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Title: New Italian sketches
Author: Symonds, John Addington, 1840-1893
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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     NEW

     ITALIAN SKETCHES.

     BY

     JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS,

     AUTHOR OF "SKETCHES IN ITALY," ETC.

     _COPYRIGHT EDITION._

     LEIPZIG

     BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

     1884.

     _The Right of Translation is reserved._



PREFATORY NOTE.


This volume of New Italian Sketches has been made up from two books
published in England and America under the titles of "Sketches and
Studies in Italy" and "Italian Byways." It forms in some respects a
companion volume to my "Sketches in Italy" already published in the
Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors. But it is quite independent of
that other book, and is in no sense a continuation of it. In making the
selection, I have however followed the same principles of choice. That
is to say, I have included only those studies of places, rather than of
literature or history, which may suit the needs of travellers in Italy.

     JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS.

     DAVOS PLATZ, _Dec. 1883_.


     TO

     CHRISTIAN BUOL AND CHRISTIAN PALMY

     MY FRIENDS AND FELLOW-TRAVELLERS

     I DEDICATE THIS BOOK.



CONTENTS


                                          Page
     AUTUMN WANDERINGS                      11

     MONTE OLIVETO                          34

     MONTEPULCIANO                          57

     SPRING WANDERINGS                      84

     MAY IN UMBRIA                         106

     THE PALACE OF URBINO                  138

     A VENETIAN MEDLEY                     169

     THE GONDOLIER'S WEDDING               212

     FORNOVO                               238

     BERGAMO AND BARTOLOMMEO COLLEONI      261

     LOMBARD VIGNETTES                     282



     NEW ITALIAN SKETCHES.



     AUTUMN WANDERINGS.

     I.--ITALIAM PETIMUS.


_Italiam petimus!_ We left our upland home before daybreak on a clear
October morning. There had been a hard frost, spangling the meadows with
rime-crystals, which twinkled where the sun's rays touched them. Men and
women were mowing the frozen grass with thin short Alpine scythes; and
as the swathes fell, they gave a crisp, an almost tinkling sound. Down
into the gorge, surnamed of Avalanche, our horses plunged; and there we
lost the sunshine till we reached the Bear's Walk, opening upon the
vales of Albula, and Julier, and Schyn. But up above, shone morning
light upon fresh snow, and steep torrent-cloven slopes reddening with a
hundred fading plants; now and then it caught the grey-green icicles
that hung from cliffs where summer streams had dripped. There is no
colour lovelier than the blue of an autumn sky in the high Alps,
defining ridges powdered with light snow, and melting imperceptibly
downward into the warm yellow of the larches and the crimson of the
bilberry. Wiesen was radiantly beautiful: those aërial ranges of the
hills that separate Albula from Julier soared crystal-clear above their
forests; and for a foreground, on the green fields starred with lilac
crocuses, careered a group of children on their sledges. Then came the
row of giant peaks--Pitz d'Aela, Tinzenhorn, and Michelhorn, above the
deep ravine of Albula--all seen across wide undulating golden swards,
close-shaven and awaiting winter. Carnations hung from cottage windows
in full bloom, casting sharp angular black shadows on white walls.

_Italiam petimus!_ We have climbed the valley of the Julier, following
its green, transparent torrent. A night has come and gone at Mühlen. The
stream still leads us up, diminishing in volume as we rise, up through
the fleecy mists that roll asunder for the sun, disclosing far-off snowy
ridges and blocks of granite mountains. The lifeless, soundless waste of
rock, where only thin winds whistle out of silence and fade suddenly
into still air, is passed. Then comes the descent, with its forests of
larch and cembra, golden and dark green upon a ground of grey, and in
front the serried shafts of the Bernina, and here and there a glimpse of
emerald lake at turnings of the road. Autumn is the season for this
landscape. Through the fading of innumerable leaflets, the yellowing of
larches, and something vaporous in the low sun, it gains a colour not
unlike that of the lands we seek. By the side of the lake at Silvaplana
the light was strong and warm, but mellow. Pearly clouds hung over the
Maloja, and floating overhead cast shadows on the opaque water, which
may literally be compared to chrysoprase. The breadth of golden, brown,
and russet tints upon the valley at this moment adds softness to its
lines of level strength. Devotees of the Engadine contend that it
possesses an austere charm beyond the common beauty of Swiss landscape;
but this charm is only perfected in autumn. The fresh snow on the
heights that guard it helps. And then there are the forests of dark
pines upon those many knolls and undulating mountain-flanks beside the
lakes. Sitting and dreaming there in noonday sun, I kept repeating to
myself _Italiam petimus!_

A hurricane blew upward from the pass as we left Silvaplana, ruffling
the lake with gusts of the Italian wind. By Silz Maria we came in sight
of a dozen Italian workmen, arm linked in arm in two rows, tramping in
rhythmic stride, and singing as they went. Two of them were such
nobly-built young men, that for a moment the beauty of the landscape
faded from my sight, and I was saddened. They moved to their singing,
like some of Mason's or Frederick Walker's figures, with the free grace
of living statues, and laughed as we drove by. And yet, with all their
beauty, industry, sobriety, intelligence, these Italians of the northern
valleys serve the sterner people of the Grisons like negroes, doing
their roughest work at scanty wages.

So we came to the vast Alpine wall, and stood on a bare granite slab,
and looked over into Italy, as men might lean from the battlements of a
fortress. Behind lies the Alpine valley, grim, declining slowly
northward, with wind-lashed lakes and glaciers sprawling from
storm-broken pyramids of gneiss. Below spread the unfathomable depths
that lead to Lombardy, flooded with sunlight, filled with swirling
vapour, but never wholly hidden from our sight. For the blast kept
shifting the cloud-masses, and the sun streamed through in spears and
bands of sheeny rays. Over the parapet our horses dropped, down through
sable spruce and amber larch, down between tangles of rowan and autumnal
underwood. Ever as we sank, the mountains rose--those sharp embattled
precipices, toppling spires, impendent chasms blurred with mist, that
make the entrance into Italy sublime. Nowhere do the Alps exhibit their
full stature, their commanding puissance, with such majesty as in the
gates of Italy; and of all those gates I think there is none to compare
with Maloja, none certainly to rival it in abruptness of initiation into
the Italian secret. Below Vico Soprano we pass already into the violets
and blues of Titian's landscape. Then come the purple boulders among
chestnut trees; then the double dolomite-like peak of Pitz Badin and
Promontogno.

It is sad that words can do even less than painting could to bring this
window-scene at Promontogno before another eye. The casement just frames
it. In the foreground are meadow slopes, thinly, capriciously planted
with chestnut trees and walnuts, each standing with its shadow cast upon
the sward. A little farther falls the torrent, foaming down between
black jaws of rain-stained granite, with the wooden buildings of a
rustic mill set on a ledge of rock. Suddenly above this landscape soars
the valley, clothing its steep sides on either hand with pines; and
there are emerald isles of pasture on the wooded flanks; and then
cliffs, where the red-stemmed larches glow; and at the summit, shooting
into ether with a swathe of mist around their basement, soar the double
peaks, the one a pyramid, the other a bold broken crystal not unlike the
Finsteraarhorn seen from Furka. These are connected by a snowy saddle,
and snow is lying on their inaccessible crags in powdery drifts.
Sunlight pours between them into the ravine. The green and golden
forests now join from either side, and now recede, according as the
sinuous valley brings their lines together or disparts them. There is a
sound of cow-bells on the meadows; and the roar of the stream is dulled
or quickened as the gusts of this October wind sweep by or slacken.
_Italiam petimus!_

_Tangimus Italiam!_ Chiavenna is a worthy key to this great gate Italian.
We walked at night in the open galleries of the cathedral-cloister--white,
smoothly curving, well-proportioned logge, enclosing a green space, whence
soars the campanile to the stars. The moon had sunk, but her light still
silvered the mountains that stand at watch round Chiavenna; and the castle
rock was flat and black against that dreamy background. Jupiter, who
walked so lately for us on the long ridge of the Jacobshorn above our
pines, had now an ample space of sky over Lombardy to light his lamp in.
Why is it, we asked each other, as we smoked our pipes and strolled, my
friend and I;--why is it that Italian beauty does not leave the spirit so
untroubled as an Alpine scene? Why do we here desire the flower of some
emergent feeling to grow from the air, or from the soil, or from humanity
to greet us? This sense of want evoked by Southern beauty is perhaps the
antique mythopoeic yearning. But in our perplexed life it takes another
form, and seems the longing for emotion, ever fleeting, ever new,
unrealised, unreal, insatiable.


II.--OVER THE APENNINES.

At Parma we slept in the Albergo della Croce Bianca, which is more a
bric-à-brac shop than an inn; and slept but badly, for the good folk of
Parma twanged guitars and exercised their hoarse male voices all night
in the street below. We were glad when Christian called us, at 5 A.M.,
for an early start across the Apennines. This was the day of a right
Roman journey. In thirteen and a half hours, leaving Parma at 6, and
arriving in Sarzana at 7.30, we flung ourselves across the spine of
Italy, from the plains of Eridanus to the seashore of Etruscan Luna. I
had secured a carriage and extra post-horses the night before; therefore
we found no obstacles upon the road, but eager drivers, quick relays,
obsequious postmasters, change, speed, perpetual movement. The road
itself is a noble one, and nobly entertained in all things but
accommodation for travellers. At Berceto, near the summit of the pass,
we stopped just half an hour, to lunch off a mouldly hen and six eggs;
but that was all the halt we made.

As we drove out of Parma, striking across the plain to the _ghiara_ of
the Taro, the sun rose over the austere autumnal landscape, with its
withered vines and crimson haws. Christian, the mountaineer, who at home
had never seen the sun rise from a flat horizon, stooped from the box to
call attention to this daily recurring miracle, which on the plain of
Lombardy is no less wonderful than on a rolling sea. From the village of
Fornovo, where the Italian League was camped awaiting Charles VIII. upon
that memorable July morn in 1495, the road strikes suddenly aside, gains
a spur of the descending Apennines, and keeps this vantage till the
pass of La Cisa is reached. Many windings are occasioned by thus adhering
to arêtes, but the total result is a gradual ascent with free prospect
over plain and mountain. The Apennines, built up upon a smaller scale
than the Alps, perplexed in detail and entangled with cross sections and
convergent systems, lend themselves to this plan of carrying highroads
along their ridges instead of following the valley.

What is beautiful in the landscape of that northern water-shed is the
subtlety, delicacy, variety, and intricacy of the mountain outlines.
There is drawing wherever the eye falls. Each section of the vast
expanse is a picture of tossed crests and complicated undulations. And
over the whole sea of stationary billows, light is shed like an ethereal
raiment, with spare colour--blue and grey, and parsimonious green--in
the near foreground. The detail is somewhat dry and monotonous; for
these so finely moulded hills are made up of washed earth, the immemorial
wrecks of earlier mountain ranges. Brown villages, not unlike those of
Midland England, low houses built of stone and tiled with stone, and
square-towered churches, occur at rare intervals in cultivated hollows,
where there are fields and fruit trees. Water is nowhere visible except
in the wasteful river-beds. As we rise, we break into a wilder country,
forested with oak, where oxen and goats are browsing. The turf is starred
with lilac gentian and crocus bells, but sparely. Then comes the highest
village, Berceto, with keen Alpine air. After that, broad rolling downs
of yellowing grass and russet beech-scrub lead onward to the pass La Cisa.
The sense of breadth in composition is continually satisfied through this
ascent by the fine-drawn lines, faint tints, and immense air-spaces of
Italian landscape. Each little piece reminds one of England; but the
geographical scale is enormously more grandiose, and the effect of majesty
proportionately greater.

From La Cisa the road descends suddenly; for the southern escarpment of
the Apennines, as of the Alpine, barrier is pitched at a far steeper
angle than the northern. Yet there is no view of the sea. That is
excluded by the lower hills which hem the Magra. The upper valley is
beautiful, with verdant lawns and purple hill-sides breaking down into
thick chestnut woods, through which we wound at a rapid pace for nearly
an hour. The leaves were still green, mellowing to golden; but the fruit
was ripe and heavy, ready at all points to fall. In the still October air
the husks above our heads would loosen, and the brown nuts rustle through
the foliage, and with a dull short thud, like drops of thunder-rain,
break down upon the sod. At the foot of this rich forest, wedged in
between huge buttresses, we found Pontremoli, and changed our horses here
for the last time. It was Sunday, and the little town was alive with
country-folk; tall stalwart fellows wearing peacock's feathers in their
black slouched hats, and nut-brown maids.

From this point the valley of the Magra is exceeding rich with fruit
trees, vines, and olives. The tendrils of the vine are yellow now, and
in some places hued like generous wine; through their thick leaves the
sun shot crimson. In one cool garden, as the day grew dusk, I noticed
quince trees laden with pale fruit entangled with pomegranates--green
spheres and ruddy amid burnished leaves. By the roadside too were many
berries of bright hues; the glowing red of haws and hips, the amber of
the pyracanthus, the rose tints of the spindle-wood. These make autumn
even lovelier than spring. And then there was a wood of chestnuts
carpeted with pale pink ling, a place to dream of in the twilight. But
the main motive of this landscape was the indescribable Carrara range,
an island of pure form and shooting peaks, solid marble, crystalline in
shape and texture, faintly blue against the blue sky, from which they
were but scarce divided. These mountains close the valley to south-east,
and seem as though they belonged to another and more celestial region.

Soon the sunlight was gone, and moonrise came to close the day, as we
rolled onward to Sarzana, through arundo donax and vine-girdled olive
trees and villages, where contadini lounged upon the bridges. There was
a stream of sound in our ears, and in my brain a rhythmic dance of
beauties caught through the long-drawn glorious golden autumn-day.


III.--FOSDINOVO.

The hamlet and the castle of Fosdinovo stand upon a mountain-spur above
Sarzana, commanding the valley of the Magra and the plains of Luni. This
is an ancient fief of the Malaspina House, and still in the possession
of the Marquis of that name.

The road to Fosdinovo strikes across the level through an avenue of
plane trees, shedding their discoloured leaves. It then takes to the
open fields, bordered with tall reeds waving from the foss on either
hand, where grapes are hanging to the vines. The country-folk allow
their vines to climb into the olives, and these golden festoons are a
great ornament to the grey branches. The berries on the trees are still
quite green, and it is a good olive season. Leaving the main road, we
pass a villa of the Malaspini, shrouded in immense thickets of sweet bay
and ilex, forming a grove for the Nymphs or Pan. Here may you see just
such clean stems and lucid foliage as Gian Bellini painted, inch by
inch, in his Peter Martyr picture. The place is neglected now; the
semicircular seats of white Carrara marble are stained with green mosses,
the altars chipped, the fountains choked with bay leaves; and the rose
trees, escaped from what were once trim garden alleys, have gone wandering
a-riot into country hedges. There is no demarcation between the great
man's villa and the neighbouring farms. From this point the path rises,
and the barren hill-side is a-bloom with late-flowering myrtles. Why did
the Greeks consecrate these myrtle-rods to Death as well as Love? Electra
complained that her father's tomb had not received the honour of the
myrtle branch; and the Athenians wreathed their swords with myrtle in
memory of Harmodius. Thinking of these matters, I cannot but remember
lines of Greek, which have themselves the rectitude and elasticity of
myrtle wands:

    +kai prospesôn eklaus' erêmias tychôn
    spondas te lysas askon on pherô zenois
    espeisa tymbô d' amphethêka mursinas.+

As we approach Fosdinovo, the hills above us gain sublimity; the
prospect over plain and sea--the fields where Luna was, the widening bay
of Spezzia--grows ever grander. The castle is a ruin, still capable of
partial habitation, and now undergoing repair--the state in which a ruin
looks most sordid and forlorn. How strange it is, too, that, to enforce
this sense of desolation, sad dishevelled weeds cling ever to such
antique masonry! Here are the henbane, the sow-thistle, the wild
cucumber. At Avignon, at Orvieto, at Dolce Acqua, at Les Baux, we never
missed them. And they have the dusty courtyards, the massive portals,
where portcullises still threaten, of Fosdinovo to themselves. Over the
gate, and here and there on corbels, are carved the arms of Malaspina--a
barren thorn-tree, gnarled with the geometrical precision of heraldic
irony.

Leaning from the narrow windows of this castle, with the spacious view
to westward, I thought of Dante. For Dante in this castle was the guest
of Moroello Malaspina, what time he was yet finishing the "Inferno."
There is a little old neglected garden, full to south, enclosed upon a
rampart which commands the Borgo, where we found frail canker-roses and
yellow amaryllis. Here, perhaps, he may have sat with ladies--for this
was the Marchesa's pleasance; or may have watched through a short
summer's night, until he saw that _tremolar della marina_, portending
dawn, which afterwards he painted in the "Purgatory."

From Fosdinovo one can trace the Magra work its way out seaward, not
into the plain where once the _candentia moenia Lunæ_ flashed sunrise
from their battlements, but close beside the little hills which back the
the southern arm of the Spezzian gulf. At the extreme end of that
promontory, called Del Corvo, stood the Benedictine convent of S. Croce;
and it was here in 1309, if we may trust to tradition, that Dante, before
his projected journey into France, appeared and left the first part of
his poem with the Prior. Fra Ilario, such was the good father's name,
received commission to transmit the "Inferno" to Uguccione della
Faggiuola; and he subsequently recorded the fact of Dante's visit in a
letter which, though its genuineness has been called in question, is far
too interesting to be left without allusion. The writer says that on
occasion of a journey into lands beyond the Riviera, Dante visited this
convent, appearing silent and unknown among the monks. To the Prior's
question what he wanted, he gazed upon the brotherhood, and only answered,
"Peace!" Afterwards, in private conversation, he communicated his name and
spoke about his poem. A portion of the "Divine Comedy" composed in the
Italian tongue aroused Ilario's wonder, and led him to inquire why his
guest had not followed the usual course of learned poets by committing his
thoughts to Latin. Dante replied that he had first intended to write in
that language, and that he had gone so far as to begin the poem in
Virgilian hexameters. Reflection upon the altered conditions of society in
that age led him, however, to reconsider the matter; and he was resolved
to tune another lyre, "suited to the sense of modern men." "For," said he,
"it is idle to set solid food before the lips of sucklings."

If we can trust Fra Ilario's letter as a genuine record, which is
unhappily a matter of some doubt, we have in this narration not only a
picturesque, almost a melodramatically picturesque glimpse of the poet's
apparition to those quiet monks in their seagirt house of peace, but
also an interesting record of the destiny which presided over the first
great work of literary art in a distinctly modern language.


IV. LA SPEZZIA.

While we were at Fosdinovo the sky filmed over, and there came a halo
round the sun. This portended change; and by evening, after we had
reached La Spezzia, earth, sea, and air were conscious of a coming
tempest. At night I went down to the shore, and paced the sea-wall they
have lately built along the Rada. The moon was up, but overdriven with
dry smoky clouds, now thickening to blackness over the whole bay, now
leaving intervals through which the light poured fitfully and fretfully
upon the wrinkled waves; and ever and anon they shuddered with electric
gleams which were not actual lightning. Heaven seemed to be descending
on the sea; one might have fancied that some powerful charms were
drawing down the moon with influence malign upon those still resisting
billows. For not as yet the gulf was troubled to its depth, and not as
yet the breakers dashed in foam against the moonlight-smitten
promontories. There was but an uneasy murmuring of wave to wave; a
whispering of wind, that stooped its wing and hissed along the surface,
and withdrew into the mystery of clouds again; a momentary chafing of
churned water round the harbour piers, subsiding into silence petulant
and sullen. I leaned against an iron stanchion and longed for the sea's
message. But nothing came to me, and the drowned secret of Shelley's
death those waves which were his grave revealed not.

    "Howler and scooper of storms! capricious and dainty sea!"

Meanwhile the incantation swelled in shrillness, the electric shudders
deepened. Alone in this elemental overture to tempest I took no note of
time, but felt, through self-abandonment to the symphonic influence, how
sea and air, and clouds akin to both, were dealing with each other
complainingly, and in compliance to some maker of unrest within them. A
touch upon my shoulder broke this trance; I turned and saw a boy beside
me in a coastguard's uniform. Francesco was on patrol that night; but my
English accent soon assured him that I was no contrabbandiere, and he
too leaned against the stanchion and told me his short story. He was in
his nineteenth year, and came from Florence, where his people live in
the Borgo Ognissanti. He had all the brightness of the Tuscan folk, a
sort of innocent malice mixed with _espièglerie_. It was diverting to
see the airs he gave himself on the strength of his new military
dignity, his gun, and uniform, and night duty on the shore. I could not
help humming to myself _Non più andrai_; for Francesco was a sort of
Tuscan Cherubino. We talked about picture galleries and libraries in
Florence, and I had to hear his favourite passages from the Italian
poets. And then there came the plots of Jules Verne's stories and
marvellous narrations about _l'uomo cavallo_, _l'uomo volante_, _l'uomo
pesce_. The last of these personages turned out to be Paolo Boÿnton (so
pronounced), who had swam the Arno in his diving dress, passing the
several bridges, and when he came to the great weir "allora tutti stare
con bocca aperta." Meanwhile the storm grew serious, and our conversation
changed. Francesco told me about the terrible sun-stricken sand shores of
the Riviera, burning in summer noon, over which the coastguard has to
tramp, their perils from falling stones in storm, and the trains that
come rushing from those narrow tunnels on the midnight line of march. It
is a hard life; and the thirst for adventure which drove this boy--il più
matto di tutta la famiglia--to adopt it, seems well-nigh quenched. And
still, with a return to Giulio Verne, he talked enthusiastically of
deserting, of getting on board a merchant ship, and working his way to
southern islands where wonders are.

A furious blast swept the whole sky for a moment almost clear. The
moonlight fell, with racing cloud-shadows, upon sea and hills, the
lights of Lerici, the great _fanali_ at the entrance of the gulf, and
Francesco's upturned handsome face. Then all again was whirled in mist
and foam; one breaker smote the sea-wall in a surge of froth, another
plunged upon its heels; with inconceivable swiftness came rain;
lightning deluged the expanse of surf, and showed the windy trees bent
landward by the squall. It was long past midnight now, and the storm was
on us for the space of three days.


V.--PORTO VENERE.

For the next three days the wind went worrying on, and a line of surf
leapt on the sea-wall always to the same height. The hills all around
were inky black and weary.

At night the wild libeccio still rose, with floods of rain and lightning
poured upon the waste. I thought of the Florentine patrol. Is he out in
it, and where?

At last there came a lull. When we rose on the fourth morning, the sky
was sulky, spent and sleepy after storm--the air as soft and tepid as
boiled milk or steaming flannel. We drove along the shore to Porto
Venere, passing the arsenals and dockyards, which have changed the face
of Spezzia since Shelley knew it. This side of the gulf is not so rich
in vegetation as the other, probably because it lies open to the winds
from the Carrara mountains. The chestnuts come down to the shore in many
places, bringing with them the wild mountain-side. To make up for this
lack of luxuriance, the coast is furrowed with a succession of tiny
harbours, where the fishing-boats rest at anchor. There are many
villages upon the spurs of hills, and on the headlands naval stations,
hospitals, lazzaretti, and prisons. A prickly bindweed (the _Smilax
sarsaparilla_) forms a feature in the near landscape, with its creamy
odoriferous blossoms, coral berries, and glossy thorned leaves.

A turn of the road brought Porto Venere in sight, and on its grey walls
flashed a gleam of watery sunlight. The village consists of one long
narrow street, the houses on the left side hanging sheer above the sea.
Their doors at the back open on to cliffs with drop about fifty feet
upon the water. A line of ancient walls, with medieval battlements and
shells of chambers suspended midway between earth and sky, runs up the
rock behind the town; and this wall is pierced with a deep gateway above
which the inn is piled. We had our lunch in a room opening upon the
town-gate, adorned with a deep-cut Pisan arch enclosing images and
frescoes--a curious episode in a place devoted to the jollity of
smugglers and seafaring folk. The whole house was such as Tintoretto
loved to paint--huge wooden rafters; open chimneys with pent-house
canopies of stone, where the cauldrons hung above logs of chestnut; rude
low tables spread with coarse linen embroidered at the edges, and laden
with plates of fishes, fruit, quaint glass, big-bellied jugs of
earthenware, and flasks of yellow wine. The people of the place were
lounging round in lazy attitudes. There were odd nooks and corners
everywhere; unexpected staircases with windows slanting through the
thickness of the town-wall; pictures of saints; high-zoned serving
women, on whose broad shoulders lay big coral beads; smoke-blackened
roofs, and balconies that opened on the sea. The house was inexhaustible
in motives for pictures.

We walked up the street, attended by a rabble rout of boys--_diavoli
scatenati_--clean, grinning, white-teethed, who kept incessantly
shouting, "Soldo, soldo!" I do not know why these sea-urchins are so far
more irrepressible than their land brethren. But it is always thus in
Italy. They take an imperturbable delight in noise and mere annoyance. I
shall never forget the sea-roar of Porto Venere, with that shrill
obbligato, "Soldo, soldo, soldo!" rattling like a dropping fire from
lungs of brass.

At the end of Porto Venere is a withered and abandoned city, climbing
the cliffs of S. Pietro; and on the headland stands the ruined church,
built by Pisans with alternate rows of white and black marble, upon the
site of an old temple of Venus. This is a modest and pure piece of
Gothic architecture, fair in desolation, refined and dignified, and not
unworthy in its grace of the dead Cyprian goddess. Through its broken
lancets the sea-wind whistles and the vast reaches of the Tyrrhene gulf
are seen. Samphire sprouts between the blocks of marble, and in
sheltered nooks the caper hangs her beautiful purpureal snowy bloom.

The headland is a bold block of white limestone stained with red. It has
the pitch of Exmoor stooping to the sea near Lynton. To north, as one
looks along the coast, the line is broken by Porto Fino's amethystine
promontory; and in the vaporous distance we could trace the Riviera
mountains, shadowy and blue. The sea came roaring, rolling in with tawny
breakers; but, far out, it sparkled in pure azure, and the cloud-shadows
over it were violet. Where Corsica should have been seen, soared banks
of fleecy, broad-domed alabaster clouds.

This point, once dedicated to Venus, now to Peter--both, be it
remembered, fishers of men--is one of the most singular in Europe. The
island of Palmaria, rich in veined marbles, shelters the port; so that
outside the sea rages, while underneath the town, reached by a narrow
strait, there is a windless calm. It was not without reason that our
Lady of Beauty took this fair gulf to herself; and now that she has long
been dispossessed, her memory lingers yet in names. For Porto Venere
remembers her, and Lerici is only Eryx. There is a grotto here, where an
inscription tells us that Byron once "tempted the Ligurian waves." It is
just such a natural sea-cave as might have inspired Euripides when he
described the refuge of Orestes in "Iphigenia."


VI.--LERICI.

Libeccio at last had swept the sky clear. The gulf was ridged with
foam-fleeced breakers, and the water churned into green, tawny wastes.
But overhead there flew the softest clouds, all silvery, dispersed in
flocks. It is the day for pilgrimage to what was Shelley's home.

After following the shore a little way, the road to Lerici breaks into
the low hills which part La Spezzia from Sarzana. The soil is red, and
overgrown with arbutus and pinaster, like the country around Cannes.
Through the scattered trees it winds gently upwards, with frequent views
across the gulf, and then descends into a land rich with olives--a
genuine Riviera landscape, where the mountain-slopes are hoary, and
spikelets of innumerable light-flashing leaves twinkle against a blue
sea, misty-deep. The walls here are not unfrequently adorned with
bas-reliefs of Carrara marble--saints and madonnas very delicately
wrought, as though they were love-labours of sculptors who had passed a
summer on this shore. San Terenzio is soon discovered low upon the sands
to the right, nestling under little cliffs; and then the high-built
castle of Lerici comes in sight, looking across the bay to Porto
Venere--one Aphrodite calling to the other, with the foam between. The
village is piled around its cove with tall and picturesquely-coloured
houses; the molo and the fishing-boats lie just beneath the castle.
There is one point of the descending carriage road where all this
gracefulness is seen, framed by the boughs of olive branches, swaying,
wind-ruffled, laughing the many-twinkling smiles of ocean back from
their grey leaves. Here _Erycina ridens_ is at home. And, as we stayed
to dwell upon the beauty of the scene, came women from the bay
below--barefooted, straight as willow wands, with burnished copper bowls
upon their heads. These women have the port of goddesses, deep-bosomed,
with the length of thigh and springing ankles that betoken strength no
less than elasticity and grace. The hair of some of them was golden,
rippling in little curls around brown brows and glowing eyes. Pale lilac
blent with orange on their dress, and coral beads hung from their ears.

At Lerici we took a boat and pushed into the rolling breakers. Christian
now felt the movement of the sea for the first time. This was rather a
rude trial, for the grey-maned monsters played, as it seemed, at will
with our cockle-shell, tumbling in dolphin curves to reach the shore.
Our boatmen knew all about Shelley and the Casa Magni. It is not at
Lerici, but close to San Terenzio, upon the south side of the village.
Looking across the bay from the molo, one could clearly see its square
white mass, tiled roof, and terrace built on rude arcades with a broad
orange awning. Trelawny's description hardly prepares one for so
considerable a place. I think the English exiles of that period must
have been exacting if the Casa Magni seemed to them no better than a
bathing-house.

We left our boat at the jetty, and walked through some gardens to the
villa. There we were kindly entertained by the present occupiers, who,
when I asked them whether such visits as ours were not a great
annoyance, gently but feelingly replied: "It is not so bad now as it
used to be." The English gentleman who rents the Casa Magni has known
it uninterruptedly since Shelley's death, and has used it for
_villeggiatura_ during the last thirty years. We found him in the
central sitting-room, which readers of Trelawny's _Recollections_ have
so often pictured to themselves. The large oval table, the settees round
the walls, and some of the pictures are still unchanged. As we sat
talking, I laughed to think of that luncheon party, when Shelley lost
his clothes, and came naked, dripping with sea-water, into the room,
protected by the skirts of the sympathising waiting-maid. And then I
wondered where they found him on the night when he stood screaming in
his sleep, after the vision of his veiled self, with its question,
"_Siete soddisfatto?_"

There were great ilexes behind the house in Shelley's time, which have
been cut down, and near these he is said to have sat and written the
_Triumph of Life_. Some new houses, too, have been built between the
villa and the town; otherwise the place is unaltered. Only an awning has
been added to protect the terrace from the sun. I walked out on this
terrace, where Shelley used to listen to Jane's singing. The sea was
fretting at its base, just as Mrs. Shelley says it did when the Don Juan
disappeared.

From San Terenzio we walked back to Lerici through olive woods, attended
by a memory which toned the almost overpowering beauty of the place to
sadness.


VII.--VIAREGGIO.

The same memory drew us, a few days later, to the spot where Shelley's
body was burned. Viareggio is fast becoming a fashionable
watering-place for the people of Florence and Lucca, who seek fresher
air and simpler living than Livorno offers. It has the usual new inns
and improvised lodging-houses of such places, built on the outskirts of
a little fishing village, with a boundless stretch of noble sands. There
is a wooden pier on which we walked, watching the long roll of waves,
foam-flaked, and quivering with moonlight. The Apennines faded into the
grey sky beyond, and the sea-wind was good to breathe. There is a
feeling of "immensity, liberty, action" here, which is not common in
Italy. It reminds us of England; and to-night the Mediterranean had the
rough force of a tidal sea.

Morning revealed beauty enough in Viareggio to surprise even one who
expects from Italy all forms of loveliness. The sand-dunes stretch for
miles between the sea and a low wood of stone pines, with the Carrara
hills descending from their glittering pinnacles by long lines to the
headlands of the Spezzian Gulf. The immeasurable distance was all
painted in sky-blue and amethyst; then came the golden green of the
dwarf firs; and then dry yellow in the grasses of the dunes; and then
the many-tinted sea, with surf tossed up against the furthest cliffs. It
is a wonderful and tragic view, to which no painter but the Roman Costa
has done justice; and he, it may be said, has made this landscape of the
Carrarese his own. The space between sand and pine-wood was covered with
faint, yellow, evening primroses. They flickered like little harmless
flames in sun and shadow, and the spires of the Carrara range were giant
flames transformed to marble. The memory of that day described by
Trelawny in a passage of immortal English prose, when he and Byron and
Leigh Hunt stood beside the funeral pyre, and libations were poured, and
the _Cor Cordium_ was found inviolate among the ashes, turned all my
thoughts to flame beneath the gentle autumn sky.

Still haunted by these memories, we took the carriage road to Pisa, over
which Shelley's friends had hurried to and fro through those last days.
It passes an immense forest of stone-pines--aisles and avenues;
undergrowth of ilex, laurustinus, gorse, and myrtle; the crowded
cyclamens, the solemn silence of the trees; the winds hushed in their
velvet roof and stationary domes of verdure.



MONTE OLIVETO.


I.

In former days the traveller had choice of two old hostelries in the
chief street of Siena. Here, if he was fortunate, he might secure a
prophet's chamber, with a view across tiled house-roofs to the distant
Tuscan champaign--glimpses of russet field and olive-garden framed by
jutting city walls, which in some measure compensated for much
discomfort. He now betakes himself to the more modern Albergo di Siena,
overlooking the public promenade La Lizza. Horse-chestnuts and acacias
make a pleasant foreground to a prospect of considerable extent. The
front of the house is turned toward Belcaro and the mountains between
Grosseto and Volterra. Sideways its windows command the brown bulk of
San Domenico, and the Duomo, set like a marble coronet upon the forehead
of the town. When we arrived there one October afternoon the sun was
setting amid flying clouds and watery yellow spaces of pure sky, with a
wind blowing soft and humid from the sea. Long after he had sunk below
the hills, a fading chord of golden and rose-coloured tints burned on
the city. The cathedral bell-tower was glistening with recent rain, and
we could see right through its lancet windows to the clear blue heavens
beyond. Then, as the day descended into evening, the autumn trees
assumed that wonderful effect of luminousness self-evolved, and the red
brick walls that crimson after-glow, which Tuscan twilight takes from
singular transparency of atmosphere.

It is hardly possible to define the specific character of each Italian
city, assigning its proper share to natural circumstances, to the temper
of the population, and to the monuments of art in which these elements
of nature and of human qualities are blended. The fusion is too delicate
and subtle for complete analysis; and the total effect in each
particular case may best be compared to that impressed on us by a strong
personality, making itself felt in the minutest details. Climate,
situation, ethnological conditions, the political vicissitudes of past
ages, the bias of the people to certain industries and occupations, the
emergence of distinguished men at critical epochs, have all contributed
their quota to the composition of an individuality which abides long
after the locality has lost its ancient vigour.

Since the year 1557, when Gian Giacomo de' Medici laid the country of
Siena waste, levelled her luxurious suburbs, and delivered her
famine-stricken citizens to the tyranny of the Grand Duke Cosimo, this
town has gone on dreaming in suspended decadence. Yet the epithet which
was given to her in her days of glory, the title of "Fair Soft Siena,"
still describes the city. She claims it by right of the gentle manners,
joyous but sedate, of her inhabitants, by the grace of their pure Tuscan
speech, and by the unique delicacy of her architecture. Those palaces of
brick, with finely-moulded lancet windows, and the lovely use of
sculptured marbles in pilastered colonnades, are fit abodes for the
nobles who reared them five centuries ago, of whose refined and costly
living we read in the pages of Dante or of Folgore da San Gemignano. And
though the necessities of modern life, the decay of wealth, the
dwindling of old aristocracy, and the absorption of what was once an
independent state in the Italian nation, have obliterated that large
signorial splendour of the Middle Ages, we feel that the modern Sienese
are not unworthy of their courteous ancestry.

Superficially, much of the present charm of Siena consists in the soft
opening valleys, the glimpses of long blue hills and fertile
country-side, framed by irregular brown houses stretching along the
slopes on which the town is built, and losing themselves abruptly in
olive fields and orchards. This element of beauty, which brings the city
into immediate relation with the country, is indeed not peculiar to
Siena. We find it in Perugia, in Assisi, in Montepulciano, in nearly all
the hill towns of Umbria and Tuscany. But their landscape is often
tragic and austere, while this is always suave. City and country blend
here in delightful amity. Neither yields that sense of aloofness which
stirs melancholy.

The most charming district in the immediate neighbourhood of Siena lies
westward, near Belcaro, a villa high up on a hill. It is a region of
deep lanes and golden-green oak-woods, with cypresses and stone-pines,
and little streams in all directions flowing over the brown sandstone.
The country is like some parts of rural England--Devonshire or Sussex.
Not only is the sandstone here, as there, broken into deep gullies; but
the vegetation is much the same. Tufted spleen-wort, primroses, and
broom tangle the hedges under boughs of hornbeam and sweet-chestnut.
This is the landscape which the two sixteenth century novelists of
Siena, Fortini and Sermini, so lovingly depicted in their tales. Of
literature absorbing in itself the specific character of a country, and
conveying it to the reader less by description than by sustained quality
of style, I know none to surpass Fortini's sketches. The prospect from
Belcaro is one of the finest to be seen in Tuscany. The villa stands at
a considerable elevation, and commands an immense extent of hill and
dale. Nowhere, except Maremma-wards, a level plain. The Tuscan
mountains, from Monte Amiata westward to Volterra, round Valdelsa, down
to Montepulciano and Radicofani, with their innumerable windings and
intricacies of descending valleys, are dappled with light and shade from
flying storm-clouds, sunshine here and there cloud-shadows. Girdling the
villa stands a grove of ilex-trees, cut so as to embrace its high-built
walls with dark continuous green. In the courtyard are lemon-trees and
pomegranates laden with fruit. From a terrace on the roof the whole wide
view is seen; and here upon a parapet, from which we leaned one autumn
afternoon, my friend discovered this _graffito_: "_E vidi e piansi il
fato amaro!_"--"I gazed, and gazing, wept the bitterness of fate."


II.

The prevailing note of Siena and the Sienese seems, as I have said, to
be a soft and tranquil grace; yet this people had one of the stormiest
and maddest of Italian histories. They were passionate in love and hate,
vehement in their popular amusements, almost frantic in their political
conduct of affairs. The luxury, for which Dante blamed them, the levity
De Comines noticed in their government found counter-poise in more than
usual piety and fervour. S. Bernardino, the great preacher and
peace-maker of the Middle Ages; S. Catherine, the worthiest of all women
to be canonised; the blessed Colombini, who founded the Order of the
Gesuati or Brothers of the Poor in Christ; the blessed Bernardo, who
founded that of Monte Oliveto; were all Sienese. Few cities have given
four such saints to modern Christendom. The biography of one of these
may serve as prelude to an account of the Sienese monastery of Oliveto
Maggiore.

The family of Tolomei was among the noblest of the Sienese aristocracy.
On May 10, 1272, Mino Tolomei and his wife Fulvia, of the Tancredi, had
a son whom they christened Giovanni, but who, when he entered the
religious life, assumed the name of Bernard, in memory of the great
Abbot of Clairvaux. Of this child, Fulvia is said to have dreamed, long
before his birth, that he assumed the form of a white swan, and sang
melodiously, and settled in the boughs of an olive-tree, whence
afterwards he winged his way to heaven amid a flock of swans as dazzling
white as he. The boy was educated in the Dominican Cloister at Siena,
under the care of his uncle Christoforo Tolomei. There, and afterwards
in the fraternity of S. Ansano, he felt that impulse towards a life of
piety, which after a short but brilliant episode of secular ambition,
was destined to return with overwhelming force upon his nature. He was a
youth of promise, and at the age of sixteen he obtained the doctorate in
philosophy and both laws, civil and canonical. The Tolomei upon this
occasion adorned their palaces and threw them open to the people of
Siena. The Republic hailed with acclamation the early honours of a
noble, born to be one of their chief leaders. Soon after this event Mino
obtained for his son from the Emperor the title of Cæsarian Knight; and
when the diploma arrived, new festivities proclaimed the fortunate youth
to his fellow-citizens. Bernardo cased his limbs in steel, and rode in
procession with ladies and young nobles through the streets. The
ceremonies of a knight's reception in Siena at that period were
magnificent. From contemporary chronicles and from the sonnets written
by Folgore da San Gemignano for a similar occasion, we gather that the
whole resources of a wealthy family and all their friends were strained
to the utmost to do honour to the order of chivalry. Open house was held
for several days. Rich presents of jewels, armour, dresses, chargers
were freely distributed. Tournaments alternated with dances. But the
climax of the pageant was the novice's investiture with sword and spurs
and belt in the cathedral. This, as it appears from a record of the year
1326, actually took place in the great marble pulpit carved by the
Pisani; and the most illustrious knights of his acquaintance were
summoned by the squire to act as sponsors for his fealty.

It is said that young Bernardo Tolomei's head was turned to vanity by
these honours showered upon him in his earliest manhood. Yet, after a
short period of aberration, he rejoined his confraternity and mortified
his flesh by discipline and strict attendance on the poor. The time had
come, however, when he should choose a career suitable to his high rank.
He devoted himself to jurisprudence, and began to lecture publicly on
law. Already at the age of twenty-five his fellow-citizens admitted him
to the highest political offices, and in the legend of his life it is
written, not without exaggeration doubtless, that he ruled the State.
There is, however, no reason to suppose that he did not play an
important part in its government. Though a just and virtuous statesman,
Bernardo now forgot the special service of God, and gave himself with
heart and soul to mundane interests. At the age of forty, supported by
the wealth, alliances, and reputation of his semi-princely house, he had
become one of the most considerable party-leaders in that age of
faction. If we may trust his monastic biographer, he was aiming at
nothing less than the tyranny of Siena. But in that year, when he was
forty, a change, which can only be described as conversion, came over
him. He had advertised a public disputation, in which he proposed before
all comers to solve the most arduous problems of scholastic science. The
concourse was great, the assembly brilliant; but the hero of the day,
who had designed it for his glory, was stricken with sudden blindness.
In one moment he comprehended the internal void he had created for his
soul, and the blindness of the body was illumination to the spirit. The
pride, power, and splendour of this world seemed to him a smoke that
passes. God, penitence, eternity appeared in all the awful clarity of an
authentic vision. He fell upon his knees and prayed to Mary that he
might receive his sight again. This boon was granted; but the revelation
which had come to him in blindness was not withdrawn. Meanwhile the hall
of disputation was crowded with an expectant audience. Bernardo rose
from his knees, made his entry, and ascended the chair; but instead of
the scholastic subtleties he had designed to treat, he pronounced the
old text, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

Afterwards, attended by two noble comrades, Patrizio Patrizzi and
Ambrogio Piccolomini, he went forth into the wilderness. For the human
soul, at strife with strange experience, betakes itself instinctively to
solitude. Not only prophets of Israel, saints of the Thebaid, and
founders of religions in the mystic East have done so; even the Greek
Menander recognised, although he sneered at, the phenomenon. "The
desert, they say, is the place for discoveries." For the mediæval mind
it had peculiar attractions. The wilderness these comrades chose was
Accona, a doleful place, hemmed in with earthen precipices, some fifteen
miles to the south of Siena. Of his vast possessions Bernardo retained
but this--

                     The lonesome lodge,
    That stood so low in a lonely glen.

The rest of his substance he abandoned to the poor. This was in 1313,
the very year of the Emperor Henry VII.'s death at Buonconvento, which
is a little walled town between Siena and the desert of Accona. Whether
Bernardo's retirement was in any way due to the extinction of immediate
hope for the Ghibelline party by this event, we do not gather from his
legend. That, as is natural, refers his action wholly to the operation
of divine grace. Yet we may remember how a more illustrious refugee, the
singer of the Divine Comedy, betook himself upon the same occasion to
the lonely convent of Fonte Avellana on the Alps of Catria, and
meditated there the cantos of his Purgatory. While Bernardo Tolomei was
founding the Order of Monte Oliveto, Dante penned his letter to the
cardinals of Italy: _Quomodo sola sedet civitas plena populo: facta est
quasi vidua domino gentium._

Bernardo and his friends hollowed with their own hands grottos in the
rock, and strewed their stone beds with withered chestnut-leaves. For S.
Scolastica, the sister of S. Benedict, they built a little chapel. Their
food was wild fruit, and their drink the water of the brook. Through the
day they delved, for it was in their mind to turn the wilderness into a
land of plenty. By night they meditated on eternal truth. The contrast
between their rude life and the delicate nurture of Sienese nobles, in
an age when Siena had become a by-word for luxury, must have been cruel.
But it fascinated the mediæval imagination, and the three anchorites
were speedily joined by recruits of a like temper. As yet the new-born
order had no rules; for Bernardo, when he renounced the world, embraced
humility. The brethren were bound together only by the ties of charity.
They lived in common; and under their sustained efforts Accona soon
became a garden.

The society could not, however, hold together without further
organisation. It began to be ill spoken of, inasmuch as vulgar minds can
recognise no good except in what is formed upon a pattern they are
familiar with. Then Bernardo had a vision. In his sleep he saw a ladder
of light ascending to the heavens. Above sat Jesus with Our Lady in
white raiment, and the celestial hierarchies around them were attired in
white. Up the ladder, led by angels, climbed men in vesture of dazzling
white; and among these Bernardo recognised his own companions. Soon
after this dream, he called Ambrogio Piccolomini, and bade him get
ready for a journey to the Pope at Avignon.

John XXII. received the pilgrims graciously, and gave them letters to
the Bishop of Arezzo, commanding him to furnish the new brotherhood with
one of the rules authorised by Holy Church for governance of a monastic
order. Guido Tarlati, of the great Pietra-mala house, was Bishop and
despot of Arezzo at this epoch. A man less in harmony with
coenobitical enthusiasm than this warrior prelate, could scarcely have
been found. Yet attendance to such matters formed part of his business,
and the legend even credits him with an inspired dream; for Our Lady
appeared to him, and said: "I love the valley of Accona and its pious
solitaries. Give them the rule of Benedict. But thou shalt strip them of
their mourning weeds, and clothe them in white raiment, the symbol of my
virgin purity. Their hermitage shall change its name, and henceforth
shall be called Mount Olivet, in memory of the ascension of my divine
Son, the which took place upon the Mount of Olives. I take this family
beneath my own protection; and therefore it is my will it should be
called henceforth the congregation of S. Mary of Mount Olivet." After
this, the Blessed Virgin took forethought for the heraldic designs of
her monks, dictating to Guido Tarlati the blazon they still bear; it is
of three hills or, whereof the third and highest is surmounted with a
cross gules, and from the meeting-point of the three hillocks upon
either hand a branch of olive vert. This was in 1319. In 1324, John
XXII. confirmed the order, and in 1344 it was further approved by
Clement VI. Affiliated societies sprang up in several Tuscan cities; and
in 1347, Bernardo Tolomei, at that time General of the Order, held a
chapter of its several houses. The next year was the year of the great
plague or Black Death. Bernardo bade his brethren leave their seclusion,
and go forth on works of mercy among the sick. Some went to Florence,
some to Siena, others to the smaller hill-set towns of Tuscany. All were
bidden to assemble on the Feast of the Assumption at Siena. Here the
founder addressed his spiritual children for the last time. Soon
afterwards he died himself, at the age of seventy-seven, and the place
of his grave is not known. He was beatified by the Church for his great
virtues.


III.

At noon we started, four of us, in an open waggonette with a pair of
horses, for Monte Oliveto, the luggage heaped mountain-high and tied in
a top-heavy mass above us. After leaving the gateway, with its massive
fortifications and frescoed arches, the road passes into a dull earthy
country, very much like some parts--and not the best parts--of England.
The beauty of the Sienese contado is clearly on the sandstone, not upon
the clay. Hedges, haystacks, isolated farms--all were English in their
details. Only the vines, and mulberries, and wattled waggons drawn by
oxen, most Roman in aspect, reminded us we were in Tuscany. In such
_carpenta_ may the vestal virgins have ascended the Capitol. It is the
primitive war-chariot also, capable of holding four with ease; and
Romulus may have mounted with the images of Roman gods in even such a
vehicle to Latiarian Jove upon the Alban hill. Nothing changes in Italy.
The wooden ploughs are those which Virgil knew. The sight of one of
them would save an intelligent lad much trouble in mastering a certain
passage of the Georgics.

Siena is visible behind us nearly the whole way to Buonconvento, a
little town where the Emperor Henry VII. died, as it was supposed, of
poison, in 1313. It is still circled with the wall and gates built by
the Sienese in 1366, and is a fair specimen of an intact mediæval
stronghold. Here we leave the main road, and break into a country-track
across a bed of sandstone, with the delicate volcanic lines of Monte
Amiata in front, and the aërial pile of Montalcino to our right. The
pyracanthus bushes in the hedge yield their clusters of bright yellow
berries, mingled with more glowing hues of red from haws and glossy
hips. On the pale grey earthen slopes men and women are plying the long
Sabellian hoes of their forefathers, and ploughmen are driving furrows
down steep hills. The labour of the husbandmen in Tuscany is very
graceful, partly, I think, because it is so primitive, but also because
the people have an eminently noble carriage, and are fashioned on the
lines of antique statues. I noticed two young contadini in one field,
whom Frederick Walker might have painted with the dignity of Pheidian
form. They were guiding their ploughs along a hedge of olive-trees,
slanting upwards, the white-horned oxen moving slowly through the marl,
and the lads bending to press the plough-shares home. It was a delicate
piece of colour--the grey mist of olive branches, the warm smoking
earth, the creamy flanks of the oxen, the brown limbs and dark eyes of
the men, who paused awhile to gaze at us, with shadows cast upon the
furrows from their tall straight figures. Then they turned to their
work again, and rhythmic movement was added to the picture. I wonder
when an Italian artist will condescend to pluck these flowers of beauty,
so abundantly offered by the simplest things in his own native land.
Each city has an Accademia delle Belle Arti, and there is no lack of
students. But the painters, having learned their trade, make copies ten
times distant from the truth of famous masterpieces for the American
market. Few seem to look beyond their picture galleries. Thus the
democratic art, the art of Millet, the art of life and nature and the
people, waits.

As we mount, the soil grows of a richer brown; and there are woods of
oak where herds of swine are feeding on the acorns. Monte Oliveto comes
in sight--a mass of red brick, backed up with cypresses, among
dishevelled earthy precipices, _balze_ as they are called--upon the hill
below the village of Chiusure. This Chiusure was once a promising town;
but the life was crushed out of it in the throes of mediæval civil wars,
and since the thirteenth century it has been dwindling to a hamlet. The
struggle for existence, from which the larger communes of this district,
Siena and Montepulciano, emerged at the expense of their neighbours,
must have been tragical. The _balze_ now grow sterner, drier, more
dreadful. We see how deluges outpoured from thunderstorms bring down
their viscous streams of loam, destroying in an hour the terraces it
took a year to build, and spreading wasteful mud upon the scanty
cornfields. The people call this soil _creta_; but it seems to be less
like a chalk than a marl, or _marna_. It is always washing away into
ravines and gullies, exposing the roots of trees, and rendering the
tillage of the land a thankless labour. One marvels how any vegetation
has the faith to settle on its dreary waste, or how men have the
patience, generation after generation, to renew the industry, still
beginning, never ending, which reclaims such wildernesses. Comparing
Monte Oliveto with similar districts of cretaceous soil--with the
country, for example, between Pienza and San Quirico--we perceive how
much is owed to the monks whom Bernardo Tolomei planted here. So far as
it is clothed at all with crop and wood, this is their service.

At last we climb the crowning hill, emerge from a copse of oak, glide
along a terraced pathway through the broom, and find ourselves in front
of the convent gateway. A substantial tower of red brick, machicolated
at the top and pierced with small square windows, guards this portal,
reminding us that at some time or other the monks found it needful to
arm their solitude against a force descending from Chiusure. There is an
avenue of slender cypresses; and over the gate, protected by a jutting
roof, shines a fresco of Madonna and Child. Passing rapidly downwards,
we are in the courtyard of the monastery, among its stables, barns, and
out-houses, with the forlorn bulk of the huge red building spreading
wide, and towering up above us. As good luck ruled our arrival, we came
face to face with the Abbate de Negro, who administers the domain of
Monte Oliveto for the Government of Italy, and exercises a kindly
hospitality to chance-comers. He was standing near the church, which,
with its tall square campanile, breaks the long stern outline of the
convent. The whole edifice, it may be said, is composed of a red brick
inclining to purple in tone, which contrasts not unpleasantly with the
lustrous green of the cypresses, and the glaucous sheen of olives.
Advantage has been taken of a steep crest; and the monastery, enlarged
from time to time through the last five centuries, has here and there
been reared upon gigantic buttresses, which jut upon the _balze_ at a
sometimes giddy height.

The Abbate received us with true courtesy, and gave us spacious rooms,
three cells apiece, facing Siena and the western mountains. There is
accommodation, he told us, for three hundred monks; but only three are
left in it. As this order was confined to members of the nobility, each
of the religious had his own apartment--not a cubicle such as the
uninstructed dream of when they read of monks, but separate chambers for
sleep and study and recreation.

In the middle of the vast sad landscape, the place is still, with a
silence that can be almost heard. The deserted state of those
innumerable cells, those echoing corridors and shadowy cloisters,
exercises overpowering tyranny over the imagination. Siena is so far
away, and Montalcino is so faintly outlined on its airy parapet, that
these cities only deepen our sense of desolation. It is a relief to mark
at no great distance on the hill-side a contadino guiding his oxen, and
from a lonely farm yon column of ascending smoke. At least the world
goes on, and life is somewhere resonant with song. But here there rests
a pall of silence among the oak-groves and the cypresses and _balze_. As
I leaned and mused, while Christian (my good friend and fellow-traveller
from the Grisons) made our beds, a melancholy sunset flamed up from a
rampart of cloud, built like a city of the air above the mountains of
Volterra--fire issuing from its battlements, and smiting the fretted
roof of heaven above. It was a conflagration of celestial rose upon the
saddest purples and cavernous recesses of intensest azure.

We had an excellent supper in the visitor's refectory--soup, good bread
and country wine, ham, a roast chicken with potatoes, a nice white
cheese made of sheep's milk, and grapes for dessert. The kind Abbate sat
by, and watched his four guests eat, tapping his tortoise-shell
snuff-box, and telling us many interesting things about the past and
present state of the convent. Our company was completed with Lupo, the
pet cat, and Pirro, a woolly Corsican dog, very good friends, and both
enormously voracious. Lupo in particular engraved himself upon the
memory of Christian, into whose large legs he thrust his claws, when the
cheese-parings and scraps were not supplied him with sufficient
promptitude. I never saw a hungrier and bolder cat. It made one fancy
that even the mice had been exiled from this solitude. And truly the
rule of the monastic order, no less than the habit of Italian gentlemen,
is frugal in the matter of the table, beyond the conception of northern
folk.

Monte Oliveto, the Superior told us, owned thirty-two _poderi_, or large
farms, of which five have recently been sold. They are worked on the
_mezzeria_ system; whereby peasants and proprietors divide the produce
of the soil; and which he thinks inferior for developing its resources
to that of _affito_, or lease-holding.

