IL WIT TAGLIENTE DI WILMOT E LE PERLE DI SAGGEZZA DI DRYDEN
Quella di Carlo I è nota per essere stata un’unione matrimoniale felice, salda, e fertile ; non così quella di suo figlio maggiore, Carlo II. Se la corte di Carlo I si distingueva per quella che Clarendon definì “gravity and reverence in all mention of religion”, quella di Carlo II, nonostante una patina di conformismo anglicano, era molto più incline a indulgere in licenze sessuali, religiose e verbali. Il monarca restaurato, educato negli anni dell’esilio ad un raffinato cinismo intellettuale, impose il suo marchio alla corte creando un’ atmosfera di cultura raffinata ma gaudente. Quanto il clima fosse cambiato era evidente anche dalle reazioni di alcuni scrittori. Questa fu un’epoca di grande sviluppo della poesia satirica, un genere la cui rigida disciplina si nutriva delle contraddizioni, delle ironie e dell’ipocrisia della società restaurata. Si dice che una delle figure di maggior spicco a corte, John Wilmot, conte di Rochester (1647- 80), abbia risposto al re, il quale si dichiarava disposto a tollerare un clima di sincerità nella sua cerchia più intima, con una famosa quartina improvvisata: “ We have a pretty witty king /Whose word no man relys on: / He never said a foolish thing, / And never did a wise one”. Al che Carlo II replicò impassibile che mentre le parole appartenevano a lui, delle sue azioni dovevano essere ritenuti responsabili i suoi ministri. Rochester è la più acuta, la più brillante e la più scurrile personalità nell’età della Restaurazione. In lui convivono atteggiamenti apparentemente opposti quali tenerezza e cinismo, senso della famiglia e dissolutezza, la battuta pronta e il tono serio e meditativo; in una contesto dove la tipica galanteria dei Cavaliers viene riproposta sotto forma di compiaciuta stanchezza dei piaceri del mondo.
Altrettanto rappresentativo fu John Dryden, artista versatile e poliedrico, che con la sua opera fece luce sul periodo storico in cui viveva. Ecco alcune citazioni riguardanti numerose tematiche sia seriose che scherzose.
• Affronta il tema dell’assenzaLove reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age.
• Dell’etàThese are the effects of doting age; vain doubts, and idle cares, and over caution.
• Ci parla della rabbiaBeware of the fury of a patient man.
• Dell’ateismoVirtue in distress, and vice in triumph, make atheists of mankind.
• Dell’authorshipHe who purposes to be an author, should first be a student.
• BoldnessFortune befriends the bold.
• Cura: Only man clogs his happiness with care, destroying what is, with thoughts of what may be.
• Sicurezza:They can conquer who believe they can.
•Coraggio:Courage from hearts and not from numbers grows.
•Courts and CourtiersSee how he sets his countenance for deceit, and promises a lie before he speaks.
• Il ballare:A merry, dancing, drinking, laughing, quaffing, and unthinking time.
• Falsità:Idiots only may be cozened twice.
• Entusiasmo: Truth is never to be expected from authors whose understandings are warped with enthusiasm; for they judge all actions and their causes by their own perverse principles, and a crooked line can never be the measure of a straight one.
• Invidia: The rivals, who true wit and merit hate, maliciously aspire to gain renown, by standing up, and pulling others down.
• Esercizio: The wise, for cure, on exercise depend.—Better to hunt in fields for health unbought than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught.
• Familiarità: All objects lose by too familiar a view.
• Destino: All things are by fate, but poor blind man sees but a part of the chain, the nearest link, his eyes not reaching to that equal beam which poises all above.
• Colpa: Every one is eagle-eyed to see another's faults and deformity.
• Incostanza: Everything by starts, and nothing long.
• FedeltàTrust reposed in noble natures obliges them the more.
• Perdono:They never pardon who commit the wrong.
• Fortezza:The fortitude of the Christian consists in patience, not in enterprises which the poets call heroic and which are commonly the effects of interest, pride, and worldly honor.
• Fortuna: It is a madness to make fortune the mistress of events, because in herself she is nothing, but is ruled by prudence.
• Gioco: Bets, at the first, were fool-traps, where the wise, like spiders, lay in ambush for the flies.
• GenerositàThe secret pleasure of a generous act is the great mind's bribe.
• GenioGenius must be born; it never can be taught.
• Good NatureAffability, mildness, tenderness, and a word which I would fain bring back to its original signification of virtue—I mean good nature—are of daily use; they are the bread of mankind and the staff of life.Good sense and good nature are never separated; and good nature is the product of right reason.—It makes allowance for the failings of others by considering that there is nothing perfect in mankind; and by distinguishing that which comes nearest to excellence, though not absolutely free from faults, will certainly produce candor in judging.
• GraziaLet grace and goodness be the principal loadstone of thy affections. For love which hath ends, will have an end; whereas that which is founded on true virtue, will always continue.
• GravitàThose wanting wit affect gravity, and go by the name of solid men.
•Abitudini We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.
All habits gather, by unseen degrees, as brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.
• Capelli:Her head was bare, but for her native ornament of hair, which in a simple knot was tied; sweet negligence—unheeded bait of love.
• Storia:We find but few historians who have been diligent enough in their search for truth. It is their common method to take on trust what they distribute to the public; by which means, a falsehood, once received from a famed writer, becomes traditional to posterity.
Those who have employed the study of history, as they ought, for their instruction, for the regulation of their private manners, and the management of public affairs, must agree with me that it is the most pleasant school of wisdom.
• OnoreWoman's honor is nice as ermine; it will not bear a soil.
