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CONJUGAL POETRY CONTINUED.
Half a century later, we find the name of an Italian poetess, as interesting as our Clotilde de Surville, and far more illustrious. Vittoria Colonna was not thrown, with all her eminent gifts and captivating graces, among a rude people in a rude age; but all favourable influences, of time and circumstances, and fortune, conspired, with native talent, to make her as celebrated as she was truly admirable. She was the wife of that Marquis of Pescara, who has earned himself a name in the busiest and bloodiest page of history :-of that Pescara who commanded the armies of Charles the Fifth in Italy, and won the battle of Pavia, where Francis the First was taken prisoner. But great as was Pescara as a statesman and a military commander, he is far more interesting as the husband of Vittoria Colonna, and the laurels he reaped in the battle-field, are perishable and worthless, compared to those which his admirable wife wreathed around his brow. So thought Ariosto ; who tell us, that if Alexander envied Achilles the fame he had acquired in the songs of Homer, how much more had he envied Pescara those strains in which his gifted consort had exalted his fame above that of all contemporary heroes ? and not only rendered herself immortal ;
Col dolce stil, di che il miglior non odo,
He prefers her to Artemisia, for a rather quaintly expressed,
Tanto maggior, quanto è più assai bell' opra,
“So much more praise it is, to raise a man above the earth, than to bury him under it.”
He compares her successively to all the famed heroines of Greece and Rome,-to Laodamia, to Portia, to Arria, to Argia, to Evadne,—who died with or for their husbands; and concludes,
Quanto onore a Vittoria è più dovuto
In fact, at a period when Italy could boast of a constellation of female talent, such as never before or since adorned any one country at the same time, and besides a number of women plished in languages, philosophy, and the abstruser branches of learning, reckoned sixty poetesses, nearly contemporary, there was not one to be compared with Vittoria Colonna, -herself the theme of song; and upon whom her enthusiastic countrymen have lavished all the highsounding superlatives of a language, so rich in
* Orlando Furioso, canto 37.
expressive and sonorous epithets, that it seems to multiply fame and magnify praise. We find Vittoria designated in Italian biography, as Diva, divina, maravigliosa, elettissima, illustrissima, virtuosissima, dottissima, castissima, gloriosissima, &c.
But immortality on earth, as in heaven, must be purchased at a certain price; and Vittoria, rich in all the gifts which heaven, and nature, and fortune combined, ever lavished on one of her sex, paid for her celebrity with her happiness : for thus it has ever been, and must ever be, in this world of ours, “où les plus belles choses ont le pire destin.”
Her descent was illustrious on both sides. She was the daughter of the Grand Constable Fabrizio Colonna, and of Anna di Montefeltro, daughter of the Duke of Urbino, and was born about 1490. At four years old she was destined to seal the friendship which existed between her own family and that of d'Avalo, by a union with the young Count d’Avalo, afterwards Marquis of Pescara, who was exactly her own age. Such infant marriages are contracted at a fearful risk; yet, if auspicious, the habit of loving from an early age, and the feeling of settled appropriation, prevents the affections from wandering, and plant a mutual happiness upon a foundation much surer than that of fancy or impulse. It was so in this instance,
Conforme era l' etate
Ma 'l pensier più conforme.
Vittoria, from her childish years, displayed the most extraordinary talents, combined with all the personal charms and sweet proprieties more characteristic of her sex. When not more than fifteen or sixteen, she was already distinguished among her country women, and sought even by sovereign princes. The Duke of Savoy and the Duke of Braganza made overtures to obtain her hand; the Pope himself interfered in behalf of one of these princes ; but both were rejected. Vittoria, accustomed to consider herself as the destined bride of young d'Avalo, cultivated for