The contadini live in scattered houses; and he says the estate would be
greatly improved by doubling the number of these dwellings, and letting
the sub-divided farms to more energetic people. The village of Chiusure
is inhabited by labourers. The contadini are poor: a dower, for
instance, of fifty _lire_ is thought something: whereas near Genoa, upon
the leasehold system, a farmer may sometimes provide a dower of twenty
thousand _lire_. The country produces grain of different sorts,
excellent oil, and timber. It also yields a tolerable red wine. The
Government makes from eight to nine per cent upon the value of the land,
employing him and his two religious brethren as agents.

In such conversations the evening passed. We rested well in large hard
beds with dry rough sheets. But there was a fretful wind abroad, which
went wailing round the convent walls and rattling the doors in its
deserted corridors. One of our party had been placed by himself at the
end of a long suite of apartments, with balconies commanding the wide
sweep of hills that Monte Amiata crowns. He confessed in the morning to
having passed a restless night, tormented by the ghostly noises of the
wind, a wanderer, "like the world's rejected guest," through those
untenanted chambers. The olives tossed their filmy boughs in twilight
underneath his windows, sighing and shuddering, with a sheen in them as
eery as that of willows by some haunted mere.


IV.

The great attraction to students of Italian art in the convent of Monte
Oliveto is a large square cloister, covered with wall-paintings by Luca
Signorelli and Giovannantonio Bazzi, surnamed Il Sodoma. These represent
various episodes in the life of S. Benedict; while one picture, in some
respects the best of the whole series, is devoted to the founder of the
Olivetan Order, Bernardo Tolomei, dispensing the rule of his institution
to a consistory of white-robed monks. Signorelli, that great master of
Cortona, may be studied to better advantage elsewhere, especially at
Orvieto and in his native city. His work in this cloister, consisting of
eight frescoes, has been much spoiled by time and restoration. Yet it
can be referred to a good period of his artistic activity (the year
1497) and displays much which is specially characteristic of his manner.
In Totila's barbaric train, he painted a crowd of fierce emphatic
figures, combining all ages and the most varied attitudes, and
reproducing with singular vividness the Italian soldiers of adventure of
his day. We see before us the long-haired followers of Braccio and the
Baglioni; their handsome savage faces; their brawny limbs clad in the
parti-coloured hose and jackets of that period; feathered caps stuck
sideways on their heads; a splendid swagger in their straddling legs.
Female beauty lay outside the sphere of Signorelli's sympathy; and in
the Monte Oliveto cloister he was not called upon to paint it. But none
of the Italian masters felt more keenly, or more powerfully represented
in their work, the muscular vigour of young manhood. Two of the
remaining frescoes, different from these in motive, might be selected as
no less characteristic of Signorelli's manner. One represents three
sturdy monks, clad in brown, working with all their strength to stir a
boulder, which has been bewitched, and needs a miracle to move it from
its place. The square and powerfully outlined drawing of these figures
is beyond all praise for its effect of massive solidity. The other
shows us the interior of a fifteenth century tavern, where two monks are
regaling themselves upon the sly. A country girl, with shapely arms and
shoulders, her upper skirts tucked round the ample waist to which broad
sweeping lines of back and breasts descend, is serving wine. The
exuberance of animal life, the freedom of attitude expressed in this,
the mainly interesting figure of the composition, show that Signorelli
might have been a great master of realistic painting. Nor are the
accessories less effective. A wide-roofed kitchen chimney, a page-boy
leaving the room by a flight of steps, which leads to the house door,
and the table at which the truant monks are seated, complete a picture
of homely Italian life. It may still be matched out of many an inn in
this hill district.

Called to graver work at Orvieto, where he painted his gigantic series
of frescoes illustrating the coming of Antichrist, the Destruction of
the World, the Resurrection, the Last Judgment, and the final state of
souls in Paradise and Hell, Signorelli left his work at Monte Oliveto
unaccomplished. Seven years later it was taken up by a painter of very
different genius. Sodoma was a native of Vercelli, and had received his
first training in the Lombard schools, which owed so much to Lionardo da
Vinci's influence. He was about thirty years of age when chance brought
him to Siena. Here he made acquaintance with Pandolfo Petrucci, who had
recently established himself in a species of tyranny over the Republic.
The work he did for this patron and other nobles of Siena, brought him
into notice. Vasari observes that his hot Lombard colouring, a something
florid and attractive in his style, which contrasted with the severity
of the Tuscan school, rendered him no less agreeable as an artist than
his free manners made him acceptable as a house-friend. Fra Domenico da
Leccio, also a Lombard, was at that time General of the monks of Monte
Oliveto. On a visit to this compatriot in 1505, Sodoma received a
commission to complete the cloister; and during the next two years he
worked there, producing in all twenty-five frescoes. For his pains he
seemed to have received but little pay--Vasari says, only the expenses
of some colour-grinders who assisted him; but from the books of the
convent it appears that 241 ducats, or something over 60_l._ of our
money, were disbursed to him.

Sodoma was so singular a fellow, even in that age of piquant
personalities, that it may be worth while to translate a fragment of
Vasari's gossip about him. We must, however, bear in mind that, for some
unknown reason, the Aretine historian bore a rancorous grudge against
this Lombard, whose splendid gifts and great achievements he did all he
could by writing to depreciate. "He was fond," says Vasari, "of keeping
in his house all sorts of strange animals: badgers, squirrels, monkeys,
cat-a-mountains, dwarf-donkeys, horses, racers, little Elba ponies,
jackdaws, bantams, doves of India, and other creatures of this kind, as
many as he could lay his hands on. Over and above these beasts, he had a
raven, which had learned so well from him to talk, that it could imitate
its master's voice, especially in answering the door when some one
knocked, and this it did so cleverly that people took it for
Giovannantonio himself, as all the folk of Siena know quite well. In
like manner, his other pets were so much at home with him that they
never left his house, but played the strangest tricks and maddest pranks
imaginable, so that his house was like nothing more than a Noah's Ark."
He was a bold rider, it seems; for with one of his racers, ridden by
himself, he bore away the prize in that wild horse-race they run upon
the Piazza at Siena. For the rest, "he attired himself in pompous
clothes, wearing doublets of brocade, cloaks trimmed with gold lace,
gorgeous caps, neck-chains, and other vanities of a like description,
fit for buffoons and mountebanks." In one of the frescoes of Monte
Oliveto, Sodoma painted his own portrait, with some of his curious pets
around him. He there appears as a young man with large and decidedly
handsome features, a great shock of dark curled hair escaping from a
yellow cap, and flowing down over a rich mantle which drapes his
shoulders. If we may trust Vasari, he showed his curious humours freely
to the monks. "Nobody could describe the amusement he furnished to those
good fathers, who christened him Mattaccio (the big madman), or the
insane tricks he played there."

In spite of Vasari's malevolence, the portrait he has given us of Bazzi
has so far nothing unpleasant about it. The man seems to have been a
madcap artist, combining with his love for his profession a taste for
fine clothes, and what was then perhaps rarer in people of his sort, a
great partiality for living creatures of all kinds. The darker shades of
Vasari's picture have been purposely omitted from these pages. We only
know for certain, about Bazzi's private life, that he was married in
1510 to a certain Beatrice, who bore him two children, and who was
still living with him in 1541. The further suggestion that he painted
at Monte Oliveto subjects unworthy of a religious house, is wholly
disproved by the frescoes which still exist in a state of very tolerable
preservation. They represent various episodes in the legend of S.
Benedict; all marked by that spirit of simple, almost childish piety
which is a special characteristic of Italian religious history. The
series forms, in fact, a painted _novella_ of monastic life; its petty
jealousies, its petty trials, its tribulations and temptations, and its
indescribably petty miracles. Bazzi was well fitted for the execution of
this task. He had a swift and facile brush, considerable versatility in
the treatment of monotonous subjects, and a never-failing sense of
humour. His white-cowled monks, some of them with the rosy freshness of
boys, some with the handsome brown faces of middle life, others astute
and crafty, others again wrinkled with old age, have clearly been copied
from real models. He puts them into action without the slightest effort,
and surrounds them with landscapes, architecture, and furniture,
appropriate to each successive situation. The whole is done with so much
grace, such simplicity of composition, and transparency of style,
corresponding to the _naïf_ and superficial legend, that we feel a
perfect harmony between the artist's mind and the motives he was made to
handle. In this respect Bazzi's portion of the legend of S. Benedict is
more successful than Signorelli's. It was fortunate, perhaps, that the
conditions of his task confined him to uncomplicated groupings, and a
scale of colour in which white predominates. For Bazzi, as is shown by
subsequent work in the Farnesina Villa at Rome, and in the church of S.
Domenico at Siena, was no master of composition; and the tone, even of
his masterpieces, inclines to heat. Unlike Signorelli, Bazzi felt a deep
artistic sympathy with female beauty; and the most attractive fresco in
the whole series is that in which the evil monk Florentius brings a bevy
of fair damsels to the convent. There is one group, in particular, of
six women, so delicately varied in carriage of the head and suggested
movement of the body, as to be comparable only to a strain of concerted
music. This is perhaps the painter's masterpiece in the rendering of
pure beauty, if we except his S. Sebastian of the Uffizzi.

We tire of studying pictures, hardly less than of reading about them! I
was glad enough, after three hours spent among the frescoes of this
cloister, to wander forth into the copses which surround the convent.
Sunlight was streaming treacherously from flying clouds; and though it
was high noon, the oak-leaves were still a-tremble with dew. Pink
cyclamens and yellow amaryllis starred the moist brown earth; and under
the cypress-trees, where alleys had been cut in former time for pious
feet, the short firm turf was soft and mossy. Before bidding the
hospitable Padre farewell, and starting in our waggonette for Asciano,
it was pleasant to meditate awhile in these green solitudes. Generations
of white-stoled monks who had sat or knelt upon the now deserted
terraces, or had slowly paced the winding paths to Calvaries aloft and
points of vantage high above the wood, rose up before me. My mind, still
full of Bazzi's frescoes, peopled the wilderness with grave monastic
forms, and gracious, young-eyed faces of boyish novices.



MONTEPULCIANO.

I.


For the sake of intending travellers to this, the lordliest of Tuscan
hill-towns, it will be well to state at once and without circumlocution
what does not appear upon the time-tables of the line from Empoli to
Rome. Montepulciano has a station; but this railway station is at the
distance of at least an hour and a half's drive from the mountain upon
which the city stands.

The lumbering train which brought us one October evening from Asciano
crawled into this station after dark, at the very moment when a storm,
which had been gathering from the south-west, burst in deluges of rain
and lightning. There was, however, a covered carriage going to the town.
Into this we packed ourselves, together with a polite Italian gentleman
who, in answer to our questions, consulted his watch, and smilingly
replied that a little half-hour would bring us easily to Montepulciano.
He was a native of the place. He knew perfectly well that he would be
shut up with us in that carriage for two mortal hours of darkness and
down-pour. And yet, such is the irresistible impulse in Italians to say
something immediately agreeable, he fed us with false hopes and had no
fear of consequences. What did it matter to him if we were pulling out
our watches and chattering in well-contented undertone about _vino
nobile_, _biftek_, and possibly a _pollo arrosto_, or a dish of _tordi_?
At the end of the half-hour, as he was well aware, self-congratulations
and visions of a hearty supper would turn to discontented wailings, and
the querulous complaining of defrauded appetites. But the end of half an
hour was still half an hour off; and we meanwhile were comfortable.

The night was pitchy dark, and blazing flashes of lightning showed a
white ascending road at intervals. Rain rushed in torrents, splashing
against the carriage wheels, which moved uneasily, as though they could
but scarcely stem the river that swept down upon them. Far away above us
to the left, was one light on a hill, which never seemed to get any
nearer. We could see nothing but a chasm of blackness below us on one
side, edged with ghostly olive-trees, and a high bank on the other.
Sometimes a star swam out of the drifting clouds; but then the rain
hissed down again, and the flashes came in floods of livid light,
illuminating the eternal olives and the cypresses which looked like huge
black spectres. It seemed almost impossible for the horses to keep their
feet, as the mountain road grew ever steeper and the torrent swelled
around them. Still they struggled on. The promised half hour had been
doubled, trebled, quadrupled, when at last we saw the great brown sombre
walls of a city tower above us. Then we entered one of those narrow
lofty Tuscan gates, and rolled upon the pavement of a street.

The inn at Montepulciano is called Marzocco, after the Florentine lion
which stands upon its column in a little square before the house. The
people there are hospitable, and more than once on subsequent occasions
have they extended to us kindly welcome. But on this, our first
appearance, they had scanty room at their disposal. Seeing us arrive so
late, and march into their dining-room, laden with sealskins,
waterproofs, and ulsters, one of the party hugging a complete Euripides
in Didot's huge edition, they were confounded. At last they conducted
the whole company of four into a narrow back bed-room, where they
pointed to one fair-sized and one very little bed. This was the only
room at liberty, they said; and could we not arrange to sleep here?
_S'accomodi, Signore! S'accomodi, Signora!_ These encouraging words,
uttered in various tones of cheerful and insinuating politeness to each
member of the party in succession, failed to make us comprehend how a
gentleman and his wife, with a lean but rather lengthy English friend,
and a bulky native of the Grisons, could "accommodate themselves"
collectively and undividedly with what was barely sufficient for their
just moiety, however much it might afford a night's rest to their worse
half. Christian was sent out into the storm to look for supplementary
rooms in Montepulciano, which he failed to get. Meanwhile we ordered
supper, and had the satisfaction of seeing set upon the board a huge red
flask of _vino nobile_. In copious draughts of this the King of Tuscan
wines, we drowned our cares; and when the cloth was drawn, our friend
and Christian passed their night upon the supper table. The good folk of
the inn had recovered from their surprise, and from the inner recesses
of their house had brought forth mattresses and blankets. So the better
and larger half of the company enjoyed sound sleep.

It rained itself out at night, and the morning was clear, with the
transparent atmosphere of storm-clouds hurrying in broken squadrons from
the bad sea quarter. Yet this is just the weather in which Tuscan
landscape looks its loveliest. Those immense expanses of grey undulating
uplands need the luminousness of watery sunshine, the colour added by
cloud-shadows, and the pearly softness of rising vapours, to rob them of
a certain awful grimness. The main street of Montepulciano goes straight
uphill for a considerable distance between brown palaces; then mounts by
a staircase-zigzag under huge impending masses of masonry; until it ends
in a piazza. On the ascent, at intervals, the eye is fascinated by
prospects to the north and east over Val di Chiana, Cortona, Thrasymene,
Chiusi; to south and west over Monte Cetona, Radicofani, Monte Amiata,
the Val d'Ombrone, and the Sienese Contado. Grey walls overgrown with
ivy, arcades of time-toned brick, and the forbidding bulk of houses hewn
from solid travertine, frame these glimpses of aërial space. The piazza
is the top of all things. Here are the Duomo; the Palazzo del Comune,
closely resembling that of Florence, with the Marzocco on its front; the
fountain, between two quaintly sculptured columns; and the vast palace
Del Monte, of heavy Renaissance architecture, said to be the work of
Antonio di San Gallo.

We climbed the tower of the Palazzo del Comune, and stood at the
altitude of 2000 feet above the sea. The view is finer in its kind than
I have elsewhere seen, even in Tuscany, that land of panoramic
prospects over memorable tracts of world-historic country. Such
landscape cannot be described in words. But the worst is that, even
while we gaze, we know that nothing but the faintest memory of our
enjoyment will be carried home with us. The atmospheric conditions were
perfect that morning. The sun was still young; the sky sparkled after
the night's thunderstorm; the whole immensity of earth around lay lucid,
smiling, newly washed in baths of moisture. Masses of storm-cloud kept
rolling from the west, where we seemed to feel the sea behind those
intervening hills. But they did not form in heavy blocks or hang upon
the mountain summits. They hurried and dispersed and changed and flung
their shadows on the world below.


II.

The charm of this view is composed of so many different elements, so
subtly blent, appealing to so many separate sensibilities; the sense of
grandeur, the sense of space, the sense of natural beauty, and the sense
of human pathos; that deep internal faculty we call historic sense; that
it cannot be defined. First comes the immense surrounding space--a space
measured in each arc of the circumference by sections of at least fifty
miles, limited by points of exquisitely picturesque beauty, including
distant cloud-like mountain ranges and crystals of sky-blue Apennines,
circumscribing landscapes of refined loveliness in detail, always
varied, always marked by objects of peculiar interest where the eye or
memory may linger. Next in importance to this immensity of space, so
powerfully affecting the imagination by its mere extent, and by the
breadth of atmosphere attuning all varieties of form and colour to one
harmony beneath illimitable heaven, may be reckoned the episodes of
rivers, lakes, hills, cities, with old historic names. For there spreads
the lordly length of Thrasymene, islanded and citadelled, in hazy
morning mist, still dreaming of the shock of Roman hosts with
Carthaginian legions. There is the lake of Chiusi, set like a jewel
underneath the copse-clad hills which hide the dust of a dead Tuscan
nation. The streams of Arno start far far away, where Arezzo lies
enfolded in bare uplands. And there at our feet rolls Tiber's largest
affluent, the Chiana. And there is the canal which joins their fountains
in the marsh that Lionardo would have drained. Monte Cetona is yonder
height which rears its bristling ridge defiantly from neighbouring
Chiusi. And there springs Radicofani, the eagle's eyrie of a brigand
brood. Next, Monte Amiata stretches the long lines of her antique
volcano; the swelling mountain flanks, descending gently from her
cloud-capped top, are russet with autumnal oak and chestnut woods. On
them our eyes rest lovingly; imagination wanders for a moment through
those mossy glades, where cyclamens are growing now, and primroses in
spring will peep amid anemones from rustling foliage strewn by winter's
winds. The heights of Casentino, the Perugian highlands, Volterra, far
withdrawn amid a wilderness of rolling hills, and solemn snow-touched
ranges of the Spolentino, Sibyl-haunted fastnesses of Norcia, form the
most distant horizon-lines of this unending panorama. And then there are
the cities, placed each upon a point of vantage: Siena; olive-mantled
Chiusi; Cortona, white upon her spreading throne; poetic Montalcino,
lifted aloft against the vaporous sky; San Quirico, nestling in pastoral
tranquillity; Pienza, where Æneas Sylvius built palaces and called his
birthplace after his own Papal name. Still closer to the town itself of
Montepulciano, stretching along the irregular ridge which gave it
building ground, and trending out on spurs above deep orchards, come the
lovely details of oak-copses, blending with grey tilth and fields rich
with olive and vine. The gaze, exhausted with immensity, pierces those
deeply cloven valleys, sheltered from wind and open to the
sun--undulating folds of brown earth, where Bacchus, when he visited
Tuscany, found the grape-juice that pleased him best, and crowned the
wine of Montepulciano king. Here from our eyrie we can trace white oxen
on the furrows, guided by brown-limbed, white-shirted contadini.

The morning glory of this view from Montepulciano, though irrecoverable
by words, abides in the memory, and draws one back by its unique
attractiveness. On a subsequent visit to the town in spring time, my
wife and I took a twilight walk, just after our arrival, through its
gloomy fortress streets, up to the piazza, where the impendent houses
lowered like bastions, and all the masses of their mighty architecture
stood revealed in shadow and dim lamplight. Far and wide, the country
round us gleamed with bonfires; for it was the eve of the Ascension,
when every contadino lights a beacon of chestnut logs and straw and
piled-up leaves. Each castello on the plain, each village on the hills,
each lonely farmhouse at the skirt of forest or the edge of lake,
smouldered like a red Cyclopean eye beneath the vault of stars. The
flames waxed and waned, leapt into tongues, or disappeared. As they
passed from gloom to brilliancy and died away again, they seemed almost
to move. The twilight scene was like that of a vast city, filling the
plain and climbing the heights in terraces. Is this custom, I thought, a
relic of old Pales-worship?


III.

The early history of Montepulciano is buried in impenetrable mists of
fable. No one can assign a date to the foundation of these high-hill
cities. The eminence on which it stands belongs to the volcanic system
of Monte Amiata, and must at some time have formed a portion of the
crater which threw that mighty mass aloft. But æons have passed since
the _gran sasso di Maremma_ was a fire-vomiting monster, glaring like
Etna in eruption on the Tyrrhene sea; and through those centuries how
many races may have camped upon the summit we call Montepulciano!
Tradition assigns the first quasi-historical settlement to Lars Porsena,
who is said to have made it his summer residence, when the lower and
more marshy air of Clusium became oppressive. Certainly it must have
been a considerable town in the Etruscan period. Embedded in the walls
of palaces may still be seen numerous fragments of sculptured
bas-reliefs, the works of that mysterious people. A propos of
Montepulciano's importance in the early years of Roman history, I
lighted on a quaint story related by its very jejune annalist, Spinello
Benci. It will be remembered that Livy attributes the invasion of the
Gauls, who, after besieging Clusium, advanced on Rome, to the
persuasions of a certain Aruns. He was an exile from Clusium; and
wishing to revenge himself upon his country-people, he allured the
Senonian Gauls into his service by the promise of excellent wine,
samples of which he had taken with him into Lombardy. Spinello Benci
accepts the legend literally, and continues: "These wines were so
pleasing to the palate of the barbarians, that they were induced to quit
the rich and teeming valley of the Po, to cross the Apennines, and move
in battle array against Chiusi. And it is clear that the wine which
Aruns selected for the purpose was the same as that which is produced to
this day at Montepulciano. For nowhere else in the Etruscan district can
wines of equally generous quality and fiery spirit be found, so adapted
for export and capable of such long preservation."

We may smile at the historian's _naïveté_. Yet the fact remains that
good wine of Montepulciano can still allure barbarians of this epoch to
the spot where it is grown. Of all Italian vintages, with the exception
of some rare qualities of Sicily and the Valtellina, it is, in my humble
opinion, the best. And when the time comes for Italy to develop the
resources of her vineyards upon scientific principles, Montepulciano
will drive Brolio from the field and take the same place by the side of
Chianti which Volnay occupies by common Macon. It will then be quoted
upon wine-lists throughout Europe, and find its place upon the tables of
rich epicures in Hyperborean regions, and add its generous warmth to
Transatlantic banquets. Even as it is now made, with very little care
bestowed on cultivation and none to speak of on selection of the grape,
the wine is rich and noble, slightly rough to a sophisticated palate,
but clean in quality and powerful and racy. It deserves the enthusiasm
attributed by Redi to Bacchus:[A]--

    Fill, fill, let us all have our will!
    But with _what_, with _what_, boys, shall we fill?
    Sweet Ariadne--no, not _that_ one--_ah_ no;
    Fill me the manna of Montepulciano:
    Fill me a magnum and reach it me.--Gods!
    How it glides to my heart by the sweetest of roads!
    Oh, how it kisses me, tickles me, bites me!
    Oh, how my eyes loosen sweetly in tears!
    I'm ravished! I'm rapt! Heaven finds me admissible!
    Lost in an ecstasy! blinded! invisible!--
    Hearken all earth!
    We, Bacchus, in the might of our great mirth,
    To all who reverence us, are right thinkers;
    Hear, all ye drinkers!
    Give ear and give faith to the edict divine;
    Montepulciano's the King of all wine.

It is necessary, however, that our modern barbarian should travel to
Montepulciano itself, and there obtain a flask of _manna_ or _vino
nobile_ from some trusty cellar-master. He will not find it bottled in
the inns or restaurants upon his road.


IV.

The landscape and the wine of Montepulciano are both well worth the
trouble of a visit to this somewhat inaccessible city. Yet more remains
to be said about the attractions of the town itself. In the Duomo, which
was spoiled by unintelligent rebuilding at a dismal epoch of barren art,
are fragments of one of the rarest monuments of Tuscan sculpture. This
is the tomb of Bartolommeo Aragazzi. He was a native of Montepulciano,
and secretary to Pope Martin V., that _Papa Martino non vale un
quattrino_, on whom, during his long residence in Florence, the
street-boys made their rhymes. Twelve years before his death he
commissioned Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi, who about that period
were working together upon the monuments of Pope John XXIII. and
Cardinal Brancacci, to erect his own tomb at the enormous cost of
twenty-four thousand scudi. That thirst for immortality of fame, which
inspired the humanists of the Renaissance, prompted Aragazzi to this
princely expenditure. Yet, having somehow won the hatred of his
fellow-students, he was immediately censured for excessive vanity.
Lionardo Bruni makes his monument the theme of a ferocious onslaught.
Writing to Poggio Bracciolini, Bruni tells a story how, while travelling
through the country of Arezzo, he met a train of oxen dragging heavy
waggons piled with marble columns, statues, and all the necessary
details of a sumptuous sepulchre. He stopped, and asked what it all
meant. Then one of the contractors for this transport, wiping the sweat
from his forehead, in utter weariness of the vexatious labour, at the
last end of his temper, answered: "May the gods destroy all poets, past,
present, and future." I inquired what he had to do with poets, and how
they had annoyed him. "Just this," he replied, "that this poet, lately
deceased, a fool and windy-pated fellow, has ordered a monument for
himself; and with a view to erecting it, these marbles are being dragged
to Montepulciano; but I doubt whether we shall contrive to get them up
there. The roads are too bad." "But," cried I, "do you believe _that_
man was a poet--that dunce who had no science, nay, nor knowledge
either? who only rose above the heads of men by vanity and doltishness?"
"I don't know," he answered, "nor did I ever hear tell, while he was
alive, about his being called a poet; but his fellow-townsmen now decide
he was one; nay, if he had but left a few more moneybags, they'd swear
he was a god. Anyhow, but for his having been a poet, I would not have
cursed poets in general." Whereupon, the malevolent Bruni withdrew, and
composed a scorpion-tailed oration, addressed to his friend Poggio, on
the suggested theme of "diuturnity in monuments," and false ambition.
Our old friends of humanistic learning--Cyrus, Alexander, Cæsar--meet us
in these frothy paragraphs. Cambyses, Xerxes, Artaxerxes, Darius, are
thrown in to make the gruel of rhetoric "thick and slab." The whole
epistle ends in a long-drawn peroration of invective against "that
excrement in human shape," who had had the ill-luck, by pretence to
scholarship, by big gains from the Papal treasury, by something in his
manners alien from the easy-going customs of the Roman Court, to rouse
the rancour of his fellow-humanists.

I have dwelt upon this episode, partly because it illustrates the
peculiar thirst for glory in the students of that time, but more
especially because it casts a thin clear thread of actual light upon the
masterpiece which, having been transported with this difficulty from
Donatello's workshop, is now to be seen by all lovers of fine art, in
part at least, at Montepulciano. In part at least: the phrase is
pathetic. Poor Aragazzi, who thirsted so for "diuturnity in monuments,"
who had been so cruelly assaulted in the grave by humanistic jealousy,
expressing its malevolence with humanistic crudity of satire, was
destined after all to be defrauded of his well-paid tomb. The monument,
a master work of Donatello and his collaborator, was duly erected. The
oxen and the contractors, it appears, had floundered through the mud of
Valdichiana, and struggled up the mountain-slopes of Montepulciano. But
when the church, which this triumph of art adorned, came to be repaired,
the miracle of beauty was dismembered. The sculpture for which Aragazzi
spent his thousands of crowns, which Donatello touched with his
immortalising chisel, over which the contractors vented their curses and
Bruni eased his bile; these marbles are now visible as mere _disjecta
membra_ in a church which, lacking them, has little to detain a
traveller's haste.

On the left hand of the central door, as you enter, Aragazzi lies, in
senatorial robes, asleep; his head turned slightly to the right upon the
pillow, his hands folded over his breast. Very noble are the draperies,
and dignified the deep tranquillity of slumber. Here, we say, is a good
man fallen upon sleep, awaiting resurrection. The one commanding theme
of Christian sculpture, in an age of Pagan feeling, has been adequately
rendered. Bartolommeo Aragazzi, like Ilaria del Carretto at Lucca, like
the canopied doges in S. Zanipolo at Venice, like the Acciauoli in the
Florentine Certosa, like the Cardinal di Portogallo in Samminiato, is
carved for us as he had been in life, but with that life suspended, its
fever all smoothed out, its agitations over, its pettinesses dignified
by death. This marmoreal repose of the once active man symbolises for
our imagination the state into which he passed four centuries ago, but
in which, according to the creed, he still abides, reserved for judgment
and reincarnation. The flesh, clad with which he walked our earth, may
moulder in the vaults beneath. But it will one day rise again; and art
has here presented it imperishable to our gaze. This is how the
Christian sculptors, inspired by the majestic calm of classic art,
dedicated a Christian to the genius of repose. Among the nations of
antiquity this repose of death was eternal; and being unable to conceive
of a man's body otherwise than for ever obliterated by the flames of
funeral, they were perforce led back to actual life when they would
carve his portrait on a tomb. But for Christianity the rest of the grave
has ceased to be eternal. Centuries may pass, but in the end it must be
broken. Therefore art is justified in showing us the man himself in an
imagined state of sleep. Yet this imagined state of sleep is so
incalculably long, and by the will of God withdrawn from human prophecy,
that the ages sweeping over the dead man before the trumpets of
archangels wake him, shall sooner wear away memorial stone than stir his
slumber. It is a slumber, too, unterrified, unentertained by dreams.
Suspended animation finds no fuller symbolism than the sculptor here
presents to us in abstract form.

The boys of Montepulciano have scratched Messer Aragazzi's sleeping
figure with _graffiti_ at their own free will. Yet they have had no
power to erase the poetry of Donatello's mighty style. That, in spite of
Bruni's envy, in spite of injurious time, in spite of the still worse
insult of the modernised cathedral and the desecrated monument, embalms
him in our memory and secures for him the diuturnity for which he paid
his twenty thousand crowns. Money, methinks, beholding him, was rarely
better expended on a similar ambition. And ambition of this sort,
relying on the genius of such a master to give it wings for perpetuity
of time, is, _pace_ Lionardo Bruni, not ignoble.

Opposite the figure of Messer Aragazzi are two square bas-reliefs from
the same monument, fixed against piers of the nave. One represents
Madonna enthroned among worshippers; members, it may be supposed, of
Aragazzi's household. Three angelic children, supporting the child
Christ upon her lap, complete that pyramidal form of composition which
Fra Bartolommeo was afterwards to use with such effect in painting. The
other bas-relief shows a group of grave men and youths, clasping hands
with loveliest interlacement; the placid sentiment of human fellowship
translated into harmonies of sculptured form. Children below run up to
touch their knees, and reach out boyish arms to welcome them. Two young
men, with half-draped busts and waving hair blown off their foreheads,
anticipate the type of adolescence which Andrea del Sarto perfected in
his S. John. We might imagine that this masterly panel was intended to
represent the arrival of Messer Aragazzi in his home. It is a scene from
the domestic life of the dead man, duly subordinated to the recumbent
figure, which, when the monument was perfect, would have dominated the
whole composition.

Nothing in the range of Donatello's work surpasses these two bas-reliefs
for harmonies of line and grouping, for choice of form, for beauty of
expression, and for smoothness of surface-working. The marble is of
great delicacy, and is wrought to a wax-like surface. At the high altar
are three more fragments from the mutilated tomb. One is a long low
frieze of children bearing garlands, which probably formed the base of
Aragazzi's monument, and now serves for a predella. The remaining pieces
are detached statues of Fortitude and Faith. The former reminds us of
Donatello's S. George; the latter is twisted into a strained attitude,
full of character, but lacking grace. What the effect of these
emblematic figures would have been when harmonised by the architectural
proportions of the sepulchre, the repose of Aragazzi on his sarcophagus,
the suavity of the two square panels and the rhythmic beauty of the
frieze, it is not easy to conjecture. But rudely severed from their
surroundings, and exposed in isolation, one at each side of the altar,
they leave an impression of awkward discomfort on the memory. A certain
hardness, peculiar to the Florentine manner, is felt in them. But this
quality may have been intended by the sculptors for the sake of contrast
with what is eminently graceful, peaceful, and melodious in the other
fragments of the ruined masterpiece.


V.

At a certain point in the main street, rather more than half way from
the Albergo del Marzocco to the piazza, a tablet has been let into the
wall upon the left-hand side. This records the fact that here in 1454
was born Angelo Ambrogini, the special glory of Montepulciano, the
greatest classical scholar and the greatest Italian poet of the
fifteenth century. He is better known in the history of literature as
Poliziano, or Politianus, a name he took from his native city, when he
came, a marvellous boy, at the age of ten, to Florence, and joined the
household of Lorenzo de' Medici. He had already claims upon Lorenzo's
hospitality. For his father, Benedetto, by adopting the cause of Piero
de' Medici in Montepulciano, had exposed himself to bitter feuds and
hatred of his fellow-citizens. To this animosity of party warfare he
fell a victim a few years previously. We only know that he was murdered,
and that he left a helpless widow with five children, of whom Angelo was
the eldest. The Ambrogini or Cini were a family of some importance in
Montepulciano; and their dwelling-house is a palace of considerable
size. From its eastern windows the eye can sweep that vast expanse of
country, embracing the lakes of Thrasymene and Chiusi, which has been
already described. What would have happened, we wonder, if Messer
Benedetto, the learned jurist, had not espoused the Medicean cause and
embroiled himself with murderous antagonists? Would the little Angelo
have grown up in this quiet town, and practised law, and lived and died
a citizen of Montepulciano? In that case the lecture-rooms of Florence
would never have echoed to the sonorous hexameters of the "Rusticus" and
"Ambra." Italian literature would have lacked the "Stanze" and "Orfeo."
European scholarship would have been defrauded of the impulse given to
it by the "Miscellanea." The study of Roman law would have missed those
labours on the Pandects, with which the name of Politian is honourably
associated. From the Florentine society of the fifteenth century would
have disappeared the commanding central figure of humanism, which now
contrasts dramatically with the stern monastic Prior of S. Mark.
Benedetto's tragic death gave Poliziano to Italy and to posterity.


VI.

Those who have a day to spare at Montepulciano can scarcely spend it
better than in an excursion to Pienza and San Quirico. Leaving the city
by the road which takes a westerly direction, the first object of
interest is the Church of San Biagio, placed on a fertile plateau
immediately beneath the ancient acropolis. It was erected by Antonio di
San Gallo in 1518, and is one of the most perfect specimens existing of
the sober classical style. The Church consists of a Greek square,
continued at the east end into a semicircular tribune, surmounted by a
central cupola, and flanked by a detached bell-tower, ending in a
pyramidal spire. The whole is built of solid yellow travertine, a
material which, by its warmth of colour, is pleasing to the eye, and
mitigates the mathematical severity of the design. Upon entering, we
feel at once what Alberti called the music of this style; its large and
simple harmonies, depending for effect upon sincerity of plan and
justice of balance. The square masses of the main building, the
projecting cornices and rounded tribune, meet together and soar up into
the cupola; while the grand but austere proportions of the arches and
the piers compose a symphony of perfectly concordant lines. The music is
grave and solemn, architecturally expressed in terms of measured space
and outlined symmetry. The whole effect is that of one thing pleasant to
look upon, agreeably appealing to our sense of unity, charming us by
grace and repose; not stimulative nor suggestive, not multiform nor
mysterious. We are reminded of the temples imagined by Francesco
Colonna, and figured in his _Hypnerotomachia Poliphili_. One of these
shrines has, we feel, come into actual existence here; and the religious
ceremonies for which it is adapted are not those of the Christian
worship. Some more primitive, less spiritual rites, involving less of
tragic awe and deep-wrought symbolism, should be here performed. It is
better suited for Polifilo's lustration by Venus Physizoe than for the
mass on Easter morning. And in this respect, the sentiment of the
architecture is exactly faithful to that mood of religious feeling which
appeared in Italy under the influences of the classical revival--when
the essential doctrines of Christianity were blurred with Pantheism;
when Jehovah became _Jupiter Optimus Maximus_; and Jesus was the _Heros_
of Calvary, and nuns were _Virgines Vestales_. In literature this mood
often strikes us as insincere and artificial. But it admitted of
realisation and showed itself to be profoundly felt in architecture.

After leaving Madonna di San Biagio, the road strikes at once into an
open country, expanding on the right towards the woody ridge of Monte
Fallonica, on the left toward Cetona and Radicofani, with Monte Amiata
full in front--its double crest and long volcanic slope recalling Etna;
the belt of embrowned forest on its flank, made luminous by sunlight.
Far away stretches the Sienese Maremma; Siena dimly visible upon her
gentle hill; and still beyond, the pyramid of Volterra, huge and
cloud-like, piled against the sky. The road, as is almost invariable in
this district, keeps to the highest line of ridges, winding much, and
following the dimplings of the earthy hills. Here and there a solitary
castello, rusty with old age, and turned into a farm, juts into
picturesqueness from some point of vantage on a mound surrounded with
green tillage. But soon the dull and intolerable _creta_, ash-grey
earth, without a vestige of vegetation, furrowed by rain, and desolately
breaking into gullies, swallows up variety and charm. It is difficult to
believe that this _creta_ of Southern Tuscany, which has all the
appearance of barrenness, and is a positive deformity in the landscape,
can be really fruitful. Yet we are frequently being told that it only
needs assiduous labour to render it enormously productive.

When we reached Pienza we were already in the middle of a country
without cultivation, abandoned to the marl. It is a little place,
perched upon the ledge of a long sliding hill, which commands the vale
of Orcia; Monte Amiata soaring in aërial majesty beyond. Its old name
was Cosignano. But it had the honour of giving birth to Æneas Sylvius
Piccolomini, who, when he was elected to the Papacy and had assumed the
title of Pius II., determined to transform and dignify his native
village, and to call it after his own name. From that time forward
Cosignano has been known as Pienza.

Pius II. succeeded effectually in leaving his mark upon the town. And
this forms its main interest at the present time. We see in Pienza how
the most active-minded and intelligent man of his epoch, the
representative genius of Italy in the middle of the fifteenth century,
commanding vast wealth and the Pontifical prestige, worked out his whim
of city-building. The experiment had to be made upon a small scale; for
Pienza was then and was destined to remain a village. Yet here, upon
this miniature piazza--in modern as in ancient Italy the meeting-point
of civic life, the forum--we find a cathedral, a palace of the bishop,
a palace of the feudal lord, and a palace of the commune, arranged upon
a well-considered plan, and executed after one design in a consistent
style. The religious, municipal, signorial, and ecclesiastical functions
of the little town are centralised around the open market-place, on
which the common people transacted business and discussed affairs. Pius
entrusted the realization of his scheme to a Florentine architect;
whether Bernardo Rossellino, or a certain Bernardo di Lorenzo, is still
uncertain. The same artist, working in the flat manner of Florentine
domestic architecture, with rusticated basements, rounded windows and
bold projecting cornices--the manner which is so nobly illustrated by
the Rucellai and Strozzi palaces at Florence--executed also for Pius the
monumental Palazzo Piccolomini at Siena. It is a great misfortune for
the group of buildings he designed at Pienza, that they are huddled
together in close quarters on a square too small for their effect. A
want of space is peculiarly injurious to the architecture of this date,
1462, which, itself geometrical and spatial, demands a certain harmony
and liberty in its surroundings, a proportion between the room occupied
by each building and the masses of the edifice. The style is severe and
prosaic. Those charming episodes and accidents of fancy, in which the
Gothic style and the style of the earlier Lombard Renaissance abounded,
are wholly wanting to the rigid, mathematical, hard-headed genius of the
Florentine quattrocento. Pienza, therefore, disappoints us. Its heavy
palace frontispieces shut the spirit up in a tight box. We seem unable
to breathe, and lack that element of life and picturesqueness which the
splendid retinues of nobles in the age of Pinturicchio might have added
to the now forlorn Piazza.

Yet the material is a fine warm travertine, mellowing to dark red,
brightening to golden, with some details, especially the tower of the
Palazzo Communale, in red brick. This building, by the way, is imitated
in miniature from that of Florence. The cathedral is a small church of
three aisles, equally high, ending in what the French would call a
_chevet_. Pius had observed this plan of construction somewhere in
Austria, and commanded his architect, Bernardo, to observe it in his
plan. He was attracted by the facilities for window-lighting which it
offered; and what is very singular, he provided by the Bull of his
foundation for keeping the walls of the interior free from frescoes and
other coloured decorations. The result is that, though the interior
effect is pleasing, the church presents a frigid aspect to eyes
familiarised with warmth of tone in other buildings of that period. The
details of the columns and friezes are classical; and the façade,
strictly corresponding to the structure, and very honest in its
decorative elements, is also of the earlier Renaissance style. But the
vaulting and some of the windows are pointed.

The Palazzo Piccolomini, standing at the right hand of the Duomo, is a
vast square edifice. The walls are flat and even, pierced at regular
intervals with windows, except upon the south-west side, where the
rectangular design is broken by a noble double Loggiata, gallery rising
above gallery--serene curves of arches, grandly proportioned columns,
massive balustrades, a spacious corridor, a roomy vaulting--opening out
upon the palace garden, and offering fair prospect over the wooded
heights of Castiglione and Rocca d'Orcia, up to Radicofani and shadowy
Amiata. It was in these double tiers of galleries, in the garden beneath
and in the open inner square of the palazzo, that the great life of
Italian aristocracy displayed itself. Four centuries ago these spaces,
now so desolate in their immensity, echoed to the tread of serving-men,
the songs of pages; horse-hooves struck upon the pavement of the court;
spurs jingled on the staircases; the brocaded trains of ladies sweeping
from their chambers rustled on the marbles of the loggia; knights let
their hawks fly from the garden-parapets; cardinals and abbreviators
gathered round the doors from which the Pope would issue, when he rose
from his siesta to take the cool of evening in those airy colonnades.
How impossible it is to realise that scene amid this solitude! The
palazzo still belongs to the Piccolomini family. But it has fallen into
something worse than ruin--the squalor of half-starved existence, shorn
of all that justified its grand proportions. Partition-walls have been
run up across its halls to meet the requirements of our contracted
modern customs. Nothing remains of the original decorations except one
carved chimney-piece, an emblazoned shield, and a frescoed portrait of
the founder. All movable treasures have been made away with. And yet the
carved heraldics of the exterior, the coat of Piccolomini, "argent, on a
cross azure five crescents or," the Papal ensigns, keys, and tiara, and
the monogram of Pius, prove that this country dwelling of a Pope must
once have been rich in details befitting its magnificence. With the
exception of the very small portion reserved for the Signori, when they
visit Pienza, the palace has become a granary for country produce in a
starveling land. There was one redeeming point about it to my mind. That
was the handsome young man, with earnest Tuscan eyes and a wonderfully
sweet voice, the servant of the Piccolomini family, who lives here with
his crippled father, and who showed us over the apartments.

We left Pienza and drove on to S. Quirico, through the same wrinkled
wilderness of marl; wasteful, uncultivated, bare to every wind that
blows. A cruel blast was sweeping from the sea, and Monte Amiata
darkened with rain clouds. Still the pictures, which formed themselves
at intervals, as we wound along these barren ridges, were very fair to
look upon, especially one, not far from S. Quirico. It had for
foreground a stretch of tilth--olive-trees, honeysuckle hedges, and
cypresses. Beyond soared Amiata in all its breadth and blue
air-blackness, bearing on its mighty flanks the broken cliffs and tufted
woods of Castiglione and the Rocca d'Orcia; eagles' nests emerging from
a fertile valley-champaign, into which the eye was led for rest. It so
chanced that a band of sunlight, escaping from filmy clouds, touched
this picture with silvery greys and soft greens--a suffusion of vaporous
radiance, which made it for one moment a Claude landscape.

S. Quirico was keeping _festa_. The streets were crowded with healthy
handsome men and women from the contado. This village lies on the edge
of a great oasis in the Sienese desert--an oasis, formed by the waters
of the Orcia and Asso sweeping down to join Ombrone, and stretching on
to Montalcino. We put up at the sign of the "Two Hares," where a notable
housewife gave us a dinner of all we could desire; _frittata di
cervelle_, good fish, roast lamb stuffed with rosemary, salad and
cheese, with excellent wine and black coffee, at the rate of three
_lire_ a head.

The attraction of S. Quirico is its gem-like little collegiata, a
Lombard church of the ninth century, with carved portals of the
thirteenth. It is built of golden travertine; some details in brown
sandstone. The western and southern portals have pillars resting on the
backs of lions. On the western side these pillars are four slender
columns, linked by snake-like ligatures. On the southern side they
consist of two carved figures--possibly S. John and the Archangel
Michael. There is great freedom and beauty in these statues, as also in
the lions which support them, recalling the early French and German
manner. In addition, one finds the usual Lombard grotesques--two
sea-monsters, biting each other; harpy-birds; a dragon with a twisted
tail; little men grinning and squatting in adaptation to coigns and
angles of the windows. The toothed and chevron patterns of the north are
quaintly blent with rude acanthus scrolls and classical egg-mouldings.
Over the western porch is a Gothic rose window. Altogether this church
must be reckoned one of the most curious specimens of that hybrid
architecture, fusing and appropriating different manners, which
perplexes the student in Central Italy. It seems strangely out of place
in Tuscany. Yet, if what one reads of Toscanella, a village between
Viterbo and Orbetello, be true, there exist examples of a similar
fantastic Lombard style even lower down.

The interior was most disastrously gutted and "restored" in 1731: its
open wooden roof masked by a false stucco vaulting. A few relics, spared
by the eighteenth century Vandals, show that the church was once rich
in antique curiosities. A marble knight in armour lies on his back, half
hidden by the pulpit stairs. And in the choir are half a dozen rarely
beautiful panels of tarsia, executed in a bold style and on a large
scale. One design--a man throwing his face back, and singing, while he
plays a mandoline; with long thick hair and fanciful berretta; behind
him a fine line of cypresses and other trees--struck me as singularly
lovely. In another I noticed a branch of peach, broad leaves and ripe
fruit, not only drawn with remarkable grace and power, but so modelled
as to stand out with the roundness of reality.

The whole drive of three hours back to Montepulciano was one long
banquet of inimitable distant views. Next morning, having to take
farewell of the place, we climbed to the Castello, or _arx_ of the old
city! It is a ruined spot, outside the present walls, upon the southern
slope, where there is now a farm, and a fair space of short
sheep-cropped turf, very green and grassy, and gemmed with little pink
geraniums as in England in such places. The walls of the old castle,
overgrown with ivy, are broken down to their foundations. This may
possibly have been done when Montepulciano was dismantled by the Sienese
in 1232. At that date the Commune succumbed to its more powerful
neighbours. The half of its inhabitants were murdered, and its
fortifications were destroyed. Such episodes are common enough in the
history of that internecine struggle for existence between the Italian
municipalities, which preceded the more famous strife of Guelfs and
Ghibellines. Stretched upon the smooth turf of the Castello, we bade
adieu to the divine landscape bathed in light and mountain air--to
Thrasymene and Chiusi and Cetona; to Amiata, Pienza, and S. Quirico; to
Montalcino and the mountains of Volterra; to Siena and Cortona; and,
closer to Monte Fallonica, Madonna di Biagio, the house-roofs and the
Palazzo tower of Montepulciano.

FOOTNOTES:

[A] From Leigh Hunt's Translation.



SPRING WANDERINGS.

ANA-CAPRI.


The storm-clouds at this season, though it is the bloom of May, are
daily piled in sulky or menacing masses over Vesuvius and the Abruzzi,
frothing out their curls of moulded mist across the bay, and climbing
the heavens with toppling castle towers and domes of alabaster.

We made the most of a tranquil afternoon, where there was an armistice
of storm, to climb the bluff of Mount Solaro. A ruined fort caps that
limestone bulwark; and there we lay together, drinking the influences of
sea, sun, and wind. Immeasurably deep beneath us plunged the precipices,
deep, deep descending to a bay where fisher boats were rocking,
diminished to a scale that made the fishermen in them invisible. Low
down above the waters wheeled white gulls, and higher up the hawks and
ospreys of the cliff sailed out of sunlight into shadow. Immitigable
strength is in the moulding of this limestone, and sharp, clear
definiteness marks yon clothing of scant brushwood where the fearless
goats are browsing. The sublime of sculpturesque in crag structure is
here, refined and modulated by the sweetness of sea distances. For the
air came pure and yielding to us over the unfooted sea; and at the
basement of those fortress-cliffs the sea was dreaming in its caves;
and far away, to east and south and west, soft light was blent with mist
upon the surface of the shimmering waters.

The distinction between prospects viewed from a mountain overlooking a
great plain, or viewed from heights that, like this, dominate the sea,
principally lies in this: that while the former only offer cloud shadows
cast upon the fields below our feet, in the latter these shadows are
diversified with cloud reflections. This gives superiority in qualities
of colour, variety of tone, and luminous effect to the sea, compensating
in some measure for the lack of those associations which render the
outlook over a wide extent of populated land so thrilling. The emergence
of towered cities into sunlight at the skirts of moving shadows, the
liquid lapse of rivers half disclosed by windings among woods, the
upturned mirrors of unruffled lakes, are wanting to the sea. For such
episodes the white sails of vessels, with all their wistfulness of going
to and fro on the mysterious deep, are but a poor exchange. Yet the
sea-lover may justify his preference by appealing to the beauty of
empurpled shadows, toned by amethyst or opal or shining with violet
light, reflected from the clouds that cross and find in those dark
shields a mirror. There are suggestions, too, of immensity, of liberty,
of action, presented by the boundless horizons and the changeful
changeless tracts of ocean which no plain possesses.

It was nigh upon sunset when we descended to Ana-Capri. That evening the
clouds assembled suddenly. The armistice of storm was broken. They were
terribly blue, and the sea grew dark as steel beneath them, till the
moment when the sun's lip reached the last edge of the waters. Then a
courier of rosy flame sent forth from him passed swift across the gulf,
touching, where it trod, the waves with accidental fire. The messenger
reached Naples; and in a moment, as by some diabolical illumination, the
sinful city kindled into light like glowing charcoal. From Posilippo on
the left, along the palaces of the Chiaja, up to S. Elmo on the hill,
past Santa Lucia, down on the Marinella, beyond Portici, beyond Torre
del Greco, where Vesuvius towered up aloof, an angry mount of
amethystine gloom, the conflagration spread and reached Pompeii, and
dwelt on Torre dell'Annunziata. Stationary, lurid, it smouldered while
the day died slowly. The long, densely populated sea-line from Pozzuoli
to Castellammare burned and smoked with intensest incandescence, sending
a glare of fiery mist against the threatening blue behind, and fringing
with pomegranate-coloured blots the water where no light now lingered.
It is difficult to bend words to the use required. The scene in spite of
natural suavity and grace, had become like Dante's first glimpse of the
City of Dis--like Sodom and Gomorrah when fire from heaven descended on
their towers before they crumbled into dust.


FROM CAPRI TO ISCHIA.

After this, for several days, Libeccio blew harder. No boats could leave
or come to Capri. From the piazza parapet we saw the wind scooping the
surface of the waves, and flinging spray-fleeces in sheets upon the
churning water. As they broke on Cape Campanella, the rollers climbed in
foam--how many feet?--and blotted out the olive trees above the
headland. The sky was always dark with hanging clouds and masses of
low-lying vapour, very moist, but scarcely raining--lightning without
thunder in the night.

Such weather is unexpected in the middle month of May, especially when
the olives are blackened by December storms, and the orange-trees
despoiled of foliage, and the tendrils of the vines yellow with cold.
The walnut-trees have shown no sign of making leaves. Only the figs seem
to have suffered little.

It had been settled that we should start upon the first seafaring dawn
for Ischia or Sorrento, according as the wind might set; and I was glad
when, early one morning, the captain of the _Serena_ announced a
moderate sirocco. When we reached the little quay we found the surf of
the libeccio still rolling heavily into the gulf. A gusty south-easter
crossed it, tearing spray-crests from the swell as it went plunging
onward. The sea was rough enough; but we made fast sailing, our captain
steering with a skill which it was beautiful to watch, his five oarsmen
picturesquely grouped beneath the straining sail. The sea slapped and
broke from time to time on our windward quarter, drenching the boat with
brine; and now and then her gunwale scooped into the shoulder of a wave
as she shot sidling up it. Meanwhile enormous masses of leaden-coloured
clouds formed above our heads and on the sea-line; but these were always
shifting in the strife of winds, and the sun shone through them
petulantly. As we climbed the rollers, or sank into their trough, the
outline of the bay appeared in glimpses, shyly revealed, suddenly
withdrawn from sight; the immobility and majesty of mountains contrasted
with the weltering waste of water round us--now blue and garish where
the sunlight fell, now shrouded in squally rain-storms, and then again
sullen beneath a vaporous canopy. Each of these vignettes was
photographed for one brief second on the brain, and swallowed by the
hurling drift of billows. The painter's art could but ill have rendered
that changeful colour in the sea, passing from tawny cloud-reflections
and surfaces of glowing violet to bright blue or impenetrable purple
flecked with boiling foam, according as a light-illuminated or a
shadowed facet of the moving mass was turned to sight.

Half-way across the gulf the sirocco lulled; the sail was lowered, and
we had to make the rest of the passage by rowing. Under the lee of
Ischia we got into comparatively quiet water; though here the beautiful
Italian sea was yellowish green with churned-up sand, like an unripe
orange. We passed the castle on its rocky island, with the domed church
which has been so often painted in _gouache_ pictures through the last
two centuries, and soon after noon we came to Casamicciola.


LA PICCOLA SENTINELLA.

Casamicciola is a village on the north side of the island, in its
centre, where the visitors to the mineral baths of Ischia chiefly
congregate. One of its old-established inns is called La Piccola
Sentinella. The first sight on entrance is an open gallery, with a pink
wall on which bloom magnificent cactuses, sprays of thick-clustering
scarlet and magenta flowers. This is a rambling house, built in
successive stages against a hill, with terraces and verandahs opening
on unexpected gardens to the back and front. Beneath its long irregular
façade there spreads a wilderness of orange-trees and honeysuckles and
roses, verbenas, geraniums and mignonette, snapdragons, gazenias and
stocks, exceeding bright and fragrant, with the green slopes of Monte
Epomeo for a background and Vesuvius for far distance. There are
wonderful bits of detail in this garden. One dark, thick-foliaged olive,
I remember, leaning from the tufa over a lizard-haunted wall, feathered
waist-high in huge acanthus-leaves. The whole rich orchard ground of
Casamicciola is dominated by Monte Epomeo, the extinct volcano which may
be called the _raison d'être_ of Ischia; for this island is nothing but
a mountain lifted by the energy of fire from the sea-basement. Its
fantastic peaks and ridges, sulphur-coloured, dusty grey, and tawny,
with brushwood in young leaf upon the cloven flanks, form a singular
pendant to the austere but more artistically modelled limestone crags of
Capri. Not two islands that I know, within so short a space of sea,
offer two pictures so different in style and quality of loveliness. The
inhabitants are equally distinct in type. Here, in spite of what De
Musset wrote somewhat affectedly about the peasant girls--

    Ischia! c'est là qu'on a des yeux,
    C'est là qu'un corsage amoureux
                Serre la hanche.
    Sur un bas rouge bien tiré
    Brille, sous le jupon doré,
                La mule blanche--

in spite of these lines I did not find the Ischia women eminent, as
those of Capri are, for beauty. But the young men have fine, loose,
faun-like figures, and faces that would be strikingly handsome but for
too long and prominent noses. They are a singular race, graceful in
movement.

