Page images
PDF
EPUB

At morn or eve-nor fail thou to attend

On that thrice-hallow'd day, (82) when all are there;
When all, propitiating with solemn songs,
With light, and frankincense, and holy water,
Visit the Dead. Then wilt thou feel his power!

But let not Sculpture, Painting, Poesy, Or they, the masters of these mighty spells, Detain us. Our first homage is to Virtue. Where, in what dungeon of the Citadel (It must be known-the writing on the wall (83) Cannot be gone-'t was cut in with his dagger, Ere, on his knees to God, he slew himself), Where, in what dungeon, did Filippo Strozzi, The last, the greatest of the Men of Florence, Breathe out his soul-lest in his agony, When on the rack and call'd upon to answer, He might accuse the guiltless.

That debt paid, But with a sigh, a tear for human frailty, We may return, and once more give a loose To the delighted spirit-worshipping, In her small temple of rich workmanship,' Venus herself, who, when she left the skies, Came hither.

XXI.

DON GARZIA.

AMONG the awful forms that stand assembled In the great square of Florence, may be seen That Cosmo, (84) not the Father of his Country, Not he so styled, but he who play'd the tyrant. Clad in rich armor like a paladin,

But with his helmet off-in kingly state,
Aloft he sits upon his horse of brass;
And they, who read the legend underneath,
Go and pronounce him happy. Yet there is
A Chamber at Grosseto, that, if walls

Could speak, and tell of what is done within,
Would turn your admiration into pity.
Half of what pass'd died with him; but the rest,
All he discover'd when the fit was on,
All that, by those who listen'd, could be glean'd
From broken sentences and starts in sleep,
Is told, and by an honest Chronicler. (85)

Two of his sons, Giovanni and Garzia (The eldest had not seen his sixteenth summer), Went to the chase; but one of them, Giovanni, His best beloved, the glory of his house, Return'd not; and at close of day was found Bathed in his innocent blood. Too well, alas! The trembling Cosmo guess'd the deed, the doer; And having caused the body to be borne In secret to that chamber-at an hour

1 The Tribune.

Who little thought of what was yet to come,
And lived but to be told-he bade Garzia
Arise and follow him. Holding in one hand
A winking lamp, and in the other a key
Massive and dungeon-like, thither he led;
And, having enter'd in and lock'd the door,
The father fix'd his eyes upon the son,
And closely questioned him. No change betray'd
Or guilt or fear. Then Cosmo lifted up

2 Eleonora di Toledo.

The bloody sheet. "Look there! Look there "" he cried,

"Blood calls for blood-and from a father's hand! -Unless thyself wilt save him that sad office. What!" he exclaim'd, when, shuddering at the sight, The boy breathed out, "I stood but on my guard." Darest thou then blacken one who never wrong'd thee,

66

Who would not set his foot upon a worm?—
Yes, thou must die, lest others fall by thee,
And thou shouldst be the slayer of us all."
Then from Garzia's side he took the dagger,
That fatal one which spilt his brother's blood;
And, kneeling on the ground, "Great God!" he cried,
"Grant me the strength to do an act of Justice.
Thou knowest what it costs me; but, alas.
How can I spare myself, sparing none else
Grant me the strength, the will—and oh forgive
The sinful soul of a most wretched son.

Tis a most wretched father who implores it."
Long on Garzia's neck he hung, and wept
Tenderly, long press'd him to his bosom;
And then, but while he held him by the arm,
Thrusting him backward, turn'd away his face,
And stabb'd him to the heart.

Well might De Thou, When in his youth he came to Cosmo's court, Think on the past; and, as he wander'd through The Ancient Palace (87)—through those ample spaces Silent, deserted-stop awhile to dwell

When all slept sound, save the disconsolate Mo- Are plowing up and down among the vines,

ther,* (86)

While many a careless note is sung aloud,
Filling the air with sweetness-and on thee,
Beautiful Florence, (91) all within thy walls,
Thy groves and gardens, pinnacles and towers,
Drawn to our feet.

