Sannazarius, James

, vernacularly Giacomo San­Nazaro, a celebrated Italian and Latin poet, was born at Naples, July 28, 1458. His family is said to have been originally of Spanish extraction, but settled at an Dearly | period at Santo Nazaro, a flourishing town situated between‘ the Tessino and the Poj where it was long conspicuous for nobility and opulence. Reduced at length by the calamities of war, the more immediate progenitors of our poet removed to Naples. His father dying while this son was very young, his mother, unable from her poverty, to keep up her former rank, retired with her family to Nocera di Pagani, in Umbria, where Sannazarius passed a considerable portion of his youth. He had previously to his removal from Naples acquired the elements of the Greek and Latin languages, under the tuition of Junianus Maius, who conceiving a high opinion of his talents, prevailed on his mother to return again to Naples, where he might continue his education. Here he was admitted a member of the Academia Pontana, and took the name of Actius Sync-ems. He had formed an early attachment of the most tender kind to Carmosina Bonifacia, a young Neapolitan lady, but not being a favoured lover, uttered his disappointment in many of those querulous sonnets and canzoni which are still extant. In compositions of this kind Sannazarius is considered as having surpassed every other poet from the days of Petrarch. To dissipate his uneasiness, he tried the effect of travelling; but on his return, his grief was heightened by the report of the death of his mistress. She is understood to be the lamented Phyllis of his Italian and Latin poems.

The increasing celebrity of Sannazarius, as a scholar and poet, having attracted the notice of Ferdinand king of Naples, that monarch’s younger son, Frederick, who was greatly attached to poetry, invited him to court, and became his patron; he also grew into favour with Alphonsus, duke of Calabria, the next heir to the crown, and under him embraced a military life, and served in the Etruscan war. During his campaigns, Sannazarius continued to cultivate his poetical talent, and when in consequence of the series of misfortunes and deaths in the royal family, his patron Frederick came to the crown, he conceived the hope of very high honours, but obtained only a moderate annual pension, and a suburban villa, called Mergillina, to which, although at first he was chagrined, he became reconciled, and this villa’ was afterwards the delight of his muse. In about four years, Frederick was dethroned by the combined powers of France and Spain, and now experienced the disinterested fidelity of our poet, who sold his possessions to | assist the fallen monarch, attended him to France, and continued firmly attached to him as long as he lived.

In 1503, he again returned to Naples, was replaced in his favourite villa, once more frequented the court, and obtained the favour of the reigning queen. Here he found another mistress in Cassandra Marchesia, one of the ladies of honour, whom he describes as very beautiful and very learned, but as he was now too far advanced in years for a passion such as he formerly felt, Cassandra is to be considered merely as his poetical mistress, and the chaste object of his Platonic attachment. The attachment, it is said, was mutual, and a confidential intercourse continued to subsist between them till the poet’s decease, nor does it appear that Cassandra ever formed any matrimonial connection. Sannazarius, however, has been numbered by some among the votaries of pleasure, and they tell us he affected the levity and gallantry of youth when in his old age. In his friendships he is said to have been uniformly ardent and sincere. In gratitude to the memory of Pontanus, who had given a powerful impulse to his youthful studies, he became the editor of his works. He is also commended for his probity, his love of justice, and abhorrence of litigation.

The indisposition which terminated his life was brought on by grief and chagrin, on account of the demolition of part of his delightful villa of Mergillina, in decorating which he had taken peculiar delight. Philibert de Nassau, prince of Orange, and general of the emperor’s forces, was the author of this outrage on taste and the muses. He expired soon afterwards at Naples, and, it is said, in the house of Cassandra, in 1530, in the seventy-second year of his age. The tomb of Sannazarius, in a church near his villa, which he built, is still to be seen, and has the same mixture of heathen and Christian ornaments which are so frequently to be found in his poems.

His principal Latin poem, “De Partu Virginia,” took up his attention, in composition, revisals, and corrections, about twenty years; obtained him the highest compliments from the learned of his age, and two honorary briefs from two popes; and certainly contains many brilliant and highly finished passages, but it brought his religion into some suspicion. In a poem on the miraculous conception, that great mystery of the Christian church, we find the agency of the Dryads and Nereids employed; the books of the | Sybils, substituted for those of the prophets, and every agent, name, or term, banished, that is not strictly classical, as if he meant to throw an air of romance on the subject; nor is the sincerity of his respect for the holy see less suspicious than his religion, for in such editions of his works as have not been mutilated, are several caustic epigrams on the vices and follies of the popes. Sannazarius’s elegies are, in point of tenderness and delicacy, thought eqnal to those of Tibullus; but his “Piscatory eclogues” once contributed most to his poetical reputation. He is said to have been the inventor of this species of eclogue, but modern critics seem to doubt whether such an invention be an improvement. The changing the scene of pastoral, from the woods to the sea, and from the life of shepherds to that of fishermen, has been thought very unhappy, and Dr. Johnson (Rambler, No. 36) has pointed out the defects of the plan with great acuteness. He thinks that Sannazarius was hindered from perceiving his error, by writing in a learned language to readers generally acquainted with the works of nature; and that if he had made his attempt in any vulgar tongue, he would soon have discovered how vainly he had endeavoured to make that loved which was not understood. These eclogues, however, are written with great classical elegance and purity. Nor was Sannazarius less celebrated for his Italian compositions; particularly his “Arcadia,” which was long read with admiration. This, however, has now subsided, and modern critics complain of a portion of languor in the perusal of it, arising from its length, the mixture of prose and verse, and a want of interest in the plan and subject. All his works have gone through many editions, of which we may mention, “De Partu Virginis,” with the eclogues, &c. Naples, 1526, small folio the same, with other poems and the poems of other authors, Venice, 1528, 8vo and with “Petri Bembi Benacus,” ibid. 1527, 8vo “Opera omnia Latina,Venice, 1535, 8vo, more complete than any of the preceding, another edition by Broukhusius, Amst. 1728, 8vo, and by Vulpius, with his life, Padua, 1719 or 1731, 4to of the “Arcadia,” sixty editions were printed before 16OO. The best of the more recent ones are those of 1723, 4to, and 1752, 8vo. 1

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Politian. Roscoe’s Leo. Tirabcschi. —Niceron, vol. VIII.

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