Evening is divine in Ischia. From the topmost garden terrace of the inn
one looks across the sea toward Terracina, Gaeta, and those descending
mountain buttresses, the Phlegræan plains and the distant snows of the
Abruzzi. Rain-washed and luminous, the sunset sky held Hesper trembling
in a solid green of beryl. Fireflies flashed among the orange blossoms.
Far away in the obscurity of eastern twilight glared the smouldering
cone of Vesuvius--a crimson blot upon the darkness--a Cyclop's eye,
bloodshot and menacing.

The company in the Piccola Sentinella, young and old, were decrepit,
with an odd, rheumatic, shrivelled look upon them. The dining-room
reminded me, as certain rooms are apt to do, of a ship's saloon. I felt
as though I had got into the cabin of the _Flying Dutchman_, and that
all these people had been sitting there at meat a hundred years, through
storm and shine, for ever driving onward over immense waves in an
enchanted calm.


ISCHIA AND FORIO.

One morning we drove along the shore, up hill, and down, by the Porto
d'Ischia to the town and castle. This country curiously combines the
qualities of Corfu and Catania. The near distance, so richly cultivated,
with the large volcanic slopes of Monte Epomeo rising from the sea, is
like Catania. Then, across the gulf, are the bold outlines and snowy peaks
of the Abruzzi, recalling Albanian ranges. Here, as in Sicily, the old
lava is overgrown with prickly pear and red valerian. Mesembrianthemums--I
must be pardoned this word; for I cannot omit those fleshy-leaved creepers,
with their wealth of gaudy blossoms, shaped like sea anemones, coloured
like strawberry and pine-apple cream-ices--mesembrianthemums, then, tumble
in torrents from the walls, and large-cupped white convolvuluses curl
about the hedges. The Castle Rock, with Capri's refined sky-coloured
outline relieving its hard profile on the horizon, is one of those
exceedingly picturesque objects just too theatrical to be artistic. It
seems ready-made for a back scene in _Masaniello_, and cries out to
the chromo-lithographer, "Come and make the most of me!" Yet this morning
all things, in sea, earth, and sky, were so delicately tinted and bathed
in pearly light that it was difficult to be critical.

In the afternoon we took the other side of the island, driving through
Lacca to Forio. One gets right round the bulk of Epomeo, and looks up
into a weird region called Le Falange, where white lava streams have
poured in two broad irregular torrents among broken precipices. Florio
itself is placed at the end of a flat headland, boldly thrust into the
sea; and its furthest promontory bears a pilgrimage church, intensely
white and glaring.

There is something arbitrary in the memories we make of places casually
visited, dependent as they are upon our mood at the moment, or on an
accidental interweaving of impressions which the _genius loci_ blends
for us. Of Forio two memories abide with me. The one is of a young
woman, with very fair hair, in a light blue dress, standing beside an
older woman in a garden. There was a flourishing pomegranate-tree above
them. The whiteness and the dreamy smile of the young woman seemed
strangely out of tune with her strong-toned southern surroundings. I
could have fancied her a daughter of some moist north-western isle of
Scandinavian seas. My other memory is of a lad, brown, handsome,
powerfully-featured, thoughtful, lying curled up in the sun upon a sort
of ladder in his house-court, profoundly meditating. He had a book in
his hand, and his finger still marked the place where he had read. He
looked as though a Columbus or a Campanella might emerge from his
earnest, fervent, steadfast adolescence. Driving rapidly along, and
leaving Forio in all probability for ever, I kept wondering whether
these two lives, discerned as though in vision, would meet--whether she
was destined to be his evil genius, whether posterity would hear of him
and journey to his birthplace in this world-neglected Forio. Such
reveries are futile. Yet who entirely resists them?


MONTE EPOMEO.

About three on the morning which divides the month of May into two equal
parts I woke and saw the waning moon right opposite my window, stayed in
her descent upon the slope of Epomeo. Soon afterwards Christian called
me, and we settled to ascend the mountain. Three horses and a stout
black donkey, with their inevitable grooms, were ordered; and we took
for guide a lovely faun-like boy, goat-faced, goat-footed, with gentle
manners and pliant limbs swaying beneath the breath of impulse. He was
called Giuseppe.

The way leads past the mineral baths and then strikes uphill, at first
through lanes cut deep in the black lava. The trees met almost overhead.
It is like Devonshire, except that one half hopes to see tropical
foxgloves with violet bells and downy leaves sprouting among the lush
grasses and sweet-scented ferns upon those gloomy, damp, warm walls.
After this we skirted a thicket of arbutus, and came upon the long
volcanic ridge, with divinest outlook over Procida and Miseno toward
Vesuvius. Then once more we had to dive into brown sandstone gullies,
extremely steep, where the horses almost burst their girths in
scrambling, and the grooms screamed, exasperating their confusion with
encouragement and curses. Straight or bending like a willow wand,
Giuseppe kept in front. I could have imagined he had stepped to life
from one of Lionardo's fancy-sprighted studies.

After this fashion we gained the spine of mountain which composes
Ischia--the smooth ascending ridge that grows up from those eastern
waves to what was once the apex of fire-vomiting Inarime, and breaks in
precipices westward, a ruin of gulfed lava, tortured by the violence of
pent Typhoeus. Under a vast umbrella pine we dismounted, rested, and
saw Capri. Now the road skirts slanting-wise along the further flank of
Epomeo, rising by muddy earth-heaps and sandstone hollows to the quaint
pinnacles which build the summit. There is no inconsiderable peril in
riding over this broken ground; for the soil crumbles away, and the
ravines open downward, treacherously masked with brushwood.

On Epomeo's topmost cone a chapel dedicated to S. Niccolo da Bari, the
Italian patron of seamen, has been hollowed from the rock. Attached to
it is the dwelling of two hermits, subterranean, with long dark
corridors and windows opening on the western seas. Church and hermitage
alike are scooped, with slight expenditure of mason's skill, from solid
mountain. The windows are but loopholes, leaning from which the town of
Forio is seen, 2500 feet below; and the jagged precipices of the
menacing Falange toss their contorted horror forth to sea and sky.
Through gallery and grotto we wound in twilight under a monk's guidance,
and came at length upon the face of the crags above Casamicciola. A few
steps upward, cut like a ladder in the stone, brought us to the topmost
peak--a slender spire of soft, yellowish tufa. It reminded me (with
differences) of the way one climbs the spire at Strasburg, and stands
upon that temple's final crocket, with nothing but a lightning conductor
to steady swimming senses. Different indeed are the views unrolled
beneath the peak of Epomeo and the pinnacle of Strasburg! Vesuvius, with
the broken lines of Procida, Miseno, and Lago Fusaro for foreground; the
sculpturesque beauty of Capri, buttressed in everlasting calm upon the
waves; the Phlegræan plains and champaign of Volturno, stretching
between smooth seas and shadowy hills; the mighty sweep of Naples' bay;
all merged in blue; aërial, translucent, exquisitely frail. In this
ethereal fabric of azure the most real of realities, the most solid of
substances, seem films upon a crystal sphere.

The hermit produced some flasks of amber-coloured wine from his stores
in the grotto. These we drank, lying full-length upon the tufa in the
morning sunlight. The panorama of sea, sky, and long-drawn lines of
coast, breathless, without a ripple or a taint of cloud, spread far and
wide around us. Our horses and donkey cropped what little grass, blent
with bitter herbage, grew on that barren summit. Their grooms helped us
out with the hermit's wine, and turned to sleep face downward. The whole
scene was very quiet, islanded in immeasurable air. Then we asked the
boy, Giuseppe, whether he could guide us on foot down the cliffs of
Monte Epomeo to Casamicciola. This he was willing and able to do; for he
told me that he had spent many months each year upon the hill-side,
tending goats. When rough weather came, he wrapped himself in a blanket
from the snow that falls and melts upon the ledges. In summer time he
basked the whole day long, and slept the calm ambrosial nights away.
Something of this free life was in the burning eyes, long clustering
dark hair, and smooth brown bosom of the faun-like creature. His
graceful body had the brusque, unerring movement of the goats he
shepherded. Human thought and emotion seemed a-slumber in this youth who
had grown one with nature. As I watched his careless incarnate
loveliness I remembered lines from an old Italian poem of romance,
describing a dweller of the forest, who

    Haunteth the woodland aye 'neath verdurous shade,
    Eateth wild fruit, drinketh of running stream;
    And such-like is his nature, as 'tis said,
    That ever weepeth he when clear skies gleam,
    Seeing of storms and rain he then hath dread,
    And feareth lest the sun's heat fail for him;
    But when on high hurl winds and clouds together,
    Full glad is he and waiteth for fair weather.

Giuseppe led us down those curious volcanic _balze_, where the soil is
soft as marl, with tints splashed on it of pale green and rose and
orange, and a faint scent in it of sulphur. They break away into wild
chasms, where rivulets begin; and here the narrow watercourses made for
us plain going. The turf beneath our feet was starred with cyclamens and
wavering anemones. At last we reached the chestnut woods, and so by
winding paths descended on the village. Giuseppe told me, as we walked,
that in a short time he would be obliged to join the army. He
contemplated this duty with a dim and undefined dislike. Nor could I,
too, help dreading and misliking it for him. The untamed, gentle
creature, who knew so little but his goats as yet, whose nights had been
passed from childhood _à la belle étoile_, whose limbs had never been
cumbered with broadcloth or belt--for him to be shut up in the barrack
of some Lombard city, packed in white conscript's sacking, drilled,
taught to read and write, and weighted with the knapsack and the musket!
There was something lamentable in the prospect. But such is the burden
of man's life, of modern life especially. United Italy demands of her
children that by this discipline they should be brought into that
harmony which builds a nation out of diverse elements.


FROM ISCHIA TO NAPLES.

Ischia showed a new aspect on the morning of our departure. A sea-mist
passed along the skirts of the island, and rolled in heavy masses round
the peaks of Monte Epomeo, slowly condensing into summer clouds, and
softening each outline with a pearly haze, through which shone emerald
glimpses of young vines and fig-trees.

We left in a boat with four oarsmen for Pozzuoli. For about an hour the
breeze carried us well, while Ischia behind grew ever lovelier, soft as
velvet, shaped like a gem. The mist had become a great white luminous
cloud--not dense and alabastrine, like the clouds of thunder; but filmy,
tender, comparable to the atmosphere of Dante's moon. Porpoises and
sea-gulls played and fished about our bows, dividing the dark brine in
spray. The mountain distances were drowned in bluish vapour--Vesuvius
quite invisible. About noon the air grew clearer, and Capri reared her
fortalice of sculptured rock, aërially azure, into liquid ether. I know
not what effect of atmosphere or light it is that lifts an island from
the sea by interposing that thin edge of lustrous white between it and
the water. But this phenomenon to-day was perfectly exhibited. Like a
mirage on the wilderness, like Fata Morgana's palace ascending from the
deep, the pure and noble vision stayed suspense 'twixt heaven and ocean.
At the same time the breeze failed, and we rowed slowly between Procida
and Capo Miseno--a space in old-world history athrong with Cæsar's
navies. When we turned the point, and came in sight of Baiæ, the wind
freshened and took us flying into Pozzuoli. The whole of this coast has
been spoiled by the recent upheaval of Monte Nuovo with its lava floods
and cindery deluges. Nothing remains to justify its fame among the
ancient Romans and the Neapolitans of Boccaccio's and Pontano's age. It
is quite wrecked, beyond the power even of hendecasyllables to bring
again its breath of beauty:

    Mecum si sapies, Gravina, mecum
    Baias, et placidos coles recessus,
    Quos ipsæ et veneres colunt, et illa
    Quæ mentes hominum regit voluptas.
    Hic vina et choreæ jocique regnant,
    Regnant et charites facetiæque.
    Has sedes amor, has colit cupido.
    Hic passim juvenes puellulæque
    Ludunt, et tepidis aquis lavantur,
    Coenantque et dapibus leporibusque
    Miscent delitias venustiores:
    Miscent gaudia et osculationes,
    Atque una sociis toris foventur,
    Has te ad delitias vocant camoenæ;
    Invitat mare, myrteumque littus;
    Invitaut volucres canoræ, et ipse
    Gaurus pampineas parat corollas.[B]

At Pozzuoli we dined in the Albergo del Ponte di Caligola (Heaven save
the mark!), and drank Falernian wine of modern and indifferent vintage.
Then Christian hired two open carriages for Naples. He and I sat in the
second. In the first we placed the two ladies of our party. They had a
large, fat driver. Just after we had all passed the gate a big fellow
rushed up, dragged the corpulent coachman from his box, pulled out a
knife, and made a savage thrust at the man's stomach. At the same moment
a _guardia-porta_, with drawn cutlass, interposed and struck between the
combatants. They were separated. Their respective friends assembled in
two jabbering crowds, and the whole party, uttering vociferous
objurgations, marched off, as I imagined, to the watch-house. A very
shabby lazzarone, without more ado, sprang on the empty box, and we made
haste for Naples. Being only anxious to get there, and not at all
curious about the squabble which had deprived us of our fat driver, I
relapsed into indifference when I found that neither of the men to whose
lot we had fallen was desirous of explaining the affair. It was
sufficient cause for self-congratulation that no blood had been shed,
and that the Procuratore del Rè would not require our evidence.

The Grotta di Posilippo was a sight of wonder, with the afternoon sun
slanting on its festoons of creeping plants above the western
entrance--the gas lamps, dust, huge carts, oxen, and _contadini_ in its
subterranean darkness--and then the sudden revelation of the bay and
city as we jingled out into the summery air again by Virgil's tomb.


NIGHT AT POMPEII.

On to Pompeii in the clear sunset, falling very lightly upon mountains,
islands, little ports, and indentations of the bay.

From the railway station we walked above half a mile to the Albergo del
Sole under a lucid heaven of aqua-marine colour, with Venus large in it
upon the border line between the tints of green and blue.

The Albergo del Sole is worth commemorating. We stepped, without the
intervention of courtyard or entrance hall, straight from the little inn
garden into an open, vaulted room. This was divided into two
compartments by a stout column supporting round arches. Wooden gates
furnished a kind of fence between the atrium and what an old Pompeian
would have styled the triclinium. For in the further part a table was
laid for supper and lighted with suspended lamps. And here a party of
artists and students drank and talked and smoked. A great live peacock,
half asleep and winking his eyes, sat perched upon a heavy wardrobe
watching them. The outer chamber, where we waited in arm-chairs of ample
girth, had its _loggia_ windows and doors open to the air. There were
singing-birds in cages; and plants of rosemary, iris, and arundo sprang
carelessly from holes in the floor. A huge vase filled to overflowing
with oranges and lemons, the very symbol of generous prodigality, stood
in the midst, and several dogs were lounging round. The outer twilight,
blending with the dim sheen of the lamps, softened this pretty scene to
picturesqueness. Altogether it was a strange and unexpected place. Much
experienced as the nineteenth-century nomad may be in inns, he will
rarely receive a more powerful and refreshing impression, entering one
at evenfall, than here.

There was no room for us in the inn. We were sent, attended by a boy
with a lantern, through fields of dew-drenched barley and folded
poppies, to a farmhouse overshadowed by four spreading pines.
Exceedingly soft and grey, with rose-tinted weft of steam upon its
summit, stood Vesuvius above us in the twilight. Something in the recent
impression of the dimly-lighted supper-room, and in the idyllic
simplicity of this lantern-litten journey through the barley, suggested,
by one of those inexplicable stirrings of association which affect tired
senses, a dim, dreamy thought of Palestine and Bible stories. The
feeling of the _cenacolo_ blent here with feelings of Ruth's cornfields,
and the white square houses with their flat roofs enforced the illusion.
Here we slept in the middle of a _contadino_ colony. Some of the folk
had made way for us; and by the wheezing, coughing, and snoring of
several sorts and ages in the chamber next me, I imagine they must have
endured considerable crowding. My bed was large enough to have contained
a family. Over its head there was a little shrine, hollowed in the
thickness of the wall, with several sacred emblems and a shallow vase
of holy water. On dressers at each end of the room stood glass shrines,
occupied by finely-dressed Madonna dolls and pots of artificial flowers.
Above the doors S. Michael and S. Francis, roughly embossed in low
relief and boldly painted, gave dignity and grandeur to the walls. These
showed some sense for art in the first builders of the house. But the
taste of the inhabitants could not be praised. There were countless
gaudy prints of saints, and exactly five pictures of the Bambino, very
big, and sprawling in a field alone. A crucifix, some old bottles, a
gun, old clothes suspended from pegs, pieces of peasant pottery and
china, completed the furniture of the apartment.

But what a view it showed when Christian next morning opened the door!
From my bed I looked across the red-tiled terrace to the stone pines
with their velvet roofage and the blue-peaked hills of Stabiæ.


SAN GERMANO.

No one need doubt about his quarters in this country town. The Albergo
di Pompeii is a truly sumptuous place. Sofas, tables, and chairs in our
sitting-room are made of buffalo horns, very cleverly pieced together,
but torturing the senses with suggestions of impalement. Sitting or
standing, one felt insecure. When would the points run into us? when
should we begin to break these incrustations off? and would the whole
fabric crumble at a touch into chaotic heaps of horns?

It is market day, and the costumes in the streets are brilliant. The
women wear a white petticoat, a blue skirt made straight and tightly
bound above it, a white richly-worked bodice, and the white
square-folded napkin of the Abruzzi on their heads. Their jacket is of
red or green--pure colour. A rug of striped red, blue, yellow, and black
protects the whole dress from the rain. There is a very noble quality of
green--sappy and gemmy--like some of Titian's or Giorgione's--in the
stuffs they use. Their build and carriage are worthy of goddesses.

Rain falls heavily, persistently. We must ride on donkeys, in
waterproofs, to Monte Cassino. Mountain and valley, oak wood and ilex
grove, lentisk thicket and winding river-bed, are drowned alike in
soft-descending, soaking rain. Far and near the landscape swims in rain,
and the hill-sides send down torrents through their watercourses.

The monastery is a square, dignified building, of vast extent and
princely solidity. It has a fine inner court, with sumptuous staircases
of slabbed stone leading to the church. This public portion of the
edifice is both impressive and magnificent, without sacrifice of
religious severity to parade. We acknowledge a successful compromise
between the austerity of the order and the grandeur befitting the fame,
wealth, prestige, and power of its parent foundation. The church itself
is a tolerable structure of the Renaissance--costly marble incrustations
and mosaics, meaningless Neapolitan frescoes. One singular episode in
the mediocrity of art adorning it, is the tomb of Pietro dei Medici.
Expelled from Florence in 1494, he never returned, but was drowned in
the Garigliano. Clement VII. ordered, and Duke Cosimo I. erected, this
marble monument--the handicraft, in part at least, of Francesco di San
Gallo--to their relative. It is singularly stiff, ugly, out of place--at
once obtrusive and insignificant.

A gentle old German monk conducted Christian and me over the
convent--boy's school, refectory printing press, lithographic workshop,
library, archives. We then returned to the church, from which we passed
to visit the most venerable and sacred portion of the monastery. The
cell of S. Benedict is being restored and painted in fresco by the
Austrian Benedictines; a pious but somewhat frigid process of
re-edification. This so-called cell is a many-chambered and very ancient
building, with a tower which is now embedded in the massive
superstructure of the modern monastery. The German artists adorning it
contrive to blend the styles of Giotto, Fra Angelico, Egypt, and
Byzance, not without force and a kind of intense frozen pietism. S.
Mauro's vision of his master's translation to heaven--the ladder of
light issuing between two cypresses, and the angels watching on the
tower walls--might even be styled poetical. But the decorative angels on
the roof and other places, being adapted from Egyptian art, have a
strange, incongruous appearance.

Monasteries are almost invariably disappointing to one who goes in
search of what gives virtue and solidity to human life; and even Monte
Cassino was no exception. This ought not to be otherwise, seeing what a
peculiar sympathy with the monastic institution is required to make
these cloisters comprehensible. The atmosphere of operose indolence,
prolonged through centuries and centuries, stifles; nor can antiquity
and influence impose upon a mind which resents monkery itself as an
essential evil. That Monte Cassino supplied the Church with several
potentates is incontestable. That mediæval learning and morality would
have suffered more without this brotherhood cannot be doubted. Yet it is
difficult to name men of very eminent genius whom the Cassinesi claim as
their alumni; nor, with Boccaccio's testimony to their carelessness, and
with the evidence of their library before our eyes, can we rate their
services to civilised erudition very highly. I longed to possess the
spirit, for one moment, of Montalembert. I longed for what is called
historical imagination, for the indiscriminate voracity of those men to
whom world-famous sites are in themselves soul-stirring.

FOOTNOTES:

[B] These verses are extracted from the second book of Pontano's
_Hendecasyllabi_ (Aldus, 1513, p. 208). They so vividly paint the
amusements of a watering-place in the fifteenth century that I have
translated them:

With me, let but the mind be wise, Gravina, With me haste to the
tranquil haunts of Baiæ, Haunts that pleasure hath made her home, and
she who Sways all hearts, the voluptuous Aphrodite. Here wine rules, and
the dance, and games and laughter; Graces reign in a round of mirthful
madness; Love hath built, and desire, a palace here too, Where glad
youths and enamoured girls on all sides Play and bathe in the waves in
sunny weather, Dine and sup, and the merry mirth of banquets Blend with
dearer delights and love's embraces, Blend with pleasures of youth and
honeyed kisses, Till, sport-tired, in the couch inarmed they slumber.
Thee our Muses invite to these enjoyments; Thee those billows allure,
the myrtled seashore, Birds allure with a song, and mighty Gaurus Twines
his redolent wreath of vines and ivy.



MAY IN UMBRIA.

FROM ROME TO TERNI.


We left Rome in clear sunset light. The Alban Hills defined themselves
like a cameo of amethyst upon a pale blue distance; and over the Sabine
Mountains soared immeasurable moulded domes of alabaster thunder-clouds,
casting deep shadows, purple and violet, across the slopes of Tivoli. To
westward the whole sky was lucid, like some half-transparent topaz,
flooded with slowly yellowing sunbeams. The Campagna has often been
called a garden of wild-flowers. Just now poppy and aster, gladiolus and
thistle, embroider it with patterns infinite and intricate beyond the
power of art. They have already mown the hay in part; and the billowy
tracts of greyish green, where no flowers are now in bloom, supply a
restful groundwork to those brilliant patches of diapered _fioriture_.
These are like praying-carpets spread for devotees upon the pavement of
a mosque whose roof is heaven. In the level light the scythes of the
mowers flash as we move past. From their bronzed foreheads the men toss
masses of dark curls. Their muscular flanks and shoulders sway sideways
from firm yet pliant reins. On one hill, fronting the sunset, there
stands a herd of some thirty huge grey oxen, feeding and raising their
heads to look at us, with just a flush of crimson on their horns and
dewlaps. This is the scale of Mason's and of Costa's colouring. This is
the breadth and magnitude of Rome.

Thus, through dells of ilex and oak, yielding now a glimpse of Tiber and
S. Peter's, now opening on a purple section of the distant Sabine Hills,
we came to Monte Rotondo. The sun sank; and from the flames where he had
perished, Hesper and the thin moon, very white and keen, grew slowly
into sight. Now we follow the Tiber, a swollen, hurrying, turbid river,
in which the mellowing Western sky reflects itself. This changeful
mirror of swift waters spreads a dazzling foreground to valley, hill and
lustrous heaven. There is orange on the far horizon, and a green ocean
above, in which sea-monsters fashioned from the clouds are floating.
Yonder swims an elf with luminous hair astride upon a sea-horse, and
followed by a dolphin plunging through the fiery waves. The orange
deepens into dying red. The green divides into daffodil and beryl. The
blue above grows fainter, and the moon and stars shine stronger.

Through these celestial changes we glide into a landscape fit for
Francia and the early Umbrian painters. Low hills to right and left;
suavely modelled heights in the far distance; a very quiet width of
plain, with slender trees ascending into the pellucid air; and down in
the mystery of the middle distance a glimpse of heaven-reflecting water.
The magic of the moon and stars lends enchantment to this scene. No
painting could convey their influences. Sometimes both luminaries
tremble, all dispersed and broken, on the swirling river. Sometimes they
sleep above the calm cool reaches of a rush-grown mere. And here and
there a ruined turret, with a broken window and a tuft of shrubs upon
the rifted battlement, gives value to the fading pallor of the West. The
last phase in the sunset is a change to blue-grey monochrome, faintly
silvered with starlight; hills, Tiber, fields and woods all floating in
aërial twilight. There is no definition of outline now. The daffodil of
the horizon has faded into scarcely perceptible pale greenish yellow.

We have passed Stimigliano. Through the mystery of darkness we hurry
past the bridges of Augustus and the lights of Narni.


THE CASCADES OF TERNI.

The Velino is a river of considerable volume which rises in the highest
region of the Abruzzi, threads the upland valley of Rieti, and
precipitates itself by an artificial channel over cliffs about seven
hundred feet in height into the Nera. The water is densely charged with
particles of lime. This calcareous matter not only tends continually to
choke its bed, but clothes the precipices over which the torrent
thunders with fantastic drapery of stalactite; and, carried on the wind
in foam, incrusts the forests that surround the falls with fine white
dust. These famous cascades are undoubtedly the most sublime and
beautiful which Europe boasts; and their situation is worthy of so great
a natural wonder. We reach them through a noble mid-Italian landscape,
where the mountain forms are austere and boldly modelled, but the
vegetation, both wild and cultivated, has something of the South-Italian
richness. The hill-sides are a labyrinth of box and arbutus, with
coronilla in golden bloom. The turf is starred with cyclamens and
orchises. Climbing the staircase paths beside the falls in morning
sunlight, or stationed on the points of vantage that command their
successive cataracts, we enjoyed a spectacle which might be compared in
its effect upon the mind to the impression left by a symphony or a
tumultuous lyric. The turbulence and splendour, the swiftness and
resonance, the veiling of the scene in smoke of shattered water-masses,
the withdrawal of these veils according as the volume of the river
slightly shifted in its fall, the rainbows shimmering on the silver
spray, the shivering of poplars hung above impendent precipices, the
stationary grandeur of the mountains keeping watch around, the hurry and
the incoherence of the cataracts, the immobility of force and changeful
changelessness in nature, were all for me the elements of one stupendous
poem. It was like an ode of Shelley translated into symbolism, more
vivid through inarticulate appeal to primitive emotion than any words
could be.


MONTEFALCO.

The rich land of the Clitumnus is divided into meadows by transparent
watercourses, gliding with a glassy current over swaying reeds. Through
this we pass, and leave Bevagna to the right, and ascend one of those
long gradual roads which climb the hills where all the cities of the
Umbrians perch. The view expands, revealing Spello, Assisi, Perugia on
its mountain buttress, and the far reaches northward of the Tiber
valley. Then Trevi and Spoleto came into sight, and the severe
hill-country above Gubbio in part disclosed itself. Over Spoleto the
fierce witch-haunted heights of Norcia rose forbidding. This is the kind
of panorama that dilates the soul. It is so large, so dignified, so
beautiful in tranquil form. The opulent abundance of the plain contrasts
with the severity of mountain ranges desolately grand; and the name of
each of all those cities thrills the heart with memories.

The main object of a visit to Montefalco is to inspect its many
excellent frescoes; painted histories of S. Francis and S. Jerome, by
Benozzo Gozzoli; saints, angels, and Scripture episodes by the gentle
Tiberio d'Assisi. Full justice had been done to these, when a little
boy, seeing us lingering outside the church of S. Chiara, asked whether
we should not like to view the body of the saint. This privilege could
be purchased at the price of a small fee. It was only necessary to call
the guardian of her shrine at the high altar. Indolent, and in compliant
mood, with languid curiosity and half-an-hour to spare, we assented. A
handsome young man appeared, who conducted us with decent gravity into a
little darkened chamber behind the altar. There he lighted wax tapers,
opened sliding doors in what looked like a long coffin, and drew
curtains. Before us in the dim light there lay a woman covered with a
black nun's dress. Only her hands, and the exquisitely beautiful pale
contour of her face (forehead, nose, mouth, and chin, modelled in purest
outline, as though the injury of death had never touched her) were
visible. Her closed eyes seemed to sleep. She had the perfect peace of
Luini's S. Catherine borne by the angels to her grave on Sinai. I have
rarely seen anything which surprised and touched me more. The religious
earnestness of the young custode, the hushed adoration of the
country-folk who had silently assembled round us, intensified the
sympathy-inspiring beauty of the slumbering girl. Could Julia, daughter
of Claudius, have been fairer than this maiden, when the Lombard workmen
found her in her Latin tomb, and brought her to be worshipped on the
Capitol? S. Chiara's shrine was hung round with her relics; and among
these the heart extracted from her body was suspended. Upon it,
apparently wrought into the very substance of the mummied flesh, were
impressed a figure of the crucified Christ, the scourge, and the five
stigmata. The guardian's faith in this miraculous witness to her
sainthood, the gentle piety of the men and women who knelt before it,
checked all expressions of incredulity. We abandoned ourselves to the
genius of the place; forgot even to ask what Santa Chiara was sleeping
here; and withdrew, toned to a not unpleasing melancholy. The
world-famous Saint Clair, the spiritual sister of S. Francis, lies in
Assisi. I have often asked myself, Who, then, was this nun? What history
had she? And I think now of this girl as of a damsel of romance, a
Sleeping Beauty in the wood of time, secluded from intrusive elements of
fact, and folded in the love and faith of her own simple worshippers.
Among the hollows of Arcadia, how many rustic shrines in ancient days
held saints of Hellas, apocryphal, perhaps, like this, but hallowed by
tradition and enduring homage![C]


FOLIGNO.

In the landscape of Raphael's votive picture, known as the Madonna di
Foligno, there is a town with a few towers, placed upon a broad plain at
the edge of some blue hills. Allowing for that license as to details
which imaginative masters permitted themselves in matters of subordinate
importance, Raphael's sketch is still true to Foligno. The place has not
materially changed since the beginning of the sixteenth century. Indeed
relatively to the state of Italy at large, it is still the same as in
the days of ancient Rome. Foligno forms a station of commanding interest
between Rome and the Adriatic upon the great Flaminian Way. At Foligno
the passes of the Apennines debouch into the Umbrian plain, which slopes
gradually toward the valley of the Tiber, and from it the valley of the
Nera is reached by an easy ascent beneath the walls of Spoleto. An army
advancing from the north by the Metaurus and the Furlo Pass must find
itself at Foligno; and the level champaign round the city is well
adapted to the maintenance and exercises of a garrison. In the days of
the Republic and the Empire, the value of this position was well
understood; but Foligno's importance, as the key to the Flaminian Way,
was eclipsed by two flourishing cities in its immediate vicinity,
Hispellum and Mevania, the modern Spello and Bevagna. We might hazard a
conjecture that the Lombards, when they ruled the Duchy of Spoleto,
following their usual policy of opposing new military centres to the
ancient Roman municipia, encouraged Fulginium at the expense of her two
neighbours. But of this there is no certainty to build upon. All that
can be affirmed with accuracy is that in the Middle Ages, while Spello
and Bevagna declined into the inferiority of dependent burghs, Foligno
grew in power and became the chief commune of this part of Umbria. It
was famous during the last centuries of struggle between the Italian
burghers and their native despots, for peculiar ferocity in civil
strife. Some of the bloodiest pages in mediæval Italian history are
those which relate the vicissitudes of the Trinci family, the exhaustion
of Foligno by internal discord, and its final submission to the Papal
power. Since railways have been carried from Rome through Narni and
Spoleto to Ancona and Perugia, Foligno has gained considerably in
commercial and military status. It is the point of intersection for
three lines; the Italian government has made it a great cavalry dépôt,
and there are signs of reviving traffic in its decayed streets. Whether
the presence of a large garrison has already modified the population, or
whether we may ascribe something to the absence of Roman municipal
institutions in the far past, and to the savagery of the mediæval
period, it is difficult to say. Yet the impression left by Foligno upon
the mind is different from that of Assisi, Spello, and Montefalco, which
are distinguished for a certain grace and gentleness in their
inhabitants.

My window in the city wall looks southward across the plain to Spoleto,
with Montefalco perched aloft upon the right, and Trevi on its
mountain-bracket to the left. From the topmost peaks of the Sabine
Apennines, gradual tender sloping lines descend to find their quiet in
the valley of Clitumnus. The space between me and that distance is
infinitely rich with every sort of greenery, dotted here and there with
towers and relics of baronial houses. The little town is in commotion;
for the working-men of Foligno and its neighbourhood have resolved to
spend their earnings on a splendid festa--horse-races, and two nights of
fireworks. The acacias and pawlonias on the ramparts are in full bloom
of creamy white and lilac. In the glare of Bengal lights these trees,
with all their pendulous blossoms, surpassed the most fantastic of
artificial decorations. The rockets sent aloft into the sky amid that
solemn Umbrian landscape were nowise out of harmony with nature. I never
sympathised with critics who resent the intrusion of fireworks upon
scenes of natural beauty. The Giessbach, lighted up at so much per head
on stated evenings, with a band playing and a crowd of cockneys staring,
presents perhaps an incongruous spectacle. But where, as here at
Foligno, a whole city has made itself a festival, where there are
multitudes of citizens and soldiers and country-people slowly moving and
gravely admiring, with the decency and order characteristic of an
Italian crowd, I have nothing but a sense of satisfaction.

It is sometimes the traveller's good fortune in some remote place to
meet with an inhabitant who incarnates and interprets for him the
_genius loci_ as he has conceived it. Though his own subjectivity will
assuredly play a considerable part in such an encounter, transferring to
his chance acquaintance qualities he may not possess, and connecting
this personality in some purely imaginative manner with thoughts derived
from study, or impressions made by nature; yet the stranger will
henceforth become the meeting-point of many memories, the central figure
in a composition which derives from him its vividness. Unconsciously and
innocently he has lent himself to the creation of a picture, and round
him, as around the hero of a myth, have gathered thoughts and sentiments
of which he had himself no knowledge. On one of these nights I had been
threading the aisles of acacia-trees, now glaring red, now azure, as the
Bengal lights kept changing. My mind instinctively went back to scenes
of treachery and bloodshed in the olden time, when Corrado Trinci
paraded the mangled remnants of three hundred of his victims, heaped on
muleback, through Foligno, for a warning to the citizens. As the
procession moved along the ramparts, I found myself in contact with a
young man, who readily fell into conversation. He was very tall, with
enormous breadth of shoulders, and long sinewy arms, like Michelangelo's
favourite models. His head was small, curled over with crisp black hair.
Low forehead, and thick level eyebrows absolutely meeting over intensely
bright fierce eyes. The nose descending straight from the brows, as in a
statue of Hadrian's age. The mouth full-lipped, petulant, and passionate
above a firm round chin. He was dressed in the shirt, white trousers,
and loose white jacket of a contadino; but he did not move with a
peasant's slouch, rather with the elasticity and alertness of an untamed
panther. He told me that he was just about to join a cavalry regiment;
and I could well imagine, when military dignity was added to that gait,
how grandly he would go. This young man, of whom I heard nothing more
after our half-hour's conversation among the crackling fireworks and
roaring cannon, left upon my mind an indescribable impression of
dangerousness--of "something fierce and terrible, eligible to burst
forth." Of men like this, then, were formed the Companies of Adventure
who flooded Italy with villany, ambition, and lawlessness in the
fifteenth century. Gattamelata, who began life as a baker's boy at Narni
and ended it with a bronze statue by Donatello on the public square in
Padua, was of this breed. Like this were the Trinci and their bands of
murderers. Like this were the bravi who hunted Lorenzaccio to death at
Venice. Like this was Pietro Paolo Baglioni, whose fault, in the eyes of
Machiavelli, was that he could not succeed in being "perfettamente
tristo." Beautiful, but inhuman; passionate, but cold; powerful, but
rendered impotent for firm and lofty deeds by immorality and treason;
how many centuries of men like this once wasted Italy and plunged her
into servitude! Yet what material is here, under sterner discipline, and
with a nobler national ideal, for the formation of heroic armies. Of
such stuff, doubtless, were the Roman legionaries. When will the
Italians learn to use these men as Fabius or as Cæsar, not as the
Vitelli and the Trinci used them? In such meditations, deeply stirred by
the meeting of my own reflections with one who seemed to represent for
me in life and blood the spirit of the place which had provoked them, I
said farewell to Cavallucci, and returned to my bed-room on the
city-wall. The last rockets had whizzed and the last cannons had
thundered ere I fell asleep.


SPELLO.

Spello contains some not inconsiderable antiquities--the remains of a
Roman theatre, a Roman gate with the heads of two men and a woman
leaning over it, and some fragments of Roman sculpture scattered through
its buildings. The churches, especially those of S. M. Maggiore and S.
Francesco, are worth a visit for the sake of Pinturicchio. Nowhere,
except in the Piccolomini Library at Siena, can that master's work in
fresco be better studied than here. The satisfaction with which he
executed the wall paintings in S. Maria Maggiore is testified by his own
portrait introduced upon a panel in the decoration of the Virgin's
chamber. The scrupulously rendered details of books, chairs, window
seats, &c., which he here has copied, remind one of Carpaccio's study of
S. Benedict at Venice. It is all sweet, tender, delicate, and carefully
finished; but without depth, not even the depth of Perugino's feeling.
In S. Francesco, Pinturicchio, with the same meticulous refinement,
painted a letter addressed to him by Gentile Baglioni. It lies on a
stool before Madonna and her court of saints. Nicety of execution,
technical mastery of fresco as a medium for Dutch detail-painting,
prettiness of composition, and cheerfulness of colouring, are noticeable
throughout his work here rather than either thought or sentiment. S.
Maria Maggiore can boast a fresco of Madonna between a young episcopal
saint and Catherine of Alexandria from the hand of Perugino. The rich
yellow harmony of its tones, and the graceful dignity of its emotion,
conveyed no less by a certain Raphaelesque pose and outline than by
suavity of facial expression, enable us to measure the distance between
this painter and his quasi-pupil Pinturicchio.

We did not, however, drive to Spello to inspect either Roman antiquities
or frescoes, but to see an inscription on the city walls about Orlando.
It is a rude Latin elegiac couplet, saying that, "from the sign below,
men may conjecture the mighty members of Roland, nephew of Charles; his
deeds are written in history." Three agreeable old gentlemen of Spello,
who attended us with much politeness, and were greatly interested in my
researches, pointed out a mark waist-high upon the wall, where Orlando's
knee is reported to have reached. But I could not learn anything about a
phallic monolith, which is said by Guérin or Panizzi to have been
identified with the Roland myth at Spello. Such a column either never
existed here, or had been removed before the memory of the present
generation.


EASTER MORNING AT ASSISI.

We are in the lower church of S. Francesco. High mass is being sung,
with orchestra and organ and a choir of many voices. Candles are lighted
on the altar, over-canopied with Giotto's allegories. From the low
southern windows slants the sun, in narrow bands, upon the many-coloured
gloom and embrowned glory of these painted aisles. Women in bright
kerchiefs kneel upon the stones, and shaggy men from the mountains stand
or lean against the wooden benches. There is no moving from point to
point. Where we have taken our station, at the north-western angle of
the transept, there we stay till mass be over. The whole low-vaulted
building glows duskily; the frescoed roof, the stained windows, the
figure-crowded pavements blending their rich but subdued colours, like
hues upon some marvellous moth's wings, or like a deep-toned rainbow
mist discerned in twilight dreams, or like such tapestry as Eastern
queens, in ancient days, wrought for the pavilion of an empress. Forth
from this maze of mingling tints, indefinite in shade and sunbeams, lean
earnest, saintly faces--ineffably pure--adoring, pitying, pleading;
raising their eyes in ecstasy to heaven, or turning them in ruth toward
earth. Men and women of whom the world was not worthy--at the hands of
those old painters they have received the divine grace, the dove-like
simplicity, whereof Italians in the fourteenth century possessed the
irrecoverable secret. Each face is a poem; the counterpart in painting
to a chapter from the Fioretti di San Francesco. Over the whole
scene--in the architecture, in the frescoes, in the coloured windows, in
the gloom, on the people, in the incense, from the chiming bells,
through the music--broods one spirit: the spirit of him who was "the
co-espoused, co-transforate with Christ;" the ardent, the radiant, the
beautiful in soul; the suffering, the strong, the simple, the victorious
over self and sin; the celestial who trampled upon earth and rose on
wings of ecstasy to heaven; the Christ-inebriated saint of visions
supersensual and life beyond the grave. Far down below the feet of those
who worship God through him, S. Francis sleeps; but his soul, the
incorruptible part of him, the message he gave the world, is in the
spaces round us. This is his temple. He fills it like an unseen god. Not
as Phoebus or Athene, from their marble pedestals; but as an abiding
spirit, felt everywhere, nowhere seized, absorbing in itself all
mysteries, all myths, all burning exaltations, all abasements, all love,
self-sacrifice, pain, yearning, which the thought of Christ, sweeping
the centuries, hath wrought for men. Let, therefore, choir and
congregation raise their voices on the tide of prayers and praises; for
this is Easter morning--Christ is risen! Our sister, Death of the Body,
for whom S. Francis thanked God in his hymn, is reconciled to us this
day, and takes us by the hand, and leads us to the gate whence floods of
heavenly glory issue from the faces of a multitude of saints. Pray, ye
poor people; chant and pray. If all be but a dream, to wake from this
were loss for you indeed!


PERUSIA AUGUSTA.

The piazza in front of the Prefettura is my favourite resort on these
nights of full moon. The evening twilight is made up partly of sunset
fading over Thrasymene and Tuscany; partly of moonrise from the
mountains of Gubbio and the passes toward Ancona. The hills are capped
with snow, although the season is so forward. Below our parapets the
bulk of S. Domenico, with its gaunt, perforated tower, and the finer
group of S. Pietro, flaunting the arrowy "Pennacchio di Perugia," jut
out upon the spine of hill which dominates the valley of the Tiber. As
the night gloom deepens, and the moon ascends the sky, these buildings
seem to form the sombre foreground to some French etching. Beyond them
spreads the misty moon-irradiated plain of Umbria. Over all rise shadowy
Apennines, with dim suggestions of Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Montefalco,
and Spoleto on their basements. Little thin whiffs of breezes, very
slight and searching, flit across, and shiver as they pass from Apennine
to plain. The slowly moving population--women in veils, men
winter-mantled--pass to and fro between the buildings and the grey
immensity of sky. Bells ring. The bugles of the soldiers blow retreat in
convents turned to barracks. Young men roam the streets beneath, singing
May songs. Far, far away upon the plain, red through the vitreous
moonlight ringed with thundery gauze, fires of unnamed castelli
smoulder. As we lean from ledges eighty feet in height, gas vies with
moon in chequering illuminations on the ancient walls; Etruscan
mouldings, Roman letters, high-piled hovels, suburban world-old
dwellings plastered like martins' nests against the masonry.

Sunlight adds more of detail to this scene. To the right of Subasio,
where the passes go from Foligno towards Urbino and Ancona, heavy masses
of thunder-cloud hang every day; but the plain and hill-buttresses are
clear transparent blueness. First comes Assisi, with S. M. degli Angeli
below; then Spello; then Foligno; then Trevi; and, far away, Spoleto;
with, reared against those misty battlements, the village height of
Montefalco--the "ringhiera dell'Umbria," as they call it in this
country. By daylight, the snow on yonder peaks is clearly visible, where
the Monti della Sibilla tower up above the sources of the Nera and
Velino from frigid wastes of Norcia. The lower ranges seem as though
painted, in films of airiest and palest azure, upon china; and then
comes the broad, green champaign, flecked with villages and farms. Just
at the basement of Perugia winds Tiber, through sallows and grey
poplar-trees, spanned by ancient arches of red brick, and guarded here
and there by castellated towers. The mills beneath their dams and weirs
are just as Raphael drew them; and the feeling of air and space reminds
one, on each coign of vantage, of some Umbrian picture. Every hedgerow
is hoary with May-bloom and honeysuckle. The oaks hang out their
golden-dusted tassels. Wayside shrines are decked with laburnum boughs
and iris blossoms plucked from the copse-woods, and where spires of
purple and pink orchis variegate the thin, fine grass. The land waves
far and wide with young corn, emerald green beneath the olive-trees,
which take upon their underfoliage tints reflected from this verdure or
red tones from the naked earth. A fine race of _contadini_, with large,
heroically-graceful forms, and beautiful dark eyes and noble faces, move
about this garden, intent on ancient, easy tillage of the kind Saturnian
soil.


LA MAGIONE.

On the road from Perugia to Cortona, the first stage ends at La Magione,
a high hill-village commanding the passage from the Umbrian champaign to
the lake of Thrasymene. It has a grim square fortalice above it, now in
ruins, and a stately castle to the south-east, built about the time of
Braccio. Here took place that famous diet of Cesare Borgia's enemies,
when the son of Alexander VI. was threatening Bologna with his arms, and
bidding fair to make himself supreme tyrant of Italy in 1502. It was the
policy of Cesare to fortify himself by reducing the fiefs of the Church
to submission, and by rooting out the dynasties which had acquired a
sort of tyranny in Papal cities. The Varani of Camerino and the Manfredi
of Faenza had been already extirpated. There was only too good reason to
believe that the turn of the Vitelli at Città di Castello, of the
Baglioni at Perugia, and of the Bentivogli at Bologna would come next.
Pandolfo Petrucci at Siena, surrounded on all sides by Cesare's
conquests, and specially menaced by the fortification of Piombino, felt
himself in danger. The great house of the Orsini, who swayed a large
part of the Patrimony of S. Peter's, and were closely allied to the
Vitelli, had even graver cause for anxiety. But such was the system of
Italian warfare, that nearly all these noble families lived by the
profession of arms, and most of them were in the pay of Cesare. When,
therefore, the conspirators met at La Magione, they were plotting
against a man whose money they had taken, and whom they had hitherto
aided in his career of fraud and spoliation.

The diet consisted of the Cardinal Orsini, an avowed antagonist of
Alexander VI.; his brother Paolo, the chieftain of the clan; Vitellozzo
Vitelli, lord of Città di Castello; Gian-Paolo Baglioni, made undisputed
master of Perugia by the recent failure of his cousin Grifonetto's
treason; Oliverotto, who had just acquired the March of Fermo by the
murder of his uncle Giovanni da Fogliani; Ermes Bentivoglio, the heir of
Bologna; and Antonio da Venafro, the secretary of Pandolfo Petrucci.
These men vowed hostility on the basis of common injuries and common
fear against the Borgia. But they were for the most part stained
themselves with crime, and dared not trust each other, and could not
gain the confidence of any respectable power in Italy except the exiled
Duke of Urbino. Procrastination was the first weapon used by the wily
Cesare, who trusted that time would sow among his rebel captains
suspicion and dissension. He next made overtures to the leaders
separately, and so far succeeded in his perfidious policy as to draw
Vitellezzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, Paolo Orsini, and Francesco
Orsini, Duke of Gravina, into his nets at Sinigaglia. Under pretext of
fair conference and equitable settlement of disputed claims, he
possessed himself of their persons, and had them strangled--two upon
December 31, and two upon January 18, 1503. Of all Cesare's actions,
this was the most splendid for its successful combination of sagacity
and policy in the hour of peril, of persuasive diplomacy, and of
ruthless decision when the time to strike his blow arrived.


CORTONA.

After leaving La Magione, the road descends upon the Lake of Thrasymene
through oak-woods full of nightingales. The Lake lay basking,
leaden-coloured, smooth and waveless, under a misty, rain-charged,
sun-irradiated sky. At Passignano, close beside its shore, we stopped
for mid-day. This is a little fishing village of very poor people, who
live entirely by labour on the waters. They showed us huge eels coiled
in tanks, and some fine specimens of the silver carp--Reina del Lago. It
was off one of the eels that we made our lunch; and taken, as he was,
alive from his cool lodging, he furnished a series of dishes fit for a
king.

Climbing the hill of Cortona seemed a quite interminable business. It
poured a deluge. Our horses were tired, and one lean donkey, who, after
much trouble, was produced from a farmhouse and yoked in front of them,
rendered but little assistance.

Next day we duly saw the Muse and Lamp in the Museo, the Fra Angelicos,
and all the Signorellis. One cannot help thinking that too much fuss is
made nowadays about works of art--running after them for their own
sakes, exaggerating their importance, and detaching them as objects of
study, instead of taking them with sympathy and carelessness as pleasant
or instructive adjuncts to our actual life. Artists, historians of art,
and critics are forced to isolate pictures; and it is of profit to their
souls to do so. But simple folk, who have no æsthetic vocation, whether
 reative or critical, suffer more than is good for them by compliance
with mere fashion. Sooner or later we shall return to the spirit of the
ages which produced these pictures, and which regarded them with less of
an industrious bewilderment than they evoke at present.

I am far indeed from wishing to decry art, the study of art, or the
benefits to be derived from its intelligent enjoyment. I only mean to
suggest that we go the wrong way to work at present in this matter.
Picture and sculpture galleries accustom us to the separation of art
from life. Our methods of studying art, making a beginning of art-study
while travelling, tend to perpetuate this separation. It is only on
reflection, after long experience, that we come to perceive that the
most fruitful moments in our art education have been casual and
unsought, in quaint nooks and unexpected places, where nature, art, and
life are happily blent.

The Palace of the Commune at Cortona is interesting because of the
shields of Florentine governors, sculptured on blocks of grey stone, and
inserted in its outer walls--Peruzzi, Albizzi, Strozzi, Salviati, among
the more ancient--de' Medici at a later epoch. The revolutions in the
Republic of Florence may be read by a herald from these coats of arms
and the dates beneath them.

The landscape of this Tuscan highland satisfies me more and more with
sense of breadth and beauty. From S. Margherita above the town the
prospect is immense and wonderful and wild--up into those brown,
forbidding mountains; down to the vast plain; and over to the cities of
Chiusi, Montepulciano, and Foiano. The jewel of the view is Trasimeno, a
silvery shield encased with serried hills, and set upon one corner of
the scene, like a precious thing apart and meant for separate
contemplation. There is something in the singularity and circumscribed
completeness of the mountain-girded lake, diminished by distance, which
would have attracted Lionardo da Vinci's pencil, had he seen it.

Cortona seems desperately poor, and the beggars are intolerable. One
little blind boy, led by his brother, both frightfully ugly and ragged
urchins, pursued us all over the city, incessantly whining "Signore!
Padrone!" It was only on the threshold of the inn that I ventured to
give them a few coppers, for I knew well that any public beneficence
would raise the whole swarm of the begging population round us. Sitting
later in the day upon the piazza of S. Domenico, I saw the same blind
boy taken by his brother to play. The game consisted in the little
creature throwing his arms about the trunk of a big tree, and running
round and round it, clasping it. This seemed to make him quite
inexpressibly happy. His face lit up and beamed with that inner
beatitude blind people show--a kind of rapture shining over it, as
though nothing could be more altogether delightful. This little boy had
the small pox at eight months, and has never been able to see since. He
looks sturdy, and may live to be of any age--doomed always, is that
possible, to beg?


CHIUSI.

What more enjoyable dinner can be imagined than a flask of excellent
Montepulciano, a well-cooked steak, and a little goat's cheese in the
inn of the Leone d'Oro at Chiusi? The windows are open, and the sun is
setting. Monte Cetona bounds the view to the right, and the wooded hills
of Città della Pieve to the left. The deep green dimpled valley goes
stretching away toward Orvieto; and at its end a purple mountain mass,
distinct and solitary, which may peradventure be Soracte! The near
country is broken into undulating hills, forested with fine olives and
oaks; and the composition of the landscape, with its crowning villages,
is worthy of a background to an Umbrian picture. The breadth and depth
and quiet which those painters loved, the space of lucid sky, the
suggestion of winding waters in verdant fields, all are here. The
evening is beautiful--golden light streaming softly from behind us on
this prospect, and gradually mellowing to violet and blue with stars
above.

At Chiusi we visited several Etruscan tombs, and saw their red and black
scrawled pictures. One of the sepulchres was a well-jointed vault of
stone with no wall-paintings. The rest had been scooped out of the
living tufa. This was the excuse for some pleasant hours spent in
walking and driving through the country. Chiusi means for me the
mingling of grey olives and green oaks in limpid sunlight; deep leafy
lanes; warm sandstone banks; copses with nightingales and cyclamens and
cuckoos; glimpses of a silvery lake; blue shadowy distances; the
bristling ridge of Monte Cetona; the conical towers, Becca di Questo and
Becca di Quello, over against each other on the borders; ways winding
among hedgerows like some bit of England in June, but not so full of
flowers. It means all this, I fear, for me far more than theories about
Lars Porsena and Etruscan ethnology.


GUBBIO.

Gubbio ranks among the most ancient of Italian hill-towns. With its back
set firm against the spine of central Apennines, and piled, house over
house, upon the rising slope, it commands a rich tract of upland
champaign, bounded southward toward Perugia and Foligno by peaked and
rolling ridges. This amphitheatre, which forms its source of wealth and
independence, is admirably protected by a chain of natural defences; and
Gubbio wears a singularly old-world aspect of antiquity and isolation.
Houses climb right to the crests of gaunt bare peaks; and the brown
mediæval walls with square towers which protected them upon the mountain
side, following the inequalities of the ground, are still a marked
feature in the landscape. It is a town of steep streets and staircases,
with quaintly framed prospects, and solemn vistas opening at every turn
across the lowland. One of these views might be selected for especial
notice. In front, irregular buildings losing themselves in country as
they straggle by the roadside; then the open post-road with a cypress to
the right; afterwards, the rich green fields, and on a bit of rising
ground an ancient farmhouse with its brown dependencies; lastly, the
blue hills above Fossato, and far away a wrack of tumbling clouds. All
this enclosed by the heavy archway of the Porta Romana, where sunlight
and shadow chequer the mellow tones of a dim fresco, indistinct with
age, but beautiful.

Gubbio has not greatly altered since the middle ages. But poor people
are now living in the palaces of noblemen and merchants. These new
inhabitants have walled up the fair arched windows and slender portals
of the ancient dwellers, spoiling the beauty of the streets without
materially changing the architectural masses. In that witching hour when
the Italian sunset has faded, and a solemn grey replaces the glowing
tones of daffodil and rose, it is not difficult, here dreaming by
oneself alone, to picture the old noble life--the ladies moving along
those open loggias, the young men in plumed caps and curling hair with
one foot on those doorsteps, the knights in armour and the sumpter mules
and red-robed Cardinals defiling through those gates into the courts
within. The modern bricks and mortar with which that picturesque scene
has been overlaid, the ugly oblong windows and bright green shutters
which now interrupt the flowing lines of arch and gallery; these
disappear beneath the fine remembered touch of a sonnet sung by
Folgore, when still the Parties had their day, and this deserted city
was the centre of great aims and throbbing aspirations.

