Page images
[ocr errors]

Soaring, descending.

In the mother's lap
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 drearn 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.

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

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.


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.



Nor is it surely without another advantage. If life be short, not so to many of us are its days and its hours. When the blood slumbers in the veins, how often do we wish that the earth would turn faster on its axis, that the sun would rise and set before it does, and, to escape from the weight of time, how many follies, how many crimes are committed! Men rush

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 exclaimed, starting up from the table, "why did I leave my own chimney-corner?-But am I not on the road to Brundusium? And are not these the very calamities that befell Horace and Virgil, and Mæcenas, and Plotius, and Varius? Horace laughed at them-then why should not I? Horace resolved to turn them to 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 the 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 I ate with an appetite I had not known before. 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,2 (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 and how fast! Would he who sat in a corner of 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

and domestic broil, such are their resources; and, when these things fail, they destroy themselves. Now in travelling we multiply events, and inno

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.

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.

1 As indeed it always was, contributing those of every degree,

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

from a milors with his suite to him whose only attendant is his 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 admittance, 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 wellsupplied, the fields well-cultivated, all is right. If otherwise, we may say, and say truly, these people are barbarous or oppressed.

or so much in the time, as he who, with his eyes and
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.

his library, poring over books and maps, learn more Greek sculpture-in some carlier day perhaps
A tomb, and honor'd with a hero's ashes.
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

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, The stranger and his camels. Soon I heard and admire beyond them. Our benevolence extends Footsteps; and lo, descending by a path itself with our knowledge. And must we not return Trodden for ages, many a nymph appear'd, better citizens than we went? For the more we Appear'd and vanish'd, bearing on her head become acquainted with the institutions of other Her earthen pitcher. It call'd up the day countries, the more highly must we value our own. Ulysses landed there; and long I gazed, Like one awaking in a distant time. (159)

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, cannot describe. I threw them my purse; and their burst of gratitude overcame me. It filled my eyesit went as a cordial 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!"



It was a well Of whitest marble, white as from the quarry; And richly wrought with many a high relief,

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, Canovs, Thou hadst endow'd them with immortal youth; And they had evermore lived undivided, Winning all hearts of all thy works the fairest.


"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."

Knowledge makes knowledge as money makes money, nor ever perhaps so fast as on a journey.

1 Assuredly not, if the last has laid a proper foundation. And by the path that, wandering on its way, When along the shore, (161)

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.

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

Cross the brown heath, ere-long to wag their beards
Before my lady-abbess, and discuss
Things only known to the devout and pure
O'er her spiced bowl-then shrive the sisterhood,
Sitting by turns with an inclining ear
In the confessional.

Once again he earths;
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.

. He moves his lips
As with a curse-then paces up and down,
Now fast, now slow, brooding and muttering on,
Gloomy alike to him the past, the future.

But hark, the nimble tread of numerous feet!
-"T is but a dappled herd, come down to slake
Their thirst in the cool wave. He turns and aims-
Then checks himself, unwilling to disturb
The sleeping echoes.

Who wants

A sequel, may read on. The unvarnish'd tale,
That follows, will supply the place of one.
"T was told me by the Marquis of Ravina,
When in a blustering night he shelter'd me
In that brave castle of his ancestors
O'er Garigliano, and is such indeed
As every day brings with it-in a land
Where laws are trampled on, and lawless men
Walk in the sun; but it should not be lost,
For may serve to bind us to our country.



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;

And thou hast found at last. Were I as thou,
I in thy grasp as thou art now in ours,
Soon should I make a midnight-spectacle,
Soon, limb by limb, be mangled on a wheel,
Then gibbeted to blacken for the vultures.
But I would teach thee better-how to spare.
Write as I dictate. If thy ransom comes,
Thou livest. If not-but answer not, I pray,
I may strike thee dead;
it is an easier thing
Write, and thus."-

Lest thou provoke me.
And know, young man,
To do it than to say it.

I wrote. ""T is well," he cried. "A peasant-boy,
Trusty and swift of foot, shall bear it hence.
Meanwhile lie down and rest. This cloak of mine
Will serve thee; it has weather'd many a storm."
The watch was set; and twice it had been changed,
When morning broke, and a wild bird, a hawk,
Flew in a circle, screaming. I look'd up,
And all were gone, save him who now kept guard,
And on his arms lay musing. Young he seem'd,
And sad, as though he could indulge at will
Some secret sorrow. "Thou shrink'st back," he said.
"Well may'st thou, lying, as thou dost, so near
A ruffian-one for ever link'd and bound
To guilt and infamy. There was a time
When he had not perhaps been deem'd unworthy,
When he had watch'd that planet to its setting,
And dwelt with pleasure on the meanest thing
That Nature has given birth to. Now 't is past.

