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My Prisons : MEMOIRS OF Silvio Pellico: with Additions, and a Biographical Notice
of Pellico, by PIERO MARONCELLI: Translated from the italian. In two vols. 12mo. pp. 643. Cambridge, Mass: CHARLES FOLSOM.
The first volume of this publication is a new translation of the' Prizioni' of Silvio Pellico, published in 1832, which excited so great an interest in Europe and in this country. As most of our readers are familiar with the story of this man of misfortune and genius, it will be unnecessary to give any account of the book, which has already, by its touching simplicity of style, and display of Christian feeling and devotion, awakened the sympathy of so many, and painted, more strikingly than could volumes of declamation, the injustice and oppression under which the captives suffered. The translation of the work is in general easy and correct, though slight inelegancies of style, caused by too scrupulous an adherence to the original, occasionally appear. A biographical notice of the poet, by his friend and companion in suffering, Maroncelli, is prefixed to the second volume, and is full of interest, by reason of the light it throws upon Pellico's history, and the sketches it affords of other distinguished individuals. The incident which led Silvio to the composition of the dramatic poem that gained him his highest reputation, is mentioned. He had been engaged with a tragedy upon a Grecian subject — Laodicea — but seeing by chance a young actress, who afterward became celebrated throughout Italy, her pale and expressive countenance inspired him to the conception of his Francesca. Having written the play of Francesca da Rimini, he gave it to Foscolo to read; who counselled him to burn the new piece, while he highly approved of the old one. Silvio reversed the decision of his friend, destroyed the Laodicea, and produced the other; and thus became known as the first living dramatist of his country. Pellico also translated Byron's Manfred into prose.
The 'Additions of Signor Maroncelli are notes to the narrative of his friend. Unchecked by the rigid censorship which restrained the disclosures of Pellico, these notes present a more fearful picture of the cruelties exercised upon the unhappy prisoners. Their food and manner of labor is described: they were, it seems, deprived of all articles of convenience. An instance is mentioned in which the director objected to the use of a wooden fork, alleging it to be a violation of discipline:
“Silvio was mild and patient, but he could not endure certain stupid exactions, made under the pretence of being necessary to good order. It appeared to him that there could be no violation of order in leaving us a wooden fork. In vain; the harmlessness of such a concession could not enter heads more wooden than the forks. We were, therefore, in the habit of repeating on similar occasions a saying proverbial throughout Italy, which is essentially characteristic of the good people of Austria : Indietro ti e muro : (Back with you and the wall.*) Under these vexation Silvio could no longer restrain himself. Will it shake the Austrian empire,' said he, 'if, instead of eating filthily with my fingers, I make use of a piece of wood ?!”
Our ingenious prisoners, however, found a substitute for the forks in the wooden needles given them for the purpose of knitting stockings, which they tied together
Many other instances of the most exacting cruelty are related. One of the captives had domesticated a young sparrow, which being accidentally discovered in his cell by the director of police, was taken from the prisoner, while the guards were dis
*"Indietro tu e il muro. The proverb refers to an order given by the Austrian soidiers, who, during a procession at Naples, directed the crowd to fall back. They were answered that it was impossible to fall back farther, as the walls of the houses were already pressed against. 'Back with you and the wall!' was the rejoinder. VOL. VIII.
missed for want of vigilance. After repeated appeals, however, to the clemency of the emperor, express permission was obtained for the restoration of the bird.
Part of the second volume is occupied by Signor Maroncelli's essay, or sketch of an essay, upon the two great schools of composition heretofore distinguished by the appellations classic and romantic. Instead of this conventional and arbitrary distinction, founded only upon the form or material of the work, and not on a difference of essence, the author proposes to establish distinctive terms more definite, and which convey an idea of their meaning in themselves. These may be best explained in his own words:
“Profound poetry, whether of thought, imagination, or sentiment, might, as I believe, be described by two words; the one mente (mind) comprehending thought and imagination; the other core (heart) expressing sentiment. From these I have ventured to form the compounds cor-mental, cor-mentalism, and cor-mentalist. In this compound, the word mente is used to denote every creation properly called intellectual ; and the word core, every creation emanating from the feelings, from the gentlest breath of affection to the strongest emotion. From the intellect, as from a mother, proceeds the newly formed idea ; the heart, like a tender nurse, receives and cherishes it into youth and manhood.