The names of the chief buildings in Gubbio are strongly suggestive of
the middle ages. They abut upon a Piazza de' Signori. One of them, the
Palazzo del Municipio, is a shapeless unfinished block of masonry. It is
here that the Eugubine tables, plates of brass with Umbrian and Roman
incised characters, are shown. The Palazzo de' Consoli has higher
architectural qualities, and is indeed unique among Italian palaces for
the combination of massiveness with lightness in a situation of
unprecedented boldness. Rising from enormous substructures morticed into
the solid hill-side, it rears its vast rectangular bulk to a giddy
height above the town; airy loggias imposed on great forbidding masses
of brown stone, shooting aloft into a light aërial tower. The empty
halls inside are of fair proportions and a noble size, and the views
from the open colonnades in all directions fascinate. But the final
impression made by the building is one of square, tranquil, massive
strength--perpetuity embodied in masonry--force suggesting facility by
daring and successful addition of elegance to hugeness. Vast as it is,
this pile is not forbidding, as a similarly weighty structure in the
North would be. The fine quality of the stone and the delicate though
simple mouldings of the windows give it an Italian grace.

These public palaces belong to the age of the Communes, when Gubbio was
a free town, with a policy of its own, and an important part to play in
the internecine struggles of Pope and Empire, Guelf and Ghibelline. The
ruined, deserted, degraded Palazzo Ducale reminds us of the advent of
the despots. It has been stripped of all its tarsia-work and sculpture.
Only here and there a Fe. D., with the cupping-glass of Federigo di
Montefeltro, remains to show that Gubbio once became the fairest fief of
the Urbino duchy. S. Ubaldo, who gave his name to this duke's son, was
the patron of Gubbio, and to him the cathedral is dedicated--one low
enormous vault, like a cellar or feudal banqueting hall, roofed with a
succession of solid Gothic arches. This strange old church, and the
House of Canons, buttressed on the hill beside it, have suffered less
from modernisation than most buildings in Gubbio. The latter, in
particular, helps one to understand what this city of grave palazzi must
have been, and how the mere opening of old doors and windows would
restore it to its primitive appearance. The House of the Canons has, in
fact, not yet been given over to the use of middle-class and
proletariate.

At the end of a day in Gubbio, it is pleasant to take our ease in the
primitive hostelry, at the back of which foams a mountain-torrent,
rushing downward from the Apennines. The Gubbio wine is very fragrant,
and of a rich ruby colour. Those to whom the tints of wine and jewels
give a pleasure not entirely childish, will take delight in its specific
blending of tawny hues with rose. They serve the table still, at Gubbio,
after the antique Italian fashion, covering it with a cream-coloured
linen cloth bordered with coarse lace--the creases of the press, the
scent of old herbs from the wardrobe, are still upon it--and the board
is set with shallow dishes of warm, white earthenware, basket-worked in
open lattice at the edge, which contain little separate messes of meat,
vegetables, cheese, and comfits. The wine stands in strange, slender
phials of smooth glass, with stoppers; and the amber-coloured bread lies
in fair round loaves upon the cloth. Dining thus is like sitting down to
the supper at Emmaus, in some picture of Gian Bellini or of Masolino.
The very bareness of the room--its open rafters, plastered walls,
primitive settees, and red-brick floor, on which a dog sits waiting for
a bone--enhances the impression of artistic delicacy in the table.


FROM GUBBIO TO FANO.

The road from Gubbio, immediately after leaving the city, enters a
narrow Alpine ravine, where a thin stream dashes over dark, red rocks,
and pendent saxifrages wave to the winds. The carriage in which we
travelled at the end of May, one morning, had two horses, which our
driver soon supplemented with a couple of white oxen. Slowly and
toilsomely we ascended between the flanks of barren hills--gaunt masses
of crimson and grey crag, clothed at their summits with short turf and
scanty pasture. The pass leads first to the little town of Scheggia, and
is called the Monte Calvo, or bald mountain. At Scheggia, it joins the
great Flaminian Way, or North road of the Roman armies. At the top there
is a fine view over the conical hills that dominate Gubbio, and, far
away, to noble mountains above the Furlo and the Foligno line of railway
to Ancona. Range rises over range, crossing at unexpected angles,
breaking into sudden precipices, and stretching out long,
exquisitely-modelled outlines, as only Apennines can do, in silvery
sobriety of colours toned by clearest air. Every square piece of this
austere, wild landscape forms a varied picture, whereof the composition
is due to subtle arrangements of lines always delicate; and these lines
seem somehow to have been determined in their beauty by the vast
antiquity of the mountain system, as though they all had taken time to
choose their place and wear down into harmony. The effect of tempered
sadness was heightened for us by stormy lights and dun clouds, high in
air, rolling vapours and flying shadows, over all the prospect, tinted
in ethereal grisaille.

After Scheggia, one enters a land of meadow and oak-trees. This is the
sacred central tract of Jupiter Apenninus, whose fane--

        Delubra Jovis saxoque minantes
    Apenninigenis cultæ pastoribus aræ

--once rose behind us on the bald Iguvian summits. A second little pass
leads from this region to the Adriatic side of the Italian water-shed,
and the road now follows the Barano downward toward the sea. The valley
is fairly green with woods, where misletoe may here and there be seen on
boughs of oak, and rich with cornfields. Cagli is the chief town of the
district, and here they show one of the best pictures left to us by
Raphael's father, Giovanni Santi. It is a Madonna, attended by S. Peter,
S. Francis, S. Dominic, S. John, and two angels. One of the angels is
traditionally supposed to have been painted from the boy Raphael, and
the face has something which reminds us of his portraits. The whole
composition, excellent in modelling, harmonious in grouping, soberly but
strongly coloured, with a peculiar blending of dignity and sweetness,
grace and vigour, makes one wonder why Santi thought it necessary to
send his son from his own workshop to study under Perugino. He was
himself a master of his art, and this, perhaps the most agreeable of his
paintings, has a masculine sincerity which is absent from at least the
later works of Perugino.

Some miles beyond Cagli, the real pass of the Furlo begins. It owes its
name to a narrow tunnel bored by Vespasian in the solid rock, where
limestone crags descend on the Barano. The Romans called this gallery
Petra Pertusa, or Intercisa, or more familiarly Forulus, whence comes
the modern name. Indeed, the stations on the old Flaminian Way are still
well marked by Latin designations; for Cagli is the ancient Calles, and
Fossombrone is Forum Sempronii, and Fano the Fanum Fortunæ. Vespasian
commemorated this early achievement in engineering by an inscription
carved on the living stone, which still remains; and Claudian, when he
sang the journey of his Emperor Honorius from Rimini to Rome, speaks
thus of what was even then an object of astonishment to travellers:--

     Lætior hinc fano recipit fortuna vetusto,
     Despiciturque vagus prærupta valle Metaurus,
     Qua mons arte patens vivo se perforat arcu
     Admittitque viam sectæ per viscera rupis.

The Forulus itself may now be matched, on any Alpine pass, by several
tunnels of far mightier dimensions; for it is narrow, and does not
extend more than 126 feet in length. But it occupies a fine position at
the end of a really imposing ravine. The whole Furlo Pass might, without
too much exaggeration, be described as a kind of Cheddar on the scale of
the Via Mala. The limestone rocks, which rise on either hand above the
gorge to an enormous height, are noble in form and solemn, like a
succession of gigantic portals, with stupendous flanking obelisks and
pyramids. Some of these crag-masses rival the fantastic cliffs of Capri,
and all consist of that southern mountain limestone which changes from
pale yellow to blue grey and dusky orange. A river roars precipitately
through the pass, and the road-sides wave with many sorts of
campanulas--a profusion of azure and purple bells upon the hard white
stone. Of Roman remains there is still enough (in the way of Roman
bridges and bits of broken masonry) to please an antiquary's eye. But
the lover of nature will dwell chiefly on the picturesque qualities of
this historic gorge, so alien to the general character of Italian
scenery, and yet so remote from anything to which Swiss travelling
accustoms one.

The Furlo breaks out into a richer land of mighty oaks and waving
cornfields, a fat pastoral country, not unlike Devonshire in detail,
with green uplands, and wild-rose tangled hedgerows, and much running
water, and abundance of summer flowers. At a point above Fossombrone,
the Barano joins the Metauro, and here one has a glimpse of far-away
Urbino, high upon its mountain eyrie. It is so rare, in spite of
immemorial belief, to find in Italy a wilderness of wild flowers, that I
feel inclined to make a list of those I saw from our carriage windows as
we rolled down lazily along the road to Fossombrone. Broom, and cytisus,
and hawthorn mingled with roses, gladiolus, and saintfoil. There were
orchises, and clematis, and privet, and wild-vine, vetches of all hues,
red poppies, sky-blue cornflowers, and lilac pimpernel. In the rougher
hedges, dogwood, honeysuckle, pyracanth, and acacia made a network of
white bloom and blushes. Milk-worts of all bright and tender tints
combined with borage, iris, hawkweeds, harebells, crimson clover, thyme,
red snapdragon, golden asters, and dreamy love-in-a-mist, to weave a
marvellous carpet such as the looms of Shiraz or of Cashmere never
spread. Rarely have I gazed on Flora in such riot, such luxuriance, such
self-abandonment to joy. The air was filled with fragrances. Songs of
cuckoos and nightingales echoed from the copses on the hill-sides. The
sun was out, and dancing over all the landscape.

After all this, Fano was very restful in the quiet sunset. It has a
sandy stretch of shore, on which the long, green-yellow rollers of the
Adriatic broke into creamy foam, beneath the waning saffron light over
Pesaro and the rosy rising of a full moon. This Adriatic sea carries an
English mind home to many a little watering-place upon our coast. In
colour and the shape of waves it resembles our Channel.

The seashore is Fano's great attraction; but the town has many churches,
and some creditable pictures, as well as Roman antiquities. Giovanni
Santi may here be seen almost as well as at Cagli; and of Perugino there
is one truly magnificent altar-piece--lunette, great centre panel, and
predella--dusty in its present condition, but splendidly painted, and
happily not yet restored or cleaned. It is worth journeying to Fano to
see this. Still better would the journey be worth the traveller's while
if he could be sure to witness such a game of _Pallone_ as we chanced
upon in the Via dell'Arco di Augusto--lads and grown-men, tightly girt,
in shirt sleeves, driving the great ball aloft into the air with
cunning bias and calculation of projecting house-eaves. I do not
understand the game; but it was clearly played something after the
manner of our football, that is to say, with sides, and front and back
players so arranged as to cover the greatest number of angles of
incidence on either wall.

Fano still remembers that it is the Fane of Fortune. On the fountain in
the market-place stands a bronze Fortuna, slim and airy, offering her
veil to catch the wind. May she long shower health and prosperity upon
the modern watering-place of which she is the patron saint!

FOOTNOTES:

[C] There is in reality no doubt or problem about this Saint Clair. She
was born in 1275, and joined the Augustinian Sisterhood, dying young, in
1308, as Abbess of her convent. Continual and impassioned meditation on
the Passion of our Lord impressed her heart with the signs of His
suffering which have been described above. I owe this note to the
kindness of an anonymous correspondent, whom I here thank.



THE PALACE OF URBINO.

I.


At Rimini, one spring, the impulse came upon my wife and me to make our
way across San Marino to Urbino. In the Piazza, called apocryphally
after Julius Cæsar, I found a proper _vetturino_, with a good carriage
and two indefatigable horses. He was a splendid fellow, and bore a great
historic name, as I discovered when our bargain was completed. "What are
you called?" I asked him. "_Filippo Visconti, per servirla!_" was the
prompt reply. Brimming over with the darkest memories of the Italian
Renaissance, I hesitated when I heard this answer. The associations
seemed too ominous. And yet the man himself was so attractive--tall,
stalwart, and well-looking--no feature of his face or limb of his
athletic form recalling the gross tyrant who concealed worse than
Caligula's ugliness from sight in secret chambers--that I shook this
preconception from my mind. As it turned out, Filippo Visconti had
nothing in common with his infamous namesake but the name. On a long and
trying journey, he showed neither sullen nor yet ferocious tempers; nor,
at the end of it, did he attempt by any masterstroke of craft to wheedle
from me more than his fair pay; but took the meerschaum pipe I gave him
for a keepsake, with the frank good-will of an accomplished gentleman.
The only exhibition of his hot Italian blood which I remember did his
humanity credit. While we were ascending a steep hillside, he jumped
from his box to thrash a ruffian by the roadside for brutal treatment to
a little boy. He broke his whip, it is true, in this encounter; risked a
dangerous quarrel; and left his carriage, with myself and wife inside
it, to the mercy of his horses in a somewhat perilous position. But when
he came back, hot and glowing, from this deed of justice, I could only
applaud his zeal.

An Italian of this type, handsome as an antique statue, with the
refinement of a modern gentleman and that intelligence which is innate
in a race of immemorial culture, is a fascinating being. He may be
absolutely ignorant in all book-learning. He may be as ignorant as a
Bersagliere from Montalcino with whom I once conversed at Rimini, who
gravely said that he could walk in three months to North America, and
thought of doing it when his term of service was accomplished. But he
will display, as this young soldier did, a grace and ease of address
which are rare in London drawing-rooms; and by his shrewd remarks upon
the cities he has visited, will show that he possesses a fine natural
taste for things of beauty. The speech of such men, drawn from the
common stock of the Italian people, is seasoned with proverbial sayings,
the wisdom of centuries condensed in a few nervous words. When emotion
fires their brain, they break into spontaneous eloquence, or suggest the
motive of a poem by phrases pregnant with imagery.

For the first stage of the journey out of Rimini, Filippo's two horses
sufficed. The road led almost straight across the level between quickset
hedges in white bloom. But when we reached the long steep hill which
ascends to San Marino, the inevitable oxen were called out, and we
toiled upwards leisurely through cornfields bright with red anemones and
sweet narcissus. At this point pomegranate hedges replaced the
May-thorns of the plain. In course of time our _bovi_ brought us to the
Borgo, or lower town, whence there is a further ascent of seven hundred
feet to the topmost hawk's-nest or acropolis of the republic. These we
climbed on foot, watching the view expand around us and beneath. Crags
of limestone here break down abruptly to the rolling hills, which go to
lose themselves in field and shore. Misty reaches of the Adriatic close
the world to eastward. Cesena, Rimini, Verucchio, and countless hill-set
villages, each isolated on its tract of verdure conquered from the stern
grey soil, define the points where Montefeltri wrestled with Malatestas
in long bygone years. Around are marly mountain-flanks in wrinkles and
gnarled convolutions like some giant's brain, furrowed by rivers
crawling through dry wasteful beds of shingle. Interminable ranges of
gaunt Apennines stretch, tier by tier, beyond; and over all this
landscape, a grey-green mist of rising crops and new-fledged oak-trees
lies like a veil upon the nakedness of Nature's ruins.

Nothing in Europe conveys a more striking sense of geological antiquity
than such a prospect. The denudation and abrasion of innumerable ages,
wrought by slow persistent action of weather and water on an upheaved
mountain mass, are here made visible. Every wave in that vast sea of
hills, every furrow in their worn flanks, tells its tale of a continuous
corrosion still in progress. The dominant impression is one of
melancholy. We forget how Romans, countermarching Carthaginians, trod
the land beneath us. The marvel of San Marino, retaining independence
through the drums and tramplings of the last seven centuries, is
swallowed in a deeper sense of wonder. We turn instinctively in thought
to Leopardi's musings on man's destiny at war with unknown nature-forces
and malignant rulers of the universe.

                   Omai disprezza
    Te, la natura, il brutto
    Poter che, ascoso, a comun danno impera,
    E l'infinita vanità dell tutto.

And then, straining our eyes southward, we sweep the dim blue distance
for Recanati, and remember that the poet of modern despair and
discouragement was reared in even such a scene as this.

The town of San Marino is grey, narrow-streeted, simple; with a great,
new, decent, Greek-porticoed cathedral, dedicated to the eponymous
saint. A certain austerity defines it from more picturesque hill-cities
with a less uniform history. There is a marble statue of S. Marino in
the choir of his church; and in his cell is shown the stone bed and
pillow on which he took austere repose. One narrow window near the
saint's abode commands a proud but melancholy landscape of distant hills
and seaboard. To this, the great absorbing charm of San Marino, our eyes
instinctively, recurrently, take flight. It is a landscape which by
variety and beauty thralls attention, but which by its interminable
sameness might grow almost overpowering. There is no relief. The
gladness shed upon far humbler Northern lands in May is ever absent
here. The German word _Gemüthlichkeit_, the English phrase "a home of
ancient peace," are here alike by art and nature untranslated into
visibilities. And yet (as we who gaze upon it thus are fain to think) if
peradventure the intolerable _ennui_ of this panorama should drive a
citizen of San Marino into outlands, the same view would haunt him
whithersoever he went--the swallows of his native eyrie would shrill
through his sleep--he would yearn to breathe its fine keen air in
winter, and to watch its iris-hedges deck themselves with blue in
spring;--like Virgil's hero, dying, he would think of San Marino:
_Aspicit, et dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos_. Even a passing stranger
may feel the mingled fascination and oppression of this prospect--the
monotony which maddens, the charm which at a distance grows upon the
mind, environing it with memories.

Descending to the Borgo, we found that Filippo Visconti had ordered a
luncheon of excellent white bread, pigeons, and omelette, with the best
red muscat wine I ever drank, unless the sharp air of the hills deceived
my appetite. An Italian history of San Marino, including its statutes,
in three volumes, furnished intellectual food. But I confess to having
learned from these pages little else than this: first, that the survival
of the Commonwealth through all phases of European politics had been
semi-miraculous; secondly, that the most eminent San Marinesi had been
lawyers. It is possible on a hasty deduction from these two propositions
(to which, however, I am far from wishing to commit myself), that the
latter is a sufficient explanation of the former.

From San Marino the road plunges at a break-neck pace. We are now in the
true Feltrian highlands, whence the Counts of Montefeltro issued in the
twelfth century. Yonder eyrie is San Leo, which formed the key of
entrance to the duchy of Urbino in campaigns fought many hundred years
ago. Perched on the crest of a precipitous rock, this fortress looks as
though it might defy all enemies but famine. And yet San Leo was taken
and re-taken by strategy and fraud, when Montefeltro, Borgia, Malatesta,
Rovere, contended for dominion in these valleys. Yonder is Sta. Agata,
the village to which Guidobaldo fled by night when Valentino drove him
from his dukedom. A little farther towers Carpegna, where one branch of
the Montefeltro house maintained a countship through seven centuries,
and only sold their fief to Rome in 1815. Monte Coppiolo lies behind,
Pietra Rubia in front: two other eagle's-nests of the same brood. What a
road it is! It beats the tracks on Exmoor. The uphill and downhill of
Devonshire scorns compromise or mitigation by _détour_ and zigzag. But
here geography is on a scale so far more vast, and the roadway is so far
worse metalled than with us in England--knotty masses of talc and nodes
of sandstone cropping up at dangerous turnings--that only Dante's words
describe the journey:--

    Vassi in Sanleo, e discendesi in Noli,
    Montasi su Bismantova in cacume
    Con esso i piè; ma qui convien ch'uom voli.

Of a truth, our horses seemed rather to fly than scramble up and down
these rugged precipices; Visconti cheerily animating them with the brave
spirit that was in him, and lending them his wary driver's help of hand
and voice at need.

We were soon upon a cornice-road between the mountains and the
Adriatic: following the curves of gulch and cleft ravine: winding round
ruined castles set on points of vantage; the sea-line high above their
grass-grown battlements, the shadow-dappled champaign girdling their
bastions mortised on the naked rock. Except for the blue lights across
the distance, and the ever-present sea, these earthy Apennines would be
too grim. Infinite air and this spare veil of spring-tide greenery on
field and forest soothe their sternness. Two rivers, swollen by late
rains, had to be forded. Through one of these, the Foglia, bare-legged
peasants led the way. The horses waded to their bellies in the tawny
water. Then more hills and vales; green nooks with rippling corn-crops;
secular oaks attired in golden leafage. The clear afternoon air rang
with the voices of a thousand larks overhead. The whole world seemed
quivering with light and delicate ethereal sound. And yet my mind turned
irresistibly to thoughts of war, violence, and pillage. How often has
this intermediate land been fought over by Montefeltro and Brancaleoni,
by Borgia and Malatesta, by Medici and Della Rovere! Its _contadini_ are
robust men, almost statuesque in build, and beautiful of feature. No
wonder that the Princes of Urbino, with such materials to draw from,
sold their service and their troops to Florence, Rome, S. Mark, and
Milan. The bearing of these peasants is still soldierly and proud. Yet
they are not sullen or forbidding like the Sicilians, whose habits of
life, for the rest, much resemble theirs. The villages, there as here,
are few and far between, perched high on rocks, from which the folk
descend to till the ground and reap the harvest. But the southern
_brusquerie_ and brutality are absent from this district. The men have
something of the dignity and slow-eyed mildness of their own huge oxen.
As evening fell, more solemn Apennines upreared themselves to southward.
The Monte d'Asdrubale, Monte Nerone, and Monte Catria hove into sight.
At last, when light was dim, a tower rose above the neighbouring ridge,
a broken outline of some city barred the sky-line. Urbino stood before
us. Our long day's march was at an end.

The sunset was almost spent, and a four days' moon hung above the
western Apennines, when we took our first view of the palace. It is a
fancy-thralling work of wonder seen in that dim twilight; like some
castle reared by Atlante's magic for imprisonment of Ruggiero, or palace
sought in fairyland by Astolf winding his enchanted horn. Where shall we
find its like, combining, as it does, the buttressed battlemented bulk
of mediæval strongholds with the airy balconies, suspended gardens, and
fantastic turrets of Italian pleasure-houses? This unique blending of
the feudal past with the Renaissance spirit of the time when it was
built, connects it with the art of Ariosto--or more exactly with
Boiardo's epic. Duke Federigo planned his palace at Urbino just at the
moment when the Count of Scandiano had began to chaunt his lays of
Roland in the Castle of Ferrara. Chivalry, transmuted by the Italian
genius into something fanciful and quaint, survived as a frail work of
art. The men-at-arms of the Condottieri still glittered in gilded
hauberks. Their helmets waved with plumes and bizarre crests. Their
surcoats blazed with heraldries; their velvet caps with medals bearing
legendary emblems. The pomp and circumstance of feudal war had not yet
yielded to the cannon of the Gascon or the Switzer's pike. The fatal
age of foreign invasions had not begun for Italy. Within a few years
Charles VIII.'s holiday excursion would reveal the internal rottenness
and weakness of her rival states, and the peninsula for half a century
to come would be drenched in the blood of Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards,
fighting for her cities as their prey. But now Lorenzo de' Medici was
still alive. The famous policy which bears his name held Italy suspended
for a golden time in false tranquillity and independence. The princes
who shared his culture and his love of art were gradually passing into
modern noblemen, abandoning the savage feuds and passions of more virile
centuries, yielding to luxury and scholarly enjoyments. The castles were
becoming courts, and despotisms won by force were settling into
dynasties.

It was just at this epoch that Duke Federigo built his castle at Urbino.
One of the ablest and wealthiest Condottieri of his time, one of the
best instructed and humanest of Italian princes, he combined in himself
the qualities which mark that period of transition. And these he
impressed upon his dwelling-house, which looks backward to the mediæval
fortalice and forward to the modern palace. This makes it the just
embodiment in architecture of Italian romance, the perfect analogue of
the _Orlando Innamorato_. By comparing it with the castle of the Estes
at Ferrara and the Palazzo del Te of the Gonzagas at Mantua, we place it
in its right position between mediæval and Renaissance Italy, between
the age when principalities arose upon the ruins of commercial
independence and the age when they became dynastic under Spain.

The exigencies of the ground at his disposal forced Federigo to give the
building an irregular outline. The fine façade, with its embayed _logge_
and flanking turrets, is placed too close upon the city ramparts for its
due effect. We are obliged to cross the deep ravine which separates it
from a lower quarter of the town, and take our station near the Oratory
of S. Giovanni Battista, before we can appreciate the beauty of its
design, or the boldness of the group it forms with the cathedral dome
and tower and the square masses of numerous out-buildings. Yet this
peculiar position of the palace, though baffling to a close observer of
its details, is one of singular advantage to the inhabitants. Set on the
verge of Urbino's towering eminence, it fronts a wave-tossed sea of
vales and mountain summits toward the rising and the setting sun. There
is nothing but illimitable air between the terraces and loggias of the
Duchess's apartments and the spreading pyramid of Monte Catria.

A nobler scene is nowhere swept from palace windows than this, which
Castiglione touched in a memorable passage at the end of his
_Cortegiano_. To one who in our day visits Urbino, it is singular how
the slight indications of this sketch, as in some silhouette, bring back
the antique life, and link the present with the past--a hint, perhaps,
for reticence in our descriptions. The gentlemen and ladies of the court
had spent a summer night in long debate on love, rising to the height of
mystical Platonic rapture on the lips of Bembo, when one of them
exclaimed, "The day has broken!" "He pointed to the light which was
beginning to enter by the fissures of the windows. Whereupon we flung
the casements wide upon that side of the palace which looks toward the
high peak of Monte Catria, and saw that a fair dawn of rosy hue was born
already in the eastern skies, and all the stars had vanished except the
sweet regent of the heaven of Venus, who holds the borderlands of day
and night; and from her sphere it seemed as though a gentle wind were
breathing, filling the air with eager freshness, and waking among the
numerous woods upon the neighbouring hills the sweet-toned symphonies of
joyous birds."


II.

The House of Montefeltro rose into importance early in the twelfth
century. Frederick Barbarossa erected their fief into a county in 1160.
Supported by imperial favour, they began to exercise an undefined
authority over the district, which they afterwards converted into a
duchy. But, though Ghibelline for several generations, the Montefeltri
were too near neighbours of the Papal power to free themselves from
ecclesiastical vassalage. Therefore in 1216 they sought and obtained the
title of Vicars of the Church. Urbino acknowledged them as semi-despots
in their double capacity of Imperial and Papal deputies. Cagli and
Gubbio followed in the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth, Castel
Durante was acquired from the Brancaleoni by warfare, and Fossombrone
from the Malatestas by purchase. Numerous fiefs and villages fell into
their hands upon the borders of Rimini in the course of a continued
struggle with the House of Malatesta: and when Fano and Pesaro were
added at the opening of the sixteenth century, the domain over which
they ruled was a compact territory, some forty miles square, between the
Adriatic and Apennines. From the close of the thirteenth century they
bore the title of Counts of Urbino. The famous Conte Guido, whom Dante
placed among the fraudulent in hell, supported the honours of the house
and increased its power by his political action, at this epoch. But it
was not until the year 1443 that the Montefeltri acquired their ducal
title. This was conferred by Eugenius IV. upon Oddantonio, over whose
alleged crimes and indubitable assassination a veil of mystery still
hangs. He was the son of Count Guidantonio, and at his death the
Montefeltri of Urbino were extinct in the legitimate line. A natural son
of Guidantonio had been, however, recognised in his father's lifetime,
and married to Gentile, heiress of Mercatello. This was Federigo, a
youth of great promise, who succeeded his half-brother in 1444 as Count
of Urbino. It was not until 1474 that the ducal title was revived for
him.

Duke Frederick was a prince remarkable among Italian despots for private
virtues and sober use of his hereditary power. He spent his youth at
Mantua, in that famous school of Vittorino da Feltre, where the sons and
daughters of the first Italian nobility received a model education in
humanities, good manners, and gentle physical accomplishments. More than
any of his fellow-students Frederick profited by this rare scholar's
discipline. On leaving school he adopted the profession of arms, as it
was then practised, and joined the troop of the Condottiere Niccolò
Piccinino. Young men of his own rank, especially the younger sons and
bastards of ruling families, sought military service under captains of
adventure. If they succeeded they were sure to make money. The coffers
of the Church and the republics lay open to their not too scrupulous
hands; the wealth of Milan and Naples was squandered on them in
retaining-fees and salaries for active service. There was always the
further possibility of placing a coronet upon their brows before they
died, if haply they should wrest a town from their employers, or obtain
the cession of a province from a needy Pope. The neighbours of the
Montefeltri in Umbria, Romagna, and the Marches of Ancona were all of
them Condottieri. Malatestas of Rimini and Pesaro, Vitelli of Città di
Castello, Varani of Camerino, Baglioni of Perugia, to mention only a few
of the most eminent nobles, enrolled themselves under the banners of
plebeian adventurers like Piccinino and Sforza Attendolo. Though their
family connections gave them a certain advantage, the system was
essentially democratic. Gattamelata and Carmagnola sprang from obscurity
by personal address and courage to the command of armies. Colleoni
fought his way up from the grooms to princely station and the _bâton_ of
S. Mark. Francesco Sforza, whose father had begun life as a tiller of
the soil, seized the ducal crown of Milan, and founded a house which
ranked among the first in Europe.

It is not needful to follow Duke Frederick in his military career. We
may briefly remark that when he succeeded to Urbino by his brother's
death in 1444, he undertook generalship on a grand scale. His own
dominions supplied him with some of the best troops in Italy. He was
careful to secure the good-will of his subjects by attending personally
to their interests, relieving them of imposts, and executing equal
justice. He gained the then unique reputation of an honest prince,
paternally disposed toward his dependants. Men flocked to his standards
willingly, and he was able to bring an important contingent into any
army. These advantages secured for him alliances with Francesco Sforza,
and brought him successively into connection with Milan, Venice,
Florence, the Church of Naples. As a tactician in the field he held high
rank among the generals of the age, and so considerable were his
engagements that he acquired great wealth in the exercise of his
profession. We find him at one time receiving 8000 ducats a month as
war-pay from Naples, with a peace pension of 6000. While Captain-General
of the League, he drew for his own use in war 45,000 ducats of annual
pay. Retaining-fees and pensions in the name of past services swelled
his income, the exact extent of which has not, so far as I am aware,
been estimated, but which must have made him one of the richest of
Italian princes. All this wealth he spent upon his duchy, fortifying its
cities, drawing youths of promise to his court, maintaining a great
train of life, and keeping his vassals in good-humour by the lightness
of a rule which contrasted favourably with the exactions of needier
despots.

While fighting for the masters who offered him _condotta_ in the
complicated wars of Italy, Duke Frederick used his arms, when occasion
served, in his own quarrels. Many years of his life were spent in a
prolonged struggle with his neighbour Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, the
bizarre and brilliant tyrant of Rimini, who committed the fatal error of
embroiling himself beyond all hope of pardon with the Church, and who
died discomfited in the duel with his warier antagonist. Urbino profited
by each mistake of Sigismondo, and the history of this long desultory
strife with Rimini is a history of gradual aggrandisement and
consolidation for the Montefeltrian duchy.

In 1459, Duke Frederick married his second wife, Battista, daughter of
Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pesaro. Their portraits, painted by Piero
della Francesca, are to be seen in the Uffizzi. Some years earlier,
Frederick lost his right eye and had the bridge of his nose broken in a
jousting match outside the town-gate of Urbino. After this accident, he
preferred to be represented in profile--the profile so well known to
students of Italian art on medals and bas-reliefs. It was not without
medical aid and vows fulfilled by a mother's self-sacrifice to death, if
we may trust the diarists of Urbino, that the ducal couple got an heir.
In 1472, however a son was born to them, whom they christened Guido
Paolo Ubaldo. He proved a youth of excellent parts and noble nature--apt
at study, perfect in all chivalrous accomplishments. But he inherited
some fatal physical debility, and his life was marred with a
constitutional disease, which then received the name of gout, and which
deprived him of the free use of his limbs. After his father's death in
1482, Naples, Florence, and Milan continued Frederick's war engagements
to Guidobaldo. The prince was but a boy of ten. Therefore these
important _condotte_ must be regarded as compliments and pledges for the
future. They prove to what a pitch Duke Frederick had raised the credit
of his state and war establishment. Seven years later, Guidobaldo
married Elisabetta, daughter of Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua.
This union, though a happy one, was never blessed with children; and in
the certainty of barrenness, the young Duke thought it prudent to adopt
a nephew as heir to his dominions. He had several sisters, one of whom,
Giovanna, had been married to a nephew of Sixtus IV., Giovanni della
Rovere, Lord of Sinigaglia and Prefect of Rome. They had a son,
Francesco Maria, who, after his adoption by Guidobaldo, spent his
boyhood at Urbino.

The last years of the fifteenth century were marked by the sudden rise
of Cesare Borgia to a power which threatened the liberties of Italy.
Acting as General for the Church, he carried his arms against the petty
tyrants of Romagna, whom he dispossessed and extirpated. His next move
was upon Camerino and Urbino. He first acquired Camerino, having lulled
Guidobaldo into false security by treacherous professions of good-will.
Suddenly the Duke received intelligence that the Borgia was marching on
him over Cagli. This was in the middle of June 1502. It is difficult to
comprehend the state of weakness in which Guidobaldo was surprised, or
the panic which then seized him. He made no efforts to rouse his
subjects to resistance, but fled by night with his nephew through rough
mountain roads, leaving his capital and palace to the marauder. Cesare
Borgia took possession without striking a blow, and removed the
treasures of Urbino to the Vatican. His occupation of the duchy was not
undisturbed, however; for the people rose in several places against him,
proving that Guidobaldo had yielded too hastily to alarm. By this time
the fugitive was safe in Mantua, whence he returned, and for a short
time succeeded in establishing himself again at Urbino. But he could not
hold his own against the Borgias, and in December, by a treaty, he
resigned his claims and retired to Venice, where he lived upon the
bounty of S. Mark. It must be said, in justice to the Duke, that his
constitutional debility rendered him unfit for active operations in the
field. Perhaps he could not have done better than thus to bend beneath
the storm.

The sudden death of Alexander VI. and the election of a Della Rovere to
the Papacy in 1503 changed Guidobaldo's prospects. Julius II. was the
sworn foe of the Borgias and the close kinsman of Urbino's heir. It was
therefore easy for the Duke to walk into his empty palace on the hill,
and to reinstate himself in the domains from which he had so recently
been ousted. The rest of his life was spent in the retirement of his
court, surrounded with the finest scholars and the noblest gentlemen of
Italy. The ill-health which debarred him from the active pleasures and
employments of his station, was borne with uniform sweetness of temper
and philosophy.

When he died, in 1508, his nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere,
succeeded to the duchy, and once more made the palace of Urbino the
resort of men-at-arms and captains. He was a prince of very violent
temper: of its extravagance history has recorded three remarkable
examples. He murdered the Cardinal of Pavia with his own hand in the
streets of Ravenna; stabbed a lover of his sister to death at Urbino;
and in a council of war knocked Francesco Guicciardini down with a blow
of his fist. When the history of Italy came to be written, Guicciardini
was probably mindful of that insult, for he painted Francesco Maria's
character and conduct in dark colours. At the same time this Duke of
Urbino passed for one of the first generals of the age. The greatest
stain upon his memory is his behaviour in the year 1527, when, by
dilatory conduct of the campaign in Lombardy, he suffered the passage of
Frundsberg's army unopposed, and afterwards hesitated to relieve Rome
from the horrors of the sack. He was the last Italian Condottiere of the
antique type; and the vices which Machiavelli exposed in that bad system
of mercenary warfare were illustrated on these occasions. During his
lifetime, the conditions of Italy were so changed by Charles V.'s
imperial settlement in 1530, that the occupation of Condottiere ceased
to have any meaning. Strozzi and Farnesi, who afterwards followed this
profession, enlisted in the ranks of France or Spain, and won their
laurels in Northern Europe.

While Leo X. held the Papal chair, the duchy of Urbino was for a while
wrested from the house of Della Rovere, and conferred upon Lorenzo de'
Medici. Francesco Maria made a better fight for his heritage than
Guidobaldo had done. Yet he could not successfully resist the power of
Rome. The Pope was ready to spend enormous sums of money on this petty
war; the Duke's purse was shorter, and the mercenary troops he was
obliged to use, proved worthless in the field. Spaniards, for the most
part, pitted against Spaniards, they suffered the campaigns to
degenerate into a guerrilla warfare of pillage and reprisals. In 1517
the duchy was formally ceded to Lorenzo. But this Medici did not live
long to enjoy it, and his only child Catherine, the future Queen of
France, never exercised the rights which had devolved upon her by
inheritance. The shifting scene of Italy beheld Francesco Maria
reinstated in Urbino after Leo's death in 1522.

This Duke married Leonora Gonzaga, a princess of the house of Mantua.
Their portraits, painted by Titian, adorn the Venetian room of the
Uffizzi. Of their son, Guidobaldo II., little need be said. He was twice
married, first to Giulia Varano, Duchess by inheritance of Camerino;
secondly, to Vittoria Farnese, daughter of the Duke of Parma. Guidobaldo
spent a lifetime in petty quarrels with his subjects, whom he treated
badly, attempting to draw from their pockets the wealth which his father
and the Montefeltri had won in military service. He intervened at an
awkward period of Italian politics. The old Italy of despots,
commonwealths, and Condottieri, in which his predecessors played
substantial parts, was at an end. The new Italy of Popes and
Austro-Spanish dynasties had hardly settled into shape. Between these
epochs, Guidobaldo II., of whom we have a dim and hazy presentation on
the page of history, seems somehow to have fallen flat. As a sign of
altered circumstances, he removed his court to Pesaro, and built the
great palace of the Della Roveres upon the public square.

Guidobaldaccio, as he was called, died in 1574, leaving an only son,
Francesco Maria II., whose life and character illustrate the new age
which had begun for Italy. He was educated in Spain at the court of
Philip II., where he spent more than two years. When he returned, his
Spanish haughtiness, punctilious attention to etiquette, and
superstitious piety attracted observation. The violent temper of the
Della Roveres, which Francesco Maria I. displayed in acts of homicide,
and which had helped to win his bad name for Guidobaldaccio, took the
form of sullenness in the last Duke. The finest episode in his life was
the part he played in the battle of Lepanto, under his old comrade, Don
John of Austria. His father forced him to an uncongenial marriage with
Lucrezia d'Este, Princess of Ferrara. She left him, and took refuge in
her native city, then honoured by the presence of Tasso and Guarini. He
bore her departure with philosophical composure, recording the event in
his diary as something to be dryly grateful for. Left alone, the Duke
abandoned himself to solitude, religious exercises, hunting, and the
economy of his impoverished dominions. He became that curious creature,
a man of narrow nature and mediocre capacity, who, dedicated to the cult
of self, is fain to pass for saint and sage in easy circumstances. He
married, for the second time, a lady, Livia della Rovere, who belonged
to his own family, but had been born in private station. She brought him
one son, the Prince Federigo-Ubaldo. This youth might have sustained the
ducal honours of Urbino, but for his sage-saint father's want of wisdom.
The boy was a spoiled child in infancy. Inflated with Spanish vanity
from the cradle, taught to regard his subjects as dependants on a
despot's will, abandoned to the caprices of his own ungovernable temper,
without substantial aid from the paternal piety or stoicism, he rapidly
became a most intolerable princeling. His father married him, while yet
a boy, to Claudia de' Medici, and virtually abdicated in his favour.
Left to his own devices, Federigo chose companions from the troupes of
players whom he drew from Venice. He filled his palaces with harlots,
and degraded himself upon the stage in parts of mean buffoonery. The
resources of the duchy were racked to support these parasites. Spanish
rules of etiquette and ceremony were outraged by their orgies. His bride
brought him one daughter, Vittoria, who afterwards became the wife of
Ferdinand, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Then in the midst of his low
dissipation and offences against ducal dignity, he died of apoplexy at
the early age of eighteen--the victim, in the severe judgment of
history, of his father's selfishness and want of practical ability.

This happened in 1623. Francesco Maria was stunned by the blow. His
withdrawal from the duties of the sovereignty in favour of such a son
had proved a constitutional unfitness for the duties of his station. The
life he loved was one of seclusion in a round of pious exercises, petty
studies, peddling economies, and mechanical amusements. A powerful and
grasping Pope was on the throne of Rome. Urban at this juncture pressed
Francesco Maria hard; and in 1624 the last Duke of Urbino devolved his
lordships to the Holy See. He survived the formal act of abdication
seven years; when he died, the Pontiff added his duchy to the Papal
States, which thenceforth stretched from Naples to the bounds of Venice
on the Po.


III.

Duke Frederick began the palace at Urbino in 1454, when he was still
only Count. The architect was Luziano of Lauranna, a Dalmatian; and the
beautiful white limestone, hard as marble, used in the construction, was
brought from the Dalmatian coast. This stone, like the Istrian stone of
Venetian buildings, takes and retains the chisel mark with wonderful
precision. It looks as though, when fresh, it must have had the pliancy
of clay, so delicately are the finest curves in scroll or foliage
scooped from its substance. And yet it preserves each cusp and angle of
the most elaborate pattern with the crispness and the sharpness of a
crystal. When wrought by a clever craftsman, its surface has neither the
waxiness of Parian, nor the brittle edge of Carrara marble; and it
resists weather better than marble of the choicest quality. This may be
observed in many monuments of Venice, where the stone has been long
exposed to sea-air. These qualities of the Dalmatian limestone, no less
than its agreeable creamy hue and smooth dull polish, adapt it to
decoration in low relief. The most attractive details in the palace at
Urbino are friezes carved of this material in choice designs of early
Renaissance dignity and grace. One chimney-piece in the Sala degli
Angeli deserves especial comment. A frieze of dancing Cupids, with gilt
hair and wings, their naked bodies left white on a ground of
ultra-marine, is supported by broad flat pilasters. These are engraved
with children holding pots of flowers; roses on one side, carnations on
the other. Above the frieze another pair of angels, one at each end,
hold lighted torches; and the pyramidal cap of the chimney is carved
with two more, flying, and supporting the eagle of the Montefeltri on a
raised medallion. Throughout the palace we notice emblems appropriate to
the Houses of Montefeltro and Della Rovere: their arms, three golden
bends upon a field of azure: the Imperial eagle, granted when
Montefeltro was made a fief of the Empire: the Garter of England, worn
by the Dukes Federigo and Guidobaldo: the ermine of Naples: the
_ventosa_, or cupping-glass, adopted for a private badge by Frederick:
the golden oak-tree on an azure field of Della Rovere: the palm-tree,
bent beneath a block of stone, with its accompanying motto, _Inclinata
Resurgam_: the cypher, FE DX. Profile medallions of Federigo and
Guidobaldo, wrought in the lowest possible relief, adorn the staircases.
Round the great courtyard runs a frieze of military engines and ensigns,
trophies, machines, and implements of war, alluding to Duke Frederick's
profession of Condottiere. The doorways are enriched with scrolls of
heavy-headed flowers, acanthus foliage, honeysuckles, ivy-berries, birds
and boys and sphinxes, in all the riot of Renaissance fancy.

This profusion of sculptured _rilievo_ is nearly all that remains to
show how rich the palace was in things of beauty. Castiglione, writing
in the reign of Guidobaldo, says that "in the opinion of many it is the
fairest to be found in Italy; and the Duke filled it so well with all
things fitting its magnificence, that it seemed less like a palace than
a city. Not only did he collect articles of common use, vessels of
silver, and trappings for chambers of rare cloths of gold and silk, and
such like furniture, but he added multitudes of bronze and marble
statues, exquisite pictures, and instruments of music of all sorts.
There was nothing but was of the finest and most excellent quality to be
seen there. Moreover, he gathered together at a vast cost a large number
of the best and rarest books in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, all of which
he adorned with gold and silver, esteeming them the chiefest treasure
of his spacious palace." When Cesare Borgia entered Urbino as conqueror
in 1502, he is said to have carried off loot to the value of 150,000
ducats, or perhaps about a quarter of a million sterling. Vespasiano,
the Florentine bookseller, has left us a minute account of the formation
of the famous library of MSS., which he valued at considerably over
30,000 ducats. Yet wandering now through these deserted halls, we seek
in vain for furniture or tapestry or works of art. The books have been
removed to Rome. The pictures are gone, no man knows whither. The plate
has long been melted down. The instruments of music are broken. If
frescoes adorned the corridors, they have been whitewashed; the ladies'
chambers have been stripped of their rich arras. Only here and there we
find a raftered ceiling, painted in fading colours, which, taken with
the stonework of the chimney, and some fragments of inlaid panel-work on
door or window, enables us to reconstruct the former richness of these
princely rooms.

Exception must be made in favour of two apartments between the towers
upon the southern façade. These were apparently the private rooms of the
Duke and Duchess, and they are still approached by a great winding
staircase in one of the _torricini_. Adorned in indestructible or
irremovable materials, they retain some traces of their ancient
splendour. On the first floor, opening on the vaulted loggia, we find a
little chapel encrusted with lovely work in stucco and marble; friezes
of bulls, sphinxes, sea-horses, and foliage; with a low relief of
Madonna and Child in the manner of Mino da Fiesole. Close by is a small
study with inscriptions to the Muses and Apollo. The cabinet connecting
these two cells has a Latin legend, to say that Religion here dwells
near the temple of the liberal arts:

    Bina vides parvo discrimine juncta sacella,
      Altera pars Musis altera sacra Deo est.

On the floor above, corresponding in position to this apartment, is a
second, of even greater interest, since it was arranged by the Duke
Frederick for his own retreat. The study is panelled in tarsia of
beautiful design and execution. Three of the larger compartments show
Faith, Hope, and Charity; figures not unworthy of a Botticelli or a
Filippino Lippi. The occupations of the Duke are represented on a
smaller scale by armour, _bâtons_ of command, scientific instruments,
lutes, viols, and books, some open and some shut. The Bible, Homer,
Virgil, Seneca, Tacitus, and Cicero, are lettered; apparently to
indicate his favourite authors. The Duke himself, arrayed in his state
robes, occupies a fourth great panel; and the whole of this elaborate
composition is harmonised by emblems, badges, and occasional devices of
birds, articles of furniture, and so forth. The tarsia, or inlaid wood
of different kinds and colours, is among the best in this kind of art to
be found in Italy, though perhaps it hardly deserves to rank with the
celebrated choir-stalls of Bergamo and Monte Oliveto. Hard by is a
chapel, adorned, like the lower one, with excellent reliefs. The Loggia
to which these rooms have access looks across the Apennines, and down on
what was once a private garden. It is now enclosed and paved for the
exercise of prisoners who are confined in one part of the desecrated
palace!

A portion of the pile is devoted to more worthy purposes; for the
Academy of Raphael here holds its sittings, and preserves a collection
of curiosities and books illustrative of the great painter's life and
works. They have recently placed in a tiny oratory, scooped by
Guidobaldo II. from the thickness of the wall, a cast of Raphael's
skull, which will be studied with interest and veneration. It has the
fineness of modelling combined with shapeliness of form and smallness of
scale which is said to have characterised Mozart and Shelley.

The impression left upon the mind after traversing this palace in its
length and breadth is one of weariness and disappointment. How shall we
reconstruct the long-past life which filled its rooms with sound, the
splendour of its pageants, the thrill of tragedies enacted here? It is
not difficult to crowd its doors and vacant spaces with liveried
servants, slim pages in tight hose, whose well-combed hair escapes from
tiny caps upon their silken shoulders. We may even replace the
tapestries of Troy which hung one hall, and build again the sideboards
with their embossed gilded plate. But are these chambers really those
where Emilia Pia held debate on love with Bembo and Castiglione; where
Bibbiena's witticisms and Fra Serafino's pranks raised smiles on courtly
lips; where Bernardo Accolti, "the Unique," declaimed his verses to
applauding crowds? Is it possible that into yonder hall, where now the
lion of S. Mark looks down alone on staring desolation, strode the
Borgia in all his panoply of war, a gilded glittering dragon, and from
the daïs tore the Montefeltri's throne, and from the arras stripped
their ensigns, replacing these with his own Bull and Valentinus Dux?
Here Tasso tuned his lyre for Francesco Maria's wedding-feast, and read
"Aminta" to Lucrezia d'Este. Here Guidobaldo listened to the jests and
whispered scandals of the Aretine. Here Titian set his easel up to
paint; here the boy Raphael, cap in hand, took signed and sealed
credentials from his Duchess to the Gonfalonier of Florence. Somewhere
in these huge chambers, the courtiers sat before a torch-lit stage, when
Bibbiena's "Calandria" and Castiglione's "Tirsi," with their miracles of
masques and mummers, whiled the night away. Somewhere, we know not
where, Giuliano de' Medici made love in these bare rooms to that
mysterious mother of ill-fated Cardinal Ippolito; somewhere, in some
darker nook, the bastard Alessandro sprang to his strange-fortuned life
of tyranny and license, which Brutus-Lorenzino cut short with a
traitor's poignard-thrust in Via Larga. How many men, illustrious for
arts and letters, memorable by their virtues or their crimes, have trod
these silent corridors, from the great Pope Julius down to James III.,
self-titled King of England, who tarried here with Clementina Sobieski
through some twelve months of his ex-royal exile! The memories of all
this folk, flown guests and masters of the still-abiding
palace-chambers, haunt us as we hurry through. They are but filmy
shadows. We cannot grasp them, localise them, people surrounding
emptiness with more than withering cobweb forms.

Death takes a stronger hold on us than bygone life. Therefore, returning
to the vast Throne-room, we animate it with one scene it witnessed on an
April night in 1508. Duke Guidobaldo had died at Fossombrone, repeating
to his friends around his bed these lines of Virgil:

    Me circum limus niger et deformis arundo
    Cocyti tardaque palus inamabilis unda
    Alligat, et novies Styx interfusa coercet.

His body had been carried on the shoulders of servants through those
mountain ways at night, amid the lamentations of gathering multitudes
and the baying of dogs from hill-set farms alarmed by flaring flambeaux.
Now it is laid in state in the great hall. The daïs and the throne are
draped in black. The arms and _bâtons_ of his father hang about the
doorways. His own ensigns are displayed in groups and trophies, with the
banners of S. Mark, the Montefeltrian eagle, and the cross keys of S.
Peter. The hall itself is vacant, save for the high-reared catafalque of
sable velvet and gold damask, surrounded with wax-candles burning
steadily. Round it passes a ceaseless stream of people, coming and
going, gazing at their Duke. He is attired in crimson hose and doublet
of black damask. Black velvet slippers are on his feet, and his ducal
cap is of black velvet. The mantle of the Garter, made of dark-blue
Alexandrine velvet, hooded with crimson, lined with white silk damask,
and embroidered with the badge, drapes the stiff sleeping form.

It is easier to conjure up the past of this great palace, strolling
round it in free air and twilight; perhaps because the landscape and the
life still moving on the city streets bring its exterior into harmony
with real existence. The southern façade, with its vaulted balconies and
flanking towers, takes the fancy, fascinates the eye, and lends itself
as a fit stage for puppets of the musing mind. Once more imagination
plants trim orange-trees in giant jars of Gubbio ware upon the pavement
where the garden of the Duchess lay--the pavement paced in these bad
days by convicts in grey canvas jackets--that pavement where Monsignor
Bembo courted "dear dead women" with Platonic phrase, smothering the
Menta of his natural man in lettuce culled from Academe and thyme of
Mount Hymettus. In yonder _loggia_, lifted above the garden and the
court, two lovers are in earnest converse. They lean beneath the
coffered arch, against the marble of the balustrade, he fingering his
dagger under the dark velvet doublet, she playing with a clove
carnation, deep as her own shame. The man is Giannandrea,
broad-shouldered bravo of Verona, Duke Guidobaldo's favourite and
carpet-count. The lady is Madonna Maria, daughter of Rome's Prefect,
widow of Venanzio Varano, whom the Borgia strangled. On their discourse
a tale will hang of woman's frailty and man's boldness--Camerino's
Duchess yielding to a low-born suitor's stalwart charms. And more will
follow, when that lady's brother, furious Francesco Maria della Rovere,
shall stab the bravo in torch-litten palace rooms with twenty poignard
strokes twixt waist and throat, and their Pandarus shall be sent down to
his account by a varlet's _coltellata_ through the midriff. Imagination
shifts the scene, and shows in that same _loggia_ Rome's warlike Pope,
attended by his cardinals and all Urbino's chivalry. The snowy beard of
Julius flows down upon his breast, where jewels clasp the crimson
mantle, as in Raphael's picture. His eyes are bright with wine; for he
has come to gaze on sunset from the banquet-chamber, and to watch the
line of lamps which soon will leap along that palace cornice in his
honour. Behind him lies Bologna humbled. The Pope returns, a conqueror,
to Rome. Yet once again imagination is at work. A gaunt, bald man,
close-habited in Spanish black, his spare, fine features carved in
purest ivory, leans from that balcony. Gazing with hollow eyes, he
tracks the swallows in their flight, and notes that winter is at hand.
This is the last Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria II., he whose young
wife deserted him, who made for himself alone a hermit-pedant's round of
petty cares and niggard avarice and mean-brained superstition. He drew a
second consort from the convent, and raised up seed unto his line by
forethought, but beheld his princeling fade untimely in the bloom of
boyhood. Nothing is left but solitude. To the mortmain of the Church
reverts Urbino's lordship, and even now he meditates the terms of
devolution. Jesuits cluster in the rooms behind, with comfort for the
ducal soul and calculations for the interests of Holy See.

A farewell to these memories of Urbino's dukedom should be taken in the
crypt of the cathedral, where Francesco Maria II., the last Duke, buried
his only son and all his temporal hopes. The place is scarcely solemn.
Its dreary _barocco_ emblems mar the dignity of death. A bulky _Pietà_
by Gian Bologna, with Madonna's face unfinished, towers up and crowds
the narrow cell. Religion has evanished from this late Renaissance art,
nor has the after-glow of Guido Reni's hectic piety yet overflushed it.
Chilled by the stifling humid sense of an extinct race here entombed in
its last representative, we gladly emerge from the sepulchral vault into
the air of day.

Filippo Visconti, with a smile on his handsome face, is waiting for us
at the inn. His horses, sleek, well-fed, and rested, toss their heads
impatiently. We take our seats in the carriage, open wide beneath a
sparkling sky, whirl past the palace and its ghost-like recollections,
and are half way on the road to Fossombrone in a cloud of dust and whirr
of wheels before we think of looking back to greet Urbino. There is just
time. The last decisive turning lies in front. We stand bare-headed to
salute the grey mass of buildings ridged along the sky. Then the open
road invites us with its varied scenery and movement. From the shadowy
past we drive into the world of human things, for ever changefully
unchanged, unrestfully the same. This interchange between dead memories
and present life is the delight of travel.



A VENETIAN MEDLEY.

I.--FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND FAMILIARITY.