"Wouldst thou know more? My story is an old one. I loved, was scorn'd; I trusted, was betray'd; And in my anguish, my necessity, Met with the fiend, the tempter-in Rusconi. 'Why thus?' he cried.

darest not.

Come and assert thy birth-right while thou canst.
A robber's cave is better than a dungeon;
And death itself, what is it at the worst,
What, but a harlequin's leap? Him I had known,
Had served with, suffer'd with; and on the walls
Of Capua, while the moon went down, I swore
Allegiance on his dagger.

Dost thou ask
How I have kept my oath? Thou shalt be told,
Cost what it may.-But grant me, I implore,
Grant me a passport to some distant land,
That I may never, never more be named.
Thou wilt, I know thou wilt.


Two months ago,
When on a vineyard-hill we lay conceal'd
And scattered up and down as we were wont,
I heard a damsel singing to herself,
And soon espied her, coming all alone,
In her first beauty. Up a path she came
Leafy and intricate, singing her song,
A song of love, by snatches; breaking off
If but a flower, an insect in the sun
Pleased for an instant; then as carelessly
The strain resuming, and, where'er she stopt,
Rising on tiptoe underneath the boughs
To pluck a grape in very wantonness.
Her look, her mien and maiden-ornaments
Show'd gentle birth; and, step by step, she came
end nearer to the dreadful snare.

None else were by; and, as I gazed unseen,
Her youth, her innocence and gaiety
Went to my heart; and, starting up, I cried,
Fly-for your life! Alas, she shriek'd, she fell;
And, as I caught her falling, all rush'd forth.
A Wood-nymph!' said Rusconi. By the light,
Lovely as Hebe! Lay her in the shade.'
I heard him not. I stood as in a trance.
'What,' he exclaim'd with a malicious smile,
Wouldst thou rebel?' I did as he required.
Now bear her hence to the well-head below.
A few cold drops will animate this marble.
Go! "T is an office all will envy thee;
But thou hast earn'd it.'

Thrown himself in between us, and exclaim'd,
Grasping my arm, "T is bravely, nobly done!

Thou wouldst be free, and Is it for deeds like these thou wear'st a sword!
Was this the business that thou camest upon?
-But 't is his first offence, and let it pass.
Like the young tiger he has tasted blood,
And may do much hereafter. He can strike
Home to the hilt.' Then in an under-tone,
Thus wouldst thou justify the pledge I gave,
When in the eyes of all I read distrust?
For once,' and on his cheek, methought, I saw
The blush of virtue, I will save thee, Albert;
Again, I cannot.'"

[ocr errors]

As I stagger'd down,
Unwilling to surrender her sweet body;
Her golden hair dishevell'd on a neck
Of snow, and her fair eyes closed as in sleep,
Frantic with love, with hate, Great God!" I cried
│(I had almost forgotten how to pray)



Why may I not, while yet-while yet I can,
Release her from a thraldom worse than death?
"T was done as soon as said. I kiss'd her brow
And smote her with my dagger. A short cry
She utter'd, but she stirred not; and to heaven
Her gentle spirit fled. "T was where the path
In its descent turn'd suddenly. No eye
Observed me, though their steps were following fast.
But soon a yell broke forth, and all at once
Levell'd their deadly aim. Then I had ceased
To trouble or be troubled, and had now
(Would I were there!) been slumbering in my grave
Had not Rusconi with a terrible shout

Ere his tale was told,
As on the heath we lay, my ransom came;
And in six days, with no ungrateful mind,
Albert was sailing on a quiet sea.
-But the night wears, and thou art much in need
Of rest. The young Antonio, with his torch,
Is waiting to conduct thee to thy chamber.


THIS region, surely, is not of the earth.'
Was it not dropt from heaven? Not a grove,
Citron, or pine, or cedar, not a grot
Sea-worn and mantled with the gadding vine,
But breathes enchantment. Not a cliff but flings
On the clear wave some image of delight,
Some cabin-roof glowing with crimson flowers,

1 Un pezzo di cielo caduto in terra.-Sannazaro.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Some ruin'd temple or fallen monument,
To muse on as the bark is gliding by,
And be it mine to muse there, mine to glide,
From day-break, when the mountain pales his fire
Yet more and more, and from the mountain-top,
Till then invisible, a smoke ascends,
Solemn and slow, as erst from Ararat,

When he, the Patriarch, who escaped the Flood,
Was with his household sacrificing there—
From day-break to that hour, the last and best,
When, one by one, the fishing-boats come forth,
Each with its glimmering lantern at the prow,
And, when the nets are thrown, the evening-hymn
Steals o'er the trembling waters.