• ImmortalitàThe thought of being nothing after death is a burden insupportable to a virtuous man; we naturally aim at happiness, and cannot bear to have it confined to our present being.
• InsanityGreat wits are sure to madness near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide.
• InstabilitàEverything by starts, and nothing long.
• InvenzioneInvention is a kind of muse, which, being possessed of the other advantages common to her sisters, and being warmed by the fire of Apollo, is raised higher than the rest.
• Gelosia:Jealousy is like a polished glass held to the lips when life is in doubt; if there be breath it will catch the damp and show it.
• Baci: I felt the while a pleasing kind of smart; the kiss went tingling to my panting heart.—When it was gone, the sense of it did stay; the sweetness cling'd upon my lips all day, like drops of honey, loth to fall away.
• Ridere: It is a good thing to laugh, at any rate; and if a straw can tickle a man, it is an instrument of happiness. Beasts can weep when they suffer, but they cannot laugh.
• Libertà:Oh, give me liberty! for even were paradise my prison, still I should long to leap the crystal walls.
• Sguardi:What brutal mischief sits upon his brow! He may be honest, but he looks damnation.
• Amore: Let grace and goodness be the principal loadstone of thy affections. For love which hath ends; will have an end; whereas that which is founded on true virtue, will always continue.
Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age.
Love is love's reward.
• Follia:He raves; his words are loose as heaps of sand, and scattered wide from sense.—So high he's mounted on his airy throne, that now the wind has got into his head, and turns his brains to frenzy.Great wits are sure to madness near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide.
• MaidenhoodThe blushing beauties of a modest maid.
• Uomo: Men are but children of a larger growth; our appetites are as apt to change as theirs, and full as craving, too, and full as vain.
• Modi Knowledge of men and manners, the freedom of habitudes, and conversation with the best company of both sexes, is necessary to the perfection of good manners.
• Incontri But here she comes, in the calm harbor of whose gentle breast, my tempest beaten soul may safely rest.—O, my heart's joy, whate'er my sorrows be, they cease and vanish on beholding thee.—By this one view all my past pains are paid, and all I have to come, more easy made.I have not joyed an hour since you departed, for public miseries, and for private fears; but this blest meeting has o'erpaid them all.
• Memoria: The joys I have possessed are ever mine; out of thy reach, behind eternity, hid in the sacred treasure of the past, but blest remembrance brings them hourly back.
• Mente: A narrow mind begets obstinacy; we do not easily believe what we cannot see.
• MinistersThe proud he tamed; the penitent he cheered; nor to rebuke the rich offender; feared; his preaching much, but more, his practice wrought, a living sermon of the truths he taught.
• MiserThe base miser starves amid his store, broods o'er his gold, and gripping still at more, sits sadly pining, and believes he's poor.
• Mob: A mob is the scum that rises upmost when the nation boils.
• NewsIll news is winged with fate, and flies apace.
• OrderSet all things in their own peculiar place, and know that order is the greatest grace.
• Pazienza:Beware the fury of a patient man.
• PerverareStiff in opinion; always in the wrong.
• PopulaceThe rabble gather round the man of news, and listen with their mouths wide open; some tell, some hear, some judge of news, some make it, and he that lies most loud, is most believed.
• PovertàWant is a bitter and a hateful good, because its virtues are not understood; yet many things, impossible to thought, have been by need to full perfection brought; the daring of the soul proceeds from thence, sharpness of wit and active diligence; prudence at once, and fortitude it gives; and, if in patience taken, mends our lives.
• Rimorso: Not sharp revenge, nor hell itself can find a fiercer torment than a guilty mind.
• RetirementA foundation of good sense, and a cultivation of learning, are required to give a seasoning to retirement, and make us taste its blessings.
• Retorica:The florid, elevated, and figurative way is for the passions; for love and hatred, fear and anger, are begotten in the soul by showing their objects out of their true proportion, either greater than the life, or less; but instruction is to be given by showing them what they naturally are. A man is to be cheated into passion, but reasoned into truth.
• Satira:The end of satire is the amendment of vices by correction, and he who writes honestly is no more an enemy to the offender, than the physician is to the patient when he prescribes harsh remedies.
• Segreti:He who trusts secrets to a servant makes him his master.
• Silenzio: Silence in times of suffering is the best.
• Stelle: The gems of heaven, that gild night's sable throne.
• Tramonto:The sun, when he from noon declines, and with abated heat less fiercely shines; seems to grow milder as he goes away.
• Tentazione: Most confidence has still most cause to doubt.Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.
• La verità: Truth is the foundation of all knowledge and the cement of all societies.
Truth is the object of our understanding, as good is of our will; and the understanding can no more be delighted with a lie than the will can choose an apparent evil.
We find but few historians who have been diligent enough in their search for truth; it is their common method to take on trust what they distribute to the public; by which means a falsehood once received from a famed writer becomes traditional to posterity.
• Valore:How strangely high endeavors may be blessed, where piety and valor jointly go.
Those who believe that the praises which arise from valor are superior to those which proceed from any other virtues have not considered.
• Voce:His voice attention still as midnight draws—his voice more gentle than the summer's breeze.
• WitGreat wits to madness sure are near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide.
• Donna:Woman's honor is nice as ermine, will not bear a soil.
• Virtù:Virtue, though in rags, will keep me warm.
 Si intende con questa parola, come ha precisato Melchiori, “ il gioco d’ingegno… lo spirito, l’arguzia, il sottile uso di metafore e figure retoriche che arriva al paradosso e alla meraviglia”.