It is easy to feel and to say something obvious about Venice. The
influence of this sea-city is unique, immediate, and unmistakable. But
to express the sober truth of those impressions which remain when the
first astonishment of the Venetian revelation has subsided, when the
spirit of the place has been harmonised through familiarity with our
habitual mood, is difficult.

Venice inspires at first an almost Corybantic rapture. From our earliest
visits, if these have been measured by days rather than weeks, we carry
away with us the memory of sunsets emblazoned in gold and crimson upon
cloud and water; of violet domes and bell-towers etched against the
orange of a western sky; of moonlight silvering breeze-rippled breadths
of liquid blue; of distant islands shimmering in sunlitten haze; of
music and black gliding boats; of labyrinthine darkness made for
mysteries of love and crime; of statue-fretted palace fronts; of brazen
clangour and a moving crowd; of pictures by earth's proudest painters,
cased in gold on walls of council chambers where Venice sat enthroned a
queen, where nobles swept the floors with robes of Tyrian brocade. These
reminiscences will be attended by an ever-present sense of loneliness
and silence in the world around; the sadness of a limitless horizon, the
solemnity of an unbroken arch of heaven, the calm and greyness of
evening on the lagoons, the pathos of a marble city crumbling to its
grave in mud and brine.

These first impressions of Venice are true. Indeed they are inevitable.
They abide, and form a glowing background for all subsequent pictures,
toned more austerely, and painted in more lasting hues of truth upon the
brain. Those have never felt Venice at all who have not known this
primal rapture, or who perhaps expected more of colour, more of
melodrama, from a scene which nature and the art of man have made the
richest in these qualities. Yet the mood engendered by this first
experience is not destined to be permanent. It contains an element of
unrest and unreality which vanishes upon familiarity. From the blare of
that triumphal bourdon of brass instruments emerge the delicate voices
of violin and clarinette. To the contrasted passions of our earliest
love succeed a multitude of sweet and fanciful emotions. It is my
present purpose to recapture some of the impressions made by Venice in
more tranquil moods. Memory might be compared to a kaleidoscope. Far
away from Venice I raise the wonder-working tube, allow the glittering
fragments to settle as they please, and with words attempt to render
something of the patterns I behold.


II.--A LODGING IN SAN VIO.

I have escaped from the hotels with their bustle of tourists and crowded
tables-d'hôte. My garden stretches down to the Grand Canal, closed at
the end with a pavilion, where I lounge and smoke and watch the cornice
of the Prefettura fretted with gold in sunset light. My sitting-room and
bed-room face the southern sun. There is a canal below, crowded with
gondolas, and across its bridge the good folk of San Vio come and go the
whole day long--men in blue shirts with enormous hats, and jackets slung
on their left shoulder; women in kerchiefs of orange and crimson.
Bare-legged boys sit upon the parapet, dangling their feet above the
rising tide. A hawker passes, balancing a basket full of live and
crawling crabs. Barges filled with Brenta water or Mirano wine take up
their station at the neighbouring steps, and then ensues a mighty
splashing and hurrying to and fro of men with tubs upon their heads. The
brawny fellows in the winebarge are red from brows to breast with
drippings of the vat. And now there is a bustle in the quarter. A
_barca_ has arrived from S. Erasmo, the island of the market-gardens. It
is piled with gourds and pumpkins, cabbages and tomatoes, pomegranates
and pears--a pyramid of gold and green and scarlet. Brown men lift the
fruit aloft, and women bending from the pathway bargain for it. A
clatter of chaffering tongues, a ring of coppers, a Babel of hoarse
sea-voices, proclaim the sharpness of the struggle. When the quarter has
been served, the boat sheers off diminished in its burden. Boys and
girls are left seasoning their polenta with a slice of _zucca_, while
the mothers of a score of families go pattering up yonder courtyard with
the material for their husbands' supper in their handkerchiefs. Across
the canal, or more correctly the _Rio_, opens a wide grass-grown court.
It is lined on the right hand by a row of poor dwellings, swarming with
gondoliers' children. A garden wall runs along the other side, over
which I can see pomegranate-trees in fruit and pergolas of vines. Far
beyond are more low houses, and then the sky, swept with sea-breezes,
and the masts of an ocean-going ship against the dome and turrets of
Palladio's Redentore.

This is my home. By day it is as lively as a scene in _Masaniello_. By
night, after nine o'clock, the whole stir of the quarter has subsided.
Far away I hear the bell of some church tell the hours. But no noise
disturbs my rest, unless perhaps a belated gondolier moors his boat
beneath the window. My one maid, Catina, sings at her work the whole day
through. My gondolier, Francesco, acts as valet. He wakes me in the
morning, opens the shutters, brings sea-water for my bath, and takes his
orders for the day. "Will it do for Chioggia, Francesco;" "Sissignore!
The Signorino has set off in his _sandolo_ already with Antonio. The
Signora is to go with us in the gondola." "Then get three more men,
Francesco, and see that all of them can sing."


III.--TO CHIOGGIA WITH OAR AND SAIL.

The _sandolo_ is a boat shaped like the gondola, but smaller and
lighter, without benches, and without the high steel prow or _ferro_
which distinguishes the gondola. The gunwale is only just raised above
the water, over which the little craft skims with a rapid bounding
motion, affording an agreeable variation from the stately swan-like
movement of the gondola. In one of these boats--called by him the
_Fisolo_ or Seamew--my friend Eustace had started with Antonio,
intending to row the whole way to Chioggia, or, if the breeze favoured,
to hoist a sail and help himself along. After breakfast, when the crew
for my gondola had been assembled, Francesco and I followed with the
Signora. It was one of those perfect mornings which occur as a respite
from broken weather, when the air is windless and the light falls soft
through haze on the horizon. As we broke into the lagoon behind the
Redentore, the islands in front of us, S. Spirito, Poveglia, Malamocco,
seemed as though they were just lifted from the sea-line. The Euganeans,
far away to westward, were bathed in mist, and almost blent with the
blue sky. Our four rowers put their backs into their work; and soon we
reached the port of Malamocco, where a breeze from the Adriatic caught
us sideways for a while. This is the largest of the breaches in the
Lidi, or raised sand-reefs, which protect Venice from the sea: it
affords an entrance to vessels of draught like the steamers of the
Peninsular and Oriental Company. We crossed the dancing wavelets of the
port; but when we passed under the lee of Pelestrina, the breeze failed,
and the lagoon was once again a sheet of undulating glass. At S. Pietro
on this island a halt was made to give the oarsmen wine, and here we saw
the women at their cottage doorways making lace. The old lace industry
of Venice has recently been revived. From Burano and Pelestrina cargoes
of hand-made imitations of the ancient fabrics are sent at intervals to
Jesurun's magazine at S. Marco. He is the chief _impresario_ of the
trade, employing hundreds of hands, and speculating for a handsome
profit in the foreign market on the price he gives his workwomen.

Now we are well lost in the lagoons--Venice no longer visible behind;
the Alps and Euganeans shrouded in a noonday haze; the lowlands at the
mouth of Brenta marked by clumps of trees ephemerally faint in silver
silhouette against the filmy, shimmering horizon. Form and colour have
disappeared in light-irradiated vapour of an opal hue. And yet
instinctively we know that we are not at sea; the different quality of
the water, the piles emerging here and there above the surface, the
suggestion of coast-lines scarcely felt in this infinity of lustre, all
remind us that our voyage is confined to the charmed limits of an inland
lake. At length the jutting headland of Pelestrina was reached. We broke
across the Porto di Chioggia, and saw Chioggia itself ahead--a huddled
mass of houses low upon the water. One by one, as we rowed steadily, the
fishing-boats passed by, emerging from their harbour for a twelve hours'
cruise upon the open sea. In a long line they came, with variegated
sails of orange, red, and saffron, curiously chequered at the corners,
and cantled with devices in contrasted tints. A little land-breeze
carried them forward. The lagoon reflected their deep colours till they
reached the port. Then, slightly swerving eastward on their course, but
still in single file, they took the sea and scattered, like beautiful
bright-plumaged birds, who from a streamlet float into a lake, and find
their way at large according as each wills.

The Signorino and Antonio, though want of wind obliged them to row the
whole way from Venice, had reached Chioggia an hour before, and stood
waiting to receive us on the quay. It is a quaint town this Chioggia,
which has always lived a separate life from that of Venice. Language
and race and customs have held the two populations apart from those
distant years when Genoa and the Republic of S. Mark fought their duel
to the death out in the Chioggian harbours, down to these days, when
your Venetian gondolier will tell you that the Chioggoto loves his pipe
more than his _donna_ or his wife. The main canal is lined with
substantial palaces, attesting to old wealth and comfort. But from
Chioggia, even more than from Venice, the tide of modern luxury and
traffic has retreated. The place is left to fishing folk and builders of
the fishing craft, whose wharves still form the liveliest quarter.
Wandering about its wide deserted courts and _calli_, we feel the spirit
of the decadent Venetian nobility. Passages from Goldoni's and
Casanova's Memoirs occur to our memory. It seems easy to realise what
they wrote about the dishevelled gaiety and lawless license of Chioggia
in the days of powder, sword-knot, and _soprani_. Baffo walks beside us
in hypocritical composure of bag-wig and senatorial dignity, whispering
unmentionable sonnets in his dialect of _Xe_ and _Ga_. Somehow or
another that last dotage of S. Mark's decrepitude is more recoverable by
our fancy than the heroism of Pisani in the fourteenth century.

From his prison in blockaded Venice the great admiral was sent forth on
a forlorn hope, and blocked victorious Doria here with boats on which
the nobles of the Golden Book had spent their fortunes. Pietro Doria
boasted that with his own hands he would bridle the bronze horses of S.
Mark. But now he found himself between the navy of Carlo Zeno in the
Adriatic and the flotilla led by Vittore Pisani across the lagoon. It
was in vain that the Republic of S. George strained every nerve to send
him succour from the Ligurian sea; in vain that the lords of Padua kept
opening communications with him from the mainland. From the 1st of
January 1380 till the 21st of June the Venetians pressed the blockade
ever closer, grappling their foemen in a grip that if relaxed one moment
would have hurled him at their throats. The long and breathless struggle
ended in the capitulation at Chioggia of what remained of Doria's
forty-eight galleys and fourteen thousand men.

These great deeds are far away and hazy. The brief sentences of mediæval
annalists bring them less near to us than the _chroniques scandaleuses_
of good-for-nothing scoundrels, whose vulgar adventures might be revived
at the present hour with scarce a change of setting. Such is the force
of _intimité_ in literature. And yet Baffo and Casanova are as much of
the past as Doria and Pisani. It is only perhaps that the survival of
decadence in all we see around us, forms a fitting frame-work for our
recollections of their vividly described corruption.

Not far from the landing-place a balustraded bridge of ample breadth and
large bravura manner spans the main canal. Like everything at Chioggia,
it is dirty and has fallen from its first estate. Yet neither time nor
injury can obliterate style or wholly degrade marble. Hard by the bridge
there are two rival inns. At one of these we ordered a sea-dinner--crabs,
cuttlefishes, soles, and turbots--which we ate at a table in the open air.
Nothing divided us from the street except a row of Japanese privet-bushes
in hooped tubs. Our banquet soon assumed a somewhat unpleasant similitude
to that of Dives; for the Chioggoti, in all stages of decrepitude and
squalor, crowded round to beg for scraps--indescribable old women,
enveloped in their own petticoats thrown over their heads; girls hooded
with sombre black mantles; old men wrinkled beyond recognition by their
nearest relatives; jabbering, half-naked boys; slow, slouching fishermen
with clay pipes in their mouths and philosophical acceptance on their
sober foreheads.

That afternoon the gondola and sandolo were lashed together side by
side. Two sails were raised, and in this lazy fashion we stole
homewards, faster or slower according as the breeze freshened or
slackened, landing now and then on islands, sauntering along the
sea-walls which bulwark Venice from the Adriatic, and singing--those at
least of us who had the power to sing. Four of our Venetians had trained
voices and memories of inexhaustible music. Over the level water, with
the ripple plashing at our keel, their songs went abroad, and mingled
with the failing day. The barcaroles and serenades peculiar to Venice
were, of course, in harmony with the occasion. But some transcripts from
classical operas were even more attractive, through the dignity with
which these men invested them. By the peculiarity of their treatment the
_recitativo_ of the stage assumed a solemn movement, marked in rhythm,
which removed it from the commonplace into antiquity, and made me
understand how cultivated music may pass back by natural, unconscious
transition into the realm of popular melody.

The sun sank, not splendidly, but quietly in banks of clouds above the
Alps. Stars came out, uncertainly at first, and then in strength,
reflected on the sea. The men of the Dogana watch-boat challenged us
and let us pass. Madonna's lamp was twinkling from her shrine upon the
harbour-pile. The city grew before us. Stealing into Venice in that
calm--stealing silently and shadowlike, with scarce a ruffle of the
water, the masses of the town emerging out of darkness into twilight,
till San Giorgio's gun boomed with a flash athwart our stern, and the
gas-lamps of the Piazzetta swam into sight; all this was like a long
enchanted chapter of romance. And now the music of our men had sunk to
one faint whistling from Eustace of tunes in harmony with whispers at
the prow.

Then came the steps of the Palazzo Venier and the deep-scented darkness
of the garden. As we passed through to supper, I plucked a spray of
yellow Banksia rose, and put it in my button-hole. The dew was on its
burnished leaves, and evening had drawn forth its perfume.


IV.--MORNING RAMBLES.

A story is told of Poussin, the French painter, that when he was asked
why he would not stay in Venice, he replied, "If I stay here, I shall
become a colourist!" A somewhat similar tale is reported of a
fashionable English decorator. While on a visit to friends in Venice, he
avoided every building which contains a Tintoretto, averring that the
sight of Tintoretto's pictures would injure his carefully trained taste.
It is probable that neither anecdote is strictly true. Yet there is a
certain epigrammatic point in both; and I have often speculated whether
even Venice could have so warped the genius of Poussin as to shed one
ray of splendour on his canvases, or whether even Tintoretto could have
so sublimed the prophet of Queen Anne as to make him add dramatic
passion to a London drawing-room. Anyhow, it is exceedingly difficult to
escape from colour in the air of Venice, or from Tintoretto in her
buildings. Long, delightful mornings may be spent in the enjoyment of
the one and the pursuit of the other by folk who have no classical or
pseudo-mediæval theories to oppress them.

Tintoretto's house, though changed, can still be visited. It formed part
of the Fondamenta dei Mori, so called from having been the quarter
assigned to Moorish traders in Venice. A spirited carving of a turbaned
Moor leading a camel charged with merchandise, remains above the
water-line of a neighbouring building; and all about the crumbling walls
sprout flowering weeds--samphire and snapdragon and the spiked
campanula, which shoots a spire of sea-blue stars from chinks of Istrian
stone.

The house stands opposite the Church of Santa Maria dell'Orto, where
Tintoretto was buried, and where four of his chief masterpieces are to
be seen. This church, swept and garnished, is a triumph of modern
Italian restoration. They have contrived to make it as commonplace as
human ingenuity could manage. Yet no malice of ignorant industry can
obscure the treasures it contains--the pictures of Cima, Gian Bellini,
Palma, and the four Tintorettos, which form its crowning glory. Here the
master may be studied in four of his chief moods: as the painter of
tragic passion and movement, in the huge Last Judgment; as the painter
of impossibilities, in the Vision of Moses upon Sinai; as the painter of
purity and tranquil pathos, in the Miracle of S. Agnes; as the painter
of Biblical history brought home to daily life, in the Presentation of
the Virgin. Without leaving the Madonna dell'Orto, a student can explore
his genius in all its depth and breadth; comprehend the enthusiasm he
excites in those who seek, as the essentials of art, imaginative
boldness and sincerity; understand what is meant by adversaries who
maintain that, after all, Tintoretto was but an inspired Gustave Doré.
Between that quiet canvas of the Presentation, so modest in its cool
greys and subdued gold, and the tumult of flying, ruining, ascending
figures in the Judgment, what an interval there is! How strangely the
white lamb-like maiden, kneeling beside her lamb in the picture of S.
Agnes, contrasts with the dusky gorgeousness of the Hebrew women
despoiling themselves of jewels for the golden calf! Comparing these
several manifestations of creative power, we feel ourselves in the grasp
of a painter who was essentially a poet, one for whom his art was the
medium for expressing before all things thought and passion. Each
picture is executed in the manner suited to its tone of feeling, the key
of its conception.

Elsewhere than in the Madonna dell'Orto there are more distinguished
single examples of Tintoretto's realising faculty. The Last Supper in
San Giorgio, for instance, and the Adoration of the Shepherds in the
Scuola di San Rocco illustrate his unique power of presenting sacred
history in a novel, romantic frame-work of familiar things. The
commonplace circumstances of ordinary life have been employed to portray
in the one case a lyric of mysterious splendour; in the other, an idyll
of infinite sweetness. Divinity shines through the rafters of that
upper chamber, where round a low large table the Apostles are assembled
in a group translated from the social customs of the painter's days.
Divinity is shed upon the straw-spread manger, where Christ lies
sleeping in the loft, with shepherds crowding through the room beneath.

A studied contrast between the simplicity and repose of the central
figure and the tumult of passions in the multitude around, may be
observed in the Miracle of S. Agnes. It is this which gives dramatic
vigour to the composition. But the same effect is carried to its highest
fulfilment, with even a loftier beauty, in the episode of Christ before
the judgment-seat of Pilate, at San Rocco. Of all Tintoretto's religious
pictures, that is the most profoundly felt, the most majestic. No other
artist succeeded as he has here succeeded in presenting to us God
incarnate. For this Christ is not merely the just man, innocent, silent
before his accusers. The stationary, white-draped figure, raised high
above the agitated crowd, with tranquil forehead slightly bent, facing
his perplexed and fussy judge, is more than man. We cannot say perhaps
precisely why he is divine. But Tintoretto has made us feel that he is.
In other words, his treatment of the high theme chosen by him has been
adequate.

We must seek the Scuola di San Rocco for examples of Tintoretto's
liveliest imagination. Without ceasing to be Italian in his attention to
harmony and grace, he far exceeded the masters of his nation in the
power of suggesting what is weird, mysterious, upon the border-land of
the grotesque. And of this quality there are three remarkable instances
in the Scuola. No one but Tintoretto could have evoked the fiend in his
Temptation of Christ. It is an indescribable hermaphroditic genius, the
genius of carnal fascination, with outspread downy rose-plumed wings,
and flaming bracelets on the full but sinewy arms, who kneels and lifts
aloft great stones, smiling entreatingly to the sad, grey Christ seated
beneath a rugged pent-house of the desert. No one again but Tintoretto
could have dashed the hot lights of that fiery sunset in such quivering
flakes upon the golden flesh of Eve, half-hidden among laurels, as she
stretches forth the fruit of the Fall to shrinking Adam. No one but
Tintoretto, till we come to Blake, could have imagined yonder Jonah,
summoned by the beck of God from the whale's belly. The monstrous fish
rolls over in the ocean, blowing portentous vapour from his trump-shaped
nostril. The prophet's beard descends upon his naked breast in hoary
ringlets to the girdle. He has forgotten the past peril of the deep,
although the whale's jaws yawn around him. Between him and the
outstretched finger of Jehovah calling him again to life, there runs a
spark of unseen spiritual electricity.

To comprehend Tintoretto's touch upon the pastoral idyll we must turn
our steps to San Giorgio again, and pace those meadows by the running
river in company with his Manna-Gatherers. Or we may seek the Accademia,
and notice how he here has varied the Temptation of Adam by Eve,
choosing a less tragic motive of seduction than the one so powerfully
rendered at San Rocco. Or in the Ducal Palace we may take our station,
hour by hour, before the Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne. It is well to
leave the very highest achievements of art untouched by criticism
undescribed. And in this picture we have the most perfect of all modern
attempts to realise an antique myth--more perfect than Raphael's
Galatea, or Titian's Meeting of Bacchus with Ariadne, or Botticelli's
Birth of Venus from the Sea. It may suffice to marvel at the slight
effect which melodies so powerful and so direct as these produce upon
the ordinary public. Sitting, as is my wont, one Sunday morning,
opposite the Bacchus, four Germans with a cicerone sauntered by. The
subject was explained to them. They waited an appreciable space of time.
Then the youngest opened his lips and spake: "Bacchus war der
Wein-Gott." And they all moved heavily away. _Bos locutus est._ "Bacchus
was the wine-god!" This, apparently, is what a picture tells to one man.
To another it presents divine harmonies, perceptible indeed in nature,
but here by the painter-poet for the first time brought together and
cadenced in a work of art. For another it is perhaps the hieroglyph of
pent-up passions and desired impossibilities. For yet another it may
only mean the unapproachable inimitable triumph of consummate craft.

Tintoretto, to be rightly understood, must be sought all over Venice--in
the church as well as the Scuola di San Rocco; in the Temptation of S.
Anthony at S. Trovaso no less than in the Temptations of Eve and Christ;
in the decorative pomp of the Sala del Senato, and in the Paradisal
vision of the Sala del Gran Consiglio. Yet, after all, there is one of
his most characteristic moods, to appreciate which fully we return to
the Madonna dell'Orto. I have called him "the painter of
impossibilities." At rare moments he rendered them possible by sheer
imaginative force. If we wish to realise this phase of his creative
power, and to measure our own subordination to his genius in its most
hazardous enterprise, we must spend much time in the choir of this
church. Lovers of art who mistrust this play of the audacious
fancy--aiming at sublimity in supersensual regions, sometimes attaining
to it by stupendous effort or authentic revelation, not seldom sinking
to the verge of bathos, and demanding the assistance of interpretative
sympathy in the spectator--such men will not take the point of view
required of them by Tintoretto in his boldest flights, in the Worship of
the Golden Calf and in the Destruction of the World by Water. It is for
them to ponder well the flying archangel with the scales of judgment in
his hand, and the seraph-charioted Jehovah enveloping Moses upon Sinai
in lightnings.

The gondola has had a long rest. Were Francesco but a little more
impatient, he might be wondering what had become of the padrone. I bid
him turn, and we are soon gliding into the Sacca della Misericordia.
This is a protected float, where the wood which comes from Cadore and
the hills of the Ampezzo is stored in spring. Yonder square white house,
standing out to sea, fronting Murano and the Alps, they call the Casa
degli Spiriti. No one cares to inhabit it; for here, in old days, it was
the wont of the Venetians to lay their dead for a night's rest before
their final journey to the graveyard of S. Michele. So many generations
of dead folk had made that house their inn, that it is now no fitting
home for living men. San Michele is the island close before Murano,
where the Lombardi built one of their most romantically graceful
churches of pale Istrian stone, and where the Campo Santo has for
centuries received the dead into its oozy clay. The cemetery is at
present undergoing restoration. Its state of squalor and abandonment to
cynical disorder makes one feel how fitting for Italians would be the
custom of cremation. An island in the lagoons devoted to funeral pyres
is a solemn and ennobling conception. This graveyard, with its ruinous
walls, its mangy riot of unwholesome weeds, its corpses festering in
slime beneath neglected slabs in hollow chambers, and the mephitic wash
of poisoned waters that surround it, inspires the horror of disgust.

The morning has not lost its freshness. Antelao and Tofana, guarding the
vale above Cortina, show faint streaks of snow upon their amethyst.
Little clouds hang in the still autumn sky. There are men dredging for
shrimps and crabs through shoals uncovered by the ebb. Nothing can be
lovelier, more resting to eyes tired with pictures than this tranquil,
sunny expanse of the lagoon. As we round the point of the Bersaglio, new
landscapes of island and Alp and low-lying mainland move into sight at
every slow stroke of the oar. A luggage-train comes lumbering along the
railway bridge, puffing white smoke into the placid blue. Then we strike
down Cannaregio, and I muse upon processions of kings and generals and
noble strangers, entering Venice by this water-path from Mestre, before
the Austrians built their causeway for the trains. Some of the rare
scraps of fresco upon house fronts, still to be seen in Venice, are left
in Cannaregio. They are chiaroscuro allegories in a bold bravura manner
of the sixteenth century. From these and from a few rosy fragments on
the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the Fabbriche Nuove, and precious fading
figures in a certain courtyard near San Stefano, we form some notion
how Venice looked when all her palaces were painted. Pictures by Gentile
Bellini, Mansueti, and Carpaccio help the fancy in this work of
restoration. And here and there, in back canals, we come across coloured
sections of old buildings, capped by true Venetian chimneys, which for a
moment seem to realise our dream.

A morning with Tintoretto might well be followed by a morning with
Carpaccio or Bellini. But space is wanting in these pages. Nor would it
suit the manner of this medley to hunt the Lombardi through palaces and
churches, pointing out their singularities of violet and yellow
panellings in marble, the dignity of their wide-opened arches, or the
delicacy of their shallow chiselled traceries in cream-white Istrian
stone. It is enough to indicate the goal of many a pleasant pilgrimage:
warrior angels of Vivarini and Basaiti hidden in a dark chapel of the
Frari; Fra Francesco's fantastic orchard of fruits and flowers in
distant S. Francesco della Vigna; the golden Gian Bellini in S.
Zaccaria; Palma's majestic S. Barbara in S. Maria Formosa; San Giobbe's
wealth of sculptured frieze and floral scroll; the Ponte di Paradiso,
with its Gothic arch; the painted plates in the Museo Civico; and palace
after palace, loved for some quaint piece of tracery, some moulding full
of mediæval symbolism, some fierce impossible Renaissance freak of
fancy.

Rather than prolong this list, I will tell a story which drew me one day
past the Public Gardens to the metropolitan Church of Venice, San Pietro
di Castello. The novella is related by Bandello. It has, as will be
noticed, points of similarity to that of "Romeo and Juliet."


V.--A VENETIAN NOVELLA.

At the time when Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini were painting those
handsome youths in tight jackets, parti-coloured hose, and little round
caps placed awry upon their shocks of well-combed hair, there lived in
Venice two noblemen, Messer Pietro and Messer Paolo, whose palaces
fronted each other on the Grand Canal. Messer Paolo was a widower, with
one married daughter, and an only son of twenty years or thereabouts,
named Gerardo. Messer Pietro's wife was still living; and this couple
had but one child, a daughter, called Elena, of exceeding beauty, aged
fourteen. Gerardo, as is the wont of gallants, was paying his addresses
to a certain lady; and nearly every day he had to cross the Grand Canal
in his gondola, and to pass beneath the house of Elena on his way to
visit his Dulcinea; for this lady lived some distance up a little canal
on which the western side of Messer Pietro's palace looked.

Now it so happened that at the very time when the story opens, Messer
Pietro's wife fell ill and died, and Elena was left alone at home with
her father and her old nurse. Across the little canal of which I spoke
there dwelt another nobleman, with four daughters, between the years of
seventeen and twenty-one. Messer Pietro, desiring to provide amusement
for poor little Elena, besought this gentleman that his daughters might
come on feast-days to play with her. For you must know that, except on
festivals of the Church, the custom of Venice required that gentlewomen
should remain closely shut within the private apartments of their
dwellings. His request was readily granted; and on the next feast-day
the five girls began to play at ball together for forfeits in the great
saloon, which opened with its row of Gothic arches and balustrated
balcony upon the Grand Canal. The four sisters, meanwhile, had other
thoughts than for the game. One or other of them, and sometimes three
together, would let the ball drop, and run to the balcony to gaze upon
their gallants, passing up and down in gondolas below; and then they
would drop flowers or ribbands for tokens. Which negligence of theirs
annoyed Elena much; for she thought only of the game. Wherefore she
scolded them in childish wise, and one of them made answer, "Elena, if
you only knew how pleasant it is to play as we are playing on this
balcony, you would not care so much for ball and forfeits!"

On one of those feast-days the four sisters were prevented from keeping
their little friend company. Elena, with nothing to do, and feeling
melancholy, leaned upon the window-sill which overlooked the narrow
canal. And it chanced that just then Gerardo, on his way to Dulcinea,
went by; and Elena looked down at him, as she had seen those sisters
look at passers-by. Gerardo caught her eye, and glances passed between
them, and Gerardo's gondolier, bending from the poop, said to his
master, "O master! methinks that gentle maiden is better worth your
wooing than Dulcinea." Gerardo pretended to pay no heed to these words;
but after rowing a little way, he bade the man turn, and they went
slowly back beneath the window. This time Elena, thinking to play the
game which her four friends had played, took from her hair a clove
carnation and let it fall close to Gerardo on the cushion of the
gondola. He raised the flower and put it to his lips, acknowledging the
courtesy with a grave bow. But the perfume of the clove and the beauty
of Elena in that moment took possession of his heart together, and
straightway he forgot Dulcinea.

As yet he knew not who Elena was. Nor is this wonderful; for the
daughters of Venetian nobles were but rarely seen or spoken of. But the
thought of her haunted him awake and sleeping; and every feast-day, when
there was the chance of seeing her, he rowed his gondola beneath her
windows. And there she appeared to him in company with her four friends;
the five girls clustering together like sister roses beneath the pointed
windows of the Gothic balcony. Elena, on her side, had no thought of
love; for of love she had heard no one speak. But she took pleasure in
the game those friends had taught her, of leaning from the balcony to
watch Gerardo. He meanwhile grew love-sick and impatient, wondering how
he might declare his passion. Until one day it happened that, walking
through a lane or _calle_ which skirted Messer Pietro's palace, he
caught sight of Elena's nurse, who was knocking at the door, returning
from some shopping she had made. This nurse had been his own nurse in
childhood; therefore he remembered her, and cried aloud, "Nurse, Nurse!"
But the old woman did not hear him, and passed into the house and shut
the door behind her. Whereupon Gerardo, greatly moved, still called to
her, and when he reached the door, began to knock upon it violently. And
whether it was the agitation of finding himself at last so near the wish
of his heart, or whether the pains of waiting for his love had weakened
him, I know not; but, while he knocked, his senses left him, and he
fell fainting in the doorway. Then the nurse recognised the youth to
whom she had given suck, and brought him into the courtyard by the help
of handmaidens, and Elena came down and gazed upon him. The house was
now full of bustle, and Messer Pietro heard the noise, and seeing the
son of his neighbour in so piteous a plight, he caused Gerardo to be
laid upon a bed. But for all they could do with him, he recovered not
from his swoon. And after a while force was that they should place him
in a gondola and ferry him across to his father's house. The nurse went
with him, and informed Messer Paolo of what had happened. Doctors were
sent for, and the whole family gathered round Gerardo's bed. After a
while he revived a little; and thinking himself still upon the doorstep
of Pietro's palace, called again, "Nurse, Nurse!" She was near at hand,
and would have spoken to him. But while he summoned his senses to his
aid, he became gradually aware of his own kinsfolk and dissembled the
secret of his grief. They beholding him in better cheer, departed on
their several ways, and the nurse still sat alone beside him. Then he
explained to her what he had at heart, and how he was in love with a
maiden whom he had seen on feast-days in the house of Messer Pietro. But
still he knew not Elena's name; and she, thinking it impossible that
such a child had inspired this passion, began to marvel which of the
four sisters it was Gerardo loved. Then they appointed the next Sunday,
when all the five girls should be together, for Gerardo by some sign, as
he passed beneath the window, to make known to the old nurse his lady.

Elena, meanwhile, who had watched Gerardo lying still and pale in swoon
beneath her on the pavement of the palace, felt the stirring of a new
unknown emotion in her soul. When Sunday came, she devised excuses for
keeping her four friends away, bethinking her that she might see him
once again alone, and not betray the agitation which she dreaded. This
ill suited the schemes of the nurse, who nevertheless was forced to be
content. But after dinner, seeing how restless was the girl, and how she
came and went, and ran a thousand times to the balcony, the nurse began
to wonder whether Elena herself were not in love with some one. So she
feigned to sleep, but placed herself within sight of the window. And
soon Gerardo came by in his gondola; and Elena, who was prepared, threw
to him her nosegay. The watchful nurse had risen, and peeping behind the
girl's shoulder, saw at a glance how matters stood. Thereupon she began
to scold her charge, and say, "Is this a fair and comely thing, to stand
all day at balconies and throw flowers at passers-by? Woe to you if your
father should come to know of this! He would make you wish yourself
among the dead!" Elena, sore troubled at her nurse's rebuke, turned and
threw her arms about her neck, and called her "Nanna!" as the wont is of
Venetian children. Then she told the old woman how she had learned that
game from the four sisters, and how she thought it was not different,
but far more pleasant, than the game of forfeits; whereupon her nurse
spoke gravely, explaining what love is, and how that love should lead to
marriage, and bidding her search her own heart if haply she could choose
Gerardo for her husband. There was no reason, as she knew, why Messer
Paolo's son should not mate with Messer Pietro's daughter. But being a
romantic creature, as many women are, she resolved to bring the match
about in secret.

Elena took little time to reflect, but told her nurse that she was
willing, if Gerardo willed it too, to have him for her husband. Then
went the nurse and made the young man know how matters stood, and
arranged with him a day, when Messer Pietro should be in the Council of
the Pregadi, and the servants of the palace otherwise employed, for him
to come and meet his Elena. A glad man was Gerardo, nor did he wait to
think how better it would be to ask the hand of Elena in marriage from
her father. But when the day arrived, he sought the nurse, and she took
him to a chamber in the palace, where there stood an image of the
Blessed Virgin. Elena was there, pale and timid; and when the lovers
clasped hands, neither found many words to say. But the nurse bade them
take heart, and leading them before Our Lady, joined their hands, and
made Gerardo place his ring on his bride's finger. After this fashion
were Gerardo and Elena wedded. And for some while, by the assistance of
the nurse, they dwelt together in much love and solace, meeting often as
occasion offered.

Messer Paolo, who knew nothing of these things, took thought meanwhile
for his son's career. It was the season when the Signory of Venice sends
a fleet of galleys to Beirut with merchandise; and the noblemen may bid
for the hiring of a ship, and charge it with wares, and send whomsoever
they list as factor in their interest. One of these galleys, then,
Messer Paolo engaged, and told his son that he had appointed him to
journey with it and increase their wealth. "On thy return, my son," he
said, "we will bethink us of a wife for thee." Gerardo, when he heard
these words, was sore troubled, and first he told his father roundly
that he would not go, and flew off in the twilight to pour out his
perplexities to Elena. But she, who was prudent and of gentle soul,
besought him to obey his father in this thing, to the end, moreover,
that, having done his will and increased his wealth, he might afterwards
unfold the story of their secret marriage. To these good counsels,
though loth, Gerardo consented. His father was overjoyed at his son's
repentance. The galley was straightway laden with merchandise, and
Gerardo set forth on his voyage.

The trip to Beirut and back lasted usually six months or at the most
seven. Now when Gerardo had been some six months away, Messer Pietro,
noticing how fair his daughter was, and how she had grown into
womanhood, looked about him for a husband for her. When he had found a
youth suitable in birth and wealth and years, he called for Elena, and
told her that the day had been appointed for her marriage. She, alas!
knew not what to answer. She feared to tell her father that she was
already married, for she knew not whether this would please Gerardo. For
the same reason she dreaded to throw herself upon the kindness of Messer
Paolo. Nor was her nurse of any help in counsel; for the old woman
repented her of what she had done, and had good cause to believe that,
even if the marriage with Gerardo were accepted by the two fathers, they
would punish her for her own part in the affair. Therefore she bade
Elena wait on fortune, and hinted to her that, if the worst came to the
worst, no one need know she had been wedded with the ring to Gerardo.
Such weddings, you must know, were binding; but till they had been
blessed by the Church, they had not taken the force of a religious
sacrament. And this is still the case in Italy among the common folk,
who will say of a man, "Si, è ammogliato; ma il matrimonio non è stato
benedetto." "Yes, he has taken a wife, but the marriage has not yet been
blessed."

So the days flew by in doubt and sore distress for Elena. Then on the
night before her wedding, she felt that she could bear this life no
longer. But having no poison, and being afraid to pierce her bosom with
a knife, she lay down on her bed alone, and tried to die by holding in
her breath. A mortal swoon came over her; her senses fled; the life in
her remained suspended. And when her nurse came next morning to call
her, she found poor Elena cold as a corpse. Messer Pietro and all the
household rushed, at the nurse's cries, into the room, and they all saw
Elena stretched dead upon her bed undressed. Physicians were called, who
made theories to explain the cause of death. But all believed that she
was really dead, beyond all help of art or medicine. Nothing remained
but to carry her to church for burial instead of marriage. Therefore,
that very evening, a funeral procession was formed, which moved by
torchlight up the Grand Canal, along the Riva, past the blank walls of
the Arsenal, to the Campo before San Pietro in Castello. Elena lay
beneath the black felze in one gondola, with a priest beside her
praying, and other boats followed bearing mourners. Then they laid her
marble chest outside the church, and all departed, still with torches
burning, to their homes.

Now it so fell out that upon that very evening Gerardo's galley had
returned from Syria, and was anchoring within the port of Lido, which
looks across to the island of Castello. It was the gentle custom of
Venice at that time that, when a ship arrived from sea, the friends of
those on board at once came out to welcome them, and take and give the
news. Therefore many noble youths and other citizens were on the deck of
Gerardo's galley, making merry with him over the safe conduct of his
voyage. Of one of these he asked, "Whose is yonder funeral procession
returning from San Pietro?" The young man made answer, "Alas for poor
Elena, Messer Pietro's daughter! She should have been married this day.
But death took her, and to-night they buried her in the marble monument
outside the church." A woeful man was Gerardo, hearing suddenly this
news, and knowing what his dear wife must have suffered ere she died.
Yet he restrained himself, daring not to disclose his anguish, and
waited till his friends had left the galley. Then he called to him the
captain of the oarsmen, who was his friend, and unfolded to him all the
story of his love and sorrow, and said that he must go that night and
see his wife once more, if even he should have to break her tomb. The
captain tried to dissuade him, but in vain. Seeing him so obstinate, he
resolved not to desert Gerardo. The two men took one of the galley's
boats, and rowed together toward San Pietro. It was past midnight when
they reached the Campo and broke the marble sepulchre asunder. Pushing
back its lid, Gerardo descended into the grave and abandoned himself
upon the body of his Elena. One who had seen them at that moment could
not well have said which of the two was dead and which was living--Elena
or her husband. Meantime the captain of the oarsmen, fearing lest the
watch (set by the Masters of the Night to keep the peace of Venice)
might arrive, was calling on Gerardo to come back. Gerardo heeded him no
whit. But at the last, compelled by his entreaties, and as it were
astonied, he arose, bearing his wife's corpse in his arms, and carried
her clasped against his bosom to the boat, and laid her therein, and sat
down by her side and kissed her frequently, and suffered not his
friend's remonstrances. Force was for the captain, having brought
himself into this scrape, that he should now seek refuge by the nearest
way from justice. Therefore he hoved gently from the bank, and plied his
oar, and brought the gondola apace into the open waters. Gerardo still
clasped Elena, dying husband by dead wife. But the sea-breeze freshened
towards daybreak, and the Captain, looking down upon that pair, and
bringing to their faces the light of his boat's lantern, judged their
case not desperate at all. On Elena's cheek there was a flush of life
less deadly even than the pallor of Gerardo's forehead. Thereupon the
good man called aloud, and Gerardo started from his grief; and both
together they chafed the hands and feet of Elena; and, the sea-breeze
aiding with its saltness, they awoke in her the spark of life.

Dimly burned the spark. But Gerardo, being aware of it, became a man
again. Then, having taken counsel with the captain, both resolved to
bear her to that brave man's mother's house. A bed was soon made ready,
and food was brought; and after due time, she lifted up her face and
knew Gerardo. The peril of the grave was past, but thought had now to be
taken for the future. Therefore Gerardo, leaving his wife to the
captain's mother, rowed back to the galley and prepared to meet his
father. With good store of merchandise and with great gains from his
traffic, he arrived in that old palace on the Grand Canal. Then having
opened to Messer Paolo the matters of his journey, and shown him how he
had fared, and set before him tables of disbursements and receipts, he
seized the moment of his father's gladness. "Father," he said, and as he
spoke he knelt upon his knees, "Father, I bring you not good store of
merchandise and bags of gold alone; I bring you also a wedded wife, whom
I have saved this night from death." And when the old man's surprise was
quieted, he told him the whole story. Now Messer Paolo, desiring no
better than that his son should wed the heiress of his neighbour, and
knowing well that Messer Pietro would make great joy receiving back his
daughter from the grave, bade Gerardo in haste take rich apparel and
clothe Elena therewith, and fetch her home. These things were swiftly
done; and after evenfall Messer Pietro was bidden to grave business in
his neighbour's palace. With heavy heart he came, from a house of
mourning to a house of gladness. But there, at the banquet-table's head
he saw his dead child Elena alive, and at her side a husband. And when
the whole truth had been declared, he not only kissed and embraced the
pair who knelt before him, but of his goodness forgave the nurse, who in
her turn came trembling to his feet. Then fell there joy and bliss in
over-measure that night upon both palaces of the Canal Grande. And with
the morrow the Church blessed the spousals which long since had been on
both sides vowed and consummated.


VI.--ON THE LAGOONS.

The mornings are spent in study, sometimes among pictures, sometimes in
the Marcian Library, or again in those vast convent chambers of the
Frari, where the archives of Venice load innumerable shelves. The
afternoons invite us to a further flight upon the water. Both sandolo
and gondola await our choice, and we may sail or row, according as the
wind and inclination tempt us.

Yonder lies San Lazzaro, with the neat red buildings of the Armenian
convent. The last oleander blossoms shine rosy pink above its walls
against the pure blue sky as we glide into the little harbour. Boats
piled with coal-black grapes block the landing-place, for the Padri are
gathering their vintage from the Lido, and their presses run with new
wine. Eustace and I have not come to revive memories of Byron--that
curious patron saint of the Armenian colony--or to inspect the
printing-press, which issues books of little value for our studies. It
is enough to pace the terrace, and linger half an hour beneath the low
broad arches of the alleys pleached with vines, through which the domes
and towers of Venice rise more beautiful by distance.

Malamocco lies considerably farther, and needs a full hour of stout
rowing to reach it. Alighting there, we cross the narrow strip of land,
and find ourselves upon the huge sea-wall--block piled on block--of
Istrian stone in tiers and ranks, with cunning breathing-places for the
waves to wreak their fury on and foam their force away in fretful waste.
The very existence of Venice may be said to depend sometimes on these
_murazzi_, which were finished at an immense cost by the Republic in the
days of its decadence. The enormous monoliths which compose them had to
be brought across the Adriatic in sailing vessels. Of all the Lidi, that
of Malamocco is the weakest; and here, if anywhere, the sea might effect
an entrance into the lagoon. Our gondoliers told us of some places where
the _murazzi_ were broken in a gale, or _sciroccale_, not very long ago.
Lying awake in Venice, when the wind blows hard, one hears the sea
thundering upon its sandy barrier, and blesses God for the _murazzi_. On
such a night it happened once to me to dream a dream of Venice
overwhelmed by water. I saw the billows roll across the smooth lagoon
like a gigantic Eager. The Ducal Palace crumbled, and San Marco's domes
went down. The Campanile rocked and shivered like a reed. And all along
the Grand Canal the palaces swayed helpless, tottering to their fall,
while boats piled high with men and women strove to stem the tide, and
save themselves from those impending ruins. It was a mad dream, born of
the sea's roar and Tintoretto's painting. But this afternoon no such
visions are suggested. The sea sleeps, and in the moist autumn air we
break tall branches of the seeded yellowing samphire from hollows of the
rocks, and bear them homeward in a wayward bouquet mixed with cobs of
Indian-corn.

Fusina is another point for these excursions. It lies at the mouth of
the Canal di Brenta, where the mainland ends in marsh and meadows,
intersected by broad renes. In spring the ditches bloom with
fleurs-de-lys; in autumn they take sober colouring from lilac daisies
and the delicate sea-lavender. Scores of tiny plants are turning scarlet
on the brown moist earth; and when the sun goes down behind the Euganean
hills, his crimson canopy of cloud, reflected on these shallows, muddy
shoals, and wilderness of matted weeds, converts the common earth into a
fairyland of fabulous dyes. Purple, violet, and rose are spread around
us. In front stretches the lagoon, tinted with a pale light from the
east, and beyond this pallid mirror shines Venice--a long low broken
line, touched with the softest roseate flush. Ere we reach the Giudecca
on our homeward way, sunset has faded. The western skies have clad
themselves in green, barred with dark fire-rimmed clouds. The Euganean
hills stand like stupendous pyramids, Egyptian, solemn, against a lemon
space on the horizon. The far reaches of the lagoons, the Alps, and
islands assume those tones of glowing lilac which are the supreme beauty
of Venetian evening. Then, at last, we see the first lamps glitter on
the Zattere. The quiet of the night has come.

Words cannot be formed to express the endless varieties of Venetian
sunset. The most magnificent follow after wet stormy days, when the west
breaks suddenly into a labyrinth of fire, when chasms of clear turquoise
heavens emerge, and horns of flame are flashed to the zenith, and
unexpected splendours scale the fretted clouds, step over step, stealing
along the purple caverns till the whole dome throbs. Or, again, after a
fair day, a change of weather approaches, and high, infinitely high, the
skies are woven over with a web of half-transparent cirrus-clouds. These
in the after-glow blush crimson, and through their rifts the depth of
heaven is of a hard and gem-like blue, and all the water turns to rose
beneath them. I remember one such evening on the way back from Torcello.
We were well out at sea between Mazzorbo and Murano. The ruddy arches
overhead were reflected without interruption in the waveless ruddy lake
below. Our black boat was the only dark spot in this sphere of
splendour. We seemed to hang suspended; and such as this, I fancied,
must be the feeling of an insect caught in the heart of a fiery-petalled
rose. Yet not these melodramatic sunsets alone are beautiful. Even more
exquisite, perhaps, are the lagoons, painted in monochrome of greys,
with just one touch of pink upon a western cloud, scattered in ripples
here and there on the waves below, reminding us that day has passed and
evening come. And beautiful again are the calm settings of fair weather,
when sea and sky alike are cheerful, and the topmost blades of the
lagoon grass, peeping from the shallows, glance like emeralds upon the
surface. There is no deep stirring of the spirit in a symphony of light
and colour; but purity, peace, and freshness make their way into our
hearts.


VII.--AT THE LIDO.

Of all these afternoon excursions, that to the Lido is most frequent. It
has two points for approach. The more distant is the little station of
San Nicoletto, at the mouth of the Porto. With an ebb-tide, the water
of the lagoon runs past the mulberry gardens of this hamlet like a
river. There is here a grove of acacia-trees, shadowy and dreamy, above
deep grass, which even an Italian summer does not wither. The Riva is
fairly broad, forming a promenade, where one may conjure up the
personages of a century ago. For San Nicoletto used to be a fashionable
resort before the other points of Lido had been occupied by
pleasure-seekers. An artist even now will select its old-world quiet,
leafy shade, and prospect through the islands of Vignole and Sant'Erasmo
to snow-touched peaks of Antelao and Tofana, rather than the glare and
bustle and extended view of Venice which its rival Sant'Elisabetta
offers.

But when we want a plunge into the Adriatic, or a stroll along smooth
sands, or a breath of genuine sea-breeze, or a handful of horned poppies
from the dunes, or a lazy half-hour's contemplation of a limitless
horizon flecked with russet sails, then we seek Sant'Elisabetta. Our
boat is left at the landing-place. We saunter across the island and back
again. Antonio and Francesco wait and order wine, which we drink with
them in the shade of the little _osteria's_ wall.

A certain afternoon in May I well remember, for this visit to the Lido
was marked by one of those apparitions which are as rare as they are
welcome to the artist's soul. I have always held that in our modern life
the only real equivalent for the antique mythopoeic sense--that sense
which enabled the Hellenic race to figure for themselves the powers of
earth and air, streams and forests, and the presiding genii of places,
under the forms of living human beings, is supplied by the appearance at
some felicitous moment of a man or woman who impersonates for our
imagination the essence of the beauty that environs us. It seems, at
such a fortunate moment, as though we had been waiting for this
revelation, although perchance the want of it had not been previously
felt. Our sensations and perceptions test themselves at the touchstone
of this living individuality. The keynote of the whole music dimly
sounding in our ears is struck. A melody emerges, clear in form and
excellent in rhythm. The landscapes we have painted on our brain, no
longer lack their central figure. The life proper to the complex
conditions we have studied is discovered, and every detail, judged by
this standard of vitality, falls into its right relations.

I had been musing long that day and earnestly upon the mystery of the
lagoons, their opaline transparencies of air and water, their fretful
risings and sudden subsidence into calm, the treacherousness of their
shoals, the sparkle and the splendour of their sunlight. I had asked
myself how would a Greek sculptor have personified the elemental deity
of these salt-water lakes, so different in quality from the Ægean or
Ionian sea? What would he find distinctive of their spirit? The Tritons
of these shallows must be of other form and lineage than the fierce-eyed
youth who blows his conch upon the curled crest of a wave, crying aloud
to his comrades, as he bears the nymph away to caverns where the billows
plunge in tideless instability.

We had picked up shells and looked for sea-horses on the Adriatic shore.
Then we returned to give our boatmen wine beneath the vine-clad
_pergola_. Four other men were there, drinking, and eating from a dish
of fried fish set upon the coarse white linen cloth. Two of them soon
rose and went away. Of the two who stayed, one was a large, middle-aged
man; the other was still young. He was tall and sinewy, but slender, for
these Venetians are rarely massive in their strength. Each limb is
equally developed by the exercise of rowing upright, bending all the
muscles to their stroke. Their bodies are elastically supple, with free
sway from the hips and a mercurial poise upon the ankle. Stefano showed
these qualities almost in exaggeration. The type in him was refined to
its artistic perfection. Moreover, he was rarely in repose, but moved
with a singular brusque grace. A black broad-brimmed hat was thrown back
upon his matted _zazzera_ of dark hair tipped with dusky brown. This
shock of hair, cut in flakes, and falling wilfully, reminded me of the
lagoon grass when it darkens in autumn upon uncovered shoals, and sunset
gilds its sombre edges. Fiery grey eyes beneath it gazed intensely, with
compulsive effluence of electricity. It was the wild glance of a Triton.
Short blonde moustache, dazzling teeth, skin bronzed, but showing white
and healthful through open front and sleeves of lilac shirt. The dashing
sparkle of this animate splendour, who looked to me as though the
sea-waves and the sun had made him in some hour of secret and unquiet
rapture, was somehow emphasised by a curious dint dividing his square
chin--a cleft that harmonised with smile on lip and steady flame in
eyes. I hardly know what effect it would have upon a reader to compare
eyes to opals. Yet Stefano's eyes, as they met mine, had the vitreous
intensity of opals, as though the colour of Venetian waters were
vitalised in them. This noticeable being had a rough, hoarse voice,
which, to develop the parallel with a sea-god, might have screamed in
storm or whispered raucous messages from crests of tossing billows.

I felt, as I looked, that here, for me at least, the mythopoem of the
lagoons was humanised; the spirit of the salt-water lakes had appeared
to me; the final touch of life emergent from nature had been given. I
was satisfied; for I had seen a poem.

Then we rose, and wandered through the Jews' cemetery. It is a quiet
place, where the flat grave-stones, inscribed in Hebrew and Italian, lie
deep in Lido sand, waved over with wild grass and poppies. I would fain
believe that no neglect, but rather the fashion of this folk, had left
the monuments of generations to be thus resumed by nature. Yet, knowing
nothing of the history of this burial-ground, I dare not affirm so much.
There is one outlying piece of the cemetery which seems to contradict my
charitable interpretation. It is not far from San Nicoletto. No
enclosure marks it from the unconsecrated dunes. Acacia-trees sprout
amid the monuments, and break the tablets with their thorny shoots
upthrusting from the soil. Where patriarchs and rabbis sleep for
centuries, the fishers of the sea now wander, and defile these
habitations of the dead:

            Corruption most abhorred
    Mingling itself with their renownèd ashes.

Some of the grave-stones have been used to fence the towing-path; and
one I saw, well carved with letters legible of Hebrew on fair Itrian
marble, which roofed an open drain leading from the stable of a
Christian dog.


VIII.--A VENETIAN RESTAURANT.

At the end of a long glorious day, unhappy is that mortal whom the
Hermes of a cosmopolitan hotel, white-chokered and white-waistcoated,
marshals to the Hades of the _table-d'hôte_. The world has often been
compared to an inn; but on my way down to this common meal I have, not
unfrequently, felt fain to reverse the simile. From their separate
stations, at the appointed hour, the guests like ghosts flit to a gloomy
gas-lit chamber. They are of various speech and race, preoccupied with
divers interests and cares. Necessity and the waiter drive them all to a
sepulchral syssition, whereof the cook too frequently deserves that old
Greek comic epithet--+hadou mageiros+--cook of the Inferno. And just as
we are told that in Charon's boat we shall not be allowed to pick our
society, so here we must accept what fellowship the fates provide. An
English spinster retailing paradoxes culled to-day from Ruskin's
handbooks; an American citizen describing his jaunt in a gondola from
the railway station; a German shopkeeper descanting in one breath on
Baur's Bock and the beauties of the Marcusplatz; an intelligent æsthete
bent on working into clearness his own views of Carpaccio's genius: all
these in turn, or all together, must be suffered gladly through
well-nigh two long hours. Uncomforted in soul we rise from the expensive
banquet; and how often rise from it unfed!

Far other be the doom of my own friends--of pious bards and genial
companions, lovers of natural and lovely things! Nor for these do I
desire a seat at Florian's marble tables, or a perch in Quadri's
window, though the former supply dainty food, and the latter command a
bird's-eye view of the Piazza. Rather would I lead them to a certain
humble tavern on the Zattere. It is a quaint, low-built, unpretending
little place, near a bridge, with a garden hard by which sends a
cataract of honeysuckles sunward over a too-jealous wall. In front lies
a Mediterranean steamer, which all day long has been discharging cargo.
Gazing westward up Giudecca, masts and funnels bar the sunset and the
Paduan hills; and from a little front room of the _trattoria_ the view
is so marine that one keeps fancying oneself in some ship's cabin.
Sea-captains sit and smoke beside their glass of grog in the pavilion
and the _caffé_. But we do not seek their company at dinner-time. Our
way lies under yonder arch, and up the narrow alley into a paved court.
Here are oleanders in pots, and plants of Japanese spindle-wood in tubs;
and from the walls beneath the window hang cages of all sorts of
birds--a talking parrot, a whistling blackbird, goldfinches, canaries,
linnets. Athos, the fat dog, who goes to market daily in a _barchetta_
with his master, snuffs around. "Where are Porthos and Aramis, my
friend?" Athos does not take the joke; he only wags his stump of tail
and pokes his nose into my hand. What a Tartufe's nose it is! Its bridge
displays the full parade of leather-bound brass-nailed muzzle. But
beneath, this muzzle is a patent sham. The frame does not even pretend
to close on Athos' jaw, and the wise dog wears it like a decoration. A
little farther we meet that ancient grey cat, who has no discoverable
name, but is famous for the sprightliness and grace with which she bears
her eighteen years. Not far from the cat one is sure to find Carlo--the
bird-like, bright-faced, close-cropped Venetian urchin, whose duty it is
to trot backwards and forwards between the cellar and the dining-tables.
At the end of the court we walk into the kitchen, where the black-capped
little _padrone_ and the gigantic white-capped _chef_ are in close
consultation. Here we have the privilege of inspecting the larder--fish
of various sorts, meat, vegetables, several kinds of birds, pigeons,
tordi, beccafichi, geese, wild ducks, chickens, woodcock, &c .,
according to the season. We select our dinner, and retire to eat it
either in the court among the birds beneath the vines, or in the low
dark room which occupies one side of it. Artists of many nationalities
and divers ages frequent this house; and the talk arising from the
several little tables, turns upon points of interest and beauty in the
life and landscape of Venice. There can be no difference of opinion
about the excellence of the _cuisine_, or about the reasonable charges
of this _trattoria_. A soup of lentils, followed by boiled turbot or
fried soles, beef-steak or mutton cutlets, tordi or beccafichi, with a
salad, the whole enlivened with good red wine or Florio's Sicilian
Marsala from the cask, costs about four francs. Gas is unknown in the
establishment. There is no noise, no bustle, no brutality of waiters, no
_ahurissement_ of tourists. And when dinner is done, we can sit awhile
over our cigarette and coffee, talking until the night invites us to a
stroll along the Zattere or a _giro_ in the gondola.