Upon two portraits there, drawn on the wall (88)
Together, as of two in bonds of love,
One in a Cardinal's habit, one in black,
Those of the unhappy brothers, and infer
From the deep silence that his questions drew, (89)
The terrible truth.

Well might he heave a sigh For poor humanity, when he beheld That very Cosmo shaking o'er his fire, Drowsy and deaf and inarticulate,

Wrapt in his night-gown, o'er a sick man's mess,
In the last stage-death-struck and deadly pale;
His wife, another, not his Eleonora,

At once his nurse and his interpreter.

XXII.

THE CAMPAGNA OF FLORENCE.

"Tis morning. Let us wander through the fields, Where Cimabuè (90) found a shepherd-boy' Tracing his idle fancies on the ground; And let us from the top of Fiesole, Whence Galileo's glass by night observed The phases of the moon, look round below On Arno's vale, where the dove-color'd oxen

[blocks in formation]

Who, when Vice revell'd, and along the street
Tables were set, what time the bearer's bell
Rang to demand the dead at every door,
Came out into the meadows; (94) and, awhile
Wandering in idleness, but not in folly,
Sate down in the high grass and in the shade
Of many a tree sun-proof-day after day,
When all was still and nothing to be heard
But the Cicala's voice among the olives,
Relating in a ring, to banish care,
Their hundred novels.

Round the hill they went, (95) Round underneath-first to a splendid house, Gherardi, as an old tradition runs,

That on the left, just rising from the vale;
A place for Luxury-the painted rooms,
The open galleries and middle court
Not unprepared, fragrant and gay with flowers.
Then westward to another, nobler yet;

That on the right, now known as the Palmieri,
Where Art with Nature vied-a Paradise,
With verdurous walls, and many a trellis'd walk
All rose and jasmine, many a forest-vista
Cross'd by the deer. Then to the Ladies' Valley;
And the clear lake, that seem'd as by enchantment
To lift up to the surface every stone
Of lustre there, and the diminutive fish
Innumerable, dropt with crimson and gold,
Now motionless, now glancing to the sun.

Who has not dwelt on their voluptuous day? The morning-banquet by the fountain-side, (96) The dance that follow'd, and the noon-tide slumber; Then the tales told in turn, as round they lay On carpets, the fresh waters murmuring; And the short interval fill'd up with games Of Chess, and talk, and reading old Romances, Till supper-time, when many a syren-voice Sung down the stars, and in the grass the torches Burnt brighter for their absence.

[blocks in formation]

To catch a thrush on every lime-twig there;
Or in the wood among his wood-cutters;
Or in the tavern by the highway-side
At tric-trac with the miller; or at night,
Doffing his rustic suit, and, duly clad,
Entering his closet, and, among his books,
Among the Great of every age and clime,
A numerous court, turning to whom he pleased,
Questioning each why he did this or that,
And learning how to overcome the fear
Of poverty and death?

Nearer we hail
Thy sunny slope, Arcetri, sung of Old
For its green wine (100)-dearer to me, to most,
As dwelt on by that great Astronomer,'
Seven years a prisoner at the city-gate, (101)
Let in but in his grave-clothes. Sacred be

His cottage (justly was it call'd The Jewel !) (102)
Sacred the vineyard, where, while yet his sight
Glimmer'd, at blush of dawn he dress'd his vines,
Chanting aloud in gaiety of heart
Some verse of Ariosto. There, unseen. (103)
In manly beauty Milton stood before him,
Gazing with reverent awe-Milton, his guest,
Just then come forth, all life and enterprise ;
He in his old age and extremity,
Blind, at noon-day exploring with his staff;
His eyes upturn'd as to the golden sun,
His eye-balls idly rolling. Little then
Did Galileo think whom he bade welcome;
That in his hand he held the hand of one
Who could requite him-who would spread his name
O'er lands and seas-great as himself, nay greater;
Milton as little that in him he saw,

As in a glass, what he himself should be,
Destined so soon to fall on evil days
And evil tongues-so soon, alas, to live
In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round,
And solitude.

