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The Reader is here presented with the translation of a Poem which has long been popular in Italy. It was the first one of its kind; and when a trifle is original, even a trifle becomes worth something. In collections of the classical Italian poets, the “ Bacco in Toscana” is never left out: and even in selections of the very greatest, it is admitted. There is a splendid publication, in folio, consisting of the greatest and most popular compositions in Italy, the “Decameron, Furioso," &c., one of which is our author's Dithyrambic. The minor editions of it are innumerable.
That the nature of the subject is partly a cause of this popularity, and that for the same reason it is impossible to convey a proper Italian sense of it to an Englishman, is equally certain. But I hope it is not impossible to import something of its spirit and vivacity. At all events, there is a novelty in it;--the wine bas a tune in the pouring out; and it is hard if some of the verses do not haunt a good humoured reader, like a
new air brought from the South. If I gossip over my subject, (as I have done amply in the Notes), it is from the same feeling that induced the author to accompany his poem with the long annotations from which I have made a selection. It is an entertainment that requires garnishing. Over a great feast, we may be as quiet as aldermen; but a song and a light glass require the chatting which they provoke.
Some years ago, in looking over the catalogue of a library full of divinity, I encountered, with equal surprize and delight, a complete edition of the “ Bacco in Toscana.” It was like meeting a pipe of choice wine among the effects of a clergyman. I was in possession of Mr. Mathias's edition; but here were the whole of the author's notes, learned and good natured as Selden over
and besides, here was the author himself, with eyes like an antelope, in the full-flowing peruke of the age of Charles the Second. I made a selection of the notes, and should have proceeded to translate the poem, but I was ill and occupied, and could only indulge in poetry, as I did
wine, through the medium of other men's imaginations.
In 1823, on a beautiful day in autumn, it was my fate, among my usual number of less pleasant vicissitudes, to find myself walking about Petraia and Castello, two sylvan spots in the neighbourhood of Florence, which Redi has immortalized. The same day, I drank, for the first time in my life, of
Montepulciano, the King of all Wine, and I found it impossible any longer to resist. The next morning I commenced my translation. Complaining. once to a jovial lawyer, that wine excited me too much, and that I suffered for it afterwards, he said, “Oh, there is an easy remedy for that: you should drink again, and keep up the excitement.” I was obliged to take care how I took too long a draught of the Bacco; . but in Tuscany it was impossible not to have the excitement kept up. Almost every place I visited had some connexion with the poem. At one time, I was at the Poggio Imperiale, where the author used to go with the Court; at another, I found myself in the street of the Deluge ; at a third, I was looking up at Fiesole, or strolling about the vines in its neighbourhood. The greater and graver thoughts which I had upon me in Florence, cast too heavy a shade upon my spirit. I did not dare to trust myself with the great poets of Italy, nor even with the tenderness of Boccaccio. Wine was my natural resource; but such a wine as my duties compelled me to traffic in, and my health could drink with the least injury; and here, in the poet's glass, I found it. My wine metaphorical, and my wine literal, were equally calculated to do honour to Redi's memory: for the reader must know, that with all his wine he was a great diluter of it.
But I am digressing too gravely; an impertinence natural to us boon companions. Our author was one of a profession which, when liberally followed, has a tendency to produce some of the wisest and pleasantest of mankind :-he was an accomplished physician. Nor is he eminent only in the history of medicine. He carried the experimental philosophy into natural history and physiology, and was the first who overturned the old opinion, that animal life could be generated from corruption. Science had its eyes upon him wbile he lived, as one of its leading men; and his name is still conspicuous in its annals. Every physician of eminence, and every student in physiology, is acquainted with the name of Redi.
Francesco Redi was born at Arezzo, in Tuscany, on the 18th of February, 1626, of Gregorio Redi, a gentleman of that city, and Cecilia de Ghinci. He studied polite literature under the Jesuits at Florence, and the sciences at the university of Pisa ; and soon obtained admission to the court of Ferdinand the Second, a liberal prince, who made him his physician. He continued till his death in this office, under Ferdinand's son and successor, Cosmo the Third, whom he also instructed in physic. This may furnish an additional excuse for the flattery which he bestows on the latter sovereign, a weak and pompous prince, who nevertheless had enough in him of the Medici family to be led into the encouragement of art and science. The flatteries, after all, are