“That poetry which neither thinks, imagines, nor feels profoundly, which skims over the surface without ever sounding the depths, not from being faulty in its kind, but from its nature, (thus forming a distinct species, good in its way, but the reverse of the other,)might be defined by the words superficialness and superficial, if they had not been perverted from their pure and original meaning, and become terms of cen
We would avoid needless occasions of misunderstanding. The words sketch and profile are familiar in the fine arts, and either of them would designate admirably that species of composition which touches without penetrating, which delineates without coloring. If we prefer the second as more definite, we may derive from it profilism, profilary, and profilist.”
Under these new distinctions, the writer calls the literature of Greece and Rome almost wholly profilary, while that of the ages of Christianity is on the contrary cor-mental. The latter epithet is applied to many writers whom we have been accustomed to consider as classic; Tacitus, and Ovid where he enters into the passions, as also Tasso, Alfieri, Klopstock, etc. The different characteristics of many of the modern Italian writers, and their claims to the distinction of cormentalism, are ingeniously but briefly sketched. We fully coincide with the author's opinion of Chiabrera, but are not disposed to agree with him in the case of Guidi, to whom we think he is hardly just. The odes of Guidi have afforded us, in times past, too much pleasure for us to remember their author without respect. With regard to the novel system of classification proposed by Signor Maruncelli, we consider it entitled to the attention of the learned in every country. Its adoption would remove much vagueness and perplexity in the application of the terms now employed. The translation of this part of the book, by Miss Sedgwick, is much better than that of the other portions, and exhibits the style of an experienced writer.
The work is accompanied with a few of Signor Maroncelli's poems, not heretofore given to the world, we believe, even in the original. They have been translated by Mrs. E. F. Eller, with the taste and talent that mark every thing coming from the pen of that highly-gifted lady. But it is a task of almost insuperable difficulty to transfer the peculiar graces with which a poet embellishes his work, to another language. One might almost as well hope to gather the dew-drops that sparkle on a wild flower, and make them shine as beautifully on a hot-house rose: the element indeed is there, but its brightness and beauty will be seen no more.
Nevertheless, the translator may give it new charms, as did Pope to the Iliad, which in his version is something more, if not something better, than Homer's. The fol.
Jowing 'Hymn of the Night' is imbued with piety and deep feeling, and will serve to show the beauty and spirit of Mrs. Ellet's translations:
HYMN OF THE NIGHT.
In Afric's sea, the king of light
With honors varying as they part,
With ever new delight:
Now the enamoured Hindoo maid,
By fate's inevitable will,
Beside the flowret-bordered rill.
Barefoot, with tresses all uobound,
Now bends she, gathering froin the ground
In oue sweet wreath, no more to stray,
A shallow vase of yielding clay
The burk to love thus consecrate
Recedes, still trembling, votes the fute
Which hung in yon blue dome afar,
To light his hosts above :
That they harm not the cherished ray ;
That, gliding safely on its way,
My God! Oh! banished ne'er from Theo
Was spread tbe purple pall of day :
Sinking with brow displeased away,
False, impious rest, away!
Here, in the glooi that knows no ray,
And, if along the unstable tide
Her cherished torch the maid behold With fadeless bearn securely glide
Through all its pilgrim-course - consoled She rises, praisinIlim who saves;
Who bids distrustful fear remove* As lives thy light upon the waves,
So lives thy distant love!
Menace with chaos, whelming all,
Roll back the interminable pall,
Crowning the scasons in their flight
Lord! who wert still my earliest friend!
So speaks the beam, in sorrow's night
Speaks of her absent love:
For me, the vessel frail of clay,
The love thy gooduess gave –
With none with none to save!
By pitiless tempests driven,
Oh! be thy succor given !
