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and that he who is scarcely worthy of being heard in conversation, becomes fruitful, captivating, of. ten sublime, from the moment he abandons himself to this inspiration. The talent of the improvisatore is a gift of nature, a gift which often has no connexion with the other faculties. When it manifests itself in a child, his friends endeavour to cultivate his mind by study, and make him acquainted with all that can be brought to the aid of poetry—mythology, history, science, and philosophy; but this gift of heaven, this second more harmonious language, which yields without effort, to technical form, cannot be altered, nor added to, and is left to unfold itself. Sounds produce corresponding sounds, the rhymes range themselves in their proper order, , and the agitated soul is heard only in verse: Like the vibration of a sonorous chord when struck, it divides itself into harmonious parts, and emits accordant tones alone. The extempore composer demands a subject or theme from the assembly which is to hear him; the topics of mythology, those of religion, history, and the events of the day, are, without doubt, offered to him more frequently than any others; but these four branches contain, after all, a few hundred different heads, which may be considered as worn out, and it must not be thought the conferring a favour on the poet, to give him a theme which he has already treated. He would not be an improvisatore, if he did not surrender himself to the impulse of the moment, and if he resorted to his memory rather than to his emotion. After having received his subject, the improvisator remains a few moments in Vol. I.
meditation, for the purpose of viewing all its parts, and of arranging the plan of the little poem he is about to compose. He then prepares the eight first verses, in order to rouse himself in the recital, and to kindle that effervescence of soul which makes of him a new being. After seven or eight minutes, he is ready and commences his song, and the extempore composition often contains five or six hundred verses. His eyes wander, his visage is inflamed, and he struggles with the prophetic spirit which seems to animate him. Nothing in our day can represent in a more striking manner, the Pythia of Delphi, when the god descended and spoke' by her mouth. There is an easy rhyme, the same which Metastasio employs in his Partenza a JWice, which is accommodated to an air known under the name of the air of the Improvisatore; it is that which they employ when not disposed to give themselves trouble, or when they have not the ability to rise higher. It is composed of couplets of eight verses of ten syllables, divided into two quartrains, and each quartrain terminated by a verse tronco, so that, in fact, there are but two rhymed verses in each quartrain. The music sustains the prosody, and conceals, if necessary, the defective verses; thus, this method of extempore composition is within the reach of persons of very little talent. But all the improvisatori do not sing; some indeed, of the most celebrated have no voice, and are obliged to declaim their verses with as much rapidity as if they read them: and, the most illustrious of them make it an amusement, to subject themselves to the laws of the closest versification. At the 2 K
option of him who proposes the theme, they confine themselves to the tiercet of Dante, or to the octaves of Tasso, or to any other form equally constrained; and this limitation of rhyme and verse seems to increase their eloquence, and the richness of their imagination. The celebrated Gianni, the most astonishing of the improvisatori, has written nothing, in the quiet of the cabinet, which can sustain his immense reputation; but, when he composes extemporally, stenographers catch his verses with facility;-they are afterwards printed, and we are astonished to find in them an elevation of poetry, an opulence of imagery, a force of eloquence, and sometimes, even a depth of thought, which place him on a level with men who have done most honour to Italy. The famous Corilla, who was crowned in the capitol, was particularly distinguished for her playful fancy, her grace, and often her gaiety. La Bandettini of Modena, educated by a Jesuit, learned from him the ancient languages. She made herself familiar with the classics, then studied the sciences, in order to qualify herself for treating any theme which might be proposed to her. She thus nourished her poetic talent with a vast fund of knowledge. La Fantastici, the wife of a rich goldsmith of Florence, was not conversant with such elevated subjects, but she had received from heaven a musical ear, an imagination worthy the name she bore, and a facility, a copiousness, which seconded her harmonious voice. Madam
Mazzei, of the family of Landi, one of the best in Florence, surpasses, perhaps, all the rest in the fertility of her imagination, the richness and purity of her style, the mellifluousness and perfect regularity of her verse. She does not sing, and her ideas always hurrying on before her words, she cannot pay due attention to her declamation.—Her recitation is, of course, not graceful; but as soon as she commences, the most harmonious language acquires new beauties from her poetry.we are ravished; borne along by the magic stream;—we feel ourselves transported to a new poetic universe, where mortals seem to use the language of the gods. I have seen her treat the most uncommon subjects;—characterize in magnificent octaves, the genius of Dante, of Machiavel, and of Galileo,-bewail in tiercets, the past glory of Florence, and the destruction of its liberties, extemporize a fragment of tragedy on a subject which tragic poets had never handled, so that, by a few scenes, she would furnish a distinct plot, and a clear dénouement.—She would fill five different sonnets on as many opposite subjects, always in the same rhyme which had been prescribed to her. But she must herself be heard, to conceive the prodigious effect of this poetic eloquence, and to make us sensible, that a nation, in the midst of which this flame of inspiration still burns, has not yet accomplished its literary career, and that it is reserved perhaps, for still greater glory, than that which it has already acquired.
