« PředchozíPokračovat »
that the lady on the throne would have been almost frightened to
Et neque jam color est misto candore rubori ;
Ov. MET. MET. 3. 491.
Her spirits faint,
There was a great change in the hill of money bags, and the heaps of money ; the former shrinking, and falling into so many empty bags, that I now found not above a tenth part of them had been filled with money.
The rest that took up the same space, and made the same figure as the bags that were really filled with money, had been blown up with air, and called into my memory the bags full of wind, which Homer tells us his hero received as a present from Æolus. The great heaps of gold, on either side the throne, now appeared to be only heaps of paper, or little piles of notched sticks, bound up together in bundles, like Bath fag. gots.
Whilst I was lamenting this sudden desolation that had been made before me, the whole scene vanished : in the room of the frightful spectres, there now entered a second dance of apparitions very agreeably matched together, and made up of very amiable phantoms. The first pair was Liberty, with Monarchy at her right hand; the second was Moderation leading in Religion; and the third, a person whom I had never seen,' with the genius of Great Britain. At the first entrance the lady revived; the bags swelled to their former bulk; the pile of faggots, and heaps of
· The Elector of Hanover-afterwards George I-C. V. Freeholder No. 2.-G.
paper changed into pyramids of guineas : and, for my own part, I was so transported with joy, that I awaked; though, I must confess, I would fain have fallen asleep again to have closed my vision, if I could have done it."
No. 5. TUESDAY, MARCH 6.
Spectatum admissi risum teneatis ?
HOR. Ars, Poet. V. 5.
Admitted to the sight, would you not laugh?
An opera may be allowed to be extravagantly lavish in its de corations, as its only design is to gratify the senses, and keep up an indolent attention in the audience. Common sense, however, requires, that there should be nothing in the scenes and machines which may appear childish and absurd. How would the wits of King Charles's time have laughed to have seen Nicolini exposed to a tempest in robes of ermine, and sailing in an open boat upon a sea of pasteboard? What a field of raillery would they have been let into, had they been entertained with painted dragons spitting wildfire, enchanted chariots drawn by Flanders mares, and real cascades in artificial landscapes ! A little skill in criticism would inform us, that shadows and realities ought not to be mixed together in the same piece; and that the scenes which are designed as the representations of nature, should be filled with resemblances, and not with the things themselves. If one would represent a wild champain country filled with herds and flocks, it
1 Though Addison professes to avoid party topics in the Spectator, this number was a direct appeal to the partizans of the House of Hanover; against which some of the leading Tories were supposed to be plotting with the connivance of the Queen herself.-G.
would be ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd several parts of the stage with sheep and oxen. This is joining together inconsistencies, and making the decoration partly real and partly imaginary. I would recommend what I bave here said, to the directors, as well as to the admirers, of our
As I was walking in the streets about a fortnight ago, I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds upon his shoulder; and, as I was wondering with myself what ise he would put them to, he was met very luckily by an acquaintance, who had the same curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his shoulder, he told him, that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. · Sparrows for the opera ! says his friend, licking his lips; what, are they to be roasted ? No, no, says the other; they are to enter towards the end of the first act, and to iy about the stage.
This strange dialogue awakened my curiosity so far, that I immediately bought the opera, by which means I perceived the sparrows were to act the part of singing birds in a delightful grove; though, upon a nearer inquiry, I found the sparrows put the same trick
the audience, that Sir Martin Mar-all' practised upon his mistress; for, though they flew in sight, the music proceeded from a concert of flagelets and bird calls which were planted behind the scenes. At the same time I made this discovery, I found, by the discourse of the actors, that there were great designs on foot for the improvement of the opera; that it had been
i Sir Martin Mar-all, or «The Feigned Innocence,' a comedy made up of pieces borrowed from Quinault's 'Amant Indiscret,' the Étourdi’ of Molière and M. Du Parc's ‘Francion-is founded on a translation of the 'Étourdi' by the Duke of Newcastle, who allowed Dryden to alter and bring it forward for his own benefit. It had a great run-chiefly owing to the comic skill of Nokes--was printed anonymously in 1668, and with Dry. den's name in 1697.--G.
proposed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience with a party of an hundred horse; and that there was actually a project of bringing the New River into the house, to be employed in jetteaus and water-works. This project, as I have since heard, is postponed till the summer season; when it is thought the coolness that proceeds from fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people of quality. In the mean time, to find out a more agreeable entertainment for the winter season, the opera of Rinaldo is filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fire-works; which the audience may look upon without catching cold, and indeed without much danger of being burnt; for there are several engines filled with water, and ready to play at a minute's warning, in case any such accident should happen. However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before be would let this opera be acted in it.
It is no wonder that those scenes should be very surprising, wbich were contrived by two poets of different nations, and, raised by two magicians of different sexes. Armida (as we are told in the argument) was an Amazonian enchantress, and poor Signior Cassani (as we learn from the persons represented) a Christian conjurer; (Mago Christiano). I must confess I am very much puzzled to find how an Amazon should be versed in the black art; or how a good Christian (for such is the part of the magician) should deal with the devil.
To consider the poets after the conjurers, I shall give you a taste of the Italian, from the first lines of his preface: Eccoti,
i In modern times, the new river has actually been used both at Covent Garden and in a suburban theatre.-G.
? An alarm of fire having occasioned great confusion in the play.house, a manager came forward and begged the audience to be composed, for he had the pleasure to assure them that there was water enough a-top to drown them all.-C.
benigno lettore, un parto di poche sere, che sebben nato di notte, non è però aborto di tenebre, ma si farà conoscere figliolo d'Apollo con qualche raggio di Parnasso. “Behold, gentle reader, the birth of a few evenings, which, though it be the off. spring of the night, is not the abortive of darkness, but will make itself known to be the son of Apollo, with a certain
of Parnassus.' He afterwards proceeds to call Mynheer Handel the Orpheus of our age, and to acquaint us, in the same sublim. ity of style, that he composed this opera in a fortnight. Such are the wits to whose tastes we so ambitiously conform ourselves. The truth of it is, the finest writers among the modern Italians express themselves in such a florid form of words, and such tedious circumlocutions, as are used by none but pedants in our own country, and at the same time fill their writings with such poor imaginations and conceits, as our youths are ashamed of before they have been two years at the university. Some may be apt to think that it is the difference of genius which produces this difference in the works of the two nations ; but to shew there is nothing in this, if we look into the writings of the old Italians, such as Cicero and Virgil, we shall find that the English writers, in their way of thinking and expressing themselves, resemble those authors much more than the modern Italians pretend to do. And as for the poet himself, from whom the dreams of this opera' are taken, I must entirely agree with Monsieur Boileau, that one verse in Virgil is worth all the clinquant or tinsel of Tasso.
1 Rinaldo, an opera, planned by Aaron Hill: versified by G. Rossi, set by Handel. Walsh got £1,500 by printing it.-G.
2 A Malherbe, à Racan préférer Théophile
Et le clinquant du Tasse à tout l'or de Virgile.-Boileau, Bat. ix. 176. By consulting this celebrated passage of Boileau, it will be seen that it is far from bearing out Addison's sweeping assertion. French cr'tics have even restricted it to a mere condemnation of some of the acknowledged faults of Tasso's style. V. Notes on Travels' pass.--G.