In the blest port from danger free;
I ne'er may wander, Lord! from Thee !
In the appendix, the author has translated into Italian poetry, very happily, some charming verses by the Hon. Mr. Wilde, and Mrs. Ellet.
These volumes, we are certain, will form a valuable addition to any library; and the interesting details they present, will cause them to be generally read. We cordially recommend them. The mechanical execution, we should not forget to observe, is superb.
The TOKEN AND ATLANTIC SOUVENIR : A Christmas and New Year's Present. Edi
ted by S. G. GOODRICH. pp. 348. Boston: CHARLES BOWEN.
The tenth volume of the Token, although in some respects better than its immediate predecessor, is by no means what it should be, considering its age, and the liberal patronage which has hitherto been extended to it. We allude now more particularly to its embellishments, and externals of printing, binding, etc. Taken as a whole, we think that in regard to these features, at least, this annual has certainly not improved. The publisher deserves credit, however, for setting the good example of introducing engravings only from original American pictures ; but let him guard against the fault of issuing bad engravings, by incompetent or unskilful artists, under the impression that their being 'native here' will excuse the defects of bad and perhaps cheaply-purchased pictures. But let us glance briefly at the plates of the present volume.
Annette Delarbre,' engraved by Andrews, from a painting by West, is exceedingly well executed, and is a fine embodiment of the pathetic story by Irving, whose title it bears. The composition is full; but throughout there is a calm, clear breadth of light and shade, and the cutting is delicate and soft. The vignette, painted by Chapman, and engraved by GALLAUDET, is also well achieved by both artists. The bow, as a token of promise, resting over the sea and a romantic headland, is a happy conception. 'Katrina Schuyler,' engraved by Andrews from a painting by WEST, is another excellent picture. There is much good execution, and a great deal of spirit and expression, in' The Lost Found,' painted by Leslie, and engraved by J. CAENEY, "The Whirlwind,' from the pencil of Cole, and the graver of GaLLAUDET, we cannot admire, although we have no fault to find with the manner of its production. Like a picture of a water-fall, it cannot satisfy the mind. True, there are the twisted tree – the prostrate forest — the black and frowning sky; but we lack the 'rushing of a mighty wind' — the motion of the storm-clouds - the all-pervading roar of the ele
The scene is beyond the blazon of the pencil. There is little of invention, and no especial merit in 'I went to gather Flowers.' 'The Mother' is well but coarsely cut. The infant' in her arms, however, has the appearance of a naked boy of five years, if one might judge from the countenance. "The Indian Toilet' is a clever design, by CHAPMAN; it has, however, a serious blemish in the physiognomy of the Indian maid, who looks like a stout white girl, clad in the garb of a savage. The attitude of the figure in 'Pleasant Thoughts' is the only creditable feature about it. The less we say of the merits of the engraving, the kinder we shall be to the artist's reputation. There are sublinity and power in ‘The Wrecked Mariner,' but the figures detract from the performance. If there be any thing like honor in precedence, the ' Aqueduct near Rome,' engraved by Smillie, from a painting by Cole, occupies a very undeserved position as the last plate in the book. There is not a finer or more elaborately-finished engraving in the volume.
The literary contents of the Token, with some few exceptions, are much above the average of annual literature. Taken together, the prose is far better than the verse. Without essaying to do full justice to the reading department of the volume, we will briefly record our impressions of some of the more prominent articles. “Katrina Schuyler,' by Fay, is a tale of early American times, and is marked by that flowing style and fine dramatic effect for which the writer is distinguished. Monsieur du Miroir,' although the veil chosen by the writer is somewhat of the thinnest, is ingeniously devised, and well sustained throughout. Commend us to the author of Sunday at Home! Such writers are the salt of the literary earth. They are con
tent to describe Nature as they find her, without lugging in unnatural embellishments of their own. A few extracts will justify our encomiums:
"Every Sabbath morning, in the summer time, I thrust back the curtain, to watch the sunrise stealing down a steeple, which stands opposite my chamber window. First the weathercock begins to flash; then, a fainter lustre gives the spire an airy aspect; next it encroaches on the tower, and causes the index of the dial 10 glisten like gold, as it points to the gilded figure of the hour. Now, the loftiest window gleams, and now the lower. The carved frame-work of the portal is marked strongly out. At length, the morning glory, in its descent from Heaven, comes down the stone steps, one by one: and there stands the steeple, glowing with fresh radiance, while the shades of twilight still hide theinselves among the nooks of the adjacent buildings. Methinks, though the same sun brightens is
, every fair morning, yet the steeple has a peculiar robe of brightness for the Sabbath.'
