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Nemica naturalenente di pace
and in these lines of the same ode:
Pon mente al temerario ardir di Serse;
In Canzone XXIX. this stanza is eminently beautiful :
Voi cui Fortuna ha posto in mano il freno
Di che nulla pieta par che vi stringa,
Perche'l verde terreno
Vano error vi lusinga.
His fonnets, truly fine, and in which the train of thought varies, might be reduced to about a dozen. The real poetical beauties of Dante might likewise fall into very small compass; consisting chiefly of the celebrated tale of Ugolino; and of that in the close of the Vth Canto of the Inferno; which is as exquisite for tenderness, as the other is remarkable for terror, Now, that beauties of writers are fashionable reading, a small duodecimo extracted from these two poets would, if performed with taste, be an acceptable present to the public : for no
works I have read afford so fair a field for selection as those of the fathers of Italian poetry; as they contain diamonds of the finest water loft in a mass of common foil. Yet were they both men of real genius; for superlative genius must be discovered from the amazing height it sometimes rises to; tho at other times it difplays no extraordinary vigor. The genius of Petrarch is however more equal and correct than that of Dante; yet he by no means wanted strength when he chose to exert it. Nor was Dante, whose excellence is native force, deficient in describing the tender passions, as may be seen in the Canto above referred to. Pe. trarch’s learning almost destroyed his genius. Dante's genius shot freely, having no bound of erudition to confine its vigor: he is a bold ori., ginal writer, whose beauties are peculiarly his own, while his faults are those of the times,
ERHAPS no question of criticism may
afford room for more curious investigation than this: In what quality does the perpetual and universal excellence of writing confiji? or, in other words, What property of composition is certain to procure it the classic and legitimate admiration of all ages
To decide on this point it is certainly the surest method to judge of the future by the past, and to pronounce that the same perfections which have secured to an author of three thousand years standing his due applause, will most infallibly effect the same end to a modern writer,
A POET of fine talents, but of far superior taste, has pronounced wisdom or good sense to be the very fountain of perfect composition. Scribendi recte fapere est et principium et fons.
And this maxim will be found to hold true in every species of writing whatever. Good sense may be called the salt that preserves the other qualities of writing from corruption. This property is alike required in every branch of the belles lettres; but there are others which may be considered as confined to one particular path of writing,
Such is imaginary invention with respect to poetry : I say, imaginary invention, to distinguish it here from that scientific invention which belongs to the judgment. This invention, as the parent of novelty, is the superlative qualification of poetry, and nothing can contribute more to procure it permanent admiration, Yet invention itself is inferior to strong sense
poetry, for there are poems in which the invention is rich yet disgusts by its futility; not being conducted by that acer animi vis, that keen force of mind, which always accompanies true genius.
If good sense is therefore a praise superior to invention itself in poetry, we may with great safety pronounce it one of the very first qualities that ensures applause to composition.