From the German of W. Schlege L.
In conformity with the plan which we at first laid down, we shall now proceed to treat of the English and Spanish theatres.— We were compelled in passing to allude cursorily, on various occasions, sometimes to the one and sometimes to the other, partly for the sake of placing, by means of contrast, many ideas in a clearer light, and partly on account of the influence which these stages have had on the theatres of other countries. Both the English and Spaniards possess a very rich dramatic literature; both have had a number of fruitful dramatic poets of great talents, among whom even the least admired and celebrated, considered as a whole, display uncommon aptitude for dramatic animation and insight into the essence of theatrical effect. The history of their theatre has no connexion with that of the Italians and French; for it developed itself wholly from the fulness of its own strength without any foreign influence: the attempts to bring it back to an imitation of the ancients, or even of the French, have either been attended with no success, or not been made till a late period in the decay of the drama. The formation of these two stages is equally independent of each other; the Spanish poets were altogether unacquainted with the English; and in the older and most important period of the English theatre I could discover no trace of any knowledge of Spanish plays, (though their novels and romances were certainly known;) and it was aot till the time of Charles II, that
translations from Calderon made their appearance. So many things among men have been handed down from century to century and from nation to nation, and the human mind has in general displayed such tardiness of invention, that originality in any department of mental exertion is every where a rare phenomenon. We are desirous of seeing the result of the efforts of enterprising heads when they proceed straight forward in invention, without concerning themselves with what has elsewhere been carried to a high degree of perfection; when the lay the foundation of the new edifice on uncovered ground, and derive all the preparations, all the building materials, from their own means. We participate, in some measure, in the joy of success, when we see them advance rapidly from their first helplessness and necessity to a finished mastery in their art. The history of the Gre. cian theatre would afford us this cheering prospect could we witness its rudest beginnings, which were not preserved, for they were not even committed to writing; but it is easy, when we compare together Æschylus and Sophocles to form some idea of the preceding period. The Greeks neither inherited nor borrowed their dramatic art from any other people; it was original and native, and for that very reason it could produce a living and powerful effect. But it ended with the period when Greeks imitated Greeks; namely, when the Alexandrian poets began learnedly and critically to compose dramas after the model of the great tragic writers. The reverse of this was the case with the Romans: they received the form and substance of their dramas from the Greeks; they never attempted to act according to their own discretion, and to express their own way of thinking; and thence they occupy so insignificanta place in the history of dramatic art. Among the nations of modern Europe, the English and Spaniards alone, as yet (for the German stage is but forming,) possess a theatre entirely original and national, which, in its own peculiar shape, has arrived at maturity. Those critics who consider the authority of the ancients as models to be such, that in poetry, as in all the other arts, there can be no salvation beyond the pale of imitation, affirm, that as the nations in question have not followed this course, they have brought nothing but irregular works on the stage, which, though they may possess occasional passages of splendour and beauty, as a whole, must ever be reprobated for barbarousness and want of form. We have already, in the introductory part of these lectures, stated our sentiments in a general manner respecting this way of thinking; but we must now examine this subject somewhat more closely. If the assertion were founded, all that distinguishes the works of the greatest English and Spanish dramatists, a Shakspeare and a Calderon, ought to rank them beneath the ancients; they would in no manner be of any importance for theory, and could at most appear remarkable, on the assumption that the obstinacy of these nations, in refusing to comply with the rules, might have afforded more ample scope to the poets to
