Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/103



his doubts of the merit attributed to the ItaHan; and finding in this poem an infinite number of puerilities, went further, and looked into some part of the Geriisalemnie of Tasso, that then made also a great noise in Paris, and in that he found likewise some conceits. Besides he had occasion to give his opinion on the Tale of Giocondo translated into French by his friend La Fontaine, and found in the originai of Ariosto a pun,

This was enough to make the rigid critic conclude that the Italian writings were ali full of cold puns, conceits and quibbles. He let loose his rage against them and treated them with the greatest contempt, either because he believed himself in the right, or through hatred to Chapelain and Ménage, who were lavish in their praises of us. Boileau did not observe that the pun in the Tale of Giocondo was by Ariosto judiciously put into the mouth of an inn-keeper, who affected to be arch and facetious in recounting his novel to Rodomonte his guest; that pun therefore is beautiful in its place, being quite in the character of an inn-keeper.

Boileau grew furious and his fury so fascinated his judgment, that he could not perceive any tolerable beauty either in Ariosto, Tasso or in any other Italian poet. From hence his famous proverbiai verses took their rise:

Laissons á l’Italie de tout ce faux brillant l’éclataíite folie... Toiit le clinqiiant du Tasse á toni l’or de Virgile,

and ali the other abuses he threw out against us.

It is an observation made a long time ago that the French, like sheep, constantly follow him that happens to be their leader. If one of their princes of the blood or one of their great generals advances towards the enemy in battle, the whole army follows him courageously. If their king puts on a wig of a particular fashion, ali the French will bave wigs á la royale. If a duke and peer of the kingdom wears an extravagant colour, if a man of great dignity introduces a mode, ali the nation conforms itself to his taste immediately.