Well pleased, could we pursue The Arno, from his birth-place in the clouds, So near the yellow Tiber's (104)-springing up From his four fountains on the Apennine, That mountain-ridge a sea-mark to the ships Sailing on either Sea. Downward he runs, Scattering fresh verdure through the desolate wild, Down by the City of Hermits, (105) and, ere-long, The venerable woods of Vallombrosa;

Then through these gardens to the Tuscan sea,
Reflecting castles, convents, villages,
And those great Rivals in an elder day,
Florence and Pisa-who have given him fame,
Fame everlasting, but who stain'd so oft
His troubled waters. Oft, alas, were seen,
When flight, pursuit, and hideous rout were there,
Hands, clad in gloves of steel, held up imploring; (106)
The man, the hero, on his foaming steed,
Borne underneath—already in the realms
Of Darkness.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

And wash from their unharness'd limbs the blood
And sweat of battle. Sudden was the rush,
Violent the tumult; for, already in sight,
Nearer and nearer yet the danger drew;
Each every sinew straining, every feature,
Each snatching up, and girding, buckling on
Morion and greave and shirt of twisted mail,
As for his life-no more perchance to taste,
Arno, the grateful freshness of thy glades,
Thy waters-where, exulting, he had felt
A swimmer's transport, there, alas, to float
And welter. Nor between the gusts of War,
When flocks were feeding, and the shepherd's pipe
Gladden'd the valley, when, but not unarm'd,
The sower came forth, and, following him who
plow'd,

Threw in the seed-did thy indignant waves
Escape pollution. Sullen was the splash,
Heavy and swift the plunge, when they received
The key that just had grated on the ear
Of Ugolino-closing up for ever

That dismal dungeon henceforth to be named
The Tower of Famine.

At the bridge-foot; (111) and hence a world of woe!
Vengeance for vengeance crying, blood for blood;
No intermission! Law, that slumbers not,
And, like the Angel with the flaming sword,
Sits over all, at once chastising, healing,
Himself the Avenger, went; and every street
Ran red with mutual slaughter-though sometimes
The young forgot the lessons they had learnt,
And loved when they should hate-like thee, Imelda,
Thee and thy Paolo. When last ye met
In that still hour (the heat, the glare was gone,
Not so the splendor-through the cedar-grove
A radiance stream'd like a consuming fire,
As though the glorious orb, in its descent,
Had come and rested there) when last ye met,
And those relentless brothers dragg'd him forth,
It had been well, hadst thou slept on, Imelda, (112)
Nor from thy trance of fear awaked, as night
Fell on that fatal spot, to wish thee dead,
To track him by his blood, to search, to find,
Then fling thee down to catch a word, a look,
A sigh, if yet thou couldst (alas, thou couldst not)
And die, unseen, unthought of—from the wound
round,Sucking the poison. (113)

Once indeed 't was thine,
When many a winter-flood, thy tributary,
Was through its rocky glen rushing, resounding,
And thou wert in thy might, to save, restore
A charge most precious. To the nearest ford,
Hastening, a horseman from Arezzo came,
Careless, impatient of delay, a babe
Slung in a basket to the knotty staff
That lay athwart his saddle-bow. He spurs,
He enters; and his horse, alarm'd, perplex'd.
Halts in the midst. Great is the stir, the strife;
And lo, an atom on that dangerous sea, (108)
The babe is floating! Fast and far he flies;
Now tempest-rock'd, now whirling round and
But not to perish. By thy willing waves
Borne to the shore, among the bulrushes
The ark has rested; and unhurt, secure,
As on his mother's breast he sleeps within,
All peace! or never had the nations heard
That voice so sweet, which still enchants, inspires;
That voice, which sung of love, of liberty.
Petrarch lay there!And such the images
That cluster'd round our Milton, when at eve
Reclined beside thee, (109) Arno; when at eve,
Led on by thee, he wander'd with delight,
Framing Ovidian verse, and through thy groves
Gathering wild myrtle. Such the Poet's dreams;
Yet not such only. For look round and say,
Where is the ground that did not drink warm blood,
The echo that had learnt not to articulate
The cry of murder?-Fatal was the day'
To Florence, when ('t was in a street behind
The church and convent of the Holy Cross-————-
There is the house-that house of the Donati,
Towerless, (110) and left long since, but to the last
Braving assault-all rugged, all emboss'd
Below, and still distinguish'd by the rings
Of brass, that held in war and festival-time
Their family-standards) fatal was the day
To Florence, when, at morn, at the ninth hour,
A noble Dame in weeds of widowhood,
Weeds to be worn hereafter by so many,

