Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Let us contemplate; and, where dreams from Jove
Descended on the sleeper, where perhaps
Some inspirations may be lingering still,
Some glimmerings of the future or the past,
Await their influence; silently revolving

The changes from that hour, when He from Troy
Went up the Tiber; when refulgent shields,
No strangers to the iron-hail of war,

Stream'd far and wide, and dashing oars were heard
Among those woods where Silvia's stag was lying,
His antlers gay with flowers; among those woods
Where, by the Moon, that saw and yet withdrew not,
Two were so soon to wander and be slain, (143)
Two lovely in their lives, nor in their death
Divided

Then, and hence to be discern'd,
How many realms, pastoral and warlike, lay (144)
Along this plain, each with its schemes of power,
Its little rivalships! What various turns
of fortune there; what moving accidents
From ambuscade and open violence!
Mingling, the sounds came up; and hence how oft
We might have caught among the trees below,
Glittering with helm and shield, the men of Tibur;'
Or in Greek vesture, Greek their origin,
Some embassy, ascending to Præneste;2
How oft descried, without thy gates, Aricia,
Entering the solemn grove for sacrifice,
Senate and People!-Each a busy hive,
Glowing with life!

But all ere-long are lost
In one. We look, and where the river rolls
Southward its shining labyrinth, in her strength
A City, girt with battlements and towers,
On seven small hills is rising. Round about,
At rural work, the Citizens are seen,
None unemploy'd; the noblest of them all
Binding their sheaves or on their threshing-floors,
As though they had not conquer'd. Everywhere
Some trace of valor or heroic virtue!
Here is the sacred field of the Horatii, (145)
There are the Quintian meadows. (146) Here the hill
How holy, where a generous people, twice,
Twice going forth, in terrible anger sate
Arm'd; and, their wrongs redress'd, at once gave way,
Helmet and shield, and sword and spear thrown down,
And every hand uplifted, every heart
Pour'd out in thanks to Heaven.

Once again

We look; and, lo, the sea is white with sails
Innumerable, wafting to the shore
Treasures untold; the vale, the promontories,
A dream of glory; temples, palaces,
Call'd up as by enchantment; aqueducts
Among the groves and glades rolling along
Rivers, on many an arch high over-head;
And in the centre, like a burning-sun,
The Imperial City! They have now subdued
All nations. But where they who led them forth;
Who, when at length released by victory,
(Buckler and spear hung up-but not to rust)
Held poverty no evil, no reproach,

Living on little with a cheerful mind,
The Decii, the Fabricii? Where the spade

1 Tivoli.

And reaping-hook, among their household-things
Duly transmitted? In the hands of men
Made captive; while the master and his guests,
Reclining, quaff in gold, and roses swim,
Summer and winter, through the circling year,
On their Falernian-in the hands of men
Dragg'd into slavery, with how many more
Spared but to die, a public spectacle,
In combat with each other, and required
To fall with grace, with dignity to sink,
While life is gushing, and the plaudits ring
Faint and yet fainter on their failing ear,
As models for the sculptor.

But their days,
Their hours are number'd. Hark, a yell, a shriek,
A barbarous dissonance, loud and yet louder,
That echoes from the mountains to the sea!
And mark, beneath us, like a bursting cloud,
The battle moving onward! Had they slain
All, that the Earth should from her womb bring forth
New nations to destroy them? From the depth
Of forests, from what none had dared explore,
Regions of thrilling ice, as though in ice
Engender'd, multiplied, they pour along,
Shaggy and huge! Host after host, they come;
The Goth, the Vandal; and again the Goth!

Once more we look, and all is still as night,
All desolate! Groves, temples, palaces,
Swept from the sight, and nothing visible,
Amid the sulphurous vapors that exhale
As from a land accurst, save here and there
An empty tomb, a fragment like the limb
Of some dismember'd giant. In the midst
A City stands, her domes and turrets crown'd
With many a cross; but they, that issue forth,
Wander like strangers who had built among
The mighty ruins, silent, spiritless;

And on the road, where once we might have met
Cæsar and Cato, and men more than kings,
We meet, none else, the pilgrim and the beggar.

