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BYRON AND THE ITALIAN INFLUENCES

N

OF HIS WRITINGS

By ALBERT E. TROMBLY

He

O one of the many English poets, who have lived in Italy, has become as acclimated there as has Byron. This was due, I think, not so much to his long residence in that country, as to the fact that he was temperamentally meridional. Vehement, passionate, sentimental, and voluptuous, he was inore nearly akin to the Mediterranean peoples than to his quasi-austere and well-nigh stolid countrymen. might well boast of being cosmopolitan, for his restless spirit was indeed without a country. He was ostracized from England, sought refuge in Italy, and found death in Greece. After his social exile from England, it was Italy that received him; and it was there that he did most of his best work. Enamored of the country, the people, their language and literature, he became quite domesticated. Writing to Moore from Ravenna in 1820, he says: ". . . I suspect I know a thing or two of Italy; -what do Englishmen know of Italians beyond their museums and saloons and some hack en passant? Now, I have lived in the heart of their houses, in parts of Italy least influenced by strangers, have seen and become (pars magna fui) a portion of their hopes, and fears, and passions, and am almost inoculated into a family. This is to see men and things as they are."

Byron seems to have had a good command of the Italian language, though he speaks of it somewhere, as being one easy to catch a smattering of, but almost impossible for a foreigner to master. With the literature he was well acquainted. He knew the

works of Dante, Petrarch,* Boccaccio, Ariosto, Pulci, Tasso, Berni, Alfieri, Casti and doubtless of many others. He met Monti, Pindemonte and Silvio Pellico. It was through Pellico that he saw the satires of the Venetian poet Pietro Buratti, which were lent him in manuscript, they being too bold for publication. Another contemporary poet whose work Byron liked was Vitorelli, one of whose sonnets he translated.

A quotation from one of Ariosto's satires furnishes the motto for canto IV of "Childe Harold," while the "Corsair" has citations from Tasso and Dante. Stanzas 42 and 43 of the fourth canto of "Childe Harold" are a paraphrase of Filicaia's famous sonnet to Italy, and in "Don Juan," canto III, 108, the beautiful verses: "Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart

Of those who sail the seas, on the first day

Byron's acquaintance with Petrarch, Boccaccio, Ariosto, and Tasso, may be indicated by his allusions to them. In "Don Juan" III, 8, we have: "Think you if Laura had been Petrarch's wife, He would have written sonnets all his life?"

And in his letter to Murray (February 7, 1821) on Bowles' strictures of Pope, he seems to have considered Petrarch the greatest of Italian poets.

Again in "Don Juan" III, 105, he says of the pine forest of Ravenna:

"Evergreen forest which Boccaccio's lore,

And Dryden's lay made haunted ground to me." In a letter to Murray (from Genoa October 25, 1822) he says in speaking of his "Don Juan": "It may be now and then voluptuous: Ariosto I can't help that. is worse."

In an earlier letter to Murray (Venice, July 1, 1917) in explaining these verses from "Childe Harold" IV, 3: "In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more, And silent rows the songless gondolier"

he says: "You know that formerly the gondoliers sung always, and Tasso's 'Gierusalemme' was their ballad." †The sonnet beginning:

"Di due vaghe donzelle, oneste, accorte"
"Italia, Italia, o tu, cui, feo la sorte"

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