There are, however, some instances, as in the following passages:

...... Awbile discourse they huld,
No fear lest dioner cool, when. ...

Who of all ages to succeed, but feeling
The evil on him brougbt by me will curse
My head ?. ... ill fare our ancestor impure:

For this we may thank Adam. .... It is not sufficient that the language of an epic poem be perspicuous, unless it be also sublime. To this end it ought to deviate from the common forms and ordinary phrases of speech. The judgment of a poet very much discovers itself in avoiding the common modes of expresşion, withont falling into such phrases as may seem stiff and unnatural; he must not swell into a false sublime, by endeavouring to avoid the other extreme. Among the Greeks, Æschylus and sometimes Sophocles, were guilty of this fault, among the Latins Claudian and Statius; and among our own countrymen, Shakespeare and Lee. In these authors the affectation of greatness often

negli scritti di quelli autori che aveano cotanto grandi bellezze da contrapporre ad essi.

Se chiarezza e perspicuità fossero le sole a seguirsi, il poeta dovrebbe solamente vestire i suoi pensieri delle più schiette e naturali espressioni. Ma poichè incontra sovente che le più ovvie frasi , e quelle che sono adoperate nell'ordinaria conversazione divengono troppo familiari all'orecchio e prendono una specie di mediocrità per essere usate nel volgo, il poeta dovrebbe con istudio peculiare prendersi guardia dalle maniere plebee di parlare. Ovidio e Lucano abbondano di bassezze che nascono dall'immediato adottare frasi volgari senza fare attenzione a cercarne migliori atto a dare sentimenti elevati e sublimi , che sono così essenziali all' eccellenza del poema - epico. Milton ha poche macchie di questo genere. Ve ne sono però alcune come nei seguenti passi che in italiano suionan cosi:

..... Parlaro alquanto,
Che i cibi non perdevan, quando.....

Chi nell'età fulure al mal gemendo
Trallo su lui da me, non me blasfemi ?...
Male abbia il nostro Proloplasto impuro;

Tai grazie tolga Adam !.... Non basta che lo stile del poema epico sia perspicuo, se non è ancora sublime. A questo fine ei deve partirsi dalle forme volgari e dalle frasi ordinarie di parlare. Il giudizio del poeta si palesa di molto nello schivare le comuni mapiere di esprimersi senza dare in que' modi che sembrano stentosi e non naturali ; non deve levarsi in un falso sublime studiandosi di evitare l'altro estremo. Fra Greci , Eschilo e talora Sofocle peccarono di questa colpa; fra Latini , Claudiano e Stazio, e fra nostri compatriotti, Shakespeare e Lee. In questi autori l'affettazione di grandezza nuoce sovente alla perspicuita dello stile, siccome in

hurts the perspicuity of the style, as in many others lhe endeavour after perspicuily prejudices its greatness.

Aristotle has observed, that the idiomatic style may be avoided, and the sublime forned, by the following methods: First, by the use of metaphors: such are those in Milton,

Imparadis'd in one another's arms.
...... And in his hand a reed
Stood waving tipt with fire. ...,
The grassy clods now calı'd.....

In these, and inpumerable other instances, the metaphors are very bold, but just. I must, however, observe, that the metaphors do not abound in Milton, which always savours too much of wit; that they never clash with one another, which, as Aristotle observes, turns a sentence into a kind of enigma or riddle; and that he seldom has recourse to them where the proper and natural words will do as well.

Another method of raising the language, and giving it a poetical turn, is to make use of the idioms of other languages. Virgil is full of the Greek forms of speech, which the critics call Hellenisms, as Horace, in bis odes, abounds with them much more than Virgil. I need not mention the several dialects which Homer has made use of for this end. Milton, in conformity with the practice of the ancient poets, and with Aristotle's rule, has infused a great many Latinisms as well as Græcisms, and sometimes Hebraisms, in the langnage of his poem.

Under this head may be ranked the placing the adjective after the substantive, the transposition of words, the luroing the adjective into a substantive, with several other foreigo niodes of speech, which this poet has naturalized, to give his verse the greater sound, and throw it out of prose.

più altri lo sforzarsi ad esser chiari danneggia alla grandezza.

Aristotele osservò che lo stile plebeo si può evitare e formare il sublime eoi metodi seguenti: primamente con usare di metafore : tali sono in Milton, recate in italiano cosi:

Si l'un dell'allro in braccio imparadisa..
...... In man brandia una canna
Con punta ignita..
Figlia ogni gleba.....

In questi ed altri innumerevoli tratti, le metafore sono molto ardite ma giuste. Debbo nullameno osservare che in Milton non abbondano le metafore le quali sempre sentono di troppa vivacità , che esse non mai s'incontrano con un'altra la quale, come esserva Aristotele, avvolge il sentimento in una specie di enimma o indovinello, e che egli raramente le adupera quando proprie e naturali parole vi si adagiano del pari.

Altro metodo di elevare lo stile e dargli foggia poetica è far uso di maniere di altre lingue. Virgilio è pieno delle greche forme di dire, cui i critici chiamano ellenismi , ed Orazio nelle sue odi ne abbonda più ancor di Virgilio. Non è bisogno mentovare i molti dialetti usati da Omero a questo fine. Milton secondo questo costume degli antichi poeti e colla regola di Aristotele ha trasfuso gran copia di latinismi, di grecismi e talora di ebraismi nello stile di questo poema.

A questo capo riduconsi il collocamento dell'aggettivo dopo il sostantivo , la trasposizione delle parole, il volgere l'aggettivo in un sostantivo con più altre pellegrine maniere di dire naturalizzate da questo poeta per dare maggiore armonia al suo verso ed elevarlo sulla prosa.

The third method mentioned by Aristotle, is what agrees with the genius of the Greek language more than with that of any other tongue, and is therefore more used by Homer than by any other poet; I mean the lengthenin of a phrase by the addition of words which may either be inserted or omilted, as also by the extending or contracting of particular words, by the insertion or omission of certain syllables. Milton bas put in practice this method of raising his language, as far as the nature of our tongue will permit, by which method he has given a greater variety to his numbers; but this practice is more particulary remarkable in the names of persons and of countries, as Beelzebub, Hesebon, and in many other particulars, wherein he has either changed the name , or made use of that which is not the most commonly koown, that he migth the better depart from the language of the vulgar. For the sake of the metre, this practice is admissible, but to deviate from what is right, merely from a principle of departing from the yulgar, is ridiculous and absurd. The same reason recommended to him several old words, which also make his poem appear the more venerable, and give it a greater air of antiquity.

I must likewise take notice that there are in Milton several words of his own coining, as Cerberean, mis-created, hell-doom'd, embryon atoms, and many others. If the reader is offended at this liberty in our English poet, I would recommend him to a discourse in Plutarch, which schews us how frequently Homer has made use of the same liberty.

Milton by the above-mentioned aids, and by the choice of the most expressive words and phrases which our ton. gue would afford him, has carried our language to greater height than any of the English poets have ever done before or after him, and made the sublimity of his style equal to that of his sentiments.

« PreviousContinue »