VII.

THE ROMAN PONTIFFS.

THOSE ancient men, what were they, who achieved
A sway beyond the greatest conquerors;
Setting their feet upon the necks of kings,
And, through the world, subduing, chaining down
The free immortal spirit? Were they not
Mighty magicians? Theirs a wondrous spell,
Where true and false were with infernal art
Close-interwoven; where together met
Blessings and curses, threats and promises;
And with the terrors of Futurity
Mingled whate'er enchants and fascinates,
Music and painting, sculpture, rhetoric (147)
And architectural pomp, such as none else;
And dazzling light, and darkness visible! (148)
What in his day the Syracusan sought,
Another world to plant his engines on,
They had; and, having it, like gods, not men,
Moved this world at their pleasure. Ere they
came, (149)

Their shadows, stretching far and wide, were known
And Two, that look'd beyond the visible sphere,

2 Palestrina. 3 La Riccia. 4 Mons Sacer.Gave notice of their coming-he who saw

The Apocalypse; and he of elder time,
Who in an awful vision of the night
Saw the Four Kingdoms. Distant as they were,
Well might those holy men be fill'd with fear!

VIII.

CAIUS CESTIUS.

Yet was it sad as sweet, and, ere it closed, Came like a dirge. When her fair head was shorn, And the long tresses in her hands were laid, That she might fling them from her, saying, "Thus, Thus I renounce the world and worldly things!" When, as she stood, her bridal ornaments Were, one by one, removed, even to the last, That she might say, flinging them from her, "Thus, WHEN I am inclined to be serious, I love to wan- Thus I renounce the world!" when all was changed der up and down before the tomb of Caius Cestius. And, as a nun, in homeliest guise she knelt, The Protestant burial-ground is there; and most of Veil'd in her veil, crown'd with her silver crown, the little monuments are erected to the young; young Her crown of lilies as the spouse of Christ, men of promise, cut off when on their travels, full Well might her strength forsake her, and her knees of enthusiasm, full of enjoyment; brides, in the bloom Fail in that hour! Well might the holy man, of their beauty, on their first journey; or children, He, at whose feet she knelt, give as by stealth borne from home in search of health. This stone was ('T was in her utmost need; nor, while she lives, (151) placed by his fellow-travellers, young as himself, who Will it go from her, fleeting as it was) will return to the house of his parents without him; That faint but fatherly smile, that smile of love that, by a husband or a father, now in his native country. His heart is buried in that grave.

And pity!

Like a dream the whole is fled; It is a quiet and sheltered nook, covered in the And they, that came in idleness to gaze winter with violets; and the Pyramid, that over- Upon the victim dress'd for sacrifice, shadows it, gives it a classical and singularly solemn Are mingling in the world; thou in thy cell air. You feel an interest there, a sympathy you Forgot, Teresa. Yet, among them all, were not prepared for. You are yourself in a foreign None were so form'd to love and to be loved, land; and they are for the most part your country- None to delight, adorn; and on thee now men. They call upon you in your mother-tongue- A curtain, blacker than the night, is dropp'd in English-in words unknown to a native, known For ever! In thy gentle bosom sleep only to yourselves: and the tomb of Cestius, that old Feelings, affections, destined now to die, majestic pile, has this also in common with them. It To wither like the blossom in the bud, is itself a stranger, among strangers. It has stood Those of a wife, a mother; leaving there there till the language spoken round about it has A cheerless void, a chill as of the grave, changed; and the shepherd, born at the foot, can read A languor and a lethargy of soul, its inscription no longer.

IX.

THE NUN.

"Tis over; and her lovely cheek is now
On her hard pillow-there, alas, to be
Nightly, through many and many a dreary hour,
Wan, often wet with tears, and (ere at length
Her place is empty, and another comes)
In anguish, in the ghastliness of death;
Hers never more to leave those mournful walls,
Even on her bier.

