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fond of Dante in particular, that he wrote some Italian verses, yet extant, in the style of that epic poet: a thing not only extremely difficult for a foreigner, but aJso for an Italian, since to understand Dante perfectly we are obliged to study him in the schools and Universities with almost as much labour as we do Virgil. If then Milton was so much master of Dante ’s style that he could write verses in his manner, and if the thoughts and images of both the poems have a great resemblance to each other, as the reader may see by the quotations I have given; if the very subjects and tides are alike, is it not more reasonable and probable to say that Milton took the first hint of his Paradise lost from a noble and famous epic poet, than from a mean ridiculous comedian?
Let not the reader wonder, if, with so little ceremony, I cali in question the veracity of Mr. Voltaire, since I see by his wrong decisions concerning the Italians in his Essay and in his other writings, that he does not understand our language, and that he has a particular hatred to us, never losing any occasion to tear us with contemptuous jests, giving false characters of our most celebrated writers, translating unfaithfully some passages from their works and inventing falsehoods to make his readers laugh at our expense.
Among other deviations from truth in the Essay, he says that «Tasso sends Ubaldo and his companion to an old holy conjurer, who carries them just into the center of the earth. The two knights walk there on the banks of a rivulet covered with precious stones of ali kinds. From that place they are sent to Ascalon to an old woman who carries them swiftly in a little ship to the Canary islands».
This cold merriment of our poor critic is a false translation of what Tasso says in a most noble strain: «savio mago» is vilely translated into English «holy conjurer». But let us see Tasso’s description of the old woman of Ascalon (canto xv, stanza iii and IV):
Vider picciolo nave, e in poppa a quella che guidar la dovea, fatai donzella, ecc.