The writer spends a pleasant Sunday at home, behind the curtain of his window, near the church, whence he scrutinizes with the eye of a painter :
"Though my form be absent, my inner man goes constantly to church, while many, whose bodily presence fills the accustomed seals, have left their souls at home. But I am there, even before my friend, the sexton. Ai length he comes — a man of kindly, but sombre aspect, in dark gray clothes, and hair of the same mixture — he comes, and applies his key to the wide portál. Now, my thoughts may go in among the dusty pews, er ascend the pulpit without sacrilege, but soon come forth again, to enjoy the music of the bell. How glad, yet solemn too! All the steeples in towu are talking together, aloft in the sunny air, and rejoicing among themselves, while their spires point heavenward. Meantime, here are the children assembling to the Sabbath-school, which is kept somewhere within the church. Often, while looking at the arched portal, I have been gladdened by the sight of a score of these little girls and boys, in pink, blue, yellow, and crimson frocks, bursting suddenly forth into the sunshine, like a swarm of gay butterflies that had been shut up in the solemn gloom. Or I might compare them to cherubs, haunting that holy place.
"About a quarter of an hour before the second ringing of the bell, individuals of the congregation begin to appear. The earliest is invariably an old woman in black, whose beni frame and rounded shoulders are evidently laden with some heavy affliction, which she is eager to rest upon the altar. Would that the Sabbath came iwice as often, for the sake of that sorrowful old soul! There is an elderly man, also, who arrives in good season, and leans against the corner of the tower, just within the line of its shadow, looking downward with a darksome brow. I sometimes fancy that the old woman is the happier of the two. After these, others drop in singly, and by twos and threes, either disappearing through the door-way, or taking their stand in its vicinity. At last, and always with an unexpected senisation, the bell turns in the steeple overhead, and throws out an irregular clangor, jarring the tower to its foundation. As if there were magic in the sound, the sidewalks of the street both up and down along, are immediately thronged with two long lines of people, all converging bitherward, and streaming into the church. Perhaps the far-off roar of a coach draws nearer – a deeper thunder by its contrast with the surrounding stillness - until it sels down the wealthy worshippers at the portal, among their humblest brethren. Beyond that entrance, in theory at least, there are no distinctions of earthly rank; nor, indeed, by the goodly apparel which is Aaunting the sun, would there seem to be such, on the hither side. Those pretty girls! Why will they disturb my pious meditations! Of all days in the week, they should strive to look least fascinating on the Sabbath, instead of heightening their mortal loveliness, as if to rival the blessed angels, and keep our thoughts from heaven. Were I the minister himself, I must needs look. 'One girl is white muslin from the waist upward, black silk downward to her slippers; a second blushes from top-knot to shoetie, one universal scarlet; another shines of a pervading yellow, as if she had made a garment of the sunshine. The greater part, however, have adopted a milder cheerfulness of hue. Their veils, especially when the wind raises them, give a lightness to the general effect, and make them appear like airy phantoms, as they fit up the steps, and vanish into the sombre door-way. Nearly all — though it is very strange that I should know it wear white stockings, white as snow, and neat slippers, laced crosswise with black ribbon, pretty high above the ankles. A white stocking is infinitely more effeclive than a black one."
The close of the afternoon service, and the dispersion of the congregation, is not less felicitously described:
Suppose that a few hours have passed, and behold me still behind my curtain, just before the close of the afternoon service. The hour-band on the dial has passed beyond