« VorigeDoorgaan »
or place, for her own perturbed and rich Passes,” which remains expressive in personality. The “Lettres d'un Voy- some ways of its life and nature, though ageur" is one of her best books; she is silk-winding is no longer an industry of herself so much in it. But it abounds the town. It may be owing to his poem more in impassioned declamation than about the girl of Asolo singing her song in pictures of travel. She does not so that his son has established his charmuch load you with facts as interest itable industry there; and Mr. R. Barand charm you with her expression of rett Browning's lacemakers are the reherself.
sult of "Pippa.” Such potentialities lie A young woman of great gifts, of a in the glance and the expression of a benevolent nature, cut loose from the poet. checks and freed from the usual sense If you would approach Asolo in the of dependence of her sex, footing the footsteps of George Sand or of Robert open ways of this pleasant land like an Browning, you will start from picturunknown youth, was most interesting. esque Bassano. At Bassano one natuTrue, she could not have found a rally thinks of old Jacopo da Ponti, country where the people are more civil called Bassano, a painter of rural and more gentle, or sooner respond to re lities long before Millet. He felt the the charm of a stranger's voice. And poetry of country life; he liked the low there was more peril in George Sand's hills about his native town; his imagiown imagination than in all the leagues nation was stirred by the frequent effects of land between the Brenta and the of light seen in its sky—the gleam of it Piave traversed by her; and if in any at the horizon, and the bursting ray of place nature could lay a cooling hand on its splendor shot from a rifted cloud like her child, it would have been here on a sudden revelation; these are the two these pre-Alpine heights, these Asolan notes of poetry which you will find in hills, with their restful vision of earth his best pictures. Who can look at the and sky, and pure air winnowed and level light at the horizon, a break in freshened by free winds from the moun- low-lying clouds, a quiet space of tains and the sea. There was ministra- metallic lustre, or silver or gold, or like tion in the very flowers and aromatic fire, above the lifted hills, without some plants which abound in the Asolan thought of another world ? It is the country. But the amenities of all this note which gives imaginative reach to rich Italian nature were foreign to her, Bassano's homeliest subjects—the note and she turned away from it. She says wherein he is akin to Tintoretto in his she skinned her hands to reach a soll- one suggestion of the infinite. So that tude suited to her mood. The mountain his pastoral prose becomes as far reachgorge was too savage—the park-like ing in suggestion as Tintoretto's great slopes of the lower hills too tame—to dramatic poetry. The Bassano hills influence her agitated spirit. Her soul were the setting of the seasons he knew was sick, and she sought to deaden re- best; and he painted them with great flection by movement. Nature irritates, richness of color and according to the she says, when one is in disaccord with Venetian method. It is sound painting. her. Therefore she, the lover of nature, Time does not blanch nor blacken nor lingered in the enchanting land she dull it; if it darkens, it remains transtraversed but to fare her way to Asolo. parent, not black. His best work to-day She was less fortunate than the sane is jewel-like for richness of color. His Englishman who came to it and found shepherd boy, his sleeping peasant, his in it the inspiration of his early verse busy peasant woman, and his sheep, and the subject of one of his best poems. the very peasant hats worn in his time, Robert Browning came to Asolo two may still be seen near Bassano. He years later than George Sand, led to it, never rose to the inspiration of the perhaps, by her very account of her Asolan landscape close by. That was walk from Bassano and Possagno. He left for Giorgione, with his patrician set the name of Asolo in "Pippa taste, his larger sense of space, of light,
of air-his sense of romantic scenery. have just the grace of movement and The Asolan Country is, properly speak- the refinement of line you see in his ing, a part of his own; it is but nine statues. They have small bands and miles from his own towered Castel- feet; small, round ankles; medium franco, or from the hamlet of Vedelago, sized, perfectly proportioned bodies; where he was born. The Asolan hills lovely faces; their glance is clear as. are of pyramidal form for the most part, water. The race is of Greek origin. bare at the top and belted with chest- The Greek type is constantly seen here nut woods and vineyards, like the hills as elsewhere in the Veneto. The Ger. you see in Bellini's backgrounds. The man wave never swept it from hill or painter of Queen Cornaio's portrait plain. The Lombard from the West doubtless came to Asolo, or to her royal never dislodged it. The Hun from the seat, Barco, three miles away, where East drove it to the islands of the the élite of her time came to see her in Lagoons, but it came back to its old her new domain.