"Tis over; and the rite,
With all its pomp and harmony, is now
Floating before her. She arose at home,
To be the show, the idol of the day;
Her vesture gorgeous, and her starry head-
No rocket, bursting in the midnight-sky,
So dazzling. When to-morrow she awakes,
She will awake as though she still was there,
Still in her father's house; and lo, a cell
Narrow and dark, nought through the gloom discern'd,
Nought save the crucifix, the rosary,
And the grey habit lying by to shroud
Her beauty and grace.

Death-like, and gathering more and more, till Death
Comes to release thee. Ah, what now to thee,
What now to thee the treasure of thy Youth?
As nothing!

But thou canst not yet reflect
Calmly; so many things, strange and perverse,
That meet, recoil, and go but to return,
The monstrous birth of one eventful day,
Troubling thy spirit-from the first, at dawn,
The rich arraying for the nuptial feast,
To the black pall, the requiem. (152)

All in turn

Revisit thee, and round thy lowly bed
Hover, uncall'd. The young and innocent heart,
How is it beating? Has it no regrets?
Discoverest thou no weakness lurking there?
But thine exhausted frame has sunk to rest.
Peace to thy slumbers!

X.

THE FIRE-FLY.

THERE is an Insect, that, when Evening comes, Small though he be and scarce distinguishable, Like Evening clad in soberest livery,

When on her knees she fell, Unsheathes his wings, (153) and through the woods

Entering the solemn place of consecration,
And from the latticed gallery came a chaunt
Of psalms, most saint-like, most angelical, (150)
Verse after verse sung out, how bolily!
The strain returning, and still, still returning,
Methought it acted like a spell upon her,
And she was casting off her earthly dross;

and glades

Scatters a marvellous splendor On he wheels,
Blazing by fits as from excess of joy, (154)
Each gush of light a gush of ecstacy;
Nor unaccompanied; thousands that fling
A radiance all their own, not of the day,
Thousands as bright as he, from dusk till dawn,

[blocks in formation]

Well may the child put forth his little hands,
Singing the nursery-song he learnt so soon; (155)
And the young nymph, preparing for the dance (156)
By brook or fountain-side, in many a braid
Wreathing her golden hair, well may she cry,
“Come hither; and the shepherds, gathering round,
Shall say, Floretta emulates the Night,
Spangling her head with stars.”

Oft have I met
This shining race, when in the Tusculan groves
My path no longer glimmer'd; oft among
Those trees, religious once and always green, (157)
That yet dream out their stories of old Rome
Over the Alban lake; oft met and hail'd,
Where the precipitate Anio thunders down,
And through the surging mist a Poet's house
(So some aver, and who would not believe?) (158)
Reveals itself.

Yet cannot I forget

Him, who rejoiced me in those walks at eve,
My earliest, pleasantest; who dwells unseen,
And in our northern clime, when all is still,
Nightly keeps watch, nightly in bush or brake
His lonely lamp rekindling. Unlike theirs,
His, if less dazzling, through the darkness knows
No intermission; sending forth its ray
Through the green leaves, a ray serene and clear
As Virtue's own.

XI.

FOREIGN TRAVEL.

earth. "It may serve me," said I, “as a remedy în some future fit of the spleen."

Ours is a nation of travellers; and no wonder, when the elements, air, water, fire, attend at our bid ding, to transport us from shore to shore; when the ship rushes into the deep, her track the foam as of some mighty torrent; and, in three hours or less, we stand gazing and gazed at among a foreign people. None want an excuse. If rich, they go to enjoy, if poor, to retrench; if sick, to recover; if studious, to learn; if learned, to relax from their studies. But whatever they may say, whatever they may believe, they go for the most part on the same errand; nor

will those who reflect, think that errand an idle one.

Almost all men are over-anxious. No sooner do they enter the world, than they lose that taste for natural and simple pleasures, so remarkable in early life. Every hour do they ask themselves what progress they have made in the pursuit of wealth or honor; and on they go as their fathers went before them, till, weary and sick at heart, they look back with a sigh of regret to the golden time of their childhood.