display their native originality, though at the expense of art. But even this assumption will, on a more narrow examination, appear extremely doubtful. The poetic spirit requires to be limited, that it may move within its range with a becoming liberty, as has been felt by all nations on the first invention of metre; it must act according to laws derivable from its own essence, otherwise its strength will be evaporated in boundless vacuity. The works of genius cannot therefore be allowed to be without form; but of this there is no danger. That we may answer this objection of want of form, we must first come to an understanding respecting the meaning of form, which most critics, and more especially those who insist on a stiff regularity, understand merely in a mechanical, and not in an organical sense. Form is mechanical when, through external influence, it is communicated to any material merely as an accidental addition without reference to its quality; as, for example, when we give a particular shape to a soft mass that it may retain the same after its induration. Organical form, again, is innate; it unfolds itself from within, and acquires its determination along with the complete developement of the germ. We every where discover such forms in nature throughout the whole range of living powers, from the crystallization of salts and minerals to plants and flowers, and from them to the human figure. In the fine arts, as well as in the province of nature, the highest artist, all genuine forms are organical, that is, determined by the quality of the work. In a word, the form is nothing but a significant gxterior, the speaking physis
ognomy of each thing, disfigured
by no destructive accidents, which gives a true evidence of its hidden essence. Hence it is evident that the spirit of poetry, which, though imperishable, wanders as it were through different bodies, so often as it is newly born in the human race, must, from the nutrimental substance of an altered age, be fashioned into a body of a different conformation. The forms vary with the direction of the poetical sense; and when we give to the new kinds of poetry the old names, and judge of them according to the ideas conveyed by these names the application of the authority of classical antiquity which we make is altogether unjustifiable. No one should be tried before a tribunal to which he does not belong. We may safely admit, that the most of the dramatic works of the English and Spaniards are neither tragedies nor comedies in the sense of the ancients: they are romantic dramas. That the stage of a people who, in its foundation and formation, neither knew nor wished to know any thing of foreign models, will possess many peculiarities, and not only deviate from, but even exhibit a striking contrast to, the theatres of other nations who had a common model for imitation before their eyes, may be very easily supposed, and we should only be astonished were it otherwise. But when in two nations differing, in a physical, moral, political, and religious respect, so widely as the English and Spanish, the stages which arose at the same time without being known to each other possess, along with external and internal diversities, the most striking features of affinity, the attention of the most thoughtless must be turned to this phenomenon; and
the conjecture will naturally occur
to him, that the same, or, at least, a kindred principle must have prevailed in the developement of both. This comparison, however, of the English and Spanish theatre, in their common contrast with all the dramatic literature which has grown up from imitation of the ancients, has, so far as we know, never yet been attempted. Could we raise from the dead a countryman contemporary and intelligent admirer of Shakspeare, and another of Calderon, and introduce to their acquaintance the works of the poet to which they were strangers, they would both, without doubt, considering the subject rather from a national than a general point of view, enter with difficulty into the above idea, and have many objections to urge against it. But here a reconciling criticism must step in; and this perhaps may be best exercised by a German, who is free from the nationalities of either the English or Spaniards, yet friendly from inclination to both, and prevented by no jealousy from acknowledging the greatness which has been exhibited in other countries earlier than in his own. The similarity of the English and Spanish theatres does not merely consist in the bold neglect of the unities of place and time, and in the mixture of comic and tragic ingredients: that they were unwilling or unable to comply with the rules and with reason (which, in the meaning of certain critics, are words of equal signification) may be considered as an evidence of properties of merely a negative description; it lies much deeper, in the inmost substance of the fables, and in the essential relations, through which every deviating form becomes a true requi