seat. The peasant is like the grass, Approaching Asolo from the north by universal—and in Italy-like it,—though way of Possagno, walking south, one he is trodden on, he endures. And in traverses the Asolan Country; thus, or the Asolan Country he has kept the type (stepping westward) from the east from of his race in spite of the Invaders of Cornuda, the nearest station on the rail. Italy. Only the other day Charles way line of Treviso and Belluno. At Yriarte observed the proud and charmPossagno
cannot wonder that ing type; the pose of the head on its Canova came lack to such a birth-place columnar neck, the short bust, the noble after the honors of a brilliant and un- elastic carriage of the women on the resting life in the capitals of Europe. road below Asolo. Strange that a man He came back to it unmarried; to give of Canova's genius should have failed it a good part of the fortune he had to see that his insipid faces, setting the acquired elsewhere, and to erect a fashion of a day, might have been made Greek temple, for Christian worship, more vital, and interesting, more Greek overlooking the whole land. It would looking, by modelling strictly the livbave been more happily placed on one of ing peasants of his native hills. To the Asolan hills, at St. Anna, where he them at least we owe the refinement of first proposed to build it, than where it his ideal; its form was imposed upon perches belittled on the slope of a him by his sense of the beauty of the mountain flank above Possagno.
peasant girls of the Asolan Country. It is, perhaps, no longer the fashion to As we face forward in it, the roadsides admire Canova. One should not forget are bright with villas and villages and that he is noble and grand in his bronze farmhouses, each one set in orchard Napoleon, high placed in the court of close, or vineyard slope, or on the edge the Breza at Milan-though not in the of chestnut woods; and from time to plaster at Possagno, where one is too time we get glimpses of the marvellous close to it. It is a bronze of heroic and plain and the chain of the Asolan hills enduring beauty. The feminine ideal of coming dark against a luminous sky. the empire found no fairer expression It is all so pleasant, so radiant, and it than in his statues of women-all grace has its note of romance in dark tower and elegance of form. He abhorred the and blind fortress. It seems now the coarse and the material. Unfortu- ideal country, where every gentle and Dately, he too often eliminated all in- peaceful thing has triumphed over the dividuality; hence, he was monotonous, rougher and wilder life of the past. generalizing form. But he sought "the There is nothing of the melancholy and line,” and found it; he sought beauty, the homelessness of the severer and and created a type. You might imagine the more classic parts of southern Italy; he never saw any but delicately bred nothing of Tuscan meagreness, nothing and high-born women; but the very of its formal or ascetic aspect; nothing peasant girls of Possagno, and of Asolo, of the immeasurable monotony and
silence of the grander Roman Cam. was poetry. And it is joyous. Somepagna. No.
We are in a part of thing in the smiling landscape and Giorgione's country—the Holy Land of something in the quality of the air make Art: that land of a vast horizon on the people sing. A kind of lyric joy, as of south, of green undulating hills below perpetual youth, stirs the peasant. The the majestic range of the Venetian Alps shepherdess sings as she goes with her on the north; a land cut by swift sheep; the girl at the waterside sings streams and fresh with moist meadows; as she beats the clothes; the cowboy a land of park-like scenery, with vine- sings on the road, and the birds sing by yards, and orchards, and woods. The the river. I have heard the little oak, the chestnut, the laurel, the olive, caponero by the Musone as late as De the sycamore, the pine, the cypress the cember, and the nightingale in August. pomegranate, the magnolia, the lemon, Once by the Musone one is in an enhere grows every tree of southern Italy chanting world. but the palm, and makes a landscape of To set foot in this joyous and open rich foliage, the landscape of a light, region is to see something of a part of melting, hazy world. Over and out of Italy that was thought, comparable to all this infinite of refreshing life comes San Remo and to the Holy Land. It the sound of church bells from the hills, has its Mount Tabor, the name given, from the vales, and from the plain. perhaps, by the Crusader who returned Rising and dying sounds, before dawn, to this land after slaying the infidel at break and fall in the dim and yet un- Ascalon; for it was celebrated in the awakened world; now single note after Middle Ages, and furnished fighters note, then the swarming sound of the for the Holy Sepulchre. From its casbells of many campanili; far bells an- tled hills one overlooked the most swer bells, and near by the bells of favored part of Italy, the famous, the Asolo ring out in louder sound which prosperous Marca Trivigiana, still ebbs away till lost in thin air.