IX.--NIGHT IN VENICE.

Night in Venice! Night is nowhere else so wonderful, unless it be winter
among the high Alps. But the nights of Venice and the nights of the
mountains are too different in kind to be compared.

There is the ever-recurring miracle of the full moon rising, before day
is dead, behind San Giorgio, spreading a path of gold on the lagoon
which black boats traverse with the glow-worm lamp upon their prow;
ascending the cloudless sky and silvering the domes of the Salute;
pouring vitreous sheen upon the red lights of the Piazzetta; flooding
the Grand Canal, and lifting the Rialto higher in ethereal whiteness;
piercing but penetrating not the murky labyrinth of _rio_ linked with
_rio_, through which we wind in light and shadow, to reach once more the
level glories and the luminous expanse of heaven beyond the
Misericordia.

This is the melodrama of Venetian moonlight; and if a single impression
of the night has to be retained from one visit to Venice, those are
fortunate who chance upon a full moon of fair weather. Yet I know not
whether some quieter and soberer effects are not more thrilling.
To-night, for example, the waning moon will rise late through veils of
_scirocco_. Over the bridges of San Cristoforo and San Gregorio, through
the deserted Calle di Mezzo, my friend and I walk in darkness, pass the
marble basements of the Salute, and push our way along its Riva to the
point of the Dogana. We are out at sea alone, between the Canalozzo and
the Giudecca. A moist wind ruffles the water and cools our forehead. It
is so dark that we can only see San Giorgio by the light reflected on
it from the Piazzetta. The same light climbs the Campanile of S. Mark,
and shows the golden angel in mystery of gloom. The only noise that
reaches us is a confused hum from the Piazza. Sitting and musing there,
the blackness of the water whispers in our ears a tale of death. And now
we hear a plash of oars and gliding through the darkness comes a single
boat. One man leaps upon the landing-place without a word and
disappears. There is another wrapped in a military cloak asleep. I see
his face beneath me, pale and quiet. The _barcaruolo_ turns the point in
silence. From the darkness they came; into the darkness they have gone.
It is only an ordinary incident of coastguard service. But the spirit of
the night has made a poem of it.

Even tempestuous and rainy weather, though melancholy enough, is never
sordid here. There is no noise from carriage traffic in Venice, and the
sea-wind preserves the purity and transparency of the atmosphere. It had
been raining all day, but at evening came a partial clearing. I went
down to the Molo, where the large reach of the lagoon was all
moon-silvered, and San Giorgio Maggiore dark against the blueish sky,
and Santa Maria della Salute domed with moon-irradiated pearl, and the
wet slabs of the Riva shimmering in moonlight, the whole misty sky, with
its clouds and stellar spaces, drenched in moonlight, nothing but
moonlight sensible except the tawny flare of gas-lamps and the orange
lights of gondolas afloat upon the waters. On such a night the very
spirit of Venice is abroad. We feel why she is called Bride of the Sea.

Take yet another night. There had been a representation of Verdi's
"Forza del Destino" at the Teatro Malibran. After midnight we walked
homeward through the Merceria, crossed the Piazza, and dived into the
narrow _calle_ which leads to the _traghetto_ of the Salute. It was a
warm moist starless night, and there seemed no air to breathe in those
narrow alleys. The gondolier was half asleep. Eustace called him as we
jumped into his boat, and rang our _soldi_ on the gunwale. Then he arose
and turned the _ferro_ round, and stood across towards the Salute.
Silently, insensibly, from the oppression of confinement in the airless
streets to the liberty and immensity of the water and the night we
passed. It was but two minutes ere we touched the shore and said
good-night, and went our way and left the ferryman. But in that brief
passage he had opened our souls to everlasting things--the freshness,
and the darkness, and the kindness of the brooding, all-enfolding night
above the sea.



THE GONDOLIER'S WEDDING.


The night before the wedding we had a supper-party in my rooms. We were
twelve in all. My friend Eustace brought his gondolier Antonio with
fair-haired, dark-eyed wife, and little Attilio, their eldest child. My
own gondolier, Francesco, came with his wife and two children. Then
there was the handsome, languid Luigi, who, in his best clothes, or out
of them, is fit for any drawing-room. Two gondoliers, in dark blue
shirts, completed the list of guests, if we exclude the maid Catina, who
came and went about the table, laughing and joining in the songs, and
sitting down at intervals to take her share of wine. The big room
looking across the garden to the Grand Canal had been prepared for
supper; and the company were to be received in the smaller, which has a
fine open space in front of it to southwards. But as the guests arrived,
they seemed to find the kitchen and the cooking that was going on quite
irresistible. Catina, it seems, had lost her head with so many
cuttlefishes, _orai_, cakes, and fowls, and cutlets to reduce to order.
There was, therefore, a great bustle below stairs; and I could hear
plainly that all my guests were lending their making, or their marring,
hands to the preparation of the supper. That the company should cook
their own food on the way to the dining-room, seemed a quite novel
arrangement, but one that promised well for their contentment with the
banquet. Nobody could be dissatisfied with what was everybody's affair.

When seven o'clock struck, Eustace and I, who had been entertaining the
children in their mothers' absence, heard the sound of steps upon the
stairs. The guests arrived, bringing their own _risotto_ with them.
Welcome was short, if hearty. We sat down in carefully appointed order,
and fell into such conversation as the quarter of San Vio and our
several interests supplied. From time to time one of the matrons left
the table and descended to the kitchen, when a finishing stroke was
needed for roast pullet or stewed veal. The excuses they made their host
for supposed failure in the dishes, lent a certain grace and comic charm
to the commonplace of festivity. The entertainment was theirs as much as
mine; and they all seemed to enjoy what took the form by degrees of
curiously complicated hospitality. I do not think a well-ordered supper
at any _trattoria_, such as at first suggested itself to my imagination,
would have given any of us an equal pleasure or an equal sense of
freedom. The three children had become the guests of the whole party.
Little Attilio, propped upon an air-cushion, which puzzled him
exceedingly, ate through his supper and drank his wine with solid
satisfaction, opening the large brown eyes beneath those tufts of
clustering fair hair which promise much beauty for him in his manhood.
Francesco's boy, who is older and begins to know the world, sat with a
semi-suppressed grin upon his face, as though the humour of the
situation was not wholly hidden from him. Little Teresa too was happy,
except when her mother, a severe Pomona, with enormous earrings and
splendid _fazzoletto_ of crimson and orange dyes, pounced down upon her
for some supposed infraction of good manners--_creanza_, as they vividly
express it here. Only Luigi looked a trifle bored. But Luigi has been a
soldier, and has now attained the supercilious superiority of
young-manhood, which smokes its cigar of an evening in the piazza and
knows the merits of the different cafés.

The great business of the evening began when the eating was over, and
the decanters filled with new wine of Mirano circulated freely. The four
best singers of the party drew together; and the rest prepared
themselves to make suggestions, hum tunes, and join with fitful effect
in choruses. Antonio, who is a powerful young fellow, with bronzed
cheeks and a perfect tempest of coal-black hair in flakes upon his
forehead, has a most extraordinary soprano--sound as a bell, strong as a
trumpet, well-trained, and true to the least shade in intonation. Piero,
whose rugged Neptunian features, sea-wrinkled, tell of a rough
water-life, boasts a bass of resonant, almost pathetic quality.
Francesco has a _mezza voce_, which might, by a stretch of politeness,
be called baritone. Piero's comrade, whose name concerns us not, has
another of these nondescript voices. They sat together with their
glasses and cigars before them, sketching part-songs in outline,
striking the keynote--now higher and now lower--till they saw their
subject well in view. Then they burst into full singing, Antonio leading
with a metal note that thrilled one's ears, but still was musical.
Complicated contrapuntal pieces, such as we should call madrigals, with
ever-recurring refrains of "Venezia, gemma Triatica, sposa del mar,"
descending probably from ancient days, followed each other in quick
succession. Barcaroles, serenades, love-songs, and invitations to the
water were interwoven for relief. One of these romantic pieces had a
beautiful burden, "Dormi, o bella, o fingi di dormir," of which the
melody was fully worthy. But the most successful of all the tunes were
two with a sad motive. The one repeated incessantly "Ohimé! mia madre
morì;" the other was a girl's love lament: "Perchè tradirmi, perchè
lasciarmi! prima d'amarmi non eri così!" Even the children joined in
these; and Catina, who took the solo part in the second, was inspired to
a great dramatic effort. All these were purely popular songs. The people
of Venice, however, are passionate for operas. Therefore we had duets
and solos from "Ernani," the "Ballo in Maschera," and the "Forza del
Destino," and one comic chorus from "Boccaccio," which seemed to make
them wild with pleasure. To my mind, the best of these more formal
pieces was a duet between Attila and Italia from some opera unknown to
me, which Antonio and Piero performed with incomparable spirit. It was
noticeable how, descending to the people, sung by them for love at sea,
or on excursions to the villages round Mestre, these operatic
reminiscences had lost something of their theatrical formality, and
assumed instead the serious gravity, the quaint movement, and marked
emphasis which belong to popular music in Northern and Central Italy. An
antique character was communicated even to the recitative of Verdi by
slight, almost indefinable, changes of rhythm and accent. There was no
end to the singing. "Siamo appassionati per il canto," frequently
repeated, was proved true by the profusion and variety of songs produced
from inexhaustible memories, lightly tried over, brilliantly performed,
rapidly succeeding each other. Nor were gestures wanting--lifted arms,
hands stretched to hands, flashing eyes, hair tossed from the
forehead--unconscious and appropriate action--which showed how the
spirit of the music and words alike possessed the men. One by one the
children fell asleep. Little Attilio and Teresa were tucked up beneath
my Scotch shawl at two ends of a great sofa; and not even his father's
clarion voice, in the character of Italia defying Attila to harm "le mie
superbe città," could wake the little boy up. The night wore on. It was
past one. Eustace and I had promised to be in the church of the Gesuati
at six next morning. We, therefore, gave the guests a gentle hint, which
they as gently took. With exquisite, because perfectly unaffected,
breeding they sank for a few moments into common conversation, then
wrapped the children up, and took their leave. It was an uncomfortable,
warm, wet night of sullen _scirocco_.

The next day, which was Sunday, Francesco called me at five. There was
no visible sunrise that cheerless damp October morning. Grey dawn stole
somehow imperceptibly between the veil of clouds and leaden waters, as
my friend and I, well sheltered by our _felze_, passed into the
Giudecca, and took our station before the church of the Gesuati. A few
women from the neighbouring streets and courts crossed the bridges in
draggled petticoats on their way to first mass. A few men, shouldering
their jackets, lounged along the Zattere, opened the great green doors,
and entered. Then suddenly Antonio cried out that the bridal party was
on its way, not as we had expected, in boats, but on foot. We left our
gondola, and fell into the ranks, after shaking hands with Francesco,
who is the elder brother of the bride. There was nothing very noticeable
in her appearance, except her large dark eyes. Otherwise both face and
figure were of a common type; and her bridal dress of sprigged grey
silk, large veil and orange blossoms, reduced her to the level of a
_bourgeoise_. It was much the same with the bridegroom. His features,
indeed, proved him a true Venetian gondolier; for the skin was strained
over the cheekbones, and the muscles of the throat beneath the jaws
stood out like cords, and the bright blue eyes were deep-set beneath a
spare brown forehead. But he had provided a complete suit of black for
the occasion, and wore a shirt of worked cambric, which disguised what
is really splendid in the physique of these oarsmen, at once slender and
sinewy. Both bride and bridegroom looked uncomfortable in their clothes.
The light that fell upon them in the church was dull and leaden. The
ceremony, which was very hurriedly performed by an unctuous priest, did
not appear to impress either of them. Nobody in the bridal party,
crowding together on both sides of the altar, looked as though the
service was of the slightest interest and moment. Indeed, this was
hardly to be wondered at; for the priest, so far as I could understand
his gabble, took the larger portion for read, after muttering the first
words of the rubric. A little carven image of an acolyte--a weird boy
who seemed to move by springs, whose hair had all the semblance of
painted wood, and whose complexion was white and red like a clown's--did
not make matters more intelligible by spasmodically clattering
responses.

After the ceremony we heard mass and contributed to three distinct
offertories. Considering how much account even two _soldi_ are to these
poor people, I was really angry when I heard the copper shower. Every
member of the party had his or her pennies ready, and dropped them into
the boxes. Whether it was the effect of the bad morning, or the ugliness
of a very ill-designed _barocco_ building, or the fault of the fat oily
priest, I know not. But the _sposalizio_ struck me as tame and
cheerless, the mass as irreverent and vulgarly conducted. At the same
time there is something too impressive in the mass for any perfunctory
performance to divest its symbolism of sublimity. A Protestant Communion
Service lends itself more easily to degradation by unworthiness in the
minister.

We walked down the church in double file, led by the bride and
bridegroom, who had knelt during the ceremony with the best
man--_compare_, as he is called--at a narrow _prie-dieu_ before the
altar. The _compare_ is a person of distinction at these weddings. He
has to present the bride with a great pyramid of artificial flowers,
which is placed before her at the marriage-feast, a packet of candles,
and a box of bonbons. The comfits, when the box is opened, are found to
include two magnificent sugar babies lying in their cradles. I was told
that a _compare_, who does the thing handsomely, must be prepared to
spend about a hundred francs upon these presents, in addition to the
wine and cigars with which he treats his friends. On this occasion the
women were agreed that he had done his duty well. He was a fat, wealthy
little man, who lived by letting market-boats for hire on the Rialto.

From the church to the bride's house was a walk of some three minutes.
On the way we were introduced to the father of the bride--a very
magnificent personage, with points of strong resemblance to Vittorio
Emmanuele. He wore an enormous broad-brimmed hat and emerald-green
earrings, and looked considerably younger than his eldest son,
Francesco. Throughout the _nozze_ he took the lead in a grand imperious
fashion of his own. Wherever he went, he seemed to fill the place, and
was fully aware of his own importance. In Florence I think he would have
got the nickname of _Tacchin_, or turkey-cock. Here at Venice the sons
and daughters call their parent briefly _Vecchio_. I heard him so
addressed with a certain amount of awe, expecting an explosion of
bubbly-jock displeasure. But he took it, as though it was natural,
without disturbance. The other _Vecchio_, father of the bridegroom,
struck me as more sympathetic. He was a gentle old man, proud of his
many prosperous, laborious sons. They, like the rest of the gentlemen,
were gondoliers. Both the _Vecchi_, indeed, continue to ply their trade,
day and night, at the _traghetto_.

_Traghetti_ are stations for gondolas at different points of the canals.
As their name implies, it is the first duty of the gondoliers upon them
to ferry people across. This they do for the fixed fee of five centimes.
The _traghetti_ are in fact Venetian cab-stands. And, of course, like
London cabs, the gondolas may be taken off them for trips. The
municipality, however, makes it a condition, under penalty of fine to
the _traghetto_, that each station should always be provided with two
boats for the service of the ferry. When vacancies occur on the
_traghetti_, a gondolier who owns or hires a boat makes application to
the municipality, receives a number, and is inscribed as plying at a
certain station. He has now entered a sort of guild, which is presided
over by a _Capo-traghetto_, elected by the rest for the protection of
their interests, the settlement of disputes, and the management of their
common funds. In the old acts of Venice this functionary is styled
_Gastaldo di traghetto_. The members have to contribute something yearly
to the guild. This payment varies upon different stations, according to
the greater or less amount of the tax levied by the municipality on the
_traghetto_. The highest subscription I have heard of is twenty-five
francs; the lowest, seven. There is one _traghetto_, known by the name
of Madonna del Giglio or Zobenigo, which possesses near its _pergola_ of
vines a nice old brown Venetian picture. Some stranger offered a
considerable sum for this. But the guild refused to part with it.

As may be imagined, the _traghetti_ vary greatly in the amount and
quality of their custom. By far the best are those in the neighbourhood
of the hotels upon the Grand Canal. At any one of these a gondolier
during the season is sure of picking up some foreigner or other who will
pay him handsomely for comparatively light service. A _traghetto_ on the
Giudecca, on the contrary, depends upon Venetian traffic. The work is
more monotonous, and the pay is reduced to its tariffed minimum. So far
as I can gather, an industrious gondolier, with a good boat, belonging
to a good _traghetto_, may make as much as ten or fifteen francs in a
single day. But this cannot be relied on. They therefore prefer a fixed
appointment with a private family, for which they receive by tariff five
francs a day, or by arrangement for long periods perhaps four francs a
day, with certain perquisites and small advantages. It is great luck to
get such an engagement for the winter. The heaviest anxieties which
beset a gondolier are then disposed of. Having entered private service,
they are not allowed to ply their trade on the _traghetto_, except by
stipulation with their masters. Then they may take their place one night
out of every six in the rank and file. The gondoliers have two proverbs,
which show how desirable it is, while taking a fixed engagement, to keep
their hold on the _traghetto_. One is to this effect: _il traghetto è un
buon padrone_. The other satirises the meanness of the poverty-stricken
Venetian nobility: _pompa di servitù, misera insegna_. When they combine
the _traghetto_ with private service, the municipality insists on their
retaining the number painted on their gondola; and against this their
employers frequently object. It is, therefore, a great point for a
gondolier to make such an arrangement with his master as will leave him
free to show his number. The reason for this regulation is obvious.
Gondoliers are known more by their numbers and their _traghetti_ than
their names. They tell me that though there are upwards of a thousand
registered in Venice, each man of the trade knows the whole
confraternity by face and number. Taking all things into consideration,
I think four francs a day the whole year round are very good earnings
for a gondolier. On this he will marry and rear a family, and put a
little money by. A young unmarried man, working at two and a half or
three francs a day, is proportionately well-to-do. If he is economical,
he ought upon these wages to save enough in two or three years to buy
himself a gondola. A boy from fifteen to nineteen is called a
_mezz'uomo_, and gets about one franc a day. A new gondola with all its
fittings is worth about a thousand francs. It does not last in good
condition more than six or seven years. At the end of that time the hull
will fetch eighty francs. A new hull can be had for three hundred
francs. The old fittings--brass sea-horses or _cavalli_, steel prow or
_ferro_, covered cabin or _felze_, cushions and leather-covered
back-board or _stramazetto_, may be transferred to it. When a man wants
to start a gondola, he will begin by buying one already half past
service--a _gondola da traghetto_ or _di mezza età_. This should cost
him something over two hundred francs. Little by little, he accumulates
the needful fittings; and when his first purchase is worn out, he hopes
to set up with a well-appointed equipage. He thus gradually works his
way from the rough trade which involves hard work and poor earnings to
that more profitable industry which cannot be carried on without a smart
boat. The gondola is a source of continual expense for repairs. Its oars
have to be replaced. It has to be washed with sponges, blacked, and
varnished. Its bottom needs frequent cleaning. Weeds adhere to it in the
warm brackish water, growing rapidly through the summer months, and
demanding to be scrubbed off once in every four weeks. The gondolier has
no place where he can do this for himself. He therefore takes his boat
to a wharf, or _squero_, as the place is called. At these _squeri_
gondolas are built as well as cleaned. The fee for a thorough setting to
rights of the boat is five francs. It must be done upon a fine day. Thus
in addition to the cost, the owner loses a good day's work.

These details will serve to give some notion of the sort of people with
whom Eustace and I spent our day. The bride's house is in an excellent
position on an open canal leading from the Canalozzo to the Giudecca.
She had arrived before us, and received her friends in the middle of the
room. Each of us in turn kissed her cheek and murmured our
congratulations. We found the large living-room of the house arranged
with chairs all round the walls, and the company were marshalled in some
order of precedence, my friend and I taking place near the bride. On
either hand airy bed-rooms opened out, and two large doors, wide open,
gave a view from where we sat of a good-sized kitchen. This arrangement
of the house was not only comfortable, but pretty; for the bright copper
pans and pipkins ranged on shelves along the kitchen walls had a very
cheerful effect. The walls were whitewashed, but literally covered with
all sorts of pictures. A great plaster cast from some antique, an Atys,
Adonis, or Paris, looked down from a bracket placed between the windows.
There was enough furniture, solid and well kept, in all the rooms. Among
the pictures were full-length portraits in oils of two celebrated
gondoliers--one in antique costume, the other painted a few years since.
The original of the latter soon came and stood before it. He had won
regatta prizes; and the flags of four discordant colours were painted
round him by the artist, who had evidently cared more to commemorate the
triumphs of his sitter and to strike a likeness than to secure the tone of
his own picture. This champion turned out a fine fellow--Corradini--with
one of the brightest little gondoliers of thirteen for his son.

After the company were seated, lemonade and cakes were handed round
amid a hubbub of chattering women. Then followed cups of black coffee
and more cakes. Then a glass of Cyprus and more cakes. Then a glass of
curaçoa and more cakes. Finally, a glass of noyau and still more cakes.
It was only a little after seven in the morning. Yet politeness
compelled us to consume these delicacies. I tried to shirk my duty; but
this discretion was taken by my hosts for well-bred modesty; and instead
of being let off, I had the richest piece of pastry and the largest
macaroon available pressed so kindly on me, that, had they been
poisoned, I would not have refused to eat them. The conversation grew
more and more animated, the women gathering together in their dresses of
bright blue and scarlet, the men lighting cigars and puffing out a few
quiet words. It struck me as a drawback that these picturesque people
had put on Sunday-clothes to look as much like shop-keepers as possible.
But they did not all of them succeed. Two handsome women, who handed the
cups round--one a brunette, the other a blonde--wore skirts of brilliant
blue, with a sort of white jacket, and white kerchief folded heavily
about their shoulders. The brunette had a great string of coral, the
blonde of amber, round her throat. Gold earrings and the long gold
chains Venetian women wear, of all patterns and degrees of value,
abounded. Nobody appeared without them; but I could not see any of an
antique make. The men seemed to be contented with rings--huge, heavy
rings of solid gold, worked with a rough flower pattern. One young
fellow had three upon his fingers. This circumstance led me to speculate
whether a certain portion at least of this display of jewellery around
me had not been borrowed for the occasion.

Eustace and I were treated quite like friends. They called us _I
Signori_. But this was only, I think, because our English names are
quite unmanageable. The women fluttered about us and kept asking whether
we really liked it all? whether we should come to the _pranzo_? whether
it was true we danced? It seemed to give them unaffected pleasure to be
kind to us; and when we rose to go away, the whole company crowded
round, shaking hands and saying: "_Si divertirà bene stasera_!" Nobody
resented our presence; what was better, no one put himself out for us.
"_Vogliono veder il nostro costume_," I heard one woman say.

We got home soon after eight, and, as our ancestors would have said,
settled our stomachs with a dish of tea. It makes me shudder now to
think of the mixed liquids and miscellaneous cakes we had consumed at
that unwonted hour.

At half-past three, Eustace and I again prepared ourselves for action.
His gondola was in attendance, covered with the _felze_, to take us to
the house of the _sposa_. We found the canal crowded with poor people of
the quarter--men, women, and children lining the walls along its side,
and clustering like bees upon the bridges. The water itself was almost
choked with gondolas. Evidently the folk of San Vio thought our wedding
procession would be a most exciting pageant. We entered the house, and
were again greeted by the bride and bridegroom, who consigned each of us
to the control of a fair tyrant. This is the most fitting way of
describing our introduction to our partners of the evening; for we were
no sooner presented, than the ladies swooped upon us like their prey,
placing their shawls upon our left arms, while they seized and clung to
what was left available of us for locomotion. There was considerable
giggling and tittering throughout the company when Signora Fenzo, the
young and comely wife of a gondolier, thus took possession of Eustace,
and Signora dell'Acqua, the widow of another gondolier, appropriated me.
The affair had been arranged beforehand, and their friends had probably
chaffed them with the difficulty of managing two mad Englishmen.
However, they proved equal to the occasion, and the difficulties were
entirely on our side. Signora Fenzo was a handsome brunette, quiet in
her manners, who meant business. I envied Eustace his subjection to such
a reasonable being. Signora dell'Acqua, though a widow, was by no means
disconsolate; and I soon perceived that it would require all the address
and diplomacy I possessed, to make anything out of her society. She
laughed incessantly; darted in the most diverse directions, dragging me
along with her; exhibited me in triumph to her cronies; made eyes at me
over a fan; repeated my clumsiest remarks, as though they gave her
indescribable amusement; and all the while jabbered Venetian at express
rate, without the slightest regard for my incapacity to follow her
vagaries. The _Vecchio_ marshalled us in order. First went the _sposa_
and _comare_ with the mothers of bride and bridegroom. Then followed the
_sposo_ and the bridesmaid. After them I was made to lead my fair
tormentor. As we descended the staircase there arose a hubbub of
excitement from the crowd on the canals. The gondolas moved turbidly
upon the face of the waters. The bridegroom kept muttering to himself,
"How we shall be criticised! They will tell each other who was decently
dressed, and who stepped awkwardly into the boats, and what the price of
my boots was!" Such exclamations, murmured at intervals, and followed by
chest-drawn sighs, expressed a deep preoccupation. With regard to his
boots, he need have had no anxiety. They were of the shiniest patent
leather, much too tight, and without a speck of dust upon them. But his
nervousness infected me with a cruel dread. All those eyes were going to
watch how we comported ourselves in jumping from the landing-steps into
the boat! If this operation, upon a ceremonious occasion, has terrors
even for a gondolier, how formidable it ought to be to me! And here is
the Signora dell'Acqua's white cachemire shawl dangling on one arm, and
the Signora herself languishingly clinging to the other; and the
gondolas are fretting in a fury of excitement, like corks, upon the
churned green water! The moment was terrible. The _sposa_ and her three
companions had been safely stowed away beneath their _felze_. The
_sposo_ had successfully handed the bridesmaid into the second gondola.
I had to perform the same office for my partner. Off she went, like a
bird, from the bank. I seized a happy moment, followed, bowed, and found
myself to my contentment gracefully ensconced in a corner opposite the
widow. Seven more gondolas were packed. The procession moved. We glided
down the little channel, broke away into the Grand Canal, crossed it,
and dived into a labyrinth from which we finally emerged before our
destination, the Trattoria di San Gallo. The perils of the landing were
soon over; and, with the rest of the guests, my mercurial companion and
I slowly ascended a long flight of stairs leading to a vast upper
chamber. Here we were to dine.

It had been the gallery of some palazzo in old days, was above one
hundred feet in length, fairly broad, with a roof of wooden rafters and
large windows opening on a courtyard garden. I could see the tops of
three cypress-trees cutting the grey sky upon a level with us. A long
table occupied the centre of this room. It had been laid for upwards of
forty persons, and we filled it. There was plenty of light from great
glass lustres blazing with gas. When the ladies had arranged their
dresses, and the gentlemen had exchanged a few polite remarks, we all
sat down to dinner--I next my inexorable widow, Eustace beside his calm
and comely partner. The first impression was one of disappointment. It
looked so like a public dinner of middle-class people. There was no
local character in costume or customs. Men and women sat politely bored,
expectant, trifling with their napkins, yawning, muttering nothings
about the weather or their neighbours. The frozen commonplaceness of the
scene was made for me still more oppressive by Signora dell'Acqua. She
was evidently satirical, and could not be happy unless continually
laughing at or with somebody. "What a stick the woman will think me!" I
kept saying to myself. "How shall I ever invent jokes in this strange
land? I cannot even flirt with her in Venetian! And here I have
condemned myself--and her too, poor thing--to sit through at least three
hours of mortal dulness!" Yet the widow was by no means unattractive.
Dressed in black, she had contrived by an artful arrangement of lace and
jewellery to give an air of lightness to her costume. She had a pretty
little pale face, a _minois chiffonné_, with slightly turned-up nose,
large laughing brown eyes, a dazzling set of teeth, and a tempestuously
frizzled mop of powdered hair. When I managed to get a side-look at her
quietly, without being giggled at or driven half mad by unintelligible
incitements to a jocularity I could not feel, it struck me that, if we
once found a common term of communication we should become good friends.
But for the moment that _modus vivendi_ seemed unattainable. She had not
recovered from the first excitement of her capture of me. She was still
showing me off and trying to stir me up. The arrival of the soup gave me
a momentary relief; and soon the serious business of the afternoon
began. I may add that before dinner was over, the Signora dell'Acqua and
I were fast friends. I had discovered the way of making jokes, and she
had become intelligible. I found her a very nice, though flighty, little
woman; and I believe she thought me gifted with the faculty of uttering
eccentric epigrams in a grotesque tongue. Some of my remarks were flung
about the table, and had the same success as uncouth Lombard carvings
have with connoisseurs in _naïvetés_ of art. By that time we had come to
be _compare_ and _comare_ to each other--the sequel of some clumsy piece
of jocularity.

It was a heavy entertainment, copious in quantity, excellent in quality,
plainly but well cooked. I remarked there was no fish. The widow replied
that everybody present ate fish to satiety at home. They did not join a
marriage feast at the San Gallo, and pay their nine francs, for that! It
should be observed that each guest paid for his own entertainment. This
appears to be the custom. Therefore attendance is complimentary, and
the married couple are not at ruinous charges for the banquet. A curious
feature in the whole proceeding had its origin in this custom. I noticed
that before each cover lay an empty plate, and that my partner began
with the first course to heap upon it what she had not eaten. She also
took large helpings, and kept advising me to do the same. I said: "No; I
only take what I want to eat; if I fill that plate in front of me as you
are doing, it will be great waste." This remark elicited shrieks of
laughter from all who heard it; and when the hubbub had subsided, I
perceived an apparently official personage bearing down upon Eustace,
who was in the same perplexity. It was then circumstantially explained
to us that the empty plates were put there in order that we might lay
aside what we could not conveniently eat, and take it home with us. At
the end of the dinner the widow (whom I must now call my _comare_) had
accumulated two whole chickens, half a turkey, and a large assortment of
mixed eatables. I performed my duty and won her regard by placing
delicacies at her disposition.

Crudely stated, this proceeding moves disgust. But that is only because
one has not thought the matter out. In the performance there was nothing
coarse or nasty. These good folk had made a contract at so much a
head--so many fowls, so many pounds of beef, &c., to be supplied; and
what they had fairly bought, they clearly had a right to. No one, so far
as I could notice, tried to take more than his proper share; except,
indeed, Eustace and myself. In our first eagerness to conform to custom,
we both overshot the mark, and grabbed at disproportionate helpings.
The waiters politely observed that we were taking what was meant for
two; and as the courses followed in interminable sequence, we soon
acquired the tact of what was due to us.

Meanwhile the room grew warm. The gentlemen threw off their coats--a
pleasant liberty of which I availed myself, and was immediately more at
ease. The ladies divested themselves of their shoes (strange to relate!)
and sat in comfort with their stockinged feet upon the _scagliola_
pavement. I observed that some cavaliers by special permission were
allowed to remove their partners' slippers. This was not my lucky fate.
My _comare_ had not advanced to that point of intimacy. Healths began to
be drunk. The conversation took a lively turn; and women went fluttering
round the table, visiting their friends, to sip out of their glass, and
ask each other how they were getting on. It was not long before the
stiff veneer of _bourgeoisie_ which bored me had worn off. The people
emerged in their true selves: natural, gentle, sparkling with enjoyment,
playful. Playful is, I think, the best word to describe them. They
played with infinite grace and innocence, like kittens, from the old men
of sixty to the little boys of thirteen. Very little wine was drunk.
Each guest had a litre placed before him. Many did not finish theirs;
and for very few was it replenished. When at last the desert arrived,
and the bride's comfits had been handed round, they began to sing. It
was very pretty to see a party of three or four friends gathering round
some popular beauty, and paying her compliments in verse--they grouped
behind her chair, she sitting back in it and laughing up to them, and
joining in the chorus. The words, "Brunetta mia simpatica, ti amo sempre
più," sung after this fashion to Eustace's handsome partner, who puffed
delicate whiffs from a Russian cigarette, and smiled her thanks, had a
peculiar appropriateness. All the ladies, it may be observed in passing,
had by this time lit their cigarettes. The men were smoking Toscani,
Sellas, or Cavours, and the little boys were dancing round the table
breathing smoke from their pert nostrils.

The dinner, in fact, was over. Other relatives of the guests arrived,
and then we saw how some of the reserved dishes were to be bestowed. A
side-table was spread at the end of the gallery, and these late-comers
were regaled with plenty by their friends. Meanwhile, the big table at
which we had dined was taken to pieces and removed. The _scagliola_
floor was swept by the waiters. Musicians came streaming in and took
their places. The ladies resumed their shoes. Every one prepared to
dance.

My friend and I were now at liberty to chat with the men. He knew some
of them by sight, and claimed acquaintance with others. There was plenty
of talk about different boats, gondolas, and sandolos and topos, remarks
upon the past season, and inquiries as to chances of engagements in the
future. One young fellow told us how he had been drawn for the army, and
should be obliged to give up his trade just when he had begun to make it
answer. He had got a new gondola, and this would have to be hung up
during the years of his service. The warehousing of a boat in these
circumstances costs nearly one hundred francs a year, which is a serious
tax upon the pockets of a private in the line. Many questions were put
in turn to us, but all of the same tenor. "Had we really enjoyed the
_pranzo_? Now, really, were we amusing ourselves? And did we think the
custom of the wedding _un bel costume_?" We could give an unequivocally
hearty response to all these interrogations. The men seemed pleased.
Their interest in our enjoyment was unaffected. It is noticeable how
often the word _divertimento_ is heard upon the lips of the Italians.
They have a notion that it is the function in life of the _Signori_ to
amuse themselves.

The ball opened, and now we were much besought by the ladies. I had to
deny myself with a whole series of comical excuses. Eustace performed
his duty after a stiff English fashion--once with his pretty partner of
the _pranzo_, and once again with a fat gondolier. The band played
waltzes and polkas, chiefly upon patriotic airs--the Marcia Reale,
Garibaldi's Hymn, &c. Men danced with men, women with women, little boys
and girls together. The gallery whirled with a laughing crowd. There was
plenty of excitement and enjoyment--not an unseemly or extravagant word
or gesture. My _comare_ careered about with a light mænadic impetuosity,
which made me regret my inability to accept her pressing invitations.
She pursued me into every corner of the room, but when at last I dropped
excuses and told her that my real reason for not dancing was that it
would hurt my health, she waived her claims at once with an _Ah,
poverino_!

Some time after midnight we felt that we had had enough of
_divertimento_. Francesco helped us to slip out unobserved. With many
silent good wishes we left the innocent, playful people who had been so
kind to us. The stars were shining from a watery sky as we passed into
the piazza beneath the Campanile and the pinnacles of S. Mark. The Riva
was almost empty, and the little waves fretted the boats moored to the
piazzetta, as a warm moist breeze went fluttering by. We smoked a last
cigar, crossed our _traghetto_, and were soon sound asleep at the end of
a long, pleasant day. The ball, we heard next morning, finished about
four.

Since that evening I have had plenty of opportunities for seeing my
friends the gondoliers, both in their own homes and in my apartment.
Several have entertained me at their mid-day meal of fried fish and
amber-coloured polenta. These repasts were always cooked with scrupulous
cleanliness, and served upon a table covered with coarse linen. The
polenta is turned out upon a wooden platter, and cut with a string
called _lassa_. You take a large slice of it on the palm of the left
hand, and break it with the fingers of the right. Wholesome red wine of
the Paduan district and good white bread were never wanting. The rooms
in which we met to eat looked out on narrow lanes or over pergolas of
yellowing vines. Their whitewashed walls were hung with photographs of
friends and foreigners, many of them souvenirs from English or American
employers. The men, in broad black hats and lilac skirts, sat round the
table, girt with the red waist-wrapper, or _fascia_, which marks the
ancient faction of the Castellani. The other faction, called Nicolotti,
are distinguished by a black _assisa_. The quarters of the town are
divided unequally and irregularly into these two parties. What was once
a formidable rivalry between two sections of the Venetian populace,
still survives in challenges to trials of strength and skill upon the
water. The women, in their many-coloured kerchiefs, stirred polenta at
the smoke-blackened chimney, whose huge pent-house roof projects two
feet or more across the hearth. When they had served the table they took
their seat on low stools, knitted stockings, or drank out of glasses
handed across the shoulder to them by their lords. Some of these women
were clearly notable housewives, and I have no reason to suppose that
they do not take their full share of the housework. Boys and girls came
in and out, and got a portion of the dinner to consume where they
thought best. Children went tottering about upon the red-brick floor,
the playthings of those hulking fellows, who handled them very gently
and spoke kindly in a sort of confidential whisper to their ears. These
little ears were mostly pierced for earrings, and the light blue eyes of
the urchins peeped maliciously beneath shocks of yellow hair. A dog was
often of the party. He ate fish like his masters, and was made to beg
for it by sitting up and rowing with his paws. _Voga, Azzò, voga!_ The
Anzolo who talked thus to his little brown Spitz-dog has the hoarse
voice of a Triton and the movement of an animated sea-wave. Azzò
performed his trick, swallowed his fish-bones, and the fiery Anzolo
looked round approvingly.

On all these occasions I have found these gondoliers the same
sympathetic, industrious, cheery affectionate folk. They live in many
respects a hard and precarious life. The winter in particular is a time
of anxiety, and sometimes of privation, even to the well-to-do among
them. Work then is scarce, and what there is, is rendered disagreeable
to them by the cold. Yet they take their chance with facile temper, and
are not soured by hardships. The amenities of the Venetian sea and air,
the healthiness of the lagoons, the cheerful bustle of the poorer
quarters, the brilliancy of this Southern sunlight, and the beauty which
is everywhere apparent, must be reckoned as important factors in the
formation of their character. And of that character, as I have said, the
final note is playfulness. In spite of difficulties, their life has
never been stern enough to sadden them. Bare necessities are
marvellously cheap, and the pinch of real bad weather--such frost as
locked the lagoons in ice two years ago, or such south-western gales as
flooded the basement floors of all the houses on the Zattere--is rare
and does not last long. On the other hand, their life has never been so
lazy as to reduce them to the savagery of the traditional Neapolitan
lazzaroni. They have had to work daily for small earnings, but under
favourable conditions, and their labour has been lightened by much
good-fellowship among themselves, by the amusements of their _feste_ and
their singing clubs.

Of course it is not easy for a stranger in a very different social
position to feel that he has been admitted to their confidence. Italians
have an ineradicable habit of making themselves externally agreeable, of
bending in all indifferent matters to the whims and wishes of superiors,
and of saying what they think _Signori_ like. This habit, while it
smoothes the surface of existence, raises up a barrier of compliment and
partial insincerity, against which the more downright natures of us
Northern folk break in vain efforts. Our advances are met with an
imperceptible but impermeable resistance by the very people who are bent
on making the world pleasant to us. It is the very reverse of that dour
opposition which a Lowland Scot or a North English peasant offers to
familiarity; but it is hardly less insurmountable. The treatment, again,
which Venetians of the lower class have received through centuries from
their own nobility, makes attempts at fraternisation on the part of
gentlemen unintelligible to them. The best way, here and elsewhere, of
overcoming these obstacles is to have some bond of work or interest in
common--of service on the one side rendered, and good-will on the other
honestly displayed. The men of whom I have been speaking will, I am
convinced, not shirk their share of duty or make unreasonable claims
upon the generosity of their employers.



FORNOVO.


In the town of Parma there is one surpassingly strange relic of the
past. The palace of the Farnesi, like many a haunt of upstart tyranny
and beggared pride on these Italian plains, rises misshapen and
disconsolate above the stream that bears the city's name. The squalor of
this gray-brown edifice of formless brick, left naked like the palace of
the same Farnesi at Piacenza, has something even horrid in it now that
only vague memory survives of its former uses. The princely
_sprezzatura_ of its ancient occupants, careless of these unfinished
courts and unroofed galleries amid the splendor of their purfled silks
and the glitter of their torchlight pageantry, has yielded to sullen
cynicism--the cynicism of arrested ruin and unreverend age. All that was
satisfying to the senses and distracting to the eyesight in their
transitory pomp has passed away, leaving a sinister and naked shell.
Remembrance can but summon up the crimes, the madness, the trivialities
of those dead palace-builders. An atmosphere of evil clings to the
dilapidated walls, as though the tainted spirit of the infamous Pier
Luigi still possessed the spot, on which his toadstool brood of
princelings sprouted in the mud of their misdeeds. Enclosed in this huge
labyrinth of brickwork is the relic of which I spoke. It is the once
world-famous Teatro Farnese, raised in the year 1618 by Ranunzio
Farnese for the marriage of Odoardo Farnese with Margaret of Austria.
Giambattista Aleotti, a native of pageant-loving Ferrara, traced the
stately curves and noble orders of the galleries, designed the columns
that support the raftered roof, marked out the orchestra, arranged the
stage, and breathed into the whole the spirit of Palladio's most heroic
neo-Latin style. Vast, built of wood, dishevelled, with broken statues
and blurred coats-of-arms, with its empty scene, its uncurling frescos,
its hangings all in rags, its cobwebs of two centuries, its dust and
mildew and discolored gold--this theatre, a sham in its best days, and
now that ugliest of things, a sham unmasked and naked to the light of
day, is yet sublime, because of its proportioned harmony, because of its
grand Roman manner. The sight and feeling of it fasten upon the mind and
abide in the memory like a nightmare--like one of Piranesi's weirdest
and most passion-haunted etchings for the _Carceri_. Idling there at
noon in the twilight of the dust-bedarkened windows, we fill the tiers
of those high galleries with ladies, the space below with grooms and
pages; the stage is ablaze with torches, and an Italian Masque, such as
our Marlowe dreamed of, fills the scene. But it is impossible to dower
these fancies with even such life as in healthier, happier ruins
phantasy may lend to imagination's figments. This theatre is like a
maniac's skull, empty of all but unrealities and mockeries of things
that are. The ghosts we raise here could never have been living men and
women: _questi sciaurati non fur mai vivi_. So clinging is the sense of
instability that appertains to every fragment of that dry-rot tyranny
which seized by evil fortune in the sunset of her golden day on Italy.

In this theatre I mused one morning after visiting Fornovo; and the
thoughts suggested by the battlefield found their proper atmosphere in
the dilapidated place. What, indeed, is the Teatro Farnese but a symbol
of those hollow principalities which the despot and the stranger built
in Italy after the fatal date of 1494, when national enthusiasm and
political energy were expiring in a blaze of art, and when the Italians
as a people had ceased to be; but when the phantom of their former life,
surviving in high works of beauty, was still superb by reason of
imperishable style! How much in Italy of the Renaissance was, like this
plank-built, plastered theatre, a glorious sham! The sham was seen
through then; and now it stands unmasked: and yet, strange to say, so
perfect is its form that we respect the sham and yield our spirits to
the incantation of its music.

The battle of Fornovo, as modern battles go, was a paltry affair; and
even at the time it seemed sufficiently without result. Yet the trumpets
which rang on July 6th, 1495, for the onset, sounded the _réveille_ of
the modern world; and in the inconclusive termination of the struggle of
that day the Italians were already judged and sentenced as a nation. The
armies who met that morning represented Italy and France--Italy, the
Sibyl of Renaissance; France, the Sibyl of Revolution. At the fall of
evening Europe was already looking northward; and the last years of the
fifteenth century were opening an act which closed in blood at Paris on
the ending of the eighteenth.

If it were not for thoughts like these, no one, I suppose, would take
the trouble to drive for two hours out of Parma to the little village of
Fornovo--a score of bare gray hovels on the margin of a pebbly
river-bed beneath the Apennines. The fields on either side, as far as
eye can see, are beautiful indeed in May sunlight, painted here with
flax, like shallow sheets of water reflecting a pale sky, and there with
clover red as blood. Scarce unfolded leaves sparkle like flamelets of
bright green upon the knotted vines, and the young corn is bending all
one way beneath a western breeze. But not less beautiful than this is
the whole broad plain of Lombardy; nor are the nightingales louder here
than in the acacia-trees around Pavia. As we drive, the fields become
less fertile, and the hills encroach upon the level, sending down their
spurs upon that waveless plain like blunt rocks jutting out into a
tranquil sea. When we reach the bed of the Taro, these hills begin to
narrow on either hand, and the road rises. Soon they open out again with
gradual curving lines, forming a kind of amphitheatre filled up from
flank to flank with the _ghiara_, or pebbly bottom, of the Taro. The
Taro is not less wasteful than any other of the brotherhood of streams
that pour from Alp or Apennine to swell the Po. It wanders, an impatient
rivulet, through a wilderness of boulders, uncertain of its aim,
shifting its course with the season of the year, unless the jaws of some
deep-cloven gully hold it tight and show how insignificant it is. As we
advance, the hills approach again; between their skirts there is nothing
but the river-bed; and now on rising ground above the stream, at the
point of juncture between the Ceno and the Taro, we find Fornovo. Beyond
the village the valley broadens out once more, disclosing Apennines
capped with winter snow. To the right descends the Ceno. To the left
foams the Taro, following whose rocky channel we should come at last to
Pontremoli and the Tyrrhenian Sea beside Sarzana. On a May-day of
sunshine like the present, the Taro is a gentle stream. A waggon drawn
by two white oxen has just entered its channel, guided by a contadino
with goat-skin leggings, wielding a long goad. The patient creatures
stem the water, which rises to the peasant's thighs and ripples round
the creaking wheels. Swaying to and fro, as the shingles shift upon the
river-bed, they make their way across; and now they have emerged upon
the stones; and now we lose them in a flood of sunlight.

It was by this pass that Charles VIII. in 1495 returned from Tuscany,
when the army of the League was drawn up waiting to intercept and crush
him in the mouse-trap of Fornovo. No road remained for Charles and his
troops but the rocky bed of the Taro, running as I have described it
between the spurs of steep hills. It is true that the valley of the
Baganza leads, from a little higher up among the mountains, into
Lombardy. But this pass runs straight to Parma; and to follow it would
have brought the French upon the walls of a strong city. Charles could
not do otherwise than descend upon the village of Fornovo, and cut his
way thence in the teeth of the Italian army over stream and boulder
between the gorges of throttling mountain. The failure of the Italians
to achieve what here upon the ground appears so simple delivered Italy
hand-bound to strangers. Had they but succeeded in arresting Charles and
destroying his forces at Fornovo, it is just possible that then--even
then, at the eleventh hour--Italy might have gained the sense of
national coherence, or at least have proved herself capable of holding
by her leagues the foreigner at bay. As it was, the battle of Fornovo,
in spite of Venetian bonfires and Mantuan Madonnas of Victory, made her
conscious of incompetence and convicted her of cowardice. After Fornovo,
her sons scarcely dared to hold their heads up in the field against
invaders; and the battles fought upon her soil were duels among aliens
for the prize of Italy.

In order to comprehend the battle of Fornovo in its bearings on Italian
history, we must go back to the year 1492, and understand the conditions
of the various states of Italy at that date. On April 8th in that year,
Lorenzo de' Medici, who had succeeded in maintaining a political
equilibrium in the peninsula, expired, and was succeeded by his son
Piero, a vain and foolhardy young man, from whom no guidance could be
expected. On July 25th, Innocent VIII. died, and was succeeded by the
very worst pope who has ever occupied St. Peter's chair, Roderigo
Borgia, Alexander VI. It was felt at once that the old order of things
had somehow ended, and that a new era, the destinies of which as yet
remained incalculable, was opening for Italy. The chief Italian powers,
hitherto kept in equipoise by the diplomacy of Lorenzo de' Medici, were
these--the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of
Florence, the Papacy, and the Kingdom of Naples. Minor states, such as
the republics of Genoa and Siena, the duchies of Urbino and Ferrara, the
marquisate of Mantua, the petty tyrannies of Romagna, and the wealthy
city of Bologna, were sufficiently important to affect the balance of
power, and to produce new combinations. For the present purpose it is,
however, enough to consider the five great powers.

After the peace of Constance, which freed the Lombard Communes from
imperial interference in the year 1183, Milan, by her geographical
position, rose rapidly to be the first city of North Italy. Without
narrating the changes by which she lost her freedom as a Commune, it is
enough to state that, earliest of all Italian cities, Milan passed into
the hands of a single family. The Visconti managed to convert this
flourishing commonwealth, with all its dependencies, into their private
property, ruling it exclusively for their own profit, using its
municipal institutions as the machinery of administration, and employing
the taxes which they raised upon its wealth for purely selfish ends.
When the line of the Visconti ended, in the year 1447, their tyranny was
continued by Francesco Sforza, the son of a poor soldier of adventure,
who had raised himself by his military genius, and had married Bianca,
the illegitimate daughter of the last Visconti. On the death of
Francesco Sforza, in 1466, he left two sons, Galeazzo Maria and
Lodovico, surnamed Il Moro, both of whom were destined to play a
prominent part in history. Galeazzo Maria, dissolute, vicious, and cruel
to the core, was murdered by his injured subjects in the year 1476. His
son, Giovanni Galeazzo, aged eight, would in course of time have
succeeded to the duchy, had it not been for the ambition of his uncle
Lodovico. Lodovico contrived to name himself as regent for his nephew,
whom he kept, long after he had come of age, in a kind of honorable
prison. Virtual master in Milan, but without a legal title to the
throne, unrecognized in his authority by the Italian powers, and holding
it from day to day by craft and fraud, Lodovico at last found his
situation untenable; and it was this difficulty of a usurper to
maintain himself in his despotism which, as we shall see, brought the
French into Italy.

Venice, the neighbor and constant foe of Milan, had become a close
oligarchy by a process of gradual constitutional development, which
threw her government into the hands of a few nobles. She was practically
ruled by the hereditary members of the Grand Council. Ever since the
year 1453, when Constantinople fell beneath the Turk, the Venetians had
been more and more straitened in their Oriental commerce, and were
thrown back upon the policy of territorial aggrandisement in Italy, from
which they had hitherto refrained as alien to the temperament of the
republic. At the end of the fifteenth century Venice, therefore, became
an object of envy and terror to the Italian States. They envied her
because she alone was tranquil, wealthy, powerful, and free. They feared
her because they had good reason to suspect her of encroachment; and it
was foreseen that if she got the upper hand in Italy, all Italy would be
the property of the families inscribed upon the Golden Book. It was thus
alone that the Italians comprehended government. The principle of
representation being utterly unknown, and the privileged burghers in
each city being regarded as absolute and lawful owners of the city and
of everything belonging to it, the conquest of a town by a republic
implied the political extinction of that town and the disfranchisement
of its inhabitants in favor of the conquerors.

Florence at this epoch still called itself a republic; and of all
Italian commonwealths it was by far the most democratic. Its history,
unlike that of Venice, had been the history of continual and brusque
changes, resulting in the destruction of the old nobility, in the
equalization of the burghers, and in the formation of a new aristocracy
of wealth. From this class of _bourgeois_ nobles sprang the Medici, who,
by careful manipulation of the State machinery, by the creation of a
powerful party devoted to their interests, by flattery of the people, by
corruption, by taxation, and by constant scheming, raised themselves to
the first place in the commonwealth, and became its virtual masters. In
the year 1492, Lorenzo de Medici, the most remarkable chief of this
despotic family, died, bequeathing his supremacy in the republic to a
son of marked incompetence.

Since the pontificate of Nicholas V. the See of Rome had entered upon a
new period of existence. The popes no longer dreaded to reside in Rome,
but were bent upon making the metropolis of Christendom both splendid as
a seat of art and learning, and also potent as the capital of a secular
kingdom. Though their fiefs in Romagna and the March were still held but
loosely, though their provinces swarmed with petty despots who defied
the papal authority, and though the princely Roman houses of Colonna and
Orsini were still strong enough to terrorize the Holy Father in the
Vatican, it was now clear that the Papal See must in the end get the
better of its adversaries, and consolidate itself into a first-rate
power. The internal spirit of the papacy, at this time, corresponded to
its external policy. It was thoroughly secularized by a series of
worldly and vicious pontiffs, who had clean forgotten what their title,
Vicar of Christ, implied. They consistently used their religious
prestige to enforce their secular authority, while by their temporal
power they caused their religious claims to be respected. Corrupt and
shameless, they indulged themselves in every vice, openly acknowledged
their children, and turned Italy upside down in order to establish
favorites and bastards in the principalities they seized as spoils of
war.

