Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/144



Next Ariosto, Tasso was the greatest poetical genius modem Italy ever admired. But if he was inferior to him as to knowledge of language, variety of invention, rapidity of expression, picture of manners and general powers’ of delighting, on the other hand he never defiled any of his pages with immodest or vulgar talk, and his style isconstantly nervous and perspicuous, his thoughts sublime, his characters striking, his descriptions picturesque and his learning unbounded; no wonder therefore if some of his countrymen stili continue to set him higher than his rivai, as he likewise spoke of religion with a truly Christian dignity and often showed that no theme whatsoever is so susceptible of poetical beauties as the exposition of the doctrine contained in the sacred books.

Foreigners, and especially the French, generally coincide with the opinion of the smaller number of our critics, and boldly give the preference, as I took notice above, to Tasso, whenever they compare him with Ariosto. But though I declare myself so warm an admirer of the Jerusalem as to prefer it to the epic performances of Dante, Pulci and Boiardo, yet I wish that foreigners, for the sake of their literary honour, would proceed with a little more caution when they discourse on such a subject, and be less confident of their knowledge of our tongue and poetry; because, though it is true that on some points Tasso is superior to his rivai ; yet if he has on the whole fewer faults, they must be persuaded that he has also fewer perfections. But as I said above, I shall perhaps hereafter bave occasion to write an English treatise entirely on this subject in which I hope I shall prove past contradiction, that a nation cannot in point of literature constantly deceive themselves for centuries and that foreigners cannot without incurring the charge of impertinence think themselves better qualified than any native to fíx the rank of our authors, as every body knows that Italy can boast of men versed in dead languages, as well as the most eminent of other nations, and they must be supposed to understand their own far better and consequentlv more able to judge of the productions of their own soil.