populous, cut by swift rivers and The rising and falling tide of life on washed and fretted by the waters of the market-day once a week, and on festa far-off Adriatic. It was called the land days, is most amusing; it is all that of joy and love-La Marca Gioiosa e breaks the monotony of the quiet street Amorosa. From Asolo one sees the hill of little Asolo. The piazza is one of the of Romano, and also that of San Zenon, most charming in Italy, with its of the Ecelini. Dante, who saw everyRenaissance fountain and beautiful thing worth seeing in Italy, mentions town-hall, perfectly proportioned, built the little hill where stood the castle of above an
open loggia. Its painted Romano—which lifts itself, but not very façade is adorned by a fresco of Diana high, he says, between the Brenta and and her dogs-pagan and pleasant, the Piave. There Ecelin was born, and which one remembers rather than the there also Cunizza, “passion's votaress," battle-scene also painted there. Yet one as Browning calls her. Her Tuscan goes to Asolo not for architecture but mother, Adelaide, probably often came for nature. The hill-town offers to the to Asolo for greater security. She was seeing eye a page-yes, many pages!- a watcher of the stars, and the Asolan of nature therein excelling Perugia, fortress is a point of vantage where to with her outlook on the Valley of the remark the constellated heavens. The Tiber, and Orvietto on her rock-far- planets and stars seem to burn brighter reaching and beautiful as the Umbrian than when they are seen from the plain, landscape is from both. At Asolo you though it was from a city of that plain are midway between the Brenta and the that Galileo watched. Seen at night, Piave, within easy reach of valleys, the plain lies in opaque darkness, vast hills, and streams, and towns of great and impressive like the sea. Over it the name and rich with art. It is prose, as moon seems to shine with more effulthe priest said, walking on the plain gence than elsewhere, so pure is the to the hills; but when I rose to Asolo it atmosphere. What is this but to say that the shows of nature are seen as in from the Chapel of San Martino below, few other places, and that the spectacle to the east, as a slim castle, the very of day and night is a continuous enter- unusual epithet Browning selects to detainment to the eye in this open coun- scribe the castle of Goito, which, in try? Storms from the Alps or from the what remains of it, is but a round and sea, piled in portentous clouds, break roofed piece of mediæval wall in a and fall, or are driven to and fro over meadow by the Mincius. I fancy he the plain; and one is witness of atmo- had the Rocca of Asolo in his mind's eye spheric effects that amaze and enchant when he wrote “Sordello." He seems the eye.
to mean the Rocca when he speaks of the The thing of most perplexing interest castle's looking "like the chine of some at Asolo is its Rocca, or fortress, a extinct animal,” to which the boy in strange looking structure of mysterious "Sordello” climbs:antiquity. It was there long before the
Singing all the while time of Ecelin, and it is thought by Some unintelligible words to beat some to be pre-Roman, but its known The lark, God's poet, swooning at his feet. story begins only with the Middle Ages. As to the strange signs scratched on its It looks like that from the north side stones, they excited the curiosity and valley by the Musone. It is reached engaged the imagination of the local
from every side by rough lanes, antiquary, Signor Scomazzetti, who bordered with old hedges. Ecelin's own fancied they might prove to be
men-at-arms many a time hurried down Euganean. His supposition was not the devious and stony watercourses, or confirmed by comparing these half, toiled up through them to the hill-top; effaced marks with the lapidary and many a time the young lord or page remains of the Euganean alpha
of the castle slipped down through bet.
He might as well have imag- them, unseen, for such adventure as the ined them to be Runic.
field and covert of the forest slopes ence there would hardly seem
below offered him. Often there at vesstrange than the Runic characters in per time you may startle the duskVenice-on a red marble lion, a trophy winged bats—those ominous things of from Athens in the tenth century, darkness, the last (save ruin) to possess which record the visit of a northern the place.