The kingdom of Naples differed from any other state of Italy. Subject
continually to foreign rulers since the decay of the Greek Empire,
governed in succession by the Normans, the Hohenstauffens, and the House
of Anjou, it had never enjoyed the real independence or the free
institutions of the northern provinces; nor had it been Italianized in
the same sense as the rest of the peninsula. Despotism, which assumed so
many forms in Italy, was here neither the tyranny of a noble house, nor
the masked autocracy of a burgher, nor yet the forceful sway of a
condottiere. It had a dynastic character, resembling the monarchy of one
of the great European nations, but modified by the peculiar conditions
of Italian state-craft. Owing to this dynastic and monarchical
complexion of the Neapolitan kingdom, semi-feudal customs flourished in
the south far more than in the north of Italy. The barons were more
powerful; and the destinies of the Regno often turned upon their feuds
and quarrels with the crown. At the same time the Neapolitan despots
shared the uneasy circumstances of all Italian potentates, owing to the
uncertainty of their tenure, both as conquerors and aliens, and also as
the nominal vassals of the Holy See. The rights of suzerainty which the
Normans had yielded to the papacy over their Southern conquests, and
which the popes had arbitrarily exercised in favor of the Angevine
princes, proved a constant source of peril to the rest of Italy by
rendering the succession to the crown of Naples doubtful. On the
extinction of the Angevine line, however, the throne was occupied by a
prince who had no valid title but that of the sword to its possession.
Alfonso of Aragon conquered Naples in 1442, and neglecting his
hereditary dominion, settled in his Italian capital. Possessed with the
enthusiasm for literature which was then the ruling passion of the
Italians, and very liberal to men of learning, Alfonso won for himself
the surname of Magnanimous. On his death, in 1458, he bequeathed his
Spanish kingdom, together with Sicily and Sardinia, to his brother, and
left the fruits of his Italian conquest to his bastard, Ferdinand. This
Ferdinand, whose birth was buried in profound obscurity, was the
reigning sovereign in the year 1492. Of a cruel and sombre temperament,
traitorous and tyrannical, Ferdinand was hated by his subjects as much
as Alfonso had been loved. He possessed, however, to a remarkable
degree, the qualities which at that epoch constituted a consummate
statesman; and though the history of his reign is the history of plots
and conspiracies, of judicial murders and forcible assassinations, of
famines produced by iniquitous taxation, and of every kind of diabolical
tyranny, Ferdinand contrived to hold his own, in the teeth of a
rebellious baronage or a maddened population. His political sagacity
amounted almost to a prophetic instinct in the last years of his life,
when he became aware that the old order was breaking up in Italy, and
had cause to dread that Charles VIII. of France would prove his title to
the kingdom of Naples by force of arms.[D]

Such were the component parts of the Italian body politic, with the
addition of numerous petty principalities and powers, adhering more or
less consistently to one or other of the greater states. The whole
complex machine was bound together by no sense of common interest,
animated by no common purpose, amenable to no central authority. Even
such community of feeling as one spoken language gives was lacking. And
yet Italy distinguished herself clearly from the rest of Europe, not
merely as a geographical fact, but also as a people intellectually and
spiritually one. The rapid rise of humanism had aided in producing this
national self-consciousness. Every state and every city was absorbed in
the recovery of culture and in the development of art and literature.
Far in advance of the other European nations, the Italians regarded the
rest of the world as barbarous, priding themselves the while, in spite
of mutual jealousies and hatreds, on their Italic civilization. They
were enormously wealthy. The resources of the papal treasury, the
private fortunes of the Florentine bankers, the riches of the Venetian
merchants might have purchased all that France or Germany possessed of
value. The single duchy of Milan yielded to its masters seven hundred
thousand golden florins of revenue, according to the computation of De
Comines. In default of a confederative system, the several states were
held in equilibrium by diplomacy. By far the most important people, next
to the despots and the captains of adventure, were ambassadors and
orators. War itself had become a matter of arrangement, bargain, and
diplomacy. The game of stratagem was played by generals who had been
friends yesterday and might be friends again to-morrow, with troops who
felt no loyalty whatever for the standards under which they listed. To
avoid slaughter and to achieve the ends of warfare by parade and
demonstration was the interest of every one concerned. Looking back upon
Italy of the fifteenth century, taking account of her religious deadness
and moral corruption, estimating the absence of political vigor in the
republics and the noxious tyranny of the despots, analyzing her lack of
national spirit, and comparing her splendid life of cultivated ease with
the want of martial energy, we can see but too plainly that contact with
a simpler and stronger people could not but produce a terrible
catastrophe. The Italians themselves, however, were far from
comprehending this. Centuries of undisturbed internal intrigue had
accustomed them to play the game of forfeits with each other, and
nothing warned them that the time was come at which diplomacy, finesse,
and craft would stand them in ill stead against rapacious conquerors.

The storm which began to gather over Italy in the year 1492 had its
first beginning in the North. Lodovico Sforza's position in the Duchy of
Milan was becoming every day more difficult, when a slight and to all
appearances insignificant incident converted his apprehension of danger
into panic. It was customary for the states of Italy to congratulate a
new pope on his election by their ambassadors; and this ceremony had now
to be performed for Roderigo Borgia. Lodovico proposed that his envoys
should go to Rome together with those of Venice, Naples, and Florence;
but Piero de' Medici, whose vanity made him wish to send an embassy in
his own name, contrived that Lodovico's proposal should be rejected
both by Florence and the King of Naples. So strained was the situation
of Italian affairs that Lodovico saw in the repulse a menace to his own
usurped authority. Feeling himself isolated among the princes of his
country, rebuffed by the Medici, and coldly treated by the King of
Naples, he turned in his anxiety to France, and advised the young king,
Charles VIII., to make good his claim upon the Regno. It was a bold move
to bring the foreigner thus into Italy; and even Lodovico, who prided
himself upon his sagacity, could not see how things would end. He
thought his situation so hazardous, however, that any change must be for
the better. Moreover, a French invasion of Naples would tie the hands of
his natural foe, King Ferdinand, whose grand-daughter, Isabella of
Aragon, had married Giovanni Galeazzo Sforza, and was now the rightful
Duchess of Milan. When the Florentine ambassador at Milan asked him how
he had the courage to expose Italy to such peril, his reply betrayed the
egotism of his policy: "You talk to me of Italy; but when have I looked
Italy in the face? No one ever gave a thought to my affairs. I have,
therefore, had to give them such security as I could."

Charles VIII. was young, light-brained, romantic, and ruled by
_parvenus_ who had an interest in disturbing the old order of the
monarchy. He lent a willing ear to Lodovico's invitation, backed as this
was by the eloquence and passion of numerous Italian refugees and
exiles. Against the advice of his more prudent counsellors, he taxed all
the resources of his kingdom, and concluded treaties on disadvantageous
terms with England, Germany, and Spain, in order that he might be able
to concentrate all his attention upon the Italian expedition. At the end
of the year 1493, it was known that the invasion was resolved upon.
Gentile Becchi, the Florentine envoy at the Court of France, wrote to
Piero de' Medici: "If the king succeeds, it is all over with
Italy--_tutta a bordello_." The extraordinary selfishness of the several
Italian states at this critical moment deserves to be noticed. The
Venetians, as Paolo Antonio Soderini described them to Piero de' Medici,
"are of opinion that to keep quiet, and to see other potentates of Italy
spending and suffering, cannot but be to their advantage. They trust no
one, and feel sure they have enough money to be able at any moment to
raise sufficient troops, and so to guide events according to their
inclinations." As the invasion was directed against Naples, Ferdinand of
Aragon displayed the acutest sense of the situation. "Frenchmen," he
exclaimed, in what appears like a prophetic passion when contrasted with
the cold indifference of others no less really menaced, "have never come
into Italy without inflicting ruin; and this invasion, if rightly
considered, cannot but bring universal ruin, although it seems to menace
us alone." In his agony Ferdinand applied to Alexander VI. But the Pope
looked coldly upon him, because the King of Naples, with rare
perspicacity, had predicted that his elevation to the papacy would prove
disastrous to Christendom. Alexander preferred to ally himself with
Venice and Milan. Upon this Ferdinand wrote as follows: "It seems fated
that the popes should leave no peace in Italy. We are compelled to
fight; but the Duke of Bari (_i.e._, Lodovico Sforza) should think what
may ensue from the tumult he is stirring up. He who raises this wind
will not be able to lay the tempest when he likes. Let him look to the
past, and he will see how every time that our internal quarrels have
brought powers from beyond the Alps into Italy, these have oppressed and
lorded over her."

Terribly verified as these words were destined to be--and they were no
less prophetic in their political sagacity than Savonarola's prediction
of the Sword and bloody Scourge--it was now too late to avert the coming
ruin. On March 1, 1494, Charles was with his army at Lyons. Early in
September he had crossed the pass of Mont Genêvre and taken up his
quarters in the town of Asti. There is no need to describe in detail the
holiday march of the French troops through Lombardy, Tuscany, and Rome,
until, without having struck a blow of consequence, the gates of Naples
opened to receive the conqueror upon February 22, 1495. Philippe de
Comines, who parted from the king at Asti and passed the winter as his
envoy at Venice, has more than once recorded his belief that nothing but
the direct interposition of Providence could have brought so mad an
expedition to so successful a conclusion. "Dieu monstroit conduire
l'entreprise." No sooner, however, was Charles installed in Naples than
the states of Italy began to combine against him. Lodovico Sforza had
availed himself of the general confusion consequent upon the first
appearance of the French, to poison his nephew. He was, therefore, now
the titular, as well as virtual, Lord of Milan. So far, he had achieved
what he desired, and had no further need of Charles. The overtures he
now made to the Venetians and the Pope terminated in a league between
these powers for the expulsion of the French from Italy. Germany and
Spain entered into the same alliance; and De Comines, finding himself
treated with marked coldness by the Signory of Venice, despatched a
courier to warn Charles in Naples of the coming danger. After a stay of
only fifty days in his new capital, the French king hurried northward.
Moving quickly through the Papal States and Tuscany, he engaged his
troops in the passes of the Apennines near Pontremoli, and on July 5th,
1495, took up his quarters in the village of Fornovo. De Comines reckons
that his whole fighting force at this time did not exceed nine thousand
men, with fourteen pieces of artillery. Against him at the opening of
the valley was the army of the League, numbering some thirty-five
thousand men, of whom three fourths were supplied by Venice, the rest by
Lodovico Sforza and the German emperor. Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of
Mantua, was the general of the Venetian forces; and on him, therefore,
fell the real responsibility of the battle.

De Comines remarks on the imprudence of the allies, who allowed Charles
to advance as far as Fornovo, when it was their obvious policy to have
established themselves in the village and so have caught the French
troops in a trap. It was a Sunday when the French marched down upon
Fornovo. Before them spread the plain of Lombardy, and beyond it the
white crests of the Alps. "We were," says De Comines, "in a valley
between two little mountain flanks, and in that valley ran a river which
could easily be forded on foot, except when it is swelled with sudden
rains. The whole valley was a bed of gravel and big stones, very
difficult for horses, about a quarter of a league in breadth, and on the
right bank lodged our enemies." Any one who has visited Fornovo can
understand the situation of the two armies. Charles occupied the village
on the right bank of the Taro. On the same bank, extending downward
towards the plain, lay the host of the allies; and in order that Charles
should escape them, it was necessary that he should cross the Taro, just
below its junction with the Ceno, and reach Lombardy by marching in a
parallel line with his foes.

All through the night of Sunday it thundered and rained incessantly; so
that on the Monday morning the Taro was considerably swollen. At seven
o'clock the king sent for De Comines, who found him already armed and
mounted on the finest horse he had ever seen. The name of this charger
was Savoy. He was black, one-eyed, and of middling height; and to his
great courage, as we shall see, Charles owed life upon that day. The
French army, ready for the march, now took to the gravelly bed of the
Taro, passing the river at a distance of about a quarter of a league
from the allies. As the French left Fornovo, the light cavalry of their
enemies entered the village and began to attack the baggage. At the same
time the Marquis of Mantua, with the flower of his men-at-arms, crossed
the Taro and harassed the rear of the French host; while raids from the
right bank to the left were constantly being made by sharp-shooters and
flying squadrons. "At this moment," says De Comines, "not a single man
of us could have escaped if our ranks had once been broken." The French
army was divided into three main bodies. The vanguard consisted of some
three hundred and fifty men-at-arms, three thousand Switzers, three
hundred archers of the Guard, a few mounted crossbow-men, and the
artillery. Next came the Battle, and after this the rear-guard. At the
time when the Marquis of Mantua made his attack, the French rear-guard
had not yet crossed the river. Charles quitted the van, put himself at
the head of his chivalry, and charged the Italian horsemen, driving them
back, some to the village and others to their camp. De Comines observes,
that had the Italian knights been supported in this passage of arms by
the light cavalry of the Venetian force, called Stradiots, the French
must have been outnumbered, thrown into confusion, and defeated. As it
was, these Stradiots were engaged in plundering the baggage of the
French; and the Italians, accustomed to bloodless encounters, did not
venture, in spite of their immense superiority of numbers, to renew the
charge. In the pursuit of Gonzaga's horsemen Charles outstripped his
staff, and was left almost alone to grapple with a little band of
mounted foemen. It was here that his noble horse, Savoy, saved his
person by plunging and charging till assistance came up from the French,
and enabled the king to regain his van.

It is incredible, considering the nature of the ground and the number of
the troops engaged, that the allies should not have returned to the
attack and have made the passage of the French into the plain
impossible. De Comines, however, assures us that the actual engagement
only lasted a quarter of an hour, and the pursuit of the Italians three
quarters of an hour. After they had once resolved to fly, they threw
away their lances and betook themselves to Reggio and Parma. So complete
was their discomfiture, that De Comines gravely blames the want of
military genius and adventure in the French host. If, instead of
advancing along the left bank of the Taro and there taking up his
quarters for the night, Charles had recrossed the stream and pursued the
army of the allies, he would have had the whole of Lombardy at his
discretion. As it was, the French army encamped not far from the scene
of the action in great discomfort and anxiety. De Comines had to bivouac
in a vineyard, without even a mantle to wrap round him, having lent his
cloak to the king in the morning; and as it had been pouring all day,
the ground could not have afforded very luxurious quarters. The same
extraordinary luck which had attended the French in their whole
expedition now favored their retreat; and the same pusillanimity which
the allies had shown at Fornovo prevented them from re-forming and
engaging with the army of Charles upon the plain. One hour before
daybreak on Tuesday morning the French broke up their camp and succeeded
in clearing the valley. That night they lodged at Fiorenzuola, the next
at Piacenza, and so on; till on the eighth day they arrived at Asti
without having been so much as incommoded by the army of the allies in
their rear.

Although the field of Fornovo was in reality so disgraceful to the
Italians, they reckoned it a victory upon the technical pretence that
the camp and baggage of the French had been seized. Illuminations and
rejoicings made the piazza of St. Mark in Venice gay, and Francesco da
Gonzaga had the glorious Madonna della Vittoria painted for him by
Mantegna, in commemoration of what ought only to have been remembered
with shame.

A fitting conclusion to this sketch, connecting its close with the
commencement, may be found in some remarks upon the manner of warfare
to which the Italians of the Renaissance had become accustomed, and
which proved so futile on the field of Fornovo. During the Middle Ages,
and in the days of the Communes, the whole male population of Italy had
fought light armed on foot. Merchant and artisan left the counting-house
and the workshop, took shield and pike, and sallied forth to attack the
barons in their castles, or to meet the emperor's troops upon the field.
It was with this national militia that the citizens of Florence freed
their _Contado_ of the nobles, and the burghers of Lombardy gained the
battle of Legnano. In course of time, by a process of change which it is
not very easy to trace, heavily armed cavalry began to take the place of
infantry in mediæval warfare. Men-at-arms, as they were called, encased
from head to foot in iron, and mounted upon chargers no less solidly
caparisoned, drove the foot-soldiers before them at the points of their
long lances. Nowhere in Italy do they seem to have met with the fierce
resistance which the bears of the Swiss Oberland and the bulls of Uri
offered to the knights of Burgundy. No Tuscan Arnold von Winkelried
clasped a dozen lances to his bosom that the foeman's ranks might thus
be broken at the cost of his own life; nor did it occur to the Italian
burghers to meet the charge of the horsemen with squares protected by
bristling spears. They seem, on the contrary, to have abandoned military
service with the readiness of men whose energies were already absorbed
in the affairs of peace. To become a practised and efficient man-at-arms
required long training and a life's devotion. So much time the burghers
of the free towns could not spare to military service, while the petty
nobles were only too glad to devote themselves to so honorable a
calling. Thus it came to pass that a class of professional fighting-men
was gradually formed in Italy, whose services the burghers and the
princes bought, and by whom the wars of the peninsula were regularly
farmed by contract. Wealth and luxury in the great cities continued to
increase; and as the burghers grew more comfortable, they were less
inclined to take the field in their own persons, and more disposed to
vote large sums of money for the purchase of necessary aid. At the same
time this system suited the despots, since it spared them the peril of
arming their own subjects, while they taxed them to pay the services of
foreign captains. War thus became a commerce. Romagna, the Marches of
Ancona, and other parts of the papal dominions supplied a number of
petty nobles whose whole business in life it was to form companies of
trained horsemen, and with these bands to hire themselves out to the
republics and the despots. Gain was the sole purpose of these captains.
They sold their service to the highest bidder, fighting irrespectively
of principle or patriotism, and passing with the coldest equanimity from
the camp of one master to that of his worst foe. It was impossible that
true military spirit should survive this prostitution of the art of war.
A species of mock warfare prevailed in Italy. Battles were fought with a
view to booty more than victory; prisoners were taken for the sake of
ransom, bloodshed was carefully avoided, for the men who fought on
either side in any pitched field had been comrades with their present
foemen in the last encounter, and who could tell how soon the general of
the one host might not need his rival's troops to recruit his own
ranks? Like every genuine institution of the Italian Renaissance,
warfare was thus a work of fine art, a masterpiece of intellectual
subtlety; and, like the Renaissance itself, this peculiar form of
warfare was essentially transitional. The cannon and the musket were
already in use; and it only required one blast of gunpowder to turn the
shamfight of courtly, traitorous, finessing captains of adventure into
something terribly more real. To men like the Marquis of Mantua war had
been a highly profitable game of skill; to men like the Maréchal de Gié
it was a murderous horse-play; and this difference the Italians were not
slow to perceive. When they cast away their lances at Fornovo, and
fled--in spite of their superior numbers--never to return, one
fair-seeming sham of the fifteenth century became a vision of the past.

FOOTNOTES:

[D] Charles claimed under the will of René of Anjou, who in turn claimed
under the will of Joan II.



BERGAMO AND BARTOLOMMEO COLLEONI.


From the new town of commerce to the old town of history upon the hill
the road is carried along a rampart lined with horse-chestnut
trees--clumps of massy foliage and snowy pyramids of bloom expanded in
the rapture of a Southern spring. Each pair of trees between their stems
and arch of intermingling leaves includes a space of plain checkered
with cloud-shadows, melting blue and green in amethystine haze. To right
and left the last spurs of the Alps descend, jutting like promontories,
heaving like islands from the misty breadth below; and here and there
are towers half lost in airy azure, and cities dwarfed to blots, and
silvery lines where rivers flow, and distant, vapor-drowned, dim crests
of Apennines. The city walls above us wave with snapdragons and iris
among fig-trees sprouting from the riven stones. There are terraces
over-rioted with pergolas of vine, and houses shooting forward into
balconies and balustrades, from which a Romeo might launch himself at
daybreak, warned by the lark's song. A sudden angle in the road is
turned, and we pass from air-space and freedom into the old town,
beneath walls of dark-brown masonry, where wild valerians light their
torches of red bloom in immemorial shade. Squalor and splendor live
here side by side. Grand Renaissance portals grinning with satyr masks
are flanked by tawdry frescos shamming stonework, or by doorways where
the withered bush hangs out a promise of bad wine.

The Cappella Colleoni is our destination--that masterpiece of the
sculptor-architect's craft, with its variegated marbles--rosy and white
and creamy yellow and jet-black--in patterns, bass-reliefs, pilasters,
statuettes, incrusted on the fanciful domed shrine. Upon the façade are
mingled, in the true Renaissance spirit of genial acceptance, motives
Christian and Pagan with supreme impartiality. Medallions of emperors
and gods alternate with virtues, angels, and cupids in a maze of
loveliest arabesque; and round the base of the building are told two
stories--the one of Adam from his creation to his fall, the other of
Hercules and his labors. Italian craftsmen of the _quattrocento_ were
not averse to setting thus together, in one frame-work, the myths of our
first parents and Alemena's son; partly, perhaps, because both subjects
gave scope to the free treatment of the nude; but partly, also, we may
venture to surmise, because the heroism of Hellas counterbalanced the
sin of Eden. Here, then, we see how Adam and Eve were made and tempted
and expelled from Paradise and set to labor, how Cain killed Abel, and
Lamech slew a man to his hurt, and Isaac was offered on the mountain.
The tale of human sin and the promise of redemption are epitomized in
twelve of the sixteen bass-reliefs. The remaining four show Hercules
wrestling with Antæus, taming the Nemean lion, extirpating the Hydra,
and bending to his will the bull of Crete. Labor, appointed for a
punishment to Adam, becomes a title to immortality for the hero. The
dignity of man is reconquered by prowess for the Greek, as it is
repurchased for the Christian by vicarious suffering. Many may think
this interpretation of Amadeo's bass-reliefs far-fetched; yet, such as
it is, it agrees with the spirit of humanism, bent ever on harmonizing
the two great traditions of the past. Of the workmanship little need be
said, except that it is wholly Lombard, distinguished from the similar
work of Della Quercia at Bologna and Siena by a more imperfect feeling
for composition and a lack of monumental gravity, yet graceful, rich in
motives, and instinct with a certain wayward _improvisatore_ charm.

This chapel was built by the great Condottiere Bartolommeo Colleoni, to
be the monument of his puissance even in the grave. It had been the
Sacristy of S. Maria Maggiore, which, when the Consiglio della
Misericordia refused it to him for his half-proud, half-pious purpose,
he took and held by force. The structure, of costliest materials, reared
by Gian Antonio Amadeo, cost him fifty thousand golden florins. An
equestrian statue of gilt wood, voted to him by the town of Bergamo,
surmounts his monument inside the chapel. This was the work of two
German masters called Sisto figlio di Enrico Syri da Norimberga and
Leonardo Tedesco. The tomb itself is of marble, executed for the most
part in a Lombard style resembling Amadeo's, but scarcely worthy of his
genius. The whole effect is disappointing. Five figures representing
Mars, Hercules, and three sons-in-law of Colleoni, who surround the
sarcophagus of the buried general, are, indeed, almost grotesque. The
angularity and crumpled draperies of the Milanese manner, when so
exaggerated, produce an impression of caricature. Yet many subordinate
details--a row of _putti_ in a Cinque Cento frieze, for instance--and
much of the low relief work, especially the Crucifixion, with its
characteristic episodes of the fainting Marys and the soldiers casting
dice, are lovely in their unaffected Lombardism.

There is another portrait of Colleoni in a round above the great door,
executed with spirit, though in a _bravura_ style that curiously
anticipates the decline of Italian sculpture. Gaunt, hollow-eyed, with
prominent cheekbones and strong jaws, this animated half-length statue
of the hero bears the stamp of a good likeness, but when or by whom it
was made I do not know.

Far more noteworthy than Colleoni's own monument is that of his daughter
Medea. She died young in 1470, and her father caused her tomb, carved of
Carrara marble, to be placed in the Dominican Church of Basella, which
he had previously founded. It was not until 1842 that this most precious
masterpiece of Antonio Amadeo's skill was transferred to Bergamo. _Hic
jacet Medea virgo._ Her hands are clasped across her breast. A robe of
rich brocade, gathered to the waist and girdled, lies in simple folds
upon the bier. Her throat, exceedingly long and slender, is circled with
a string of pearls. Her face is not beautiful, for the features,
especially the nose, are large and prominent; but it is pure and
expressive of vivid individuality. The hair curls in crisp, short
clusters; and the ear, fine and shaped almost like a Faun's, reveals the
scrupulous fidelity of the sculptor. Italian art has, in truth, nothing
more exquisite than this still-sleeping figure of the girl who, when she
lived, must certainly have been so rare of type and lovable in
personality. If Busti's Lancinus Curtius be the portrait of a humanist,
careworn with study, burdened by the laurel leaves that were so dry and
dusty; if Gaston de Foix in the Brera, smiling at death and beautiful in
the cropped bloom of youth, idealize the hero of romance; if Michael
Angelo's Penseroso translate in marble the dark broodings of a despot's
soul; if Della Porta's Julia Farnese be the Roman courtesan
magnificently throned in nonchalance at a pope's footstool; if
Verocchio's Colleoni on his horse at Venice impersonate the pomp and
circumstance of scientific war--surely this Medea exhales the
flower-like graces, the sweet sanctities of human life, that even in
that turbid age were found among high-bred Italian ladies. Such power
have mighty sculptors, even in our modern world, to make the mute stone
speak in poems and clasp the soul's life of a century in some five or
six transcendent forms.

The Colleoni, or Coglioni, family were of considerable antiquity and
well authenticated nobility in the town of Bergamo. Two lions' heads
conjoined formed one of their canting ensigns; another was borrowed from
the vulgar meaning of their name. Many members of the house held
important office during the three centuries preceding the birth of the
famous general Bartolommeo. He was born in the year 1400 at Solza in the
Bergamasque Contado. His father, Paolo, or Pùho as he was commonly
called, was poor and exiled from the city, together with the rest of the
Guelf nobles, by the Visconti. Being a man of daring spirit, and little
inclined to languish in a foreign state as the dependent on some patron,
Pùho formed the bold design of seizing the Castle of Trezzo. This he
achieved in 1405 by fraud, and afterwards held it as his own by force.
Partly with the view of establishing himself more firmly in his acquired
lordship, and partly out of family affection, Pùho associated four of
his first-cousins in the government of Trezzo. They repaid his kindness
with an act of treason and cruelty only too characteristic of those
times in Italy. One day while he was playing at draughts in a room of
the castle, they assaulted him and killed him, seized his wife and the
boy Bartolommeo, and flung them into prison. The murdered Pùho had
another son, Antonio, who escaped and took refuge with Giorgio Benzone,
the tyrant of Crema. After a short time the Colleoni brothers found
means to assassinate him also; therefore Bartolommeo alone, a child of
whom no heed was taken, remained to be his father's avenger. He and his
mother lived together in great indigence at Solza, until the lad felt
strong enough to enter the service of one of the numerous petty Lombard
princes, and to make himself if possible a captain of adventure. His
name alone was a sufficient introduction, and the Duchy of Milan,
dismembered upon the death of Gian Maria Visconti, was in such a state
that all the minor despots were increasing their forces and preparing to
defend by arms the fragments they had seized from the Visconti heritage.
Bartolommeo therefore had no difficulty in recommending himself to
Filippo d'Arcello, sometime general in the pay of the Milanese, but now
the new lord of Piacenza. With this master he remained as page for two
or three years, learning the use of arms, riding, and training himself
in the physical exercises which were indispensable to a young Italian
soldier. Meanwhile Filippo Maria Visconti reacquired his hereditary
dominions; and at the age of twenty, Bartolommeo found it prudent to
seek a patron stronger than D'Arcello. The two great Condottieri, Sforza
Attendolo and Braccio, divided the military glories of Italy at this
period; and any youth who sought to rise in his profession had to enroll
himself under the banners of the one or the other. Bartolommeo chose
Braccio for his master, and was enrolled among his men as a simple
trooper, or _ragazzo_, with no better prospects than he could make for
himself by the help of his talents and his borrowed horse and armor.
Braccio at this time was in Apulia, prosecuting the war of the
Neapolitan Succession disputed between Alfonso of Aragon and Louis of
Anjou under the weak sovereignty of Queen Joan. On which side of a
quarrel a condottiere fought mattered but little, so great was the
confusion of Italian politics, and so complete was the egotism of these
fraudful, violent, and treacherous party leaders. Yet it may be
mentioned that Braccio had espoused Alfonso's cause. Bartolommeo
Colleoni early distinguished himself among the ranks of the Bracceschi.
But he soon perceived that he could better his position by deserting to
another camp. Accordingly he offered his services to Jacopo Caldora, one
of Joan's generals, and received from him a commission of twenty
men-at-arms. It may here be parenthetically said that the rank and pay
of an Italian captain varied with the number of the men he brought into
the field. His title "Condottiere" was derived from the circumstance
that he was said to have received a _Condotta di venti cavalli_, and so
forth. Each _cavallo_ was equal to one mounted man-at-arms and two
attendants, who were also called _ragazzi_. It was his business to
provide the stipulated number of men, to keep them in good discipline,
and to satisfy their just demands. Therefore an Italian army at this
epoch consisted of numerous small armies varying in size, each held
together by personal engagements to a captain, and all dependent on the
will of a general-in-chief, who had made a bargain with some prince or
republic for supplying a fixed contingent of fighting-men. The
_condottiere_ was in other words a contractor or _impresario_,
undertaking to do a certain piece of work for a certain price, and to
furnish the requisite forces for the business in good working order. It
will be readily seen upon this system how important were the personal
qualities of the captain, and what great advantages those condottieri
had who, like the petty princes of Romagna and the March, the
Montefeltri, Ordelaffi, Malatesti, Manfredi, Orsini, and Vitelli, could
rely upon a race of hardy vassals for their recruits.

It is not necessary to follow Colleoni's fortunes in the Regno, at
Aquila, Ancona, and Bologna. He continued in the service of Caldora, who
was now General of the Church, and had his _condotta_ gradually
increased. Meanwhile his cousins, the murderers of his father, began to
dread his rising power, and determined, if possible, to ruin him. He was
not a man to be easily assassinated; so they sent a hired ruffian to
Caldora's camp to say that Bartolommeo had taken his name by fraud, and
that he was himself the real son of Pùho Colleoni. Bartolommeo defied
the liar to a duel; and this would have taken place before the army, had
not two witnesses appeared who knew the fathers of both Colleoni and
the _bravo_, and who gave such evidence that the captains of the army
were enabled to ascertain the truth. The impostor was stripped and
drummed out of the camp.

At the conclusion of a peace between the Pope and the Bolognese,
Bartolommeo found himself without occupation. He now offered himself to
the Venetians, and began to fight again under the great Carmagnola
against Filippo Visconti. His engagement allowed him forty men, which,
after the judicial murder of Carmagnola at Venice in 1432, were
increased to eighty. Erasmo da Narni, better known as Gattamelata, was
now his general-in-chief--a man who had risen from the lowest fortunes
to one of the most splendid military positions in Italy. Colleoni spent
the next years of his life, until 1443, in Lombardy, manoeuvring
against Il Piccinino, and gradually rising in the Venetian service,
until his condotta reached the number of eight hundred men. Upon
Gattamelata's death at Padua in 1440, Colleoni became the most important
of the generals who had fought with Caldora in the March. The lordships
of Romano in the Bergamasque, and of Covo and Antegnate in the
Cremonese, had been assigned to him; and he was in a position to make
independent engagements with princes. What distinguished him as a
general was a combination of caution with audacity. He united the
brilliant system of his master Braccio with the more prudent tactics of
the Sforzeschi; and thus, though he often surprised his foes by daring
stratagems and vigorous assaults, he rarely met with any serious check.
He was a captain who could be relied upon for boldly seizing an
advantage, no less than for using a success with discretion. Moreover
he had acquired an almost unique reputation for honesty in dealing with
his masters, and for justice combined with humane indulgence to his men.
His company was popular, and he could always bring capital troops into
the field.

In the year 1443, Colleoni quitted the Venetian service on account of a
quarrel with Gherardo Dandolo, the Proveditore of the Republic. He now
took a commission from Filippo Maria Visconti, who received him at Milan
with great honor, bestowed on him the Castello Adorno at Pavia, and sent
him into the March of Ancona upon a military expedition. Of all Italian
tyrants, this Visconti was the most difficult to serve. Constitutionally
timid, surrounded with a crowd of spies and base informers, shrinking
from the sight of men in the recesses of his palace, and controlling the
complicated affairs of his duchy by means of correspondents and
intelligencers, this last scion of the Milanese despots lived like a
spider in an inscrutable network of suspicion and intrigue. His policy
was one of endless plot and counterplot. He trusted no man; his servants
were paid to act as spies on one another; his body-guard consisted of
mutually hostile mercenaries; his captains in the field were watched and
thwarted by commissioners appointed to check them at the point of
successful ambition or magnificent victory. The historian has a hard
task when he tries to fathom the Visconti's schemes, or to understand
his motives. Half the duke's time seems to have been spent in
unravelling the webs that he had woven, in undoing his own work, and
weakening the hands of his chosen ministers. Conscious that his power
was artificial, that the least breath might blow him back into the
nothingness from which he had arisen on the wrecks of his father's
tyranny, he dreaded the personal eminence of his generals above all
things. His chief object was to establish a system of checks, by means
of which no one whom he employed should at any moment be great enough to
threaten him. The most formidable of these military adventurers,
Francesco Sforza, had been secured by marriage with Bianca Maria
Visconti, his master's only daughter, in 1441; but the duke did not even
trust his son-in-law. The last six years of his life were spent in
scheming to deprive Sforza of his lordships; and the war in the March,
on which he employed Colleoni, had the object of ruining the
principality acquired by this daring captain from Pope Eugenius IV. in
1443.

Colleoni was by no means deficient in those foxlike qualities which were
necessary to save the lion from the toils spread for him by Italian
intriguers. He had already shown that he knew how to push his own
interests, by changing sides and taking service with the highest bidder,
as occasion prompted. Nor, though his character for probity and loyalty
stood exceptionally high among the men of his profession, was he the
slave to any questionable claims of honor or of duty. In that age of
confused politics and extinguished patriotism, there was not indeed much
scope for scrupulous honesty. But Filippo Maria Visconti proved more
than a match for him in craft. While Colleoni was engaged in pacifying
the revolted population of Bologna, the duke yielded to the suggestion
of his parasites at Milan, who whispered that the general was becoming
dangerously powerful. He recalled him, and threw him without trial into
the dungeons of the Forni at Monza. Here Colleoni remained a prisoner
more than a year, until the duke's death, in 1447, when he made his
escape, and profited by the disturbance of the duchy to reacquire his
lordships in the Bergamasque territory. The true motive for his
imprisonment remains still buried in obscure conjecture. Probably it was
not even known to the Visconti, who acted on this, as on so many other
occasions, by a mere spasm of suspicious jealousy, for which he could
have given no account.

From the year 1447 to the year 1455, it is difficult to follow
Colleoni's movements, or to trace his policy. First, we find him
employed by the Milanese Republic, during its brief space of
independence; then he is engaged by the Venetians, with a commission for
fifteen hundred horse; next, he is in the service of Francesco Sforza;
once more in that of the Venetians, and yet again in that of the Duke of
Milan. His biographer relates with pride that, during this period, he
was three times successful against French troops in Piedmont and
Lombardy. It appears that he made short engagements, and changed his
paymasters according to convenience. But all this time he rose in
personal importance, acquired fresh lordships in the Bergamasque, and
accumulated wealth. He reached the highest point of his prosperity in
1455, when the Republic of St. Mark elected him general-in-chief of
their armies, with the fullest powers, and with a stipend of one hundred
thousand florins. For nearly twenty-one years, until the day of his
death, in 1475, Colleoni held this honorable and lucrative office. In
his will he charged the Signory of Venice that they should never again
commit into the hands of a single captain such unlimited control over
their military resources. It was indeed no slight tribute to Colleoni's
reputation for integrity that the jealous republic, which had signified
its sense of Carmagnola's untrustworthiness by capital punishment,
should have left him so long in the undisturbed disposal of their army.
The standard and the baton of St. Mark were conveyed to Colleoni by two
ambassadors, and presented to him at Brescia on June 24, 1455. Three
years later he made a triumphal entry into Venice, and received the same
ensigns of military authority from the hands of the new doge, Pasquale
Malipiero. On this occasion his staff consisted of some two hundred
officers, splendidly armed, and followed by a train of serving-men.
Noblemen from Bergamo, Brescia, and other cities of the Venetian
territory, swelled the cortége. When they embarked on the lagoons, they
found the water covered with boats and gondolas, bearing the population
of Venice in gala attire to greet the illustrious guest with instruments
of music. Three great galleys of the republic, called bucentaurs, issued
from the crowd of smaller craft. On the first was the doge in his state
robes, attended by the government in office, or the Signoria of St.
Mark. On the second were members of the senate and minor magistrates.
The third carried the ambassadors of foreign powers. Colleoni was
received into the first state galley, and placed by the side of the
doge. The oarsmen soon cleared the space between the land and Venice,
passed the small canals, and swept majestically up the Canalozzo among
the plaudits of the crowds assembled on both sides to cheer their
general. Thus they reached the piazzetta, where Colleoni alighted
between the two great pillars, and, conducted by the doge in person,
walked to the Church of St. Mark. Here, after mass had been said, and a
sermon had been preached, kneeling before the high-altar he received the
truncheon from the doge's hands. The words of his commission ran as
follows:

     "By authority and decree of this most excellent city of
     Venice, of us the prince, and of the senate, you are to be
     commander and captain-general of all our forces and armaments
     on _terra firma_. Take from our hands this truncheon, with
     good augury and fortune, as sign and warrant of your power. Be
     it your care and effort, with dignity and splendor to maintain
     and to defend the majesty, the loyalty, and the principles of
     this empire. Neither provoking, nor yet provoked, unless at
     our command, shall you break into open warfare with our
     enemies. Free jurisdiction and lordship over each one of our
     soldiers, except in cases of treason, we hereby commit to
     you."

After the ceremony of his reception, Colleoni was conducted with no less
pomp to his lodgings, and the next ten days were spent in festivities of
all sorts.

The commandership-in-chief of the Venetian forces was perhaps the
highest military post in Italy. It placed Colleoni on the pinnacle of
his profession, and made his camp the favorite school of young soldiers.
Among his pupils or lieutenants we read of Ercole d'Este, the future
Duke of Ferrara; Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pesaro; Boniface, Marquis of
Montferrat; Cicco and Pino Ordelaffi, Princes of Forli; Astorre
Manfredi, the Lord of Faenza; three Counts of Mirandola; two Princes of
Carpi; Deifobo, the Count of Anguillara; Giovanni Antonio Caldora, Lord
of Jesi in the March; and many others of less name. Honors came thick
upon him. When one of the many ineffectual leagues against the infidel
was formed in 1468, during the pontificate of Paul II., he was named
captain-general for the crusade. Pius II. designed him for the leader
of the expedition he had planned against the impious and savage despot
Sigismondo Malatesta. King René of Anjou, by special patent, authorized
him to bear his name and arms, and made him a member of his family. The
Duke of Burgundy, by a similar heraldic fiction, conferred upon him his
name and armorial bearings. This will explain why Colleoni is often
styled "di Andegavia e Borgogna." In the case of René, the honor was but
a barren show. But the patent of Charles the Bold had more significance.
In 1473 he entertained the project of employing the great Italian
general against his Swiss foes; nor does it seem reasonable to reject a
statement made by Colleoni's biographer, to the effect that a secret
compact had been drawn up between him and the Duke of Burgundy, for the
conquest and partition of the Duchy of Milan. The Venetians, in whose
service Colleoni still remained, when they became aware of this project,
met it with peaceful but irresistible opposition.

Colleoni had been engaged continually since his earliest boyhood in the
trade of war. It was not therefore possible that he should have gained a
great degree of literary culture. Yet the fashion of the times made it
necessary that a man in his position should seek the society of
scholars. Accordingly his court and camp were crowded with students, in
whose wordy disputations he is said to have delighted. It will be
remembered that his contemporaries, Alfonso the Magnanimous, Francesco
Sforza, Federigo of Urbino, and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, piqued
themselves at least as much upon their patronage of letters as upon
their prowess in the field.

Colleoni's court, like that of Urbino, was a model of manners. As became
a soldier, he was temperate in food and moderate in slumber. It was
recorded of him that he had never sat more than one hour at meat in his
own house, and that he never overslept the sunrise. After dinner he
would converse with his friends, using commonly his native dialect of
Bergamo, and entertaining the company now with stories of adventure, and
now with pithy sayings. In another essential point he resembled his
illustrious contemporary, the Duke of Urbino; for he was sincerely pious
in an age which, however it preserved the decencies of ceremonial
religion, was profoundly corrupt at heart. His principal lordships in
the Bergamasque territory owed to his munificence their fairest churches
and charitable institutions. At Martinengo, for example, he rebuilt and
re-endowed two monasteries, the one dedicated to St. Chiara, the other
to St. Francis. In Bergamo itself he founded an establishment named "La
Pietà," for the good purpose of dowering and marrying poor girls. This
house he endowed with a yearly income of three thousand ducats. The
sulphur baths of Trescorio, at some distance from the city, were
improved and opened to poor patients by a hospital which he provided. At
Rumano he raised a church to St. Peter, and erected buildings of public
utility, which on his death he bequeathed to the society of the
Misericordia in that town. All the places of his jurisdiction owed to
him such benefits as good water, new walls, and irrigation-works. In
addition to these munificent foundations must be mentioned the Basella,
or Monastery of Dominican friars, which he established not far from
Bergamo, upon the river Serio, in memory of his beloved daughter Medea.
Last, not least, was the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, attached to the
Church of S. Maria Maggiore, which he endowed with fitting maintenance
for two priests and deacons.

The one defect acknowledged by his biographer was his partiality for
women. Early in life he married Tisbe, of the noble house of the
Brescian Martinenghi, who bore him one daughter, Caterina, wedded to
Gasparre Martinengo. Two illegitimate daughters, Ursina and Isotta, were
recognized and treated by him as legitimate. The first he gave in
marriage to Gherardo Martinengo, and the second to Jacopo of the same
family. Two other natural children, Doratina and Ricardona, were
mentioned in his will: he left them four thousand ducats apiece for
dowry. Medea, the child of his old age (for she was born to him when he
was sixty), died before her father, and was buried, as we have seen, in
the Chapel of Basella.

Throughout his life he was distinguished for great physical strength and
agility. When he first joined the troop of Braccio, he could race, with
his corselet on, against the swiftest runner of the army; and when he
was stripped, few horses could beat him in speed. Far on into old age he
was in the habit of taking long walks every morning for the sake of
exercise, and delighted in feats of arms and jousting-matches. "He was
tall, straight, and full of flesh, well-proportioned, and excellently
made in all his limbs. His complexion inclined somewhat to brown, but
was colored with sanguine and lively carnation. His eyes were black; in
look and sharpness of light they were vivid, piercing, and terrible. The
outlines of his nose and all his countenance expressed a certain manly
nobleness, combined with goodness and prudence." Such is the portrait
drawn of Colleoni by his biographer and it well accords with the famous
bronze statue of the general at Venice.

Colleoni lived with a magnificence that suited his rank. His favorite
place of abode was Malpaga, a castle built by him at the distance of
about an hour's drive from Bergamo. The place is worth a visit, though
its courts and gates and galleries have now been turned into a monster
farm, and the southern rooms, where Colleoni entertained his guests, are
given over to the silkworms. Half a dozen families, employed upon a vast
estate of the Martinengo family, occupy the still substantial house and
stables. The moat is planted with mulberry-trees; the upper rooms are
used as granaries for golden maize; cows, pigs, and horses litter in the
spacious yard. Yet the walls of the inner court and of the ancient
state-rooms are brilliant with frescos, executed by some good Venetian
hand, which represent the chief events of Colleoni's life--his battles,
his reception by the Signory of Venice, his tournaments and
hawking-parties, and the great series of entertainments with which he
welcomed Christiern of Denmark. This king had made his pilgrimage to
Rome, and was returning westward, when the fame of Colleoni and his
princely state at Malpaga induced him to turn aside and spend some days
as the general's guest. In order to do him honor, Colleoni left his
castle at the king's disposal and established himself with all his staff
and servants in a camp at some distance from Malpaga. The camp was duly
furnished with tents and trenches, stockades, artillery, and all the
other furniture of war. On the king's approach, Colleoni issued with
trumpets blowing and banners flying to greet his guest, gratifying him
thus with a spectacle of the pomp and circumstance of war as carried on
in Italy. The visit was further enlivened by sham fights, feats of arms,
and trials of strength. When it ended, Colleoni presented the king with
one of his own suits of armor, and gave to each of his servants a
complete livery of red and white, his colors. Among the frescos at
Malpaga none are more interesting, and none, thanks to the silkworms
rather than to any other cause, are fortunately in a better state of
preservation, than those which represent this episode in the history of
the castle.

Colleoni died in the year 1475, at the age of seventy-five. Since he
left no male representative, he constituted the Republic of St. Mark his
heir in chief, after properly providing for his daughters and his
numerous foundations. The Venetians received under this testament a sum
of one hundred thousand ducats, together with all arrears of pay due to
him, and ten thousand ducats owed him by the Duke of Ferrara. It set
forth the testator's intention that this money should be employed in
defence of the Christian faith against the Turk. One condition was
attached to the bequest. The legatees were to erect a statue to Colleoni
on the Piazza of St. Mark. This, however, involved some difficulty; for
the proud republic had never accorded a similar honor, nor did they
choose to encumber their splendid square with a monument. They evaded
the condition by assigning the Campo in front of the Scuola di S. Marco,
where also stands the Church of S. Zanipolo, to the purpose. Here
accordingly the finest bronze equestrian statue in Italy, if we except
the Marcus Aurelius of the Capitol, was reared upon its marble pedestal
by Andrea Verocchio and Alessandro Leopardi.

Colleoni's liberal expenditure of wealth found its reward in the
immortality conferred by art. While the names of Braccio, his master in
the art of war, and of Piccinino, his great adversary, are familiar to
few but professed students, no one who has visited either Bergamo or
Venice can fail to have learned something about the founder of the
Chapel of St. John and the original of Leopardi's bronze. The annals of
sculpture assign to Verocchio, of Florence, the principal share in this
statue: but Verocchio died before it was cast; and even granting that he
designed the model, its execution must be attributed to his
collaborator, the Venetian Leopardi. For my own part, I am loath to
admit that the chief credit of this masterpiece belongs to a man whose
undisputed work at Florence shows but little of its living spirit and
splendor of suggested motion. That the Tuscan science of Verocchio
secured conscientious modelling for man and horse may be assumed; but I
am fain to believe that the concentrated fire which animates them both
is due in no small measure to the handling of his northern
fellow-craftsman.

While immersed in the dreary records of crimes, treasons, cruelties, and
base ambitions, which constitute the bulk of fifteenth-century Italian
history, it is refreshing to meet with a character so frank and manly,
so simply pious and comparatively free from stain, as Colleoni. The only
general of his day who can bear comparison with him for purity of public
life and decency in conduct was Federigo di Montefeltro. Even here, the
comparison redounds to Colleoni's credit; for he, unlike the Duke of
Urbino, rose to eminence by his own exertion in a profession fraught
with peril to men of ambition and energy. Federigo started with a
principality sufficient to satisfy his just desires for power. Nothing
but his own sense of right and prudence restrained Colleoni upon the
path which brought Francesco Sforza to a duchy by dishonorable dealings,
and Carmagnola to the scaffold by questionable practice against his
masters.



LOMBARD VIGNETTES.

ON THE SUPERGA.


This is the chord of Lombard coloring in May: Lowest in the scale,
bright green of varied tints, the meadow-grasses mingling with willows
and acacias, harmonized by air and distance; next, opaque blue--the blue
of something between amethyst and lapis-lazuli--that belongs alone to
the basements of Italian mountains; higher, the roseate whiteness of
ridged snow on Alps or Apennines; highest, the blue of the sky,
ascending from pale turquoise to transparent sapphire filled with light.
A mediæval mystic might have likened this chord to the spiritual world.
For the lowest region is that of natural life, of plant and bird and
beast, and unregenerate man. It is the place of faun and nymph and
satyr, the plain where wars are fought and cities built and work is
done. Thence we climb to purified humanity, the mountains of purgation,
the solitude and simplicity of contemplative life not yet made perfect
by freedom from the flesh. Higher comes that thin white belt, where are
the resting-places of angelic feet, the points whence purged souls take
their flight towards infinity. Above all is heaven, the hierarchies
ascending row on row to reach the light of God.

This fancy occurred to me as I climbed the slope of the Superga, gazing
over acacia hedges and poplars to the mountains bare in morning light.
The occasional occurrence of bars across this chord--poplars shivering
in sun and breeze, stationary cypresses as black as night, and tall
campanili with the hot red shafts of glowing brick--adds just enough of
composition to the landscape. Without too much straining of the
allegory, the mystic might have recognised in these aspiring bars the
upward effort of souls rooted in the common life of earth.

The panorama, unrolling as we ascend, is enough to overpower a lover of
beauty. There is nothing equal to it for space and breadth and majesty.
Monte Rosa, the masses of Mont Blanc blended with the Grand Paradis, the
airy pyramid of Monte Viso, these are the battlements of that vast
Alpine rampart in which the vale of Susa opens like a gate. To west and
south sweep the Maritime Alps and the Apennines. Beneath glides the
infant Po; and where he leads our eyes the plain is only limited by
pearly mist.


A BRONZE BUST OF CALIGULA AT TURIN.

The Albertina bronze is one of the most precious portraits of antiquity,
not merely because it confirms the testimony of the green basalt bust in
the Capitol, but also because it supplies an even more emphatic and
impressive illustration to the narrative of Suetonius.

Caligula is here represented as young and singularly beautiful. It is
indeed an ideal Roman head, with the powerful square modelling, the
crisp short hair, low forehead, and regular firm features proper to the
noblest Roman type. The head is thrown backward from the throat; and
there is a something of menace or defiance or suffering in the
suggestion of brusque movement given to the sinews of the neck. This
attitude, together with the tension of the forehead and the fixed
expression of pain and strain communicated by the lines of the
mouth--strong muscles of the upper lip and abruptly chiselled under
lip--in relation to the small eyes, deep set beneath their cavernous and
level brows, renders the whole face a monument of spiritual anguish. I
remember that the green basalt bust of the Capitol has the same anxious
forehead, the same troubled and overburdened eyes; but the agony of this
fretful mouth, comparable to nothing but the mouth of Pandolfo
Sigismondo Malatesta, and, like that, on the verge of breaking into the
spasms of delirium, is quite peculiar to the Albertina bronze. It is
just this which the portrait of the Capitol lacks for the completion of
Caligula. The man who could be so represented in art had nothing wholly
vulgar in him. The brutality of Caracalla, the overblown sensuality of
Nero, the effeminacy of Commodus or Heliogabalus are all absent here.
This face idealizes the torture of a morbid soul. It is withal so truly
beautiful that it might easily be made the poem of high suffering or
noble passion. If the bronze were plastic I see how a great sculptor by
but few strokes could convert it into an agonizing Stephen or Sebastian.
As it is, the unimaginable touch of disease, the unrest of madness, made
Caligula the genius of insatiable appetite; and his martyrdom was the
torment of lust and ennui and everlasting agitation. The accident of
empire tantalized him with vain hopes of satisfying the Charybdis of his
soul's sick cravings. From point to point he passed of empty pleasure
and unsatisfying cruelty, forever hungry; until the malady of his
spirit, unrestrained by any limitations, and with the right medium for
its development, became unique--the tragic type of pathological desire.
What more than all things must have plagued a man with that face was
probably the unavoidable meanness of his career. When we study the
chapters of Suetonius we are forced to feel that, though the situation
and the madness of Caligula were dramatically impressive, his crimes
were trivial and small. In spite of the vast scale on which he worked
his devilish will, his life presents a total picture of sordid vice,
differing only from pothouse dissipation and school-boy cruelty in point
of size. And this of a truth is the Nemesis of evil. After a time, mere
tyrannous caprice must become commonplace and cloying, tedious to the
tyrant and uninteresting to the student of humanity; nor can I believe
that Caligula failed to perceive this to his own infinite disgust.

Suetonius asserts that he was hideously ugly. How are we to square this
testimony with the witness of the bronze before us? What changed the
face, so beautiful and terrible in youth, to ugliness that shrank from
sight in manhood? Did the murderers find it blurred in its fine
lineaments, furrowed with lines of care, hollowed with the soul's
hunger? Unless a life of vice and madness had succeeded in making
Caligula's face what the faces of some maniacs are--the bloated ruin of
what was once a living witness to the soul within--I could fancy that
death may have sanctified it with even more beauty than this bust of the
self-tormented young man shows. Have we not all seen the anguish of
thought-fretted faces smoothed out by the hands of the Deliverer?


FERRARI AT VERCELLI.

It is possible that many visitors to the Cathedral of Como have carried
away the memory of stately women with abundant yellow hair and draperies
of green and crimson in a picture they connect thereafter with Gaudenzio
Ferrari. And when they come to Milan they are probably both impressed
and disappointed by a Martyrdom of St. Catherine in the Brera, bearing
the same artist's name. If they wish to understand this painter they
must seek him at Varallo, at Saronno, and at Vercelli. In the Church of
S. Christoforo, in Vercelli, Gaudenzio Ferrari, at the full height of
his powers, showed what he could do to justify Lomazzi's title chosen
for him of the eagle. He has indeed the strong wing and the swiftness of
the king of birds. And yet the works of few really great painters--and
among the really great we place Ferrari--leave upon the mind a more
distressing sense of imperfection. Extraordinary fertility of fancy,
vehement dramatic passion, sincere study of nature, and great command of
technical resources are here (as elsewhere in Ferrari's frescos)
neutralized by an incurable defect of the combining and harmonizing
faculty so essential to a masterpiece. There is stuff enough of thought
and vigor and imagination to make a dozen artists. And yet we turn away
disappointed from the crowded, dazzling, stupefying wilderness of forms
and faces on these mighty walls.

All that Ferrari derived from actual life--the heads of single figures,
the powerful movement of men and women in excited action, the monumental
pose of two praying nuns--is admirably rendered. His angels, too, in S.
Cristoforo, as elsewhere, are quite original; not only in their type of
beauty, which is terrestrial and peculiar to Ferrari, without a touch of
Correggio's sensuality; but also in the intensity of their emotion, the
realisation of their vitality. Those which hover round the Cross in the
fresco of the "Crucifixion" are as passionate as any angels of the
Giottesque masters in Assisi. Those, again, which crowd the Stable of
Bethlehem in the "Nativity" yield no point of idyllic charm to Gozzoli's
in the Riccardi Chapel.

The "Crucifixion," and the "Assumption of Madonna" are very tall and
narrow compositions, audacious in their attempt to fill almost
unmanageable space with a connected action. Of the two frescos, the
"Crucifixion," which has points of strong similarity to the same subject
at Varallo, is by far the best. Ferrari never painted anything at once
truer to life and nobler in tragic style than the fainting Virgin. Her
face expresses the very acme of martyrdom--not exaggerated nor
spasmodic, but real and sublime--in the suffering of a stately matron.
In points like this Ferrari cannot be surpassed. Raphael could scarcely
have done better; besides, there is an air of sincerity, a stamp of
popular truth in this episode which lies beyond Raphael's sphere. It
reminds us rather of Tintoretto.

After the "Crucifixion," I place the "Adoration of the Magi," full of
fine mundane motives and gorgeous costumes; then the "Sposalizio" (whose
marriage I am not certain), the only grandly composed picture of the
series, and marked by noble heads; then the "Adoration of the
Shepherds," with two lovely angels holding the bambino. The "Assumption
of the Magdalen"--for which fresco there is a valuable cartoon in the
Albertina Collection at Turin--must have been a fine picture; but it is
ruined now. An oil altar-piece, in the choir of the same church, struck
me less than the frescos. It represents Madonna and a crowd of saints
under an orchard of apple-trees, with cherubs curiously flung about
almost at random in the air. The motive of the orchard is prettily
conceived and carried out with spirit.