1 See Note.

Stood at her door; and, like a sorceress, flung
Her dazzling spell. Subtle she was, and rich,
Rich in a hidden pearl of heavenly light,
Her daughter's beauty; and too well she knew
Its virtue! Patiently she stood and watch'd;
Nor stood alone-but spoke not.-In her breast
Her purpose lay; and, as a youth pass'd by,
Clad for the nuptial rite, she smiled and said,
Lifting a corner of the maiden's veil,
"This had I treasured up in secret for thee.
This hast thou lost!" He gazed, and was undone!
Forgetting-not forgot-he broke the bond,
And paid the penalty, losing his life

Yet, when Slavery came,
Worse follow'd. (114) Genius, Valor left the land,
Indignant-all that had from age to age
Adorn'd, ennobled; and headlong they fell,
Tyrant and slave. For deeds of violence,
Done in broad day and more than half-redeem'd
By many a great and generous sacrifice
Of self to others, came the unpledged bowl,
The stab of the stiletto. Gliding by
Unnoticed, in slouch'd hat and muffling cloak,
That just discover'd, Caravaggio-like,

A swarthy cheek, black brow, and eye of flame.
The Bravo took his stand, and o'er the shoulder
Plunged to the hilt, or from beneath the ribs
Slanting (a surer path, as some averr'd)
Struck upward-then slunk off, or, if pursued,
Made for the Sanctuary, and there along
The glimmering aisle among the worshippers
Wander'd with restless step and jealous look,
Dropping thick gore.

Misnamed to lull suspicion,
In every Palace was The Laboratory, (115)
Where he within brew'd poisons swift and slow,
That scatter'd terror till all things seem'd poisonous,
And brave men trembled if a hand held out
A nosegay or a letter; while the Great
Drank from the Venice-glass, that broke, that shiver'd,
If aught malignant, aught of thine was there,
|Cruel Tophana; (116) and pawn'd provinces

[blocks in formation]

Sobs of Grief,"
Sounds inarticulate-suddenly stopt,
And follow'd by a struggle and a gasp,
A gasp in death, are heard yet in Cerreto,
Along the marble halls and staircases,
Nightly at twelve; and, at the self-same hour,
Shrieks, such as penetrate the inmost soul,
Such as awake the innocent babe to long,
Long wailing, echo through the emptiness
Of that old den far up among the hills, (121)
Frowning on him who comes from Pietra-Mala:
In them, in both, within five days and less,
Two unsuspecting victims, passing fair,
Welcomed with kisses, and slain cruelly,
One with the knife, one with the fatal noose.

[blocks in formation]

PART II.

I.

THE PILGRIM.

It was an hour of universal joy.
The lark was up and at the gate of heaven,
Singing, as sure to enter when he came;
The butterfly was basking in my path,
His radiant wings unfolded. From below
The bell of prayer rose slowly, plaintively;
And odors, such as welcome in the day,
Such as salute the early traveller,

And come and go, each sweeter than the last,
Were rising. Hill and valley breathed delight;
And not a living thing but bless'd the hour!
In every bush and brake there was a voice
Responsive!

