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then studying in England; and had become fo well acquainted with our language as to publish an English essay on epick poetry; in which are the following words:
Milton, as he was travelling through Italy in his youth, faw at Florence a comedy called Adamo, written by one Andreini, a player, and dedicated to Mary de Medicis, queen of France. The fubject of the play was the Fall of Man ; the actors, God, the Devils, the Angels, Adam, Eve, the Serpent, Death, and the seven mortal Sins: That topick, so improper for a drama, but so suitable to the abfurd genius of the Italian ftage (as it was at that time), was handled in a manner entirely conformable to the extravagance of the defign. The scene opens with a Chorus of Angels; and a Cherubim thus fpeaks for the reft: Let the rainbow be the fiddlestick of the fiddle of the heavens! let the planets be the notes of our mufick! let time beat carefully the measure, and the winds make the sharps, &c. Thus the
"A la lira del Ciel Iri fia l'arco,
"Corde le sfere fien, note le ftelle,
"Sien le paufe e i fofpir l'aure novelle,
"El tempo i tempi à mifurar non parco!"
Choro d' Angeli, &c. Adamo, ed. 1617.
The better judgement of the author, Mr. Walker obferves, determined him to omit this chorus in a fubfequent edition of his drama: accordingly it does not appear in that of Perugia, 1641. See the Hiftorical Memoir on Italian Tragedy, 1799, P. 169.
play begins, and every scene rifes above the last in profufion of impertinence !
"Milton pierced through the abfurdity of that performance to the hidden majesty of the fubject, which, being altogether unfit for the stage, yet might be (for the genius of Milton, and his only,) the foundation of an epick
"He took from that ridiculous trifle the first hint of the nobleft work, which human imagination has ever attempted, and which he exe-. cuted more than twenty years after."
That Milton had certainly read the facred drama of Andreini, is the opinion both of Dr. Jofeph Warton and of Mr. Hayley. Another elegant critick has observed, that Voltaire may have related a tradition perhaps current in England at the time it was vifited by him period at which, it may be prefumed, some of the contemporaries of Milton were living, for he was then only about fifty years dead. Milton, with the candour which is usually united with true genius, probably acknowledged to his friends his obligations to the Italian dramatist, and the floating tradition met the ardent inquiries of the French poet." It may be worth mentioning here, that Dante, according to the account of fome Italian criticks, took the hint
Hift. Mem. on Ital. Tragedy, p. 170.
e Warton's Hift. of Eng. Poetry, vol. iii. p. 241.
of his Inferno from a nocturnal representation of Hell, exhibited in 1304 on the river Arno at Florence; and that Taffo is faid to have conceived the idea of writing his Aminta at the representation, in 1567, of Lo Sfortunato of Agoftino Argenti in Ferrara.
From the Adamo of Andreini a poetical extract, as well as the fummary of the arguments of each act and scene, were given by Dr. Warton, in an appendix to the fecond volume of his Effay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, 1782. Mr. Hayley has cited other fpecimens of the poetry in this " fpirited, though irregular and fantastick, compofition;" from which Milton's fancy is supposed to have caught fire. The reader will find a few quotations alfo, from this rare and curious drama, in the Notes on Paradife Loft. But, if the Adamo be examined with the utmost nicety, Milton will be found no fervile copyift: He will be found, as in numberless inftances of his extensive, his curious, and careful reading, to have improved the slightest hints into the finest descriptions. Milton indeed, with the skill and grace of an Apelles or a Phidias, has often animated the rude sketch and the fhapeless block. I mean not to detract from the
a Hift. Mem. ut fupr.
From the remarks of Prince Giacomo Giuftiniani, (the accomplished governour of Perugia,) on the Adamo, which were tranfmitted to Mr. Walker, and by Mr. Walker obligingly com
Italian drama; but let it here be remarked once, for all, in Milton's own words, that "borrowing, if it be not bettered by the borrower, among good authors is accounted plagiarie." Let the bitterest enemies of Milton prove, if they can, whether the author of this ingenuous remark may be exhibited in fuch a light; rather let them acknowledge that, in fully comparing him with those authors who have written on fimilar fubjects, he must ever be confidered as
"above the rest
"In shape and gefture proudly eminent."
The drama of Andreini was fo little known when Dr. Birch was writing the Life of Milton, that Warburton, in a letter to that learned bio
municated to me, it appears that the criticks of Italy confider Milton not a little indebted to their countryman. I will cite the opinion of the liberal and elegant Tirabofchi: "Certo benche L'Adamo dell' Andreini fia in confronto del Paradifo Perduto ciò che è il Poema di Ennio in confronto a quel di Virgilio, nonclimeno non può negarfi che le idee gigantefche, delle quali l'autore Inglese ha abbellito il fuo Poema, di Satana, che entra nel Para. difo terreftre, e arde d' invidia al vedere la felicita dell' Uomo, del congreffo de Demonj, della battaglia degli Angioli contra Lucifero, e più altre fommiglianti immagini veggonfi nell' Adamo adombrate per modo, che a me fembra molto credibile, che anche il Milton dalle immondezze, fe così è lecito dire, dell' Andreini raccoglieffe l'oro, di cui adorno il fuo Poema. Per altro L'Adamo dell' Andreini, benche abbia alcuni tratti di peffimo gufto, ne hà altri ancora, che fi poffon proporre come modello di eccellente poefia."
f Eiconoclaftes, Profe-Works, edit. 1698, fol. vol. ii. p. 509.
grapher, preferved in the British Museum, ridicules the relation of Voltaire. "It is faid that it appeared by a MS. in Trin. Coll. Camb. that Milton intended an opera of the Paradife Loft. Voltaire, on the credit of this circumstance, amongst a heap of impertinency, pretends boldly that he took the hint from a comedy he faw at Florence, called Adamo. Others imagined too he conceived the idea in Italy; now I will give you good proof that all this is a vifion. In one of his political pamphlets, written early by him, I forget which, he tells the world he had conceived a notion of an epick poem on the story of Adam or Arthur. What then will you fay must we do with this circumftance of the Trin. Coll. MS? I believe I can explain that matter. When the parliament got uppermoft, they fuppreffed the playhouses; on which Sir John Denham, I think, and others, contrived to get operas performed. This took with the people, and was much in their tafte; and religious ones being the favourites of that fanctified people, was, I believe, what inclined Milton at that time (and neither before nor after) to make an opera of it."-Even at a much later period, the very exiftence of the Adamo was denied; for Mr. Mickle, an ardent admirer of Milton, and the very able translator of The Lufiad, calls it "8 a
& Differtation prefixed to the Tranflation of the Lufiad, zd edit. Ox. p. ccii,