What Ferrari possessed was rapidity of movement, fulness and richness of
reality, exuberance of invention, excellent portraiture, dramatic
vehemence, and an almost unrivalled sympathy with the swift and
passionate world of angels. What he lacked was power of composition,
simplicity of total effect, harmony in coloring, control over his own
luxuriance, the sense of tranquillity. He seems to have sought grandeur
in size and multitude, richness, éclat, contrast. Being the disciple of
Leonardo and Raphael, his defects are truly singular. As a composer, the
old leaven of Giovenone remained in him; but he felt the dramatic
tendencies of a later age, and in occasional episodes he realized them
with a force and _furia_ granted to very few of the Italian painters.


LANINI AT VERCELLI.

The Casa Mariano is a palace which belonged to a family of that name.
Like many houses of the sort in Italy, it fell to vile uses, and its
hall of audience was turned into a lumber-room. The Operai of Vercelli,
I was told, bought the palace a few years ago, restored the noble hall,
and devoted a smaller room to a collection of pictures valuable for
students of the early Vercellese style of painting. Of these there is no
need to speak. The great hall is the gem of the Casa Mariano. It has a
coved roof, with a large, flat, oblong space in the centre of the
ceiling. The whole of this vault and the lunettes beneath were painted
by Lanini; so runs the tradition of the fresco-painter's name; and
though much injured by centuries of outrage, and somewhat marred by
recent restoration, these frescos form a precious monument of Lombard
art. The object of the painter's design seems to have been the
glorification of Music. In the central compartment of the roof is an
assembly of the gods, obviously borrowed from Raphael's "Marriage of
Cupid and Psyche" in the Farnesina at Rome. The fusion of Roman
composition with Lombard execution constitutes the chief charm of this
singular work, and makes it, so far as I am aware, unique. Single
figures of the Goddesses, and the whole movement of the scene upon
Olympus, are transcribed without attempt at concealment. And yet the
fresco is not a bare-faced copy. The manner of feeling and of execution
is quite different from that of Raphael's school. The poetry and
sentiment are genuinely Lombard. None of Raphael's pupils could have
carried out his design with a delicacy of emotion and a technical skill
in coloring so consummate. What, we think, as we gaze upward, would the
master have given for such a craftsman? The hardness, coarseness, and
animal crudity of the Roman school are absent; so also is their vigor.
But where the grace of form and color is so soft and sweet, where the
high-bred calm of good company is so sympathetically rendered, where
the atmosphere of amorous languor and of melody is so artistically
diffused, we cannot miss the powerful modelling and rather vulgar _tours
de force_ of Giulio Romano. The scala of tone is silvery golden. There
are no hard blues, no coarse red flesh-tints, no black shadows. Mellow
lights, the morning hues of primrose or of palest amber, pervade the
whole society. It is a court of gentle and harmonious souls; and though
this style of beauty might cloy, at first sight there is something
ravishing in those yellow-haired, white-limbed, blooming deities. No
movement of lascivious grace as in Correggio, no perturbation of the
senses, as in some of the Venetians, disturbs the rhythm of their music;
nor is the pleasure of the flesh, though felt by the painter and
communicated to the spectator, an interruption to their divine calm. The
white, saffron-haired goddesses are grouped together like stars seen in
the topaz light of evening, like daffodils half smothered in snow-drops,
and among them Diana, with the crescent on her forehead, is the fairest.
Her dream-like beauty need fear no comparison with the Diana of the
Camera di S. Paolo. Apollo and Bacchus are scarcely less lovely in their
bloom of earliest manhood; honey-pale, as Greeks would say; like statues
of living electron; realizing Simætha's picture of her lover and his
friend:

    +tois d' ên xanthotera men helichrysoio geneias,
     stêthea de stilbonta poly pleon ê ty Selana.+


It was thus that the almost childlike spirit of the Milanese painters
felt the antique; how differently from their Roman brethren! It was thus
that they interpreted the lines of their own poets:

    E i tuoi capei più volte ho somigliati
    Di Cerere a le paglie secche o bionde
    Dintorno crespi al tuo capo legati.[F]

Yet the painter of this hall--whether we are to call him Lanini or
another--was not a composer. Where he has not robbed the motives and the
distribution of the figures from Raphael, he has nothing left but grace
of detail. The intellectual feebleness of his style may be seen in many
figures of women playing upon instruments of music, ranged around the
walls. One girl at the organ is graceful; another with a tambourine has
a sort of Bassarid beauty. But the group of Apollo, Pegasus, and a Muse
upon Parnassus is a failure in its meaningless frigidity, while few of
these subordinate compositions show power of conception or vigor of
design.

Lanini, like Sodoma, was a native of Vercelli; and though he was
Ferrari's pupil, there is more in him of Luini or of Sodoma than of his
master. He does not rise at any point to the height of these three great
masters, but he shares some of Luini's and Sodoma's fine qualities,
without having any of Ferrari's force. A visit to the mangled remnants
of his frescos in S. Caterina will repay the student of art. This was
once, apparently, a double church with the hall and chapel of a
_confraternità_ appended to it. One portion of the building was painted
with the history of the saint; and very lovely must this work have been,
to judge by the fragments which have recently been rescued from
whitewash, damp, and ruthless mutilation. What wonderful Lombard faces,
half obliterated on the broken wall and mouldering plaster, smile upon
us like drowned memories swimming up from the depths of oblivion!
Wherever three or four are grouped together, we find an exquisite little
picture--an old woman and two young women in a doorway, for example,
telling no story, but touching us with simple harmony of form. Nothing
further is needed to render their grace intelligible. Indeed, knowing
the faults of the school, we may seek some consolation by telling
ourselves that these incomplete fragments yield Lanini's best. In the
coved compartments of the roof, above the windows, ran a row of dancing
boys; and these are still most beautifully modelled, though the pallor
of recent whitewash is upon them. All the boys have blonde hair. They
are naked, with scrolls or ribbons wreathed round them, adding to the
airiness of their continual dance. Some of the loveliest are in a room
used to stow away the lumber of the church--old boards and curtains,
broken lanterns, candle-ends in tin sconces, the musty apparatus of
festival adornments, and in the midst of all a battered, weather-beaten
bier.


THE PIAZZA OF PIACENZA.

The great feature of Piacenza is its famous piazza--a romantically,
picturesquely perfect square, surpassing the most daring attempts of the
scene-painter, and realizing a poet's dreams. The space is
considerable, and many streets converge upon it at irregular angles. Its
finest architectural feature is the antique Palace of the Commune:
Gothic arcades of stone below, surmounted by a brick building with
wonderfully delicate and varied terra-cotta work in the round-arched
windows. Before this façade, on the marble pavement, prance the bronze
equestrian statues of two Farnesi--insignificant men, exaggerated
horses, flying drapery--as _barocco_ as it is possible to be in style,
but so splendidly toned with verdigris, so superb in their _bravura_
attitude, and so happily placed in the line of two streets lending far
vistas from the square into the town beyond, that it is difficult to
criticise them seriously. They form, indeed, an important element in the
pictorial effect, and enhance the terra-cotta work of the façade, by the
contrast of their color.

The time to see this square is in evening twilight--that wonderful hour
after sunset--when the people are strolling on the pavement, polished to
a mirror by the pacing of successive centuries, and when the cavalry
soldiers group themselves at the angles under the lamp-posts or beneath
the dimly lighted Gothic arches of the palace. This is the magical
mellow hour to be sought by lovers of the picturesque in all the towns
of Italy, the hour which, by its tender blendings of sallow western
lights with glimmering lamps, casts the veil of half-shadow over any
crudeness and restores the injuries of time; the hour when all the tints
of these old buildings are intensified, etherealized, and harmonized by
one pervasive glow. When I last saw Piacenza, it had been raining all
day; and ere sun-down a clearing had come from the Alps, followed by
fresh threatenings of thunderstorms. The air was very liquid. There was
a tract of yellow sunset sky to westward, a faint new moon half swathed
in mist above, and over all the north a huge towered thunder-cloud kept
flashing distant lightnings. The pallid primrose of the West, forced
down and reflected back from the vast bank of tempest, gave unearthly
beauty to the hues of church and palace--tender half-tones of violet and
russet paling into grays and yellows on what in daylight seemed but dull
red brick. Even the uncompromising façade of St. Francesco helped; and
the dukes were like statues of the "Gran Commendatore," waiting for Don
Giovanni's invitation.


MASOLINO AT CASTIGLIONE D'OLONA.

Through the loveliest Arcadian scenery of woods and fields and rushing
waters the road leads downward from Varese to Castiglione. The
Collegiate Church stands on a leafy hill above the town, with fair
prospect over groves and waterfalls and distant mountains. Here in the
choir is a series of frescos by Masolino da Panicale, the master of
Masaccio, who painted them about the year 1428. "Masolinus de Florentia
pinxit" decides their authorship. The histories of the Virgin, St.
Stephen, and St. Lawrence are represented; but the injuries of time and
neglect have been so great that it is difficult to judge them fairly.
All we feel for certain is that Masolino had not yet escaped from the
traditional Giottesque mannerism. Only a group of Jews stoning Stephen
and Lawrence before the tribunal remind us by dramatic energy of the
Brancacci chapel.

The baptistery frescos, dealing with the legend of St. John, show a
remarkable advance; and they are luckily in better preservation. A
soldier lifting his two-handed sword to strike off the Baptist's head is
a vigorous figure full of Florentine realism. Also in the Baptism in
Jordan we are reminded of Masaccio by an excellent group of bathers--one
man taking off his hose, another putting them on again, a third standing
naked with his back turned, and a fourth shivering half-dressed with a
look of curious sadness on his face. The nude has been carefully studied
and well realized. The finest composition of this series is a large
panel representing a double action--Salome at Herod's table begging for
the Baptist's head, and then presenting it to her mother Herodias. The
costumes are _quattrocento_ Florentine, exactly rendered. Salome is a
graceful, slender creature; the two women who regard her offering to
Herodias with mingled curiosity and horror are well conceived. The
background consists of a mountain landscape in Masaccio's simple manner,
a rich Renaissance villa, and an open loggia. The architecture
perspective is scientifically accurate, and a frieze of boys with
garlands on the villa is in the best manner of Florentine sculpture. On
the mountain-side, diminished in scale, is a group of elders burying the
body of St. John. These are massed together and robed in the style of
Masaccio, and have his virile dignity of form and action. Indeed, this
interesting wall-painting furnishes an epitome of Florentine art, in its
intentions and achievements, during the first half of the fifteenth
century. The color is strong and brilliant, and the execution solid.

The margin of the Salome panel has been used for scratching the
chronicle of Castiglione. I read one date, 1568, several of the next
century, the record of a duel between two gentlemen, and many
inscriptions to this effect "Erodiana Regina," "Omnia prætereunt," etc.
A dirty, one-eyed fellow keeps the place. In my presence he swept the
frescos over with a scratchy broom, flaying their upper surface in
profound unconsciousness of mischief. The armor of the executioner has
had its steel colors almost rubbed off by this infernal process. Damp
and cobwebs are far kinder.


THE CERTOSA.

The Certosa of Pavia leaves upon the mind an impression of bewildering
sumptuousness: nowhere else are costly materials so combined with a
lavish expenditure of the rarest art. Those who have only once been
driven round together with the crew of sight-seers can carry little away
but the memory of lapis-lazuli and bronze-work, inlaid agates and
labyrinthine sculpture, cloisters tenantless in silence, fair painted
faces smiling from dark corners on the senseless crowd, trim gardens
with rows of pink primroses in spring and of begonia in autumn, blooming
beneath colonnades of glowing terra-cotta. The striking contrast between
the Gothic of the interior and the Renaissance façade, each in its own
kind perfect, will also be remembered; and thoughts of the two great
houses, Visconti and Sforza, to whose pride of power it is a monument,
may be blended with the recollection of art-treasures alien to their
spirit.

Two great artists, Ambrogio Borgognone and Antonio Amadeo, are the
presiding genii of the Certosa. To minute criticism, based upon the
accurate investigation of records and the comparison of styles, must be
left the task of separating their work from that of numerous
collaborators. But it is none the less certain that the keynote of the
whole music is struck by them. Amadeo, the master of the Colleoni chapel
at Bergamo, was both sculptor and architect. If the façade of the
Certosa be not absolutely his creation, he had a hand in the
distribution of its masses and the detail of its ornaments. The only
fault in this otherwise faultless product of the purest quattrocento
inspiration is that the façade is a frontispiece, with hardly any
structural relation to the church it masks; and this, though serious
from the point of view of architecture, is no abatement of its
sculpturesque and picturesque refinement. At first sight it seems a
wilderness of loveliest reliefs and statues--of angel faces, fluttering
raiment, flowing hair, love-laden youths, and stationary figures of
grave saints, mid wayward tangles of acanthus and wild vine and
cupid-laden foliage; but the subordination of these decorative details
to the main design--clear, rhythmical, and lucid, like a chant of
Pergolese or Stradella--will enrapture one who has the sense for unity
evoked from divers elements, for thought subduing all caprices to the
harmony of beauty. It is not possible elsewhere in Italy to find the
instinct of the earlier Renaissance, so amorous in its expenditure of
rare material, so lavish in its bestowal of the costliest workmanship
on ornamental episodes, brought into truer keeping with a pure and
simple structural effect.

All the great sculptor-architects of Lombardy worked in succession on
this miracle of beauty; and this may account for the sustained
perfection of style, which nowhere suffers from the languor of
exhaustion in the artist or from repetition of motives. It remains the
triumph of North Italian genius, exhibiting qualities of tenderness and
self-abandonment to inspiration which we lack in the severer
masterpieces of the Tuscan school.

To Borgognone is assigned the painting of the roof in nave and
choir--exceeding rich, varied, and withal in sympathy with stately
Gothic style. Borgognone, again, is said to have designed the saints and
martyrs worked in _tarsia_ for the choir-stalls. His frescos are in some
parts well preserved, as in the lovely little Madonna at the end of the
south chapel, while the great fresco above the window in the south
transept has an historical value that renders it interesting in spite of
partial decay. Borgognone's oil-pictures throughout the church prove, if
such proof were needed after inspection of the altar-piece in our
National Gallery, that he was one of the most powerful and original
painters of Italy, blending the repose of the earlier masters and their
consummate workmanship with a profound sensibility to the finest shades
of feeling and the rarest forms of natural beauty. He selected an
exquisite type of face for his young men and women; on his old men he
bestowed singular gravity and dignity. His saints are a society of
strong, pure, restful, earnest souls, in whom the passion of deepest
emotion is transfigured by habitual calm. The brown and golden harmonies
he loved are gained without sacrifice of lustre: there is a
self-restraint in his coloring which corresponds to the reserve of his
emotion; and though a regret sometimes rises in our mind that he should
have modelled the light and shade upon his faces with a brusque,
unpleasing hardness, their pallor dwells within our memory as something
delicately sought if not consummately attained. In a word, Borgognone
was a true Lombard of the best time. The very imperfection of his
flesh-painting repeats in color what the greatest Lombard sculptors
sought in stone--a sharpness of relief that passes over into angularity.
This brusqueness was the counter-poise to tenderness of feeling and
intensity of fancy in these Northern artists. Of all Borgognone's
pictures in the Certosa, I should select the altar-piece of St. Siro
with St. Lawrence and St. Stephen and two fathers of the Church, for its
fusion of this master's qualities.

The Certosa is a wilderness of lovely workmanship. From Borgognone's
majesty we pass into the quiet region of Luini's Christian grace, or
mark the influence of Leonardo on that rare Assumption of Madonna by his
pupil, Andrea Solari. Like everything touched by the Leonardesque
spirit, this great picture was left unfinished; yet Northern Italy has
nothing finer to show than the landscape, outspread in its immeasurable
purity of calm, behind the grouped Apostles and the ascendent Mother of
Heaven. The feeling of that happy region between the Alps and Lombardy,
where there are many waters--_et tacitos sine labe lacus sine murmure
rivos_--and where the last spurs of the mountains sink in undulations
to the plain, has passed into this azure vista, just as all Umbria is
suggested in a twilight background of young Raphael or Perugino.

The portraits of the dukes of Milan and their families carry us into a
very different realm of feeling. Medallions above the doors of sacristy
and chancel, stately figures reared aloft beneath gigantic canopies, men
and women slumbering with folded hands upon their marble biers--we read
in all those sculptured forms a strange record of human restlessness
resolved into the quiet of the tomb. The iniquities of Gian Galeazzo
Visconti, _il gran Biscione_; the blood-thirst of Gian Maria; the dark
designs of Filippo and his secret vices; Francesco Sforza's treason;
Galeazzo Maria's vanities and lusts; their tyrants' dread of thunder and
the knife; their awful deaths by pestilence and the assassin's poniard;
their selfishness, oppression, cruelty, and fraud; the murders of their
kinsmen; their labyrinthine plots and acts of broken faith--all is
tranquil now, and we can say to each what Bosola found for the Duchess
of Malfi ere her execution:

    Much you had of land and rent;
    Your length in clay's now competent:
    A long war disturbed your mind;
    Here your perfect peace is signed!

Some of these faces are commonplace, with _bourgeois_ cunning written on
the heavy features; one is bluff, another stolid, a third bloated, a
fourth stately. The sculptors have dealt fairly with all, and not one
has the lineaments of utter baseness. To Cristoforo Solari's statues of
Lodovico Sforza and his wife, Beatrice d'Este, the palm of excellence
in art and of historical interest must be awarded. Sculpture has rarely
been more dignified and true to life than here. The woman with her short
clustering curls, the man with his strong face, are resting after that
long fever which brought woe to Italy, to Europe a new age, and to the
boasted minion of fortune a slow death in the prison palace of Loches.
Attired in ducal robes, they lie in state; and the sculptor has carved
the lashes on their eyelids heavy with death's marmoreal sleep. He, at
least, has passed no judgment on their crimes. Let us, too, bow and
leave their memories to the historian's pen, their spirits to God's
mercy.

After all wanderings in this temple of art, we return to Antonio Amadeo,
to his long-haired seraphs playing on the lutes of Paradise, to his
angels of the Passion with their fluttering robes and arms outspread in
agony, to his saints and satyrs mingled on pilasters of the marble
doorways, his delicate _Lavabo_ decorations, and his hymns of piety
expressed in noble forms of weeping women and dead Christs. Wherever we
may pass, this master-spirit of the Lombard style enthralls attention.
His curious treatment of drapery, as though it were made of crumpled
paper, and his trick of enhancing relief by sharp angles and attenuated
limbs, do not detract from his peculiar charm. That is his way, very
different from Donatello's, of attaining to the maximum of life and
lightness in the stubborn vehicle of stone. Nor do all the riches of the
choir--those multitudes of singing angels, those Ascensions and
Assumptions, and innumerable bass-reliefs of gleaming marble moulded
into softest wax by mastery of art--distract our eyes from the single
round medallion, not larger than a common plate, inscribed by him upon
the front of the high-altar. Perhaps, if one who loved Amadeo were
bidden to point out his masterpiece, he would lead the way at once to
this. The space is small; yet it includes the whole tragedy of the
Passion. Christ is lying dead among the women on his mother's lap, and
there are pitying angels in the air above. One woman lifts his arm,
another makes her breast a pillow for his head. Their agony is hushed,
but felt in every limb and feature; and the extremity of suffering is
seen in each articulation of the worn and wounded form just taken from
the cross. It would be too painful, were not the harmony of art so rare,
the interlacing of those many figures in a simple round so exquisite.
The noblest tranquillity and the most passionate emotion are here fused
in a manner of adorable naturalness.

From the church it is delightful to escape into the cloisters, flooded
with sunlight, where the swallows skim and the brown hawks circle and
the mason-bees are at work upon their cells among the carvings. The
arcades of the two cloisters are the final triumph of Lombard
terra-cotta. The memory fails before such infinite invention, such
facility and felicity of execution. Wreaths of cupids gliding round the
arches among grape-bunches and bird-haunted foliage of vine; rows of
angels, like rising and setting planets, some smiling and some grave,
ascending and descending by the Gothic curves; saints stationary on
their pedestals and faces leaning from the rounds above; crowds of
cherubs and courses of stars and acanthus-leaves in woven lines and
ribbons incessantly inscribed with Ave Maria! Then, over all, the rich
red light and purple shadows of the brick, than which no substance
sympathizes more completely with the sky of solid blue above, the broad
plain space of waving summer grass beneath our feet.

It is now late afternoon, and when evening comes the train will take us
back to Milan. There is yet a little while to rest tired eyes and
strained spirits among the willows and the poplars by the monastery
wall. Through that gray-green leafage, young with early spring, the
pinnacles of the Certosa leap like flames into the sky. The rice-fields
are under water, far and wide, shining like burnished gold beneath the
level light now near to sun-down. Frogs are croaking; those persistent
frogs whom the muses have ordained to sing for aye, in spite of Bion and
all tuneful poets dead. We sit and watch the water-snakes, the busy
rats, the hundred creatures swarming in the fat, well-watered soil.
Nightingales here and there, new-comers, tune their timid April song.
But, strangest of all sounds in such a place, my comrade from the
Grisons jodels forth an Alpine cowherd's melody--_Auf den Alpen droben
ist ein herrliches Leben!_

Did the echoes of Gian Galeazzo's convent ever wake to such a tune as
this before?


SAN MAURIZIO.

The student of art in Italy, after mastering the characters of different
styles and epochs, finds a final satisfaction in the contemplation of
buildings designed and decorated by one master, or by groups of artists
interpreting the spirit of a single period. Such supreme monuments of
the national genius are not very common, and they are therefore the more
precious. Giotto's chapel at Padua; the Villa Farnesina at Rome, built
by Peruzzi and painted in fresco by Raphael and Sodoma; the Palazzo del
Te at Mantua, Giulio Romano's masterpiece; the Scuola di San Rocco,
illustrating the Venetian Renaissance at its climax, might be cited
among the most splendid of these achievements. In the church of the
Monastero Maggiore at Milan, dedicated to San Maurizio, Lombard
architecture and fresco-painting may be studied in this rare
combination. The monastery itself, one of the oldest in Milan, formed a
retreat for cloistered virgins following the rule of St. Benedict. It
may have been founded as early as the tenth century; but its church was
rebuilt in the first two decades of the sixteenth, between 1503 and
1519, and was immediately afterwards decorated with frescos by Luini and
his pupils. Gian Giacomo Dolcebono, architect and sculptor, called by
his fellow-craftsmen _magistro di taliare pietre_, gave the design, at
once simple and harmonious, which was carried out with hardly any
deviation from his plan. The church is a long parallelogram, divided
into two unequal portions, the first and smaller for the public, the
second for the nuns. The walls are pierced with rounded and pilastered
windows, ten on each side, four of which belong to the outer and six to
the inner section. The dividing wall or septum rises to the point from
which the groinings of the roof spring; and round three sides of the
whole building, north, east, and south, runs a gallery for the use of
the convent. The altars of the inner and outer church are placed against
the septum, back to back, with certain differences of structure that
need not be described. Simple and severe, San Maurizio owes its
architectural beauty wholly and entirely to purity of line and
perfection of proportion. There is a prevailing spirit of repose, a
sense of space, fair, lightsome, and adapted to serene moods of the
meditative fancy in this building which is singularly at variance with
the religious mysticism and imaginative grandeur of a Gothic edifice.
The principal beauty of the church, however, is its tone of color. Every
square inch is covered with fresco or rich wood-work mellowed by time
into that harmony of tints which blends the work of greater and lesser
artists in one golden hue of brown. Round the arcades of the
convent-loggia run delicate arabesques with faces of fair female
saints--Catherine, Agnes, Lucy, Agatha--gem-like or star-like, gazing
from their gallery upon the church below. The Luinesque smile is on
their lips and in their eyes, quiet, refined, as though the emblems of
their martyrdom brought back no thought of pain to break the Paradise of
rest in which they dwell. There are twenty-six in all--a sisterhood of
stainless souls, the lilies of Love's garden planted round Christ's
throne. Soldier saints are mingled with them in still smaller rounds
above the windows, chosen to illustrate the virtues of an order which
renounced the world. To decide whose hand produced these masterpieces of
Lombard suavity and grace, or whether more than one, would not be easy.
Near the altar we can perhaps trace the style of Bartolommeo Suardi in
an Annunciation painted on the spandrils--that heroic style, large and
noble, known to us by the chivalrous St. Martin and the glorified
Madonna of the Brera frescos. It is not impossible that the male saints
of the loggia may be also his, though a tenderer touch, a something more
nearly Leonardesque in its quietude, must be discerned in Lucy and her
sisters. The whole of the altar in this inner church belongs to Luini.
Were it not for darkness and decay, we should pronounce this series of
the Passion in nine great compositions, with saints and martyrs and
torch-bearing genii, to be one of his most ambitious and successful
efforts. As it is, we can but judge in part; the adolescent beauty of
Sebastian, the grave compassion of St. Rocco, the classical perfection
of the cupid with lighted tapers, the gracious majesty of women smiling
on us sideways from their Lombard eyelids--these remain to haunt our
memory, emerging from the shadows of the vault above.

The inner church, as is fitting, excludes all worldly elements. We are
in the presence of Christ's agony, relieved and tempered by the sunlight
of those beauteous female faces. All is solemn here, still as the
convent, pure as the meditations of a novice. We pass the septum, and
find ourselves in the outer church appropriated to the laity. Above the
high-altar the whole wall is covered with Luini's loveliest work, in
excellent light and far from ill preserved. The space divides into eight
compartments. A Pietà, an Assumption, Saints and Founders of the church,
group themselves under the influence of Luini's harmonizing color into
one symphonious whole. But the places of distinction are reserved for
two great benefactors of the convent, Alessandro de' Bentivogli and his
wife, Ippolita Sforza. When the Bentivogli were expelled from Bologna by
the papal forces, Alessandro settled at Milan, where he dwelt, honored
by the Sforzas and allied to them by marriage, till his death in 1532.
He was buried in the monastery by the side of his sister Alessandra, a
nun of the order. Luini has painted the illustrious exile in his habit
as he lived. He is kneeling, as though in ever-during adoration of the
altar mystery, attired in a long black senatorial robe trimmed with
furs. In his left hand he holds a book; and above his pale, serenely
noble face is a little black berretta. Saints attend him, as though
attesting to his act of faith. Opposite kneels Ippolita, his wife, the
brilliant queen of fashion, the witty leader of society, to whom
Bandello dedicated his Novelle, and whom he praised as both incomparably
beautiful and singularly learned. Her queenly form is clothed from head
to foot in white brocade, slashed and trimmed with gold lace, and on her
forehead is a golden circlet. She has the proud port of a princess, the
beauty of a woman past her prime, but stately, the indescribable dignity
of attitude which no one but Luini could have rendered so majestically
sweet. In her hand is a book; and she, like Alessandro, has her saintly
sponsors, Agnes and Catherine and St. Scolastica.

Few pictures bring the splendid Milanese court so vividly before us as
these portraits of the Bentivogli: they are, moreover, very precious for
the light they throw on what Luini could achieve in the secular style so
rarely touched by him. Great, however, as are these frescos, they are
far surpassed both in value and interest by his paintings in the side
chapel of St. Catherine. Here more than anywhere else, more even than at
Saronno or Lugano, do we feel the true distinction of Luini--his
unrivalled excellence as a colourist, his power over pathos, the
refinement of his feeling, and the peculiar beauty of his favorite
types. The chapel was decorated at the expense of a Milanese advocate,
Francesco Besozzi, who died in 1529. It is he who is kneeling,
gray-haired and bare-headed, under the protection of St. Catherine of
Alexandria, intently gazing at Christ unbound from the scourging-pillar.
On the other side stand St. Lawrence and St. Stephen, pointing to the
Christ and looking at us, as though their lips were framed to say:
"Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow." Even the
soldiers who have done their cruel work seem softened. They untie the
cords tenderly, and support the fainting form, too weak to stand alone.
What sadness in the lovely faces of Sts. Catherine and Lawrence! What
divine anguish in the loosened limbs and bending body of Christ; what
piety in the adoring old man! All the moods proper to this supreme
tragedy of the faith are touched as in some tenor song with low
accompaniment of viols; for it was Luini's special province to feel
profoundly and to express musically. The very depth of the Passion is
there; and yet there is no discord.

Just in proportion to this unique faculty for yielding a melodious
representation of the most intense moments of stationary emotion was his
inability to deal with a dramatic subject. The first episode of St.
Catherine's execution, when the wheel was broken and the executioners
struck by lightning, is painted in this chapel without energy and with a
lack of composition that betrays the master's indifference to his
subject. Far different is the second episode when Catherine is about to
be beheaded. The executioner has raised his sword to strike. She, robed
in brocade of black and gold, so cut as to display the curve of neck
and back, while the bosom is covered, leans her head above her praying
hands, and waits the blow in sweetest resignation. Two soldiers stand at
some distance in a landscape of hill and meadow; and far up are seen the
angels carrying her body to its tomb upon Mount Sinai. I cannot find
words or summon courage to describe the beauty of this picture--its
atmosphere of holy peace, the dignity of its composition, the golden
richness of its coloring. The most tragic situation has here again been
alchemized by Luini's magic into a pure idyl, without the loss of power,
without the sacrifice of edification.

St. Catherine, in this incomparable fresco, is a portrait, the history
of which so strikingly illustrates the relation of the arts to religion
on the one hand, and to life on the other, in the age of the
Renaissance, that it cannot be omitted. At the end of his fourth
Novella, having related the life of the Contessa di Cellant, Bandello
says: "And so the poor woman was beheaded; such was the end of her
unbridled desires; and he who would fain see her painted to the life,
let him go to the Church of the Monastero Maggiore, and there will he
behold her portrait." The Contessa di Cellant was the only child of a
rich usurer who lived at Casal Monferrato. Her mother was a Greek; and
she was a girl of such exquisite beauty that, in spite of her low
origin, she became the wife of the noble Ermes Visconti in her sixteenth
year. He took her to live with him at Milan, where she frequented the
house of the Bentivogli, but none other. Her husband told Bandello that
he knew her temper better than to let her visit with the freedom of the
Milanese ladies. Upon his death, while she was little more than twenty,
she retired to Casale and led a gay life among many lovers. One of
these, the Count of Cellant in the Val d'Aosta, became her second
husband, conquered by her extraordinary loveliness. They could not,
however, agree together. She left him, and established herself at Pavia.
Rich with her father's wealth and still of most seductive beauty, she
now abandoned herself to a life of profligacy. Three among her lovers
must be named: Ardizzino Valperga, Count of Masino; Roberto Sanseverino,
of the princely Naples family; and Don Pietro di Cardona, a Sicilian.
With each of the two first she quarrelled, and separately besought each
to murder the other. They were friends, and frustrated her plans by
communicating them to one another. The third loved her with the insane
passion of a very young man. What she desired, he promised to do
blindly; and she bade him murder his two predecessors in her favor. At
this time she was living at Milan, where the Duke of Bourbon was acting
as viceroy for the emperor. Don Pietro took twenty-five armed men of his
household and waylaid the Count of Masino as he was returning, with his
brother and eight or nine servants, late one night from supper. Both the
brothers and the greater part of their suite were killed; but Don Pietro
was caught. He revealed the atrocity of his mistress; and she was sent
to prison. Incapable of proving her innocence, and prevented from
escaping, in spite of fifteen thousand golden crowns with which she
hoped to bribe her jailers, she was finally beheaded. Thus did a vulgar
and infamous Messalina, distinguished only by rare beauty, furnish Luini
with a St. Catherine for this masterpiece of pious art! The thing seems
scarcely credible. Yet Bandello lived in Milan while the Church of St.
Maurizio was being painted; nor does he show the slightest sign of
disgust at the discord between the Contessa's life and her artistic
presentation in the person of a royal martyr.


A HUMANIST'S MONUMENT.

In the Sculpture Gallery of the Brera is preserved a fair white marble
tomb, carved by that excellent Lombard sculptor Agostino Busti. The
epitaph runs as follows:

    En Virtutem Mortis nesciam.
    Vivet Lancinus Curtius
      Sæcula per omnia
    Quascunque lustrans oras,
    Tantum possunt Camoenæ.

"Look here on Virtue that knows naught of Death! Lancinus Curtius shall
live through all the centuries, and visit every shore on earth. Such
power have the Muses." The time-worn poet reclines, as though sleeping
or resting, ready to be waked; his head is covered with flowing hair,
and crowned with laurel; it leans upon his left hand. On either side of
his couch stand cupids or genii with torches turned to earth. Above is a
group of the three Graces, flanked by winged Pegasi. Higher up are
throned two Victories with palms, and at the top a naked Fame. We need
not ask who was Lancinus Curtius. He is forgotten, and his virtue has
not saved him from oblivion; though he strove in his lifetime, _pro
virili parte_, for the palm that Busti carved upon his grave. Yet his
monument teaches in short compass a deep lesson; and his epitaph sums up
the dream which lured the men of Italy in the Renaissance to their doom.
We see before us sculptured in this marble the ideal of the humanistic
poet-scholar's life: Love, Grace, the Muse, and Nakedness, and Glory.
There is not a single intrusive thought derived from Christianity. The
end for which the man lived was pagan. His hope was earthly fame. Yet
his name survives, if this indeed be a survival, not in those winged
verses which were to carry him abroad across the earth, but in the
marble of a cunning craftsman, scanned now and then by a wandering
scholar's eye in the half-darkness of a vault.


THE MONUMENT OF GASTON DE FOIX IN THE BRERA.

The hero of Ravenna lies stretched upon his back in the hollow of a bier
covered with laced drapery; and his head rests on richly ornamented
cushions. These decorative accessories, together with the minute work of
his scabbard, wrought in the fanciful mannerism of the _cinquecento_,
serve to enhance the statuesque simplicity of the young soldier's
effigy. The contrast between so much of richness in the merely
subordinate details and this sublime severity of treatment in the person
of the hero is truly and touchingly dramatic. There is a smile, as of
content in death, upon his face; and the features are exceedingly
beautiful--with the beauty of a boy, almost of a woman. The heavy hair
cut straight above the forehead and straight over the shoulders, falling
in massive clusters. A delicately sculptured laurel-branch is woven into
a victor's crown and laid lightly on the tresses it scarcely seems to
clasp. So fragile is this wreath that it does not break the pure outline
of the boy-conqueror's head. The armor is quite plain. So is the
surcoat. Upon the swelling bust, that seems fit harbor for a hero's
heart, there lies the collar of an order composed of cockle-shells; and
this is all the ornament given to the figure. The hands are clasped
across a sword laid flat upon the breast, and placed between the legs.
Upon the chin is a little tuft of hair, parted, and curling either way;
for the victor of Ravenna like the Hermes of Homer, was +prôton
hypênêtês+, "a youth of princely blood, whose beard hath just begun to
grow, for whom the season of bloom is in its prime of grace." The whole
statue is the idealization of _virtù_--that quality so highly prized by
the Italians and the ancients, so well fitted for commemoration in the
arts. It is the apotheosis of human life resolved into undying memory
because of one great deed. It is the supreme portrait in modern times of
a young hero, chiselled by artists belonging to a race no longer heroic,
but capable of comprehending and expressing the æsthetic charm of
heroism. Standing before it, we may say of Gaston what Arrian wrote to
Hadrian of Achilles: "That he was a hero, if hero ever lived, I cannot
doubt; for his birth and blood were noble, and he was beautiful, and his
spirit was mighty, and he passed in youth's prime away from men."
Italian sculpture, under the condition of the _cinquecento_, had indeed
no more congenial theme than this of bravery and beauty, youth and
fame, immortal honor and untimely death; nor could any sculptor of death
have poetized the theme more thoroughly than Agostino Busti, whose
simple instinct, unlike that of Michael Angelo, led him to subordinate
his own imagination to the pathos of reality.


SARONNO.

The Church of Saronno is a pretty building with a Bramantesque cupola,
standing among meadows at some distance from the little town. It is the
object of a special cult, which draws pilgrims from the neighboring
country-side; but the concourse is not large enough to load the
sanctuary with unnecessary wealth. Everything is very quiet in the holy
place, and the offerings of the pious seem to have been only just enough
to keep the building and its treasures of art in repair. The church
consists of a nave, a central cupola, a vestibule leading to the choir,
the choir itself, and a small tribune behind the choir. No other single
building in North Italy can boast so much that is first-rate of the work
of Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari.

The cupola is raised on a sort of drum composed of twelve pieces,
perforated with round windows and supported on four massive piers. On
the level of the eye are frescos by Luini of St. Rocco, St. Sebastian,
St. Christopher, and St. Anthony--by no means in his best style, and
inferior to all his other paintings in this church. The Sebastian, for
example, shows an effort to vary the traditional treatment of this
saint. He is tied in a sprawling attitude to a tree; and little of
Luini's special pathos or sense of beauty--the melody of idyllic grace
made spiritual--appears in him. These four saints are on the piers.
Above are frescos from the early Bible history by Lanini, painted in
continuation of Ferrari's medallions from the story of Adam expelled
from Paradise, which fill the space beneath the cupola, leading the eye
upward to Ferrari's masterpiece.

The dome itself is crowded with a host of angels singing and playing
upon instruments of music. At each of the twelve angles of the drum
stands a coryphæus of this celestial choir, full length, with waving
drapery. Higher up, the golden-haired, broad-winged divine creatures are
massed together, filling every square inch of the vault with color. Yet
there is no confusion. The simplicity of the selected motive and the
necessities of the place acted like a check on Ferrari, who, in spite of
his dramatic impulse, could not tell a story coherently or fill a canvas
with harmonized variety. There is no trace of his violence here. Though
the motion of music runs through the whole multitude like a breeze,
though the joy expressed is a real _tripudio celeste_, not one of all
these angels flings his arms abroad or makes a movement that disturbs
the rhythm. We feel that they are keeping time and resting quietly, each
in his appointed seat, as though the sphere was circling with them round
the throne of God, who is their centre and their source of gladness.
Unlike Correggio and his imitators, Ferrari has introduced no clouds,
and has in no case made the legs of his angels prominent. It is a mass
of noble faces and voluminously robed figures, emerging each above the
other like flowers in a vase. Each too has specific character, while
all are robust and full of life, intent upon the service set them. Their
instruments of music are all lutes and viols, flutes, cymbals, drums,
fifes, citherns, organs, and harps that Ferrari's day could show. The
scale of color, as usual with Ferrari, is a little heavy; nor are the
tints satisfactorily harmonized. But the vigor and invention of the
whole work would atone for minor defects of far greater consequence.

It is natural, beneath this dome, to turn aside and think one moment of
Correggio at Parma. Before the _macchinisti_ of the seventeenth century
had vulgarized the motive, Correggio's bold attempt to paint heaven in
flight from earth--earth left behind in the persons of the apostles
standing round the empty tomb, heaven soaring upward with a spiral
vortex into the abyss of light above--had an originality which set at
naught all criticism. There is such ecstasy of jubilation, such
rapturous rapidity of flight, that we who strain our eyes from below
feel we are in the darkness of the grave which Mary left. A kind of
controlling rhythm for the composition is gained by placing Gabriel,
Madonna, and Christ at three points in the swirl of angels.
Nevertheless, composition--the presiding, all-controlling intellect--is
just what makes itself felt by absence; and Correggio's special
qualities of light and color have now so far vanished from the cupola of
the Duomo that the constructive poverty is not disguised. Here, if
anywhere in painting, we may apply Goethe's words--_Gefühl ist Alles_.

If, then, we return to Ferrari's angels at Saronno, we find that the
painter of Varallo chose a safer though a far more modest theme. Nor did
he expose himself to that most cruel of all degradations which the
ethereal genius of Correggio has suffered from incompetent imitators. To
daub a tawdry and superficial reproduction of these Parmese frescos, to
fill the cupolas of Italy with veritable _guazzetti di rane_, was
comparatively easy; and between our intelligence and what remains of
that stupendous masterpiece of boldness crowd a thousand memories of
such ineptitude. On the other hand, nothing but solid work and
conscientious inspiration could enable any workman, however able, to
follow Ferrari in the path struck out by him at Saronno. His cupola has
had no imitator; and its only rival is the noble pendant painted at
Varallo by his own hand, of angels in adoring anguish round the cross.

In the ante-choir of the sanctuary are Luini's priceless frescos of the
"Marriage of the Virgin" and the "Dispute with the Doctors."[G] Their
execution is flawless, and they are perfectly preserved. If criticism
before such admirable examples of so excellent a master be permissible,
it may be questioned whether the figures are not too crowded, whether
the groups are sufficiently varied and connected by rhythmic lines. Yet
the concords of yellow and orange with blue in the "Sposalizio," and the
blendings of dull violet and red in the "Disputa," make up for much of
stiffness. Here, as in the Chapel of St. Catherine at Milan, we feel
that Luini was the greatest colourist among _frescanti_. In the
"Sposalizio" the female heads are singularly noble and idyllically
graceful. Some of the young men too have Luini's special grace and
abundance of golden hair. In the "Disputa" the gravity and dignity of
old men are above all things striking.

Passing into the choir, we find on either hand the "Adoration of the
Magi" and the "Purification of the Virgin," two of Luini's divinest
frescos. Above them in lunettes are four Evangelists and four Latin
Fathers, with four Sibyls. Time and neglect have done no damage here;
and here, again, perforce we notice perfect mastery of color in fresco.
The blues detach themselves too much, perhaps, from the rest of the
coloring; and that is all a devil's advocate could say. It is possible
that the absence of blue makes the St. Catherine frescos in the
Monastero Maggiore at Milan surpass all other works of Luini. But
nowhere else has he shown more beauty and variety in detail than here.
The group of women led by Joseph, the shepherd carrying the lamb upon
his shoulder, the girl with a basket of white doves, the child with an
apple on the altar-steps, the lovely youth in the foreground heedless of
the scene; all these are idyllic incidents treated with the purest, the
serenest, the most spontaneous, the truest, most instinctive sense of
beauty. The landscape includes a view of Saronno, and an episodical
picture of the "Flight into Egypt," where a white-robed angel leads the
way. All these lovely things are in the "Purification," which is dated
_Bernardinus Lovinus pinxit_, MDXXV.

The fresco of the "Magi" is less notable in detail, and in general
effect is more spoiled by obtrusive blues. There is, however, one young
man of wholly Leonardesque loveliness, whose divine innocence of
adolescence, unalloyed by serious thought, unstirred by passions, almost
forces a comparison with Sodoma. The only painter who approaches Luini
in what may be called the Lombard, to distinguish it from the Venetian
idyl, is Sodoma; and the work of his which comes nearest to Luini's
masterpieces is the legend of St. Benedict, at Monte Oliveto, near
Siena. Yet Sodoma had not all Luini's innocence or _naïveté_. If he
added something slightly humorous which has an indefinite charm, he
lacked that freshness, as of "cool, meek-blooded flowers" and boyish
voices, which fascinates us in Luini. Sodoma was closer to the earth,
and feared not to impregnate what he saw of beauty with the fiercer
passions of his nature. If Luini had felt passion who shall say? It
appears nowhere in his work, where life is toned to a religious
joyousness. When Shelley compared the poetry of the Theocritean
amourists to the perfume of the tuberose, and that of the earlier Greek
poets to "a meadow-gale of June, which mingles the fragrance of all the
flowers of the field," he supplied us with critical images which may not
unfairly be used to point the distinction between Sodoma at Monte
Oliveto and Luini at Saronno.


THE CASTELLO OF FERRARA.

Is it possible that the patron saints of cities should mould the temper
of the people to their own likeness? St. George, the chivalrous, is
champion of Ferrara. His is the marble group above the cathedral porch,
so feudal in its mediæval pomp. He and St. Michael are painted in fresco
over the south portcullis of the castle. His lustrous armor gleams with
Giorgionesque brilliancy from Dossi's masterpiece in the Pinacoteca.
That Ferrara, the only place in Italy where chivalry struck any root,
should have had St. George for patron, is at any rate significant.

The best-preserved relic of princely feudal life in Italy is this
Castello of the Este family, with its sombre moat, chained draw-bridges,
doleful dungeons, and unnumbered tragedies, each one of which may be
compared with Parisina's history. I do not want to dwell on these things
now. It is enough to remember the Castello, built of ruddiest brick,
time-mellowed with how many centuries of sun and soft sea-air, as it
appeared upon the close of one tempestuous day. Just before evening the
rain-clouds parted and the sun flamed out across the misty Lombard
plain. The Castello burned like a hero's funeral pyre, and round its
high-built turrets swallows circled in the warm blue air. On the moat
slept shadows, mixed with flowers of sunset, tossed from pinnacle and
gable. Then the sky changed. A roof of thunder-cloud spread overhead
with the rapidity of tempest. The dying sun gathered his last strength
against it, fretting those steel-blue arches with crimson; and all the
fierce light, thrown from vault to vault of cloud, was reflected back as
from a shield, and cast in blots and patches on the buildings. The
Castle towered up rosy-red and shadowy sombre, enshrined, embosomed in
those purple clouds; and momently ran lightning-forks like rapiers
through the growing mass. Everything around, meanwhile, was quiet in the
grass-grown streets. The only sound was a high, clear boy's voice
chanting an opera-tune.


PETRARCH'S TOMB AT ARQUA.

The drive from Este along the skirts of the Euganean Hills to Arqua
takes one through a country which is tenderly beautiful, because of its
contrast between little peaked mountains and the plain. It is not a
grand landscape. It lacks all that makes the skirts of Alps and
Apennines sublime. Its charm is a certain mystery and repose--an
undefined sense of the neighboring Adriatic, a pervading consciousness
of Venice unseen but felt from far away. From the terraces of Arqua the
eye ranges across olive-trees, laurels, and pomegranates on the southern
slopes to the misty level land that melts into the sea, with churches
and tall campanili like gigantic galleys setting sail for fairyland over
"the foam of perilous seas forlorn." Let a blue-black shadow from a
thunder-cloud be cast upon this plain, and let one ray of sunlight
strike a solitary bell-tower: it burns with palest flame of rose against
the steely dark, and in its slender shaft and shell-like tint of pink
all Venice is foreseen.

The village church of Arqua stands upon one of these terraces, with a
full stream of clearest water flowing by. On the little square before
the church-door, where the peasants congregate at mass-time--open to the
skies with all their stars and storms, girdled by the hills, and within
hearing of the vocal stream--is Petrarch's sepulchre. Fit resting-place
for what remains to earth of such a poet's clay! It is as though
archangels, flying, had carried the marble chest and set it down here on
the hill-side, to be a sign and sanctuary for after-men. A simple
rectilinear coffin, of smooth Verona _mandorlato_, raised on four thick
columns, and closed by a heavy cippus-cover. Without emblems,
allegories, or lamenting genii, this tomb of the great poet, the great
awakener of Europe from mental lethargy, encircled by the hills beneath
the canopy of heaven, is impressive beyond the power of words. Bending
here, we feel that Petrarch's own winged thoughts and fancies, eternal
and aërial, "forms more real than living man, nurslings of immortality,"
have congregated to be the ever-ministering and irremovable attendants
on the shrine of one who, while he lived, was purest spirit in a veil of
flesh.


ON A MOUNTAIN.

Milan is shining in sunset on those purple fields; and a score of cities
flash back the last red light, which shows each inequality and
undulation of Lombardy outspread four thousand feet beneath. Both
ranges, Alps and Apennines, are clear to view; and all the silvery lakes
are over-canopied and brought into one picture by flame-litten mists.
Monte Rosa lifts her crown of peaks above a belt of clouds into light of
living fire. The Mischabelhörner and the Dom rest stationary angel-wings
upon the rampart, which at this moment is the wall of heaven. The
pyramid of distant Monte Viso burns like solid amethyst far, far away.
Mont Cervin beckons to his brother, the gigantic Finsteraarhorn, across
tracts of liquid ether. Bells are rising from the villages, now wrapped
in gloom, between me and the glimmering lake. A hush of evening silence
falls upon the ridges, cliffs, and forests of this billowy hill,
ascending into wave-like crests, and toppling with awful chasms over the
dark waters of Lugano. It is good to be alone here at this hour. Yet I
must rise and go--passing through meadows where white lilies sleep in
silvery drifts, and asphodel is pale with spires of faintest rose, and
narcissus dreams of his own beauty, loading the air with fragrance sweet
as some love-music of Mozart. These fields want only the white figure of
Persephone to make them poems; and in this twilight one might fancy that
the queen had left her throne by Pluto's side to mourn for her dead
youth among the flowers uplifted between earth and heaven. Nay, they are
poems now, these fields; with that unchanging background of history,
romance, and human life--the Lombard plain, against whose violet breadth
the blossoms bend their faint heads to the evening air. Downward we
hurry, on pathways where the beeches meet, by silent farms, by meadows
honey-scented, deep in dew. The columbine stands tall and still on those
green slopes of shadowy grass. The nightingale sings now, and now is
hushed again. Streams murmur through the darkness, where the growth of
trees, heavy with honeysuckle and wild rose, is thickest. Fireflies
begin to flit above the growing corn. At last the plain is reached, and
all the skies are tremulous with starlight. Alas, that we should vibrate
so obscurely to these harmonies of earth and heaven! The inner finer
sense of them seems somehow unattainable--that spiritual touch of soul
evoking soul from nature, which should transfigure our dull mood of self
into impersonal delight. Man needs to be a mytho-poet at some moments,
or, better still, to be a mystic steeped through half-unconsciousness in
the vast wonder of the world. Cold and untouched to poetry or piety by
scenes that ought to blend the spirit in ourselves with spirit in the
world without, we can but wonder how this phantom show of mystery and
beauty will pass away from us--how soon--and we be where, see what, use
all our sensibilities on aught or naught?


SIC GENIUS.

In the picture-gallery at Modena there is a masterpiece of Dosso Dossi.
The frame is old and richly carved; and the painting, bordered by its
beautiful dull gold, shines with the lustre of an emerald. In his happy
moods Dosso set color upon canvas as no other painter out of Venice ever
did; and here he is at his happiest. The picture is the portrait of a
jester, dressed in courtly clothes and with a feathered cap upon his
head. He holds a lamb in his arms, and carries the legend, _Sic Genius_.
Behind him is a landscape of exquisite brilliancy and depth. His face is
young and handsome. Dosso has made it one most wonderful laugh. Even so
perhaps laughed Yorick. Nowhere else have I seen a laugh thus painted:
not violent, not loud, although the lips are opened to show teeth of
dazzling whiteness; but fine and delicate, playing over the whole face
like a ripple sent up from the depths of the soul within? Who was he?
What does the lamb mean? How should the legend be interpreted? We cannot
answer these questions. He may have been the court-fool of Ferrara; and
his genius, the spiritual essence of the man, may have inclined him to
laugh at all things. That at least is the value he now has for us. He
is the portrait of perpetual irony, the spirit of the golden sixteenth
century which delicately laughed at the whole world of thoughts and
things, the quintessence of the poetry of Ariosto, the wit of Berni, all
condensed into one incarnation and immortalized by truthfullest art.
With the Gaul, the Spaniard, and the German at her gates, and in her
cities, and encamped upon her fields, Italy still laughed; and when the
voice of conscience sounding through Savonarola asked her why, she only
smiled--_Sic Genius_.

One evening in May we rowed from Venice to Torcello, and at sunset broke
bread and drank wine together among the rank grasses just outside that
ancient church. It was pleasant to sit in the so-called chair of Attila
and feel the placid stillness of the place. Then there came lounging by
a sturdy young fellow in brown country clothes, with a marvellous old
wide-awake upon his head, and across his shoulders a bunch of massive
church-keys. In strange contrast to his uncouth garb he flirted a pink
Japanese fan, gracefully disposing it to cool his sun-burned olive
cheeks. This made us look at him. He was not ugly. Nay, there was
something of attractive in his face--the smooth-curved chin, the shrewd
yet sleepy eyes, and finely-cut thin lips--a curious mixture of audacity
and meekness blended upon his features. Yet this impression was but the
prelude to his smile. When that first dawned, some breath of humor
seeming to stir in him unbidden, the true meaning was given to his face.
Each feature helped to make a smile that was the very soul's life of the
man expressed. It broadened, showing brilliant teeth, and grew into a
noiseless laugh; and then I saw before me Dosso's jester, the type of
Shakespeare's fools, the life of that wild irony, now rude, now fine,
which once delighted courts. The laughter of the whole world and of all
the centuries was silent in his face. What he said need not be repeated.
The charm was less in his words than in his personality; for
Momus-philosophy lay deep in every look and gesture of the man. The
place lent itself to irony; parties of Americans and English parsons,
the former agape for any rubbishy old things, the latter learned in the
lore of obsolete church-furniture, had thronged Torcello; and now they
were all gone, and the sun had set behind the Alps, while an irreverent
stranger drank his wine in Attila's chair, and nature's jester
smiled--_Sic Genius_.

When I slept that night I dreamed of an altar-piece in the Temple of
Folly. The goddess sat enthroned beneath a canopy hung with bells and
corals. On her lap was a beautiful winged smiling genius, who flourished
two bright torches. On her left hand stood the man of Modena with his
white lamb, a new St. John. On her right stood the man of Torcello with
his keys, a new St. Peter. Both were laughing after their all-absorbent,
divine, noiseless fashion; and under both was written, _Sic Genius_. Are
not all things, even profanity, permissible in dreams?

FOOTNOTES:

[E] The down upon their cheeks and chin was yellower than helichrysus,
and their breasts gleamed whiter far than thou, O Moon.

[F] Thy tresses have I oftentimes compared to Ceres' yellow autumn
sheaves, wreathed in curled bands around thy head.

[G] Both these and the large frescos in the choir have been
chromo-lithographed by the Arundel Society.

THE END.


    +-----------------------------------------------+
    | Transcriber's Note:                           |
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    | + sign denotes Greek transliteration          |
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    | Typographical errors corrected in text:       |
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    | Page  15 loggie changed to logge              |
    | Page  18 Apennine changed to Apennines        |
    | Page  21 pleasaunce changed to pleasance      |
    | Page  27 obligato changed to obbligato        |
    | Page  29 dedicate changed to dedicated        |
    | Page  37 ome changed to some                  |
    | Page  45 Heny changed to Henry                |
    | Page  47 Bernard changed to Bernardo          |
    | Page  69 led changed to del                   |
    | Page  82 beretta changed to berretta          |
    | Page  91 intensily changed to intensely       |
    | Page 111 word "a" added                       |
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    | Page 147 loggie changed to logge              |
    | Page 149 Apeninnes changed to Apennines       |
    | Page 173 potect changed to protect            |
    | Page 173 Vernice changed to Venice            |
    | Page 178 aad changed to and                   |
    | Page 180 ruining changed to running           |
    | Page 183 Bachus changed to Bacchus            |
    | Page 192 Signiory changed to Signory          |
    | Page 224 maccaroon changed to macaroon        |
    | Page 242 wagon changed to waggon              |
    | Page 273 piazetta changed to piazzetta        |
    | Page 298 sensibilty changed to sensibility    |
    | Page 304 colorist changed to colourist        |
    | Page 309 Monistero changed to Monastero       |
    | Page 317 colorist changed to colourist        |
    |                                               |
    +-----------------------------------------------+





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "New Italian sketches" ***

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