Fable and Truth have shed, in rivalry,
Each her peculiar influence. Fable came,
And laugh'd and sung, arraying Truth in flowers,
Like a young child her grandam. Fable came;
Earth, sea and sky reflecting, as she flew,
A thousand, thousand colors not their own:
And at her bidding, lo! a dark descent
To Tartarus, and those thrice happy fields,
Those fields with ether pure and purple light
Ever invested, scenes by him described,'
Who here was wont to wander, record
What they reveal'd, and on the western shore
Sleeps in a silent grove, o'erlooking thee,
Beloved Parthenope.

Yet here, methinks, Truth wants no ornament, in her own shape Filling the mind by turns with awe and love, By turns inclining to wild ecstacy, And soberest meditation.

Here the vines

Wed, each her elm, and o'er the golden grain
Hang their luxuriant clusters, chequering
The sunshine; where, when cooler shadows fall,
And the mild moon her fairy net-work weaves,
The lute, or mandoline, accompanied

By many a voice yet sweeter than their own,
Kindles, nor slowly; and the dance2 displays
The gentle arts and witcheries of love,
Its hopes and fears and feignings, till the youth
Drops on his knee as vanquish'd, and the maid,
Her tambourine uplifting with a grace,
Nature's and Nature's only, bids him rise.

But here the mighty Monarch underneath, He in his palace of fire, diffuses round A dazzling splendor Here, unseen, unheard, Opening another Eden in the wild, He works his wonders; save, when issuing forth In thunder, he blots out the sun, the sky, And, mingling all things earthly as in scorn, Exalts the valley, lays the mountain low, Pours many a torrent from his burning lake, And in an hour of universal mirth, What time the trump proclaims the festival, Buries some capital city, there to sleep The sleep of ages-till a plow, a spade Disclose the secret, and the eye of day Glares coldly on the streets, the skeletons, Each in his place, each in his gay attire,

[blocks in formation]

And eager to enjoy.

Let us go round, And let the sail be slack, the course be slow, That at our leisure, as we coast along, We may contemplate and from every scene Receive its influence. The Cumaan towers, There did they rise, sun-gilt; and here thy groves Delicious Baia. Here (what would they not?) The masters of the earth, unsatisfied, Built in the sea; and now the boatman steers O'er many a crypt and vault yet glimmering, O'er many a broad and indestructible arch, The deep foundations of their palaces; Nothing now heard ashore, so great the change, Save when the sea-mew clamors, or the owl Hoots in the temple.

What the mountainous Isle,'
Seen in the South? "Tis where a Monster dwelt,
Who hurl'd his victims from the topmost cliff;
Then and then only merciful, so slow,
So subtle were the tortures they endured.
Fearing and fear'd he lived, cursing and cursed;
And still the dungeons in the rock breathe out
Darkness, distemper. Strange, that one so vile
Should from his den strike terror through the world,
Should, where withdrawn in his decrepitude,
Say to the noblest, be they where they might,
"Go from the earth!" and from the earth they went.
Yet such things were-and will be, when mankind,
Losing all virtue, lose all energy;

And for the loss incur the penalty,
Trodden down and trampled.

Let us turn the prow, And in the track of him who went to die,3 (164) Traverse this valley of waters, landing where A waking dream awaits us. At a step Two thousand years roll backward, and we stand, Like those so long within that awful place,^ Immovable, nor asking, Can it be?

Once did I linger there alone, till day Closed, and at length the calm of twilight came, So grateful, yet so solemn! At the fount, Just where the three ways meet, I stood and look'd, ("T was near a noble house, the house of Pansa), And all was still as in the long, long night That follow'd, when the shower of ashes fell, When they that sought Pompeii, sought in vain; It was not to be found. But now a ray, Bright and yet brighter, on the pavement glanced, And on the wheel-track worn for centuries, And on the stepping-stones from side to side, O'er which the maidens, with their water-urns, Were wont to trip so lightly. Full and clear, The moon was rising, and at once reveal'd The name of every dweller, and his craft; Shining throughout with an unusual lustre, And lighting up this City of the Dead.

Here lived a miller; silent and at rest His mill-stones now. In old companionship Still do they stand as on the day he went, Each ready for its office-but he comes not. And here, hard by, (where one in idleness

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »