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Ar Ferrara, in the Library, are preserved the original MSS. of Tasso's Gierusalemme and of Guarini's Pastor Fido, with letters of Tasso, one from Titian to Ariosto, and the inkstand and chair, the tomb and the house, of the latter. But, as misfortune has a greater interest for posterity, and little or none for the contemporary, the cell where Tasso was confined in the hospital of St. Anna attracts a more fixed attention than the residence or the monument of Ariosto -at least it had this effect on me. There are two inscriptions, one on the outer gate, the second over the cell itself, inviting, unnecessarily, the wonder and the indignation of the spectator. Ferrara is much decayed and depopulated; the castle still exists entire; and I saw the court where Parisina and Hugo were beheaded, according to the annal of Gibbon.
INTRODUCTION TO THE LAMENT OF TASSO.
AFTER all that has been written upon the Duke of Ferrara's imprisonment of Tasso, a great deal continues to be left to conjecture. It seems certain that he was in love with the Princess Eleonora, and that he addressed her amatory poems. There are other pieces which probably refer to her, in which he boasts of a dishonourable success, and which are supposed to have fallen into the hands of her brother, the Duke. But the immediate cause of Tasso's arrest was a quarrel in the palace at Ferrara, when he threw a knife at a domestic. The incident ended in his being sent as a lunatic to the convent of St. Francis. This was on the 11th of July, 1577, and on the 20th he made his escape. In February, 1579, he returned to Ferrara, and the Duke and the Princess refusing to notice him, he uttered imprecations against them, was declared a madman, and was confined for seven years in the hospital of St. Anna. A miserable dungeon below the ground floor, and lighted from a grated window, which looks into a small court, is shown as the scene of his sufferings, but there is no likelihood that it has been correctly chosen, and Tasso was at least removed to a spacious apartment before a twelvemonth had elapsed. The poet protested that the madness of 1577 was feigned to please the Duke, who hoped, according to modern inferences, that any imputations upon the name of the Princess would be ascribed to the hallucinations of a distempered mind. Whether the subsequent madness of 1579 was real or not, has been the subject of endless speculations, but if clouds obscured the mind of Tasso they broke away at intervals, and allowed him to continue his immortal compositions. Lord Byron adopts the theory that he was imprisoned under a false pretence to avenge a pure but presumptuous love. The original MS. of the "Lament of Tasso" is dated "The Apennines, April 20, 1817." It was inspired by a single day's sojourn at Ferrara, when Lord Byron visited it on his way to Florence, and it is a striking instance of his instinctive sense of the direction in which his power lay, that before starting on the journey, he expressed his indifference for the poet's manuscripts, and centred his interest upon "the cell where they caged him." He was well aware that his imagination would be kindled by the scene of Tasso's woes, and that his own experience of the workings of a tortured bosom would enable him to celebrate in worthy verse the pangs of his brother bard. "I look upon
it," he wrote to Murray, "as a 'These be good rhymes !' as Pope's papa said to him when he was a boy." He did not overrate their excellence, for they are among his finest strains. They are mournful but not morbid,—the plaintiff musings of a sorrowstricken man, couched in the choicest language of a poet. The mind of Tasso wanders on in a natural progression from his captivity to his poem, from his poem to Leonora, from Leonora back to his dungeon, and his beautifully contrasted thoughts are at
once so natural, so original, and so piteous, that though there are pieces of Lord Byron which strike us more upon a first perusal, there is none that wins more lasting admiration. Throughout there is a wonderful vividness of feeling, and the final section,—when Tasso, soaring into far futurity, utters the proud prediction of his coming pre-eminence over his persecuting sovereign and disdainful mistress, -is majestic to sublimity. Lord Byron received three hundred guineas for the copyright.