From the Thrasymene, that now
Slept in the sun, a lake molten gold,
And from the shore that once, when armies met, (123,
Rocked to and fro unfelt, so terrible

But lo, the Sun is setting; (122) earth and sky
One blaze of glory-What but now we saw
As though it were not, though it had not been!
He lingers yet, and, lessening to a point,
Shines like the eye of Heaven-then withdraws;
And from the zenith to the utmost skirts
All is celestial red! The hour is come,
When they that sail along the distant seas
Languish for home; and they that in the morn
Said to sweet friends "farewell," melt as at parting;"
When, journeying on, the pilgrim, if he hears,
As now we hear it, echoing round the hill,
The bell that seems to mourn the dying day,
Slackens his pace and sighs, and those he loved
Loves more than ever. But who feels it not?
And well may we, for we are far away.
Let us retire, and hail it in our hearts.

The rage, the slaughter, I had turn'd away;
The path, that led me, leading through a wood
A fairy-wilderness of fruits and flowers,
And by a brook (124) that, in the day of strife,
Ran blood, but now runs amber-when a glade,
Far, far within, sunn'd only at noon-day,
Suddenly open'd. Many a bench was there,
Each round its ancient elm; and many a track,
Well known to them that from the highway loved
Awhile to deviate. In the midst a cross
Of mouldering stone as in a temple stood,
Solemn, severe; coeval with the trees
That round it in majestic order rose;
And on the lowest step a Pilgrim knelt,
Clasping his hands in prayer. He was the first
Yet seen by me (save in a midnight-masque,
A revel, where none cares to play his part,
And they, that speak, at once dissolve the charm)
The first in sober truth, no counterfeit ;
And, when his orisons were duly paid,
He rose, and we exchanged, as all are wont,
A traveller's greeting.

Young, and of an age
When Youth is most attractive, when a light
Plays round and round, reflected, if I err not,
From some attendant Spirit, that ere-long
(His charge relinquish'd with a sigh, a tear)
Wings his flight upward-with a look he won
My favor; and, the spell of silence broke,
I could not but continue.

"Whence," I ask'd,

"L

Whence art thou?"-"From Mont' alto," he replied,
My native village in the Apennines."
"And whither journeying?"-"To the holy shrine
Of Saint Antonio, in the City of Padua.
Perhaps, if thou hast ever gone so far,
Thou wilt direct my course."- Most willingly;
But thou hast much to do, much to endure,
Ere thou hast enter'd where the silver lamps
Burn ever. Tell me-I would not transgress,
Yet ask I must-what could have brought thee forth,
Nothing in act or thought to be atoned for?"-

-"

-

"It was a vow I made in my distress.
We were so blest, none were so blest as we,
Till Sickness came. First, as death-struck, I fell;
Then my beloved sister; and ere-long,
Worn with continual watchings, night and day,
Our saint-like mother. Worse and worse she grew;
And in my anguish, my despair, I vow'd,
That if she lived, if Heaven restored her to us,
I would forthwith, and in a Pilgrim's weeds,
Visit that holy shrine. My vow was heard;
And therefore am I come."-"Thou hast done well;
And may those weeds, so reverenced of old,
Guard thee in danger!"-

But they are worn in humble confidence;
Nor would I for the richest robe resign them,
Wrought, as they were, by those I love so well,
Lauretta and my sister; theirs the task,
But none to them, a pleasure, a delight,
To ply their utmost skill, and send me forth
As best became this service. Their last words,
'Fare thee well, Carlo. We shall count the hours!
Will not go from me."-

Below and winding far away,

A narrow glade unfolded, such as Spring (127)
Broiders with flowers, and, when the moon is high,
The hare delights to race in, scattering round
The silvery dews. Cedar and cypress threw
"They are nothing worth. Singly their length of shadow, chequering
The greensward, and, what grew in frequent tufts,
An underwood of myrtle, that by fits
Sent up a gale of fragrance. Through the midst,
Reflecting, as it ran, purple and gold,

A rainbow's splendor (somewhere in the east
Rain-drops were falling fast) a rivulet
Sported as loth to go; and on the bank
Stood (in the eyes of one, if not of both,
Worth all the rest and more) a sumpter-mule (128)
Well-laden, while two menials as in haste
Drew from his ample panniers, ranging round
Viands and fruits on many a shining salver,
And plunging in the cool translucent wave
Flasks of delicious wine.

come;

And, if it stir the heart, if aught be there,
That may hereafter in a thoughtful hour
Wake but a sigh, 't is treasured up among
The things most precious; and the day it came,
Is noted as a white day in our lives.

With ashes, and the sides, where roughest, hung
Loosely with locks of hair-I look'd and saw
What, seen in such an hour by Sancho Panza,
Had given his honest countenance a breadth,
His cheeks a flush of pleasure and surprise,
Unknown before, had chain'd him to the spot,
And thou, Sir Knight, hadst traversed hill and dale
Squire-less.

"Health and strength be thine
In thy long travel! May no sun-beam strike;
No vapor cling and wither! Mayest thou be,
Sleeping or waking, sacred and secure!
And, when again thou comest, thy labor done,
Joy be among ye! In that happy hour

All will pour forth to bid thee welcome, Carlo;
And there is one, or I am much deceived,

Anon a horn
Blew, through the champaign bidding to the feast,
Its jocund note to other ears address'd,

One thou hast named, who will not be the last."-
"Oh, she is true as Truth itself can be!

Not ours; and, slowly coming by a path,
That, ere it issued from an ilex-grove,

But ah, thou knowest her not. Would that thou Was seen far inward, though along the glade

couldst !

My steps I quicken when I think of her;
For, though they take me further from her door,
I shall return the sooner."

Distinguish'd only by a fresher verdure,
Peasants approach'd, one leading in a leash
Beagles yet panting, one with various game,
In rich confusion slung, before, behind,

II.

Leveret and quail and pheasant. All announced
The chase as over; and ere-long appear'd
Their horses full of fire, champing the curb,
For the white foam was dry upon the flank,

AN INTERVIEW.

PLEASURE, that comes unlook'd-for, is thrice wel- Two in close converse, each in each delighting,

Their plumage waving as instinct with life;
A Lady young and graceful, and a Youth,
Yet younger, bearing a falconer's glove,
As in the golden, the romantic time,
His falcon hooded. Like some spirit of air,
Or fairy-vision, such as feign'd of old,
The Lady, while her courser paw'd the ground,
Alighted; and her beauty, as she trod
The enamell'd bank, bruising nor herb nor flower,
That place illumined.

[ocr errors]

Ah, who should she be,
And with her brother, as when last we met,
(When the first lark had sung ere half was said,
And as she stood, bidding adieu, her voice,
So sweet it was, recall'd me like a spell)
Who but Angelica?

The sun was wheeling westward, and the cliffs
And nodding woods, that everlastingly
(Such the dominion of thy mighty voice, (125)
Thy voice, Velino, utter'd in the mist)
Hear thee and answer thee, were left at length
For others still as noon; and on we stray'd
From wild to wilder, nothing hospitable
Seen up or down, no bush or green or dry, (126)
That ancient symbol at the cottage-door,
Offering refreshment-when Luigi cried,
"Well, of a thousand tracts we chose the best!"
And, turning round an oak, oracular once,
Now lightning-struck, a cave, a thoroughfare
For all that came, each entrance a broad arch,
Whence many a deer, rustling his velvet coat,
Had issued, many a gipsy and her brood
Peer'd forth, then housed again-the floor yet grey With many a wildering dream of sylphs and flowers

That day we gave
To Pleasure, and, unconscious of their flight,
Another and another; hers a home
Dropt from the sky amid the wild and rude,
Loretto-like. The rising moon we hail'd,
Duly, devoutly, from a vestibule

Of many an arch, o'erwrought and lavishly

« PreviousContinue »