Now travel, and foreign travel more particularly, restores to us in a great degree what we have lost. When the anchor is heaved, we double down the leaf; and for a while at least all effort is over. The old cares are left clustering round the old objects; and at every step, as we proceed, the slightest circumstance amuses and interests. All is new and strange. We surrender ourselves, and feel once again as children. Like them, we enjoy eagerly; like them, when we fret, we fret only for the moment; and here indeed the resemblance is very remarkable, for if a journey has its pains as well as its pleasures (and there is nothing unmixed in this world) the pains are no sooner over than they are forgotten, while the pleasures live long in the memory.

and domestic broil, such are their resources; and, when these things fail, they destroy themselves.

It was in a splenetic humor that I sate me down to my scanty fare at Terracina; and how long I should have contemplated the lean thrushes in array before me, I cannot say, if a cloud of smoke, that drew the tears into my eyes, had not burst from the green and leafy boughs on the hearth-stone. "Why," I exclaim- Nor is it surely without another advantage. If life ed, starting up from the table, "why did I leave my be short, not so to many of us are its days and its own chimney-corner?-But am I not on the road to hours. When the blood slumbers in the veins, how Brundusium? And are not these the very calamities often do we wish that the earth would turn faster on that befell Horace and Virgil, and Mæcenas, and Plo- its axis, that the sun would rise and set before it does, tius, and Varius? Horace laughed at them-then and, to escape from the weight of time, how many why should not I? Horace resolved to turn them to follies, how many crimes are committed! Men rush account; and Virgil-cannot we hear him observing, on danger, and even on death. Intrigue, play, foreign that to remember them will, by and by, be a pleasure?" My soliloquy reconciled me at once to my fate; and when, for the twentieth time, I had looked through Now in travelling we multiply events, and innothe window on a sea sparkling with innumerable cently. We set out, as it were, on our adventures; brilliants, a sea on which the heroes of the Odyssey and many are those that occur to us, morning, noon, and the Eneid had sailed, I sat down as to a splendid and night. The day we come to a place which we banquet. My thrushes had the flavor of ortolans; and have long heard and read of, and in Italy we do so continually, it is an era in our lives; and from that "Who," I cried, as I poured out my last glass of moment the very name calls up a picture. How de. Falernian," (for Falernian it was said to be, and in my lightfully too does the knowledge flow in upon us, eyes it ran bright and clear as a topaz-stone)" who would remain at home, could he do otherwise? Who would submit to tread that dull, but daily round; his hours forgotten as soon as spent?" and, opening my journal-book and dipping my pen into my ink-horn, I determined, as far as I could, to justify myself and my countrymen in wandering over the face of the

I ate with an appetite I had not known before.

66

1 The glow-worm.

2 We were now within a few hours of the Campania Felix. On the color and flavor of Falernian, consult Galen and Dioscorides.

and how fast! Would he who sat in a corner of

1 As indeed it always was, contributing those of every degree, from a milors with his suite to him whose only attendant is his

shadow. Coryate in 1608 performed his journey on foot; and,

returning, hung up his shoes in his village church as an ex-voto

Goldsmith, a century and a half afterwards, followed in nearly the same path; playing a tune on his flute to procure admit tance, whenever he approached a cottage at night-fall.

2 To judge at once of a nation, we have only to throw our eyes on the markets and the fields. If the markets are well supplied, the fields well-cultivated, all is right. If otherwise, we may say, and say truly, these people are barbarous or op pressed.

his library, poring over books and maps, learn more Greek sculpture-in some earlier day perhaps
or so much in the time, as he who, with his eyes and A tomb, and honor'd with a hero's ashes.
his heart open, is receiving impressions, all day long,
from the things themselves? How accurately do they
arrange themselves in our memory, towns, rivers,
mountains; and in what living colors do we recall
the dresses, manners, and customs of the people! Our
sight is the noblest of all our senses. "It fills the
mind with most ideas, converses with its objects at
the greatest distance, and continues longest in action
without being tired." Our sight is on the alert when
we travel; and its exercise is then so delightful, that
we forget the profit in the pleasure.

Like a river, that gathers, that refines as it runs, like a spring that takes its course through some rich vein of mineral, we improve and imperceptibly-nor in the head only, but in the heart. Our prejudices leave us, one by one. Seas and mountains are no longer our boundaries. We learn to love, and esteem, and admire beyond them. Our benevolence extends itself with our knowledge. And must we not return better citizens than we went? For the more we become acquainted with the institutions of other countries, the more highly must we value our own.