But they as little imply the These thickly screened ways are a Norseman as the Euganean, and we feature of the Asolan rivas, which are must leave them as of unknown signifi- cut by deep ravines, strangely solitary cance and accept the Rocca as the work and cool under the thick leafage of sumof the Romans, who gave the name mer, and for a good part of the year are Acelum to the town, and perhaps, first, watercourses, in which you step on to the fortress that dominates it. Be “stubs of living rock.” But they lead tbis as it may, the Rocca is one of the you, as they descend, beneath grand most striking monuments in Italy. Its chestnut-trees of great girth, and with dismantled tower was erected before wide-spreading branches to the open the main structure, and is without any vineyards and orchards, through which entrance from below, and appears to you can roam at will in autumn, after have been accessible only from the top! the vintage. It is, perhaps, in springThe puzzle of it is there. Its interior time that the rivas of Asolo are the most wall was pierced at the beginning of enchanting. The new-born vegetation, this century, and now one can creep the fields blue and gold and white with through the thickest part of it; but the wild flowers, and, over all, the blossomy aperture dwindles to a hole only big profusion of the fruit trees, make a enough to admit a man's head and vision of tender and fleeting beauty. shoulders. The main structure has The air is dim with blooms; they fall in dine sides and but one entrance, and it showers; a puff of warm air sends them presents itself, curiously enough, seen down like snowflakes. The admirable
guide to Asolo, by Signor Paladinl, Venice. The scheme of the astute and “Asolo e il suo Territorio”-does not fail all-aspiring Cornaro was for a while to pay due tribute to spring and autumn successful, but it brought him violent there, treating the impressions of both death, and no happiness to his niece. as of equal importance with its antiq- She, the queen of Cyprus, was comuities and its story.
pelled to cede the island, and iy to There is in Asolo a certain riva-as Venice, where a dazzling reception the hillsides and neyards are called awaited her. Transferred to Asolo which is like a cloister, so private and given to compensate her in a way for hidden is its leafy walk, once paced by the loss of her sovereignty over Cyprus, a Monsignore for many a day of his where she had been helpless against the declining years; whether for reverie, or policy of Venice, and insecure against digestion, to dream of the cardinal's the rightful mistress of the island, purple or to watch his grapes,—who Carlotta Lusignan, the wife of Luigi of knows? On that riva one is in a well- Savoy-she kept up the show of royalty, chosen place. There are the vestiges of with her court of eighty persons and a Roman theatre—a site selected as the an allowance of eight thousand ducats convent's for the monk-a place where from Venice. She gave fêtes, she was thz air is delicate, and the view the best. visited by great personages, and for a With its ranged seats overlooking the few years led a pleasant, sumptuous, Veneto, it buzzed with life before the untroubled life. Forced to ily from comic or the tragic stage. But yester- Asolo at the rumor of war, she appears day a peasant there turned up a coin but as the hurried lady of a festival of the time, but yesterday a bit of suddenly terminated, and without any mosaic; and the Museum of Asolo is personal life. Nothing touched her made interesting with the spoils of the deep enough for that. The splendor of Riva of the Monsignore. Hard by is the her fêtes at Asolo made people forget Castle of the Cornaro—that walking that she had passed through a bloody lady of history, who, despite her tragic and heart-shaking tragedy in Cyprus, losses and her distress in Cyprus, de where the Count of Tripoli and his spite the fame of her great beauty in fellow-conspirators "burst into youth, is not a very interesting woman. young queen's chamber; slew her doctor She was deficient in force of character; and her servant, who clung to the fold 3 a queen, but for fine clothes, and fes of her dress for safety; and, after tivals, and a secure State; in no way searching the palace through, captured comparable to the great Italian women and cut to pieces Andrea Cornaro, the of story and song, or to the saints of queen's uncle, and Marco Bembo, her legend; much less an impassioned soul, cousin.” Was it that nothing made a Andrea Cornaro, her uncle, banker to lasting impression on her kind of mind the bastard son of an effeminate king, the kind that forgets, and lives only in bought her a husband of illustrious the vanities of a day? name; for it was his ducats, rather than At Asolo young Bembo found in her her beauty, which won her the crown of nothing but a pleasant hostess, more Cyprus. Lusignan, the usurper, was a like a stage queen: she exists but to needy, if not an indigent, king. Lack- show herself; she hardly seems to live. ing money, Cornaro accommodated him, And so she is depicted in a phrase or offering his niece with a dot of one hun- two in Bembo's "Asolani,” the fashiondred thousand zecchini. To render the able book of its time, read “with enmarriage fit, the republic adopted her; thusiasm" in every court of Italy, but and, in case she had no heir, could now dead. He dedicated it, not to the claim jurisdiction over Cyprus, and in Cornaro, but to Lucrezia Borgia, any case hold it against all pretenders. Duchess of Ferrara, more than interestThe transaction would not bear exam- ing to him, after the horrors of her ination, and it was dangerous to look Roman days. “Gli Asolani" gives a into it and criticise it, at the time, in glimpse of the courtly and cultivated