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No. 005 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

It is no wonder, that those Scenes should be very surprizing, which 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 Seignior Cassani (as we learn from the Persons represented) a Christian Conjuror (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, benigno Lettore, un Parto di poche Sere, che se ben nato di Notte, non e pero aborto di Tenebre, ma si fara conoscere Figlio d’Apollo con qualche Raggio di Parnasso.

Behold, gentle Reader, the Birth of a few Evenings, which, tho’ it be the Offspring of the Night, is not the Abortive of Darkness, but will make it self known to be the Son of Apollo, with a certain Ray of Parnassus.’

He afterwards proceeds to call Minheer Hendel, [3] the Orpheus of our Age, and to acquaint us, in the same Sublimity of Stile, that he Composed this Opera in a Fortnight. Such are the Wits, to whose Tastes we so ambitiously conform our selves. 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 show 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 Clincant or Tinsel of Tasso.

But to return to the Sparrows; there have been so many Flights of them let loose in this Opera, that it is feared the House will never get rid of them; and that in other Plays, they may make their Entrance in very wrong and improper Scenes, so as to be seen flying in a Lady’s Bed-Chamber, or perching upon a King’s Throne; besides the Inconveniences which the Heads of the Audience may sometimes suffer from them. I am credibly informed, that there was once a Design of casting into an Opera the Story of Whittington and his Cat, and that in order to it, there had been got together a great Quantity of Mice; but Mr. Rich, the Proprietor of the Play-House, very prudently considered that it would be impossible for the Cat to kill them all, and that consequently the Princes of his Stage might be as much infested with Mice, as the Prince of the Island was before the Cat’s arrival upon it; for which Reason he would not permit it to be Acted in his House. And indeed I cannot blame him; for, as he said very well upon that Occasion, I do not hear that any of the Performers in our Opera, pretend to equal the famous Pied Piper, who made all the Mice of a great Town in Germany [4] follow his Musick, and by that means cleared the Place of those little Noxious Animals.