I threw down my pen in triumph "The question," said I," is set to rest for ever. And yet-”

"And yet-" I must still say. The wisest of men seldom went out of the walls of Athens; and for that worst of evils, that sickness of the soul, to which we are most liable when most at our ease, is there not after all a surer and yet pleasanter remedy, a remedy for which we have only to cross the threshold? A Piedmontese nobleman, into whose company I fell at Turin, had not long before experienced its efficacy: and his story, which he told me without reserve, was as follows.

"I was weary of life, and, after a day, such as few have known and none would wish to remember, was hurrying along the street to the river, when I felt a sudden check. I turned and beheld a little boy, who had caught the skirt of my cloak in his anxiety to solicit my notice. His look and manner were irresistible. Not less so was the lesson he had learnt.

"There are six of us; and we are dying for want of food.'-'Why should I not,' said I to myself, relieve this wretched family? I have the means; and it will not delay me many minutes. But what, if it does? The scene of misery he conducted me to, I cannot describe. I threw them my purse; and their| burst of gratitude overcame me. It filled my eyesit went as a cordia. to my heart. I will call again to-morrow,' I cried. Fool that I was, to think of leaving a world, where such pleasure was to be had and so cheaply !'"

[ocr errors]

XII.

THE FOUNTAIN.

IT was a well

Ot whitest marble, white as from the quarry ;
And richly wrought with many a high relief,

1 Assuredly not, if the last has laid a proper foundation. Knowledge makes knowledge as money makes money, nor ever perhaps so fast as on a journey.

The water from the rock fill'd, overflow'd it;
Then dash'd away, playing the prodigal,
And soon was lost-stealing unseen, unheard,
Through the long grass, and round the twisted roots
Of aged trees; discovering where it ran
By the fresh verdure. Overcome with heat,
I threw me down; admiring, as I lay,
That shady nook, a singing-place for birds,
That grove so intricate, so full of flowers,
More than enough to please a child a-Maying.

The sun was down, a distant convent-bell
Ringing the Angelus; and now approach'd
The hour for stir and village-gossip there,
The hour Rebekah came, when from the well
She drew with such alacrity to serve
The stranger and his camels. Soon I heard
Footsteps; and lo, descending by a path
Trodden for ages, many a nymph appear'd,
Appear'd and vanish'd, bearing on her head
Her earthen pitcher. It call'd up the day
Ulysses landed there; and long I gazed,
Like one awaking in a distant time. (159)

At length there came the loveliest of them all,
Her little brother dancing down before her;
And ever as he spoke, which he did ever,
Turning and looking up in warmth of heart
And brotherly affection. Stopping there,
She join'd her rosy hands, and, filling them
With the pure element, gave him to drink;
And, while he quench'd his thirst, standing on tiptoe,
Look'd down upon him with a sister's smile,
Nor stirr'd till he had done, fix'd as a statue.

Then hadst thou seen them as they stood, Canova,
Thou hadst endow'd them with immortal youth;
And they had evermore lived undivided,
Winning all hearts of all thy works the fairest.

XIII.

BANDITTI.

"TIS a wild life, fearful and full of change,
The mountain-robber's. On the watch he lies,
Levelling his carbine at the passenger;
And, when his work is done, he dares not sleep.

Time was, the trade was nobler, if not honest;
When they that robb'd, were men of better faith (160)
Than kings or pontiffs, when, such reverence
The Poet drew among the woods and wilds,
A voice was heard, that never bade to spare,
Crying aloud, "Hence to the distant hills!
Tasso approaches; he, whose song beguiles
The day of half its hours; whose sorcery
Dazzles the sense, turning our forest-glades
To lists that blaze with gorgeous armory,
Our mountain-caves to regal palaces.
Hence, nor descend till he and his are gone.
Let him fear nothing."

When along the shore, (161
And by the path that, wandering on its way,
Leads through the fatal grove where Tully fell

Grey and o'ergrown, an ancient tomb is there),
He came and they withdrew: they were a race
Careless of life in others and themselves,
For they had learnt their lesson in a camp;
But not ungenerous. "T is no longer so.
Now crafty, cruel, torturing ere they slay
The unhappy captive, and with bitter jests
Mocking misfortune; vain, fantastical,
Wearing whatever glitters in the spoil;

And most devout, though when they kneel and pray,
With every bead they could recount a murder.
As by a spell they start up in array, (162)
As by a spell they vanish-theirs a band,
Not as elsewhere of outlaws, but of such
As sow and reap, and at the cottage-door
Sit to receive, return the traveller's greeting;
Now in the garb of peace, now silently
Arming and issuing forth, led on by men
Whose names on innocent lips are words of fear,
Whose lives have long been forfeit.

[blocks in formation]

Slipping away to house with them beneath,
His old companions in that hiding-place,
The bat, the toad, the blind-worm, and the newt;
Some there are And hark, a footstep, firm and confident,
As of a man in haste. Nearer it draws;
And now is at the entrance of the den.
Ha! 't is a comrade, sent to gather in
The band for some great enterprise.

That, ere they rise to this bad eminence,
Lurk, night and day, the plague-spot visible,
The guilt that says, Beware; and mark we now
Him, where he lies, who couches for his prey
At the bridge-foot, in some dark cavity
Scoop'd by the waters, or some gaping tomb,
Nameless and tenantless, whence the red fox
Slunk as he enter'd. There he broods, in spleen
Gnawing his beard; his rough and sinewy frame
O'erwritten with the story of his life:
On his wan cheek a sabre-cut, well-earn'd
In foreign warfare; on his breast the brand
Indelible, burnt in when to the port

He clank'd his chain, among a hundred more
Dragg'd ignominiously; on every limb
Memorials of his glory and his shame,
Stripes of the lash and honorable scars,

And channels here and there worn to the bone
By galling fetters.

He comes slowly forth,
Unkennelling, and up that savage dell
Anxiously looks; his cruise, an ample gourd
(Duly replenish'd from the vintner's cask),
Slung from his shoulder; in his breadth of belt
Two pistols and a dagger yet uncleansed,
A parchment scrawl'd with uncouth characters,
And a small vial, his last remedy,

His cure, when all things fail. No noise is heard,
Save when the rugged bear and the gaunt wolf
Howl in the upper region, or a fish
Leaps in the gulf beneath-But now he kneels
And (like a scout when listening to the tramp
Of horse or foot) lays his experienced ear
Close to the ground, then rises and explores,
Then kneels again, and, his short rifle-gun
Against his cheek, waits patiently.

Two Monks,

Portly, grey-headed, on their gallant steeds,
Descend where yet a mouldering cross o'erhangs
The grave of one that from the precipice
Fell in an evil hour. Their bridle-bells
Ring merrily; and many a loud, long laugh
Re-echoes; but at once the sounds are lost.
Unconscious of the good in store below,
The holy fathers have turn'd off, and now

[blocks in formation]

THREE days they lay in ambush at my gate, (163)
Then sprung and led me captive. Many a wild
We traversed; but Rusconi, 't was no less,
March'd by my side, and, when I thirsted, climb'd
The cliffs for water; though, whene'er he spoke,
"T was briefly, sullenly; and on he led,
Distinguish'd only by an amulet,

That in a golden chain hung from his neck,
A crystal of rare virtue. Night fell fast,
When on a heath, black and immeasurable,
He turn'd and bade them halt. "T was where the earth
Heaves o'er the dead-where erst some Alaric
Fought his last fight, and every warrior threw
A stone to tell for ages where he lay.

Then all advanced, and, ranging in a square,
Stretch'd forth their arms as on the holy cross
From each to each their sable cloaks extending,
That, like the solemn hangings of a tent,
Cover'd us round; and in the midst I stood,
Weary and faint, and face to face with one,
Whose voice, whose look dispenses life and death,
Whose heart knows no relentings. Instantly
A light was kindled, and the Bandit spoke.
"I know thee. Thou hast sought us, for the sport
Slipping thy blood-hounds with a hunter's